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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A House United–for Savings!

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

The whole-house systems approach looks at the entire house as an energy system with interdependent parts. Like a human body, when one part functions poorly it affects the performance of the entire system. For instance, the benefits of an energy-efficient air conditioner are lessened when a duct system leaks, windows don’t close tightly, attic insulation is insufficient, and humid summer breezes are drifting in under the door.

The systems approach recognizes the interaction of windows, attics, foundations, mechanical equipment, and all other components and assemblies within the home.

Changes in one or a few of these components can cause changes in how other components perform. If you recognize and take advantage of this fact, and apply appropriate advances in technology to the components, you can reduce your energy costs while improving your comfort. An energy-efficient home is likely to be more marketable—especially if you can show the prospective buyers your low energy bills.

Parts of the system include: air Sealing, ductwork, insulation, windows, air conditioning, and lighting/appliances.

To learn more about how these elements affect each other, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Want to Find the Fun Now?

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

If you are looking for a way to get healthy and have fun at the same time, you have to check out new campaign is part of an effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve health outcomes in 50 targeted communities across the U.S. It is built around a new web-based application that helps people find actively fun things to do at Pinellas County's parks, beaches and other attractions.

You can search the website by neighborhood, time of day, budget, how much time you have for a fun activity and the kind of people you want to invite. The application searches a database of hundreds of activities and returns a list of ideas for you to consider, along with descriptions, if the activity is outside, and the current weather.  is equipped with a database of local farmers' markets and fresh produce locations, as well as ways to find healthy recipes. You will also be able to share your own ideas, and what you found on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

The idea is to make healthy eating and activity part of everyday life, to help address the growing problem of obesity.  So what are you waiting for? Go out and Find the Fun Now!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability

Date:  Monday,  Nov. 7, 2011

Time:  10:00 am to  noon

Place:  Seminole  Community  Library  Program  Room
             9400 113th  St. N.
             Seminole, Fl. 33772

TOPIC:  Sustainable  Fisheries

SPEAKER:  Emily Muehlstein, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

R.S.V.P.    Mary  Hampton,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ventilation for a Healthy Home

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

All homes need ventilation to remove stale interior air, pollutants, and excessive moisture.

In the past, air leakage was relied on to provide ventilation. However, a leaky building does not guarantee good indoor air quality. Why? Air leaks often bring in air quality problems from attics, crawl spaces, and the outside. Furthermore, if