Window Film Magazine – Guest Column “Selling Green Benefits”

Window Film Magazine recently invited Jim Black, Madico’s Director of Window Film Sales, to contribute to a guest column for their May/June 2019 issue.

Jim chose to focus his column on the “green” or energy saving benefits of window film and tips on how dealers can communicate these benefits to their customers.

An industry veteran, Jim began working with window film in 1988 as a dealer installer. He has served in various positions for major manufacturers in the film industry, the AIMCAL Window Film Committee, and the International Window Film Association (IWFA) Board. He currently serves as the IWFA board of directors as chair for the Communication and Education Committee.

Read the full article “Selling Green Benefits” in Window Film Magazine.


What Your Electric Bill Can Tell You about Energy Use

When was the last time you looked at your electric bill beyond the total due? By taking a closer look at the numbers, you may identify details to help you understand your energy usage or get clues of why one month’s total differs from another. Get your past year’s electric bills together to see if you can discover ways to become more efficient with your home energy use.



Understanding the Cost


Understanding the CostPrimarily, the total of your electric bill comes from your monthly usage of kilowatt hours (kWh). Typically, kilowatt hours are determined by subtracting your previous month’s kWh meter reading from your current month’s, and the difference is then multiplied by the company’s energy rate.


But what exactly is a kilowatt hour? Each home appliance or electrical device draws wattage. Kilowatt hours are figured by multiplying an item’s wattage by the total hours it draws energy, with 1,000 watt hours of energy equating to one kilowatt hour. For example, if a 100-watt light bulb burns for 10 hours, it consumes 1,000 watt hours of energy or one kilowatt hour.


Equation 3



Seasonal Charges


Seasonal ChargesFor many of us, summer and winter temperatures force your cooling and heating systems to work overtime to keep you comfortable. Because of this, most people expect to see a temporary bill increase, but check if your company’s energy rate is higher at these times as well. Investing in a programmable thermostat and setting the temperature 15 degrees off of your comfort zone while you are at work or asleep can help you decrease your energy usage in the extreme seasons no matter what the rate.



Peak Rates


Peak RatesSome electric companies employ a time-of-use rate structure, which can mean your rate is higher during daily peak hours. Generally, peak hours occur on weekdays from morning until mid-evening, with all other hours and weekends as off-peak times. Can you save your laundry time or heavier cooking sessions for the weekend? During the week, does every light, television, and electronic device need to be on the moment everyone gets home for the day? Could you run the dishwasher right before you head to bed?



Energy Usage Trends


Energy Usage TrendsMost electric bills include your daily average energy use and electric cost. Additionally, you may see a graph showing month-to-month usage or even usage comparables from the previous year. Think about what energy increases you incurred during higher cost months because some companies charge a higher rate after you go above a set amount of monthly kilowatt hours. Did you purchase new electronics or a second refrigerator? Perhaps one month you entertained out-of-town guests, worked remotely, or had the kids home on break. Or, if the total has increased steadily, it may be time to purchase more efficient appliances or seal air leaks around older windows and doors.


Start using your monthly electric bill to help you pinpoint how to be more efficient with your home energy usage. Additionally, your electric company’s website will often provide you with more assistance through bill calculators, rate and meter options, and summaries with even further analysis.


Travel Green and Save Energy

Green travel encompasses a wide variety of practices that support sustainability. While many of these are not directly related to energy efficiency, two of your biggest travel choices are: where to stay and what transportation to use. As our society continues to become more eco-conscious, the list of green offerings continues to grow, making it easier than ever to travel the planet while being kind to it.



Green Hotels


Green HotelsHotels can earn green certifications for a range of sustainability factors, including energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, and environmental impact. One of the most well known designations comes from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. These hotels have been built or renovated with best-in-class practices that conserve resources and promote renewable energy. Some other established green hotel designations come from Green Key, Green Seal and Energy Star.


TripAdvisor makes it easy to find green hotels with their GreenLeaders program. You simply “look for the leaf” – a special badge placed on a green hotel’s listing page. When you click on the leaf, a window comes up where you can see that hotel’s green practices and certifications. Expedia offers a whole microsite on green travel, complete with hotel options that “balance environmental protection and social responsibility – without sacrificing luxury.”



Green Transportation


Green TransportationIf you have to fly to your destination, fly nonstop, as the plane’s takeoff and landing are a significant percentage of its carbon emissions. Taking the train is a better way to go, or driving, though the type of car you drive obviously makes a difference. Once you’re at your destination, consider using public transit, biking or walking instead of taking a cab or renting a car. If you do rent a car, go with the smallest one to fit your needs or rent a hybrid.


Check out Global Green Travel for even more tips.


Why You Should Service Your Air Conditioner

With warmer temperatures, you’ve probably noticed an increase in running your home air conditioning unit and higher monthly energy bills. Home cooling costs for United States’ homeowners is an average of $11 billion annually. Per household, average cooling costs make up 6% of the entire electric bill. By properly maintaining your AC unit throughout the year and scheduling an annual checkup with a professional technician, you can cut down on your cooling costs and will have a longer lasting cooling unit.



AC Useful Life


AC Useful LifeThere are several types of air conditioners, with the most common being room cooling systems and central AC units. Room air conditioners have a 10 to 15 year lifespan and central air conditioners have a 20 year useful life. By providing the proper maintenance to your air conditioning units, you will maximize its efficiency which will also maximize the appliance’s useful life.



Change the Filter


Change the FilterTo ensure that your air conditioning unit is working as efficiently and effectively as possible, routinely change your air filters. The air filter is a component in cooling systems that needs to be changed frequently. Hair, pet fur, dust, dirt, leaves, and any other debris can leave you with a dirty and clogged filter. How frequently you change your air filter depends on several factors including pets and allergies. Typically filters can be changed every other month; however with pets and/or allergies, your air filter could need to be replaced every 30 to 45 days. A clean air filter will make your unit operate efficiently and can save you five to 15% on your energy bill.



Call a Professional


Call a ProfessionalAn annual air conditioning technician will check to make sure everything within the unit is running properly. Spring is a good time of year to make this appointment. You can beat the mid-summer rush of people who later discover a faulty cooling system and desperately need assistance. The professional technician will be able to check the refrigerant level and check for any leaks. They should be able to identify any minor issues that, if not noticed at an early stage, could become large, costly repairs in the future.


Air conditioning units reduce the moisture in your home and keep you living comfortable during those hotter months. Routinely maintain your air conditioner so that it will use less energy to cool your home and cut down on your electric expenses.


How to Save on Energy with Outdated Appliances

When a light bulb burns out, you replace it. When a door knob wiggles loose, you fix it. Appliances, however, aren’t always so simple to fix. For many, when shopping for an appliance, energy efficiency is top priority– especially since they make up 13% of your home’s total energy costs. But keep in mind that dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers are built to last for years. So before you consider getting rid of your outdated appliances, implement these simple tricks to help prolong their efficiency.



Refrigerator and Freezer


Refrigerator and FreezerIn addition to properly storing your food, the Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping your fridge set at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. That’s perfectly in line with the website’s recommended 35-38°F, which  is optimal for keeping food fresh and your fridge running for the long term. You’ll also want to be sure your refrigerator door shuts securely. Not even a dollar bill should be able to slide through the seal. Of course, if it does, resealing the door (or drawer) is a quick fix.


Defrosting your refrigerator is a more tedious task, but one that’s integral to keeping an outdated appliance from using excess energy. Any more than a quarter-inch of frost buildup will largely impact your appliance’s cooling ability. Since older refrigerators often feature manual defrost systems, you’ll want to check this about once a week. Follow the defrosting instructions specific to your make and model.





DishwasherDishwashers built before 1994 can waste more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. But the process of heating that water is the greatest source of expense. The Energy department recommends lowering your home’s water heater to 120°F. When selecting a wash mode, skip “rinse and hold”; it uses 3-7 gallons of hot water. Instead, choose the “air dry” setting, shut off the dishwasher once it’s done rinsing, and crack open the door to let dishes dry.


