Friday, September 4, 2015

Say Aloha to Saving Energy!

Recently I've spent another vacation in Hawaii. This was not my first trip there, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve visited Hawaii. I got married on the sandy "Shipwreck beach" area of Kauai, barefooted Hawaiian style, and I know there will be many more trips there. It is just a magical place, a true paradise on earth. I believe I've seen everything an avid traveler can see on every island of Hawaii. At least I thought I did. This time there was something new that caught my eye and it was not nature’s beauty.

Driving from the airport on Oahu in Honolulu there was an area where on every roof of every single family residence there were solar, or photovoltaic (PV), panels. I asked the driver of the shuttle how come every house owner is so conscientious about energy efficiency. I was told that is absolutely not the case. The state of Hawaii mandates that every new residential development has sufficient -- according to the size of the house -- PV elements. This area not far from the airport was a new subdivision, therefore every single house had to have these panels.

I think it is a great idea! Are we going to go "green" in the future or what? Instead of limiting sizes of Homes, as the current trend does, which I totally oppose, let’s make them more energy efficient. When people want to spend more money to live the lifestyle they want, and they can afford it, let them spend more money on things that make more sense. This is one thing that would make more sense.

This is what I would suggest. It looks like Hawaii has all the beautiful things on earth. Let’s steal this, not so beautiful idea from them. Every new single family dwelling and new addition in California should have PV elements installed, according to the new square footage of the structure above a certain minimum per permit. The bigger the house or addition, the more PV elements there would be. This could be extended to apartments and condominiums and/or commercial projects as well. I'm not saying that this would solve all the energy related problems the state of California has, but definitely would help to mitigate our present and future energy needs. We just recently had a new/revised energy (Title 24) law. This could have been part of it. What do you think? Am I only dreaming?

Who Doesn't Like Free Money?

There is a little known aid to homeowners who want to make their homes safer in a devastating earthquake. But hang in here, because it’s a loooonnnggggg explanation.
One of the safest places in an earthquake is your own wooden, one-story house. There is very little chance that somebody in a single family wooden home will be killed in an earthquake. The reason is that these types of homes are pretty flexible. They move but regain their shape, more or less, after an earthquake. Older houses are built on concrete footings with concrete walls, (so called stem walls) and the wooden structure - beginning with the first wooden member the so called "mud sill" or today's technical term, the "sill plate" - sits on top of this concrete. The term "mud sill" comes from the old way of building this particular member. In the old days concrete contractors called concrete "mud" and laid the first horizontal 2x6 wooden member, the sill, into the wet "mud" where it made a very strong bond by penetrating into the wood while the concrete cured. They did not connect this "mud sill" at all to the concrete footing with any type of steel hardware. The result is that these types of homes have been excessively damaged in earthquakes as early as the San Francisco quake in 1906, as well as subsequent earthquakes.
I personally inspected the damages from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Scores of these homes jumped off of their foundations causing enormous economic damage for homeowners. In 1994 the majority of home insurance policies offered earthquake coverage, which has been scaled back by the insurance companies as a result of that loss.
So what to do? Preventing damage in these homes is not that costly, versus the cost repairing them after a quake. A typical retrofitting of a wooden home with a crawl space amounts to about $4-5K. It consists of drilling and epoxying new anchor bolts thru the sill plate into the concrete footing and nailing plywood to the mostly exposed "cripple" (short) studs on the inside. Conversely, repairing a house that has jumped off of its foundation could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, if the house moves so severally that gas lines break, causing the entire house to burn down, there’d be nothing left to repair.
Is help available? Thanks for hanging in here, the answer is yes. There is a little known program -- the so called "California Residential Mitigation Program" (CRMP), offering grants up to $3,000.00 for residents living in certain areas in California to retrofit their homes. It has funds that will carry it over many years to help several thousands of families, and will hopefully be extended further as time goes on. For information please contact: