In line with today’s topic, “Greener than What”, I want to give a big shout-out-read-this-blog-love-letter to pretty much my favorite blogger in the universe: Martin Holladay. His column “Musings of An Energy Nerd” appears regularly on the Green Building Advisor blog. Martin’s bio says he has “worked as a roofer, remodeler, builder, and plumbing wholesale counterperson. He built his first passive solar house in northern Vermont in 1974, and has lived off the grid since 1975.”
Yes, Martin has mad home building skills — but it’s his reporter’s mindset that has captured my heart. In his Musings of an Energy Nerd column, Martin regularly assesses various home improvement products that either claim or are widely believed to provide certain environmental benefits. Alas … quite often … Martin ends up having to knock these claims off their pedestal. Since my blog is fundamentally about resources to help homeowners get their renovation projects done, I really value his research — because it provides actionable information, based on data, to help make important — and usually, expensive — home improvement decisions.
In fact, this is the #1 reason I love Martin’s columns: He is data driven. If a product claims it will save energy — and therefore, money — he digs for the research to see if it really did, or will. Furthermore, he bakes in how much it costs to buy and install the product — to determine the final financial/environmental calculus. I have not been able to find this level of practical, data-driven, environmentally-focused home improvement journalism anywhere else online.
I also love Martin’s columns for all the comments that they generate. Green Building Advisor’s readership seems to be building professionals. There often is a great dialog, with Martin responding. It gets… passionate… sometimes.
Here are some examples of relevant product assessments that I have read, and learned from, on Martin’s blog, and which may be useful to Retro Renovation readers:
- Fans in the attic, Do they help or do they hurt? (Some help, some hurt. Of course, drats, the attic ventilator fan we added to our house two years ago — was a waste of money and likely made our energy use worse.)
- Choosing an energy efficient refrigerator.
- Window-mounted air conditioning saves money.
- Study shows expensive windows yield meager energy savings.
- Are tankless water heaters a waste of money?
Martin Holladay’s Energy Efficiency Pyramid
So what steps can you take to improve the energy efficiency of your home? Looks to me like Martin’s Energy Efficiency Pyramid (click on the image of the pyramid itself once you get to the page) is a must-read for anyone who wants to take measured, sensible, cost-effective steps. I have used it as a guidepost in my own home renovation and thinking — including my continued “warning” to homeowners to be skeptical of claims that new windows will save you money longterm or that they are “green”. We also discussed the topic here, in our story about the 10 most endangered features of midcentury homes.
Note: The Energy Efficiency Pyramid is now more than two years old — and I knew solar cell prices had been dropping — so I asked Martin if there were any technology breakthroughs that would cause him to reorder it? Sure enough, he responded:
Yes, in light of dropping prices for photovoltaic modules,m= the priorities shown in the Energy Efficiency Pyramid need to be changed. Now that an installed PV system costs about $3.50/watt, PV drops down a notch on the pyramid, pushing window replacement to the pyramid’s apex.
Thank you, Martin, you are my Blogger of the Year!