It may be tempting to let the machine do all of the work. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury for older units. You can avoid having to run a second cycle, or use hot water to finish them by hand, when you take a few minutes to scrape leftover food into the trash or garbage disposal.



Clothes Washer


Clothes WasherYou don’t need a brand new high-efficiency washer; just be mindful of how much energy is required by hot-water loads. Navigate around costs by choosing a cold-water setting. Only wash clothes when you have a full load, and adjust the water level accordingly. As long as clothes aren’t caked in mud, you can get away with a low-soil setting to limit water usage.






DryerIt’s almost too easy, but cleaning the lint screen after every load can help your dryer run more efficiently. Whenever possible, hang clothes to dry. If clothes and towels become too stiff from air drying, throw them in the dryer for about five minutes with one fabric softener sheet. It’s just enough time to fluff up your laundry without using much energy at all.


Remember, no matter how outdated your appliances may look on the outside, it’s how efficiently they work that will ultimately save you energy and money.


How Glass and Window Film Work Together to Save You Energy

It has long been a well known fact that window film can help anyone cut down on energy costs. In 2013, the Department of Energy wrote that “there are a variety of options for consumers who are looking to improve the energy efficiency of their existing windows” before highlighting window film as one of those wonderful options. But simply purchasing window film is not enough. If you really want to get the most out of your energy-saving window film, you’ve got to make sure your film and your windows are working together.



Windows and Window Film: An Energy Saver’s Best Friend

As the old saying goes, windows are the windows into your energy-saving soul. (Editor’s note: this is not a saying, and it’s honestly barely a sentence. But just go with it.) If your windows don’t fit perfectly on your house, you’re going to see that reflected in your unnecessarily-high energy bill. Although top-notch window film will mitigate the energy-wasting effects of leaky windows, if you want to get the most out of your film, you’ve got to make sure your windows are shored up.


If you’re tight on cash, inexpensive window treatments like caulking or weatherstripping could be viable short-term solutions for your home. Energy saving is all about getting the best bang for your buck. Don’t let your air conditioning or heat escape from your home, along with your hard-earned money. Once your windows are secure, they’re ready for film.




Let the Big Savings Begin


Installing window film can be incredibly tricky. Fortunately, professionals are available to provide you with hassle-free installation. Just be sure to communicate with them about what exactly you want done. Before the installer comes to your home, there are several things you should do to prepare your home.


First, remove all blinds, curtains or drapes from the windows receiving film. Remove any picture frames or knick-knacks from windowsills and surrounding areas as well. Any furniture that would hinder access to your windows should be moved. Then, on the day of your install, try and keep all doors and windows closed to minimize dust and airborne contamination. Your installer will probably turn the heat or AC off when he arrives, but you needn’t suffer. Keep the thermostat set at your comfort level until he or she arrives.


The beautiful, complex, challenging mystery of window film is that every energy saver has different needs. Make sure you know what yours are, and you will get your windows working with your window film to save you energy like the energy-saving pro you are.


Save Energy by Slaying Vampire Power

You’ve heard of vampire power, right? The term is not as scary as it sounds, but it will make your energy bill creep up on you. You won’t need a cross or garlic to avoid being a victim, and you can take simple steps to rid the “phantom load” of its power.


Vampire power is termed when plugged-in electronics and appliances continue to draw energy even when they are turned off or in standby mode. According to the Department of Energy, these silent energy loads can cost U.S. households an average of $100-200 per year.



Hunt the Vampires in Your Home


Hunt the Vampires in Your HomeTrack down these power sucks by looking around your home for devices that have power adaptors or black power-supply cubes. Look around for electronics that use a remote control or have a built-in chargeable battery. Do a survey of equipment with a digital display such as a clock or LED status light. You may spot obvious vampires such as your coffee maker, DVR or computer speakers, but beware that others are lurking about.


Electric shavers and toothbrushes, digital picture frames, and cordless vacuums pull energy when not in use. Another sneaky vampire is your cell phone charger, which continues to draw energy after the phone is charged and even after you take your phone with you. The biggest phantoms are game consoles and plasma televisions. The Department of Energy notes that a plasma television’s standby power can cost up to $165 a year alone!



Remove the Energy Drain


Remove the Energy Drain In TextThe simplest method to kill vampire energy is to unplug electronics when they’re not in use, but that can be a time-consuming daily task. Cluster electronics into a power strip, especially ENERGY STAR qualified strips that are registered to have lower standby, and flip one switch to turn off all plugs. Or, take it up a notch and invest in smart power strips, which can be set to turn off idle devices for you. You can find them online and at electronics retailers.


A basic smart power strip is controlled by programmable timers, which allow you to schedule turning on and off plugged-in devices automatically. Some strips allow you to control an entire room from your smart device. Advanced strips include outlets controlled by a motion detector to turn on when you come into the room and powers off when you leave or after a set time of vacancy. The smartest vampire killers are able to detect when a primary device such as a TV or computer enters sleep-mode or is turned off, then shuts down any connected outlets like printers or external hard drives. Turn the main device back on, and the accessory outlets come to life.


The vampire load of one device may not attack your utility budget, but a household of phantoms will frighten you! Battle them all with smart power strips, and watch this unnecessary energy drain disappear.


Understanding the Importance of Insulation

Heating and cooling your home makes up about 48% of your energy bill, according to The Energy Department. Of course, these costs are determined by the climate in which you live, the construction of your house, and your family’s energy needs. That being said, having properly installed energy efficient insulation can have a large impact on your monthly bill. Before making any decisions to change what you have, though, it’s important to know how insulation works and the different types available for today’s homes.



Preventing Heat Flow


Preventing Heat FlowHeat flows from warm to cold spaces. In the winter, for instance, heat moves from your living space to unheated areas like your attic, garage, or basement before escaping to the outdoors. This loss of heat is backfilled by your heating system working overtime. The same is true for the warmer months, when hot air flows into your house. Because it’s cooler it causes your air conditioner to run steadily. By insulating your ceilings, walls, attic space and floors, you create a resistance to this natural heat transfer and decrease the strain on your heating and cooling systems.



Establishing Standards


Establishing StandardsThe effectiveness of insulation is measured by what’s called the R-value, or its ability to resist heat transfer (R for resistance). The higher the R-value, the better. Unfortunately, many homes don’t meet the minimum R-value standard for energy efficiency set by the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).



Choosing the Right Insulation for Energy Savings


Blankets, loose-fill, foam, rigid fiber, and reflective insulation are among the various options for residential buildings. The type of insulation you choose depends on where you need it. To guide you, The Department of Energy makes these recommendations:


Choosing the Right Insulation for Energy Savings 1Space: Unfinished walls, floors and ceilings
Type of insulation: Blankets (rolls or batts). This insulation is made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass, or rock wool. It can easily be installed by a motivated homeowner. Plus, it’s one of the least expensive types of insulation.



Choosing the Right Insulation for Energy Savings 2Space: Unfinished attic floor, odd-shaped wall cavities, or around obstructions such as pipes and wires
Type of insulation: Spray foam or foam-in-place insulation. Usually made of polyisocyanurate or polyurethane, foam insulation is flexible enough for tight or irregularly shaped spaces. It also has a high R-value for its relatively thin structure. This insulation comes in two forms, open-cell or closed-cell. Closed-cell has the greater R-value, and better resists moisture and air leakage. Open-cell is lighter and less expensive to install. However, open-cell should not be used below the ground where it risks absorbing moisture.



Choosing the Right Insulation for Energy Savings 3Space: Exterior walls, basement or crawl spaces
Type of insulation: Rigid foam insulation. Similar to the spray form, it’s made of polyisocyanurate or polyurethane and has a high R-value – up to two times greater than most other insulating materials. This foam is best for exterior sheathing and basement walls because it provides strong thermal resistance, and it reduces heat conduction through the structure of your home.


Filling in the gaps with the right insulation will go a long way in saving you money on ever-rising energy costs.


These Wild New Skyscrapers Are Building Forests in the Sky

We were just getting used to green roofs—those fascinating combinations of garden and architecture. But now two architects working at opposite ends of the globe are planning even more incredible feats by designing farms and forests designed to live on the face of a skyscraper.


One of the most dramatic of these new urbanized farm projects is the Urban Skyfarm currently under design by Brooklyn-based Aprilli Design Studio for a site in Seoul, South Korea. This prototype building project uses four major tree-based components—the “root,” “trunk,” “branch,” and “leaves” —to house more than 24 acres of space for growing fruit trees, tomatoes, and other sustainable vegetation. The trunk of the tree is intended to contain an indoor hydroponic farm for greens, while the root portion provides a wide environmentally controlled space for market places and public activities.





Meanwhile, turbines at the top of the tower provide enough energy to power the whole operation in a net-zero environment. The design also can capture rainwater and filter it through an artificial wetland before returning fresh water to the nearby Cheonggyecheon stream. Architects Steve Lee and See Yoon Park say the structure could support hundreds of environmental functions and serve as a model for how buildings are designed, constructed, and utilized in the future.


“Our version of the vertical farm was intended to become an independent, open-to-air structure which would be purely focusing on farming activities and sustainable functions such as generating renewable energy and performing air and water filtration,” the architects told Fast Company.


“With the support of hydroponic farming technology, the space could efficiently host more than 5,000 fruit trees. Vertical farming is more than an issue of economical feasibility, since it can provide more trees than average urban parks, helping resolve urban environmental issues such as air pollution, water run-off, and heat island effects, and bringing back balance to the urban ecology.”


Environmentally, the Urban Skyfarm acts as a living machine by producing renewable energy and lending the building improved air quality while reducing heat accumulation, storm water runoff, and carbon dioxide.


Mimicking the biological structure of a tree lends the design many structural and environmental advantages by creating a lightweight but efficient space to host different farming activities. Its designers also attest that the form creates a strong iconic image and represents a symbol of well-being and sustainable development.



Meanwhile, Back in Milan, Italy . . .


On the other side of the world, a wildly innovative Italian architect is plotting to apply greenery to the world’s most innovative buildings, including an already constructed project in Milan that has been named one of the the best tall buildings in the world.


The designer and architect is Stefano Boeri, and the dual skyscraper project in Milan is Bosco Verticale. His 256-foot and 344-foot towers are swaddled in more than 700 trees and 100 species of plants. In total, there are around 21,000 plants on the two towers, equivalent to five acres of forest spread over 1,300 square meters. It even has its own natural ecosystem with more than 20 species of birds nesting between the two towers.





The design really is “green” in more than color only. The massive amounts of plant life help reduce smog and carbon dioxide, dampen noise levels, boost oxygen, and regulate heat and cold within the twin towers. Inside, a sophisticated irrigation system redirects used water back onto the forested “porches” to sustain the plant life.


Boeri calls the concept the “Vertical Forest” design, a concept that won the firm, Stefano Boeri Architetti, second place in last year’s Emporis Skyscraper Award, beating out more than 120 competitors including One World Trade Center in New York City and Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid Tower in Abu Dhabi.


“It is a model for vertical densification of nature within the city,” Boeri says. “Vertical Forest increases biodiversity, so it becomes both a magnet for and a symbol of the spontaneous re-colonization of the city by vegetation and animal life.”


Meanwhile, Around the World . . .



Milan’s Bosco Verticale is far from Boeri’s singular vision, and is just one of a host of projects around the world that are using urbanized vegetation to make life better for the people who live and work in these buildings.


Boeri has already unveiled plans for two Vertical Forests in Nanjing, China, as well as “Liuzhou Forest City” in China, the Wonderwoods residential apartment project in the Netherlands, and the sprawling Guizhou Mountain Forest Hotel in Southern China. He also recently announced a 36-story tower in Lausanne, Switzerland, where “Tower of Cedars” will feature more than 18,000 plants and 100 trees.





“It’s something I’d been thinking about for a long time,” Boeri said recently. “I’ve always been fascinated by trees and architecture. In Lucca, Italy, there’s a 14th-century tower that has trees at the top. So I started to imagine how trees could become the main protagonist on a building’s facade.”


Boeri isn’t the only one thinking about how to build forests and gardens in the sky. His innovative, arboreal designs are inspiring and complementing other greenery-inspired architectural projects around the globe.


Rolex’s twisty future Dallas headquarters recently broke ground on its construction, featuring a design by architect Kengo Kuma that was inspired by Japanese castles and features landscaped terraces and a tree-lined rooftop event space.


Danish Architects Bjarke Ingels are hard at work in Los Angeles on 670 Mesquit, a 2.6 million-square-foot mixed-use project that features two massive concrete cubes topped with landscaped terraces.


Back in Asia, Vo Trang Nghia Architects are building a city complex in Ho Chi Minh City that will feature a 90,000-square-foot project with a communal rooftop garden. They’re also building a tree-lined campus at FPT University that will spread an elevated forest over the 14-square-mile site.


One Central Park in Sydney, Australia, hosts more than 190 plant species native to the country and features massive crawling vines that climb the building’s face.


Some critics have doubted the scientific veracity of the tree-building concepts, not to mention the aesthetics of simply propping a tree onto a concept drawing, but these innovative designers seem to be using green technology in a manner that is both ethically and tactically responsible.


Besides, some people just can’t see the forest through the trees.


Photo Credits: Stefano Boeri Architetti, Aprilli Design Studio.


Teach Your Kids to Save Energy at Home

You are never too old or too young to learn how to save energy at home. While the kids may not be able to help you with big energy efficiency projects, every little effort helps to lower your utility bills. Get the family together and introduce one of these tips at a time until each becomes a habit. You just might find yourself becoming more consistent at conserving energy, too!



Power Down…Everything


Power Down EverythingThe big energy drain that kids AND adults are guilty of is forgetting to shut off lights when leaving a room. If you are going to be away for even a few minutes, it’s worth the energy savings to flip the switch to off. But don’t stop at overhead lights. Add the television, gaming consoles, computers, electronic devices, and chargers to the list. Make it a before-bedtime game and walk through the home together to power down.



Conserve Water


Conserve WaterBathtime can be fun, but so can a competition to keep bathing to a 5 or 10-minute shower. Set a timer, and if the child is out (and clean!) before the bell, then they get a sticker on the calendar or more book time with you before bed. Extend the water conservation efforts to the sink and practice shutting off the faucet between brushing your teeth and rinsing. And have them make sure the faucets are completely off or not dripping.



Switch to CFL


Switch to CFLA great counting exercise to do with kids is to add up all of the light bulbs used in your home. From that total, how many of them are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)? By changing standard bulbs to ENERGY STAR certified CFL bulbs, you will use a lot less energy, and they will last longer, too. According to the Energy Star website, one CFL can save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb. A fun way to teach kids this concept is an interactive online game provided by Kids use the keyboard to move an animated character named CFL Charlie around a house to install CFL bulbs, shut off lights, and get the energy usage total down to zero.



Bedroom Energy Assessment


Bedroom Energy AssessmentHave your children assess how much energy they use in their bedrooms. Look together for vents and registers to make sure furniture, toys, and wall coverings are not blocking them. Could you teach them about alternative energy by switching to a solar-powered nightlight? Or have the kids hold a ribbon up close to the window seams. If the ribbon flutters, you may have an air leak that needs to be sealed. They can try this test throughout the house and draw a map of the problem locations for you. What is their view out the window? Could you plant a tree together that would shade the room in the summer or block wind in the winter?


Saving energy at home is a team effort, and the youngest one in the household could become your leader. When you teach by example, your children will grow to be adults who care about saving energy and the future of their planet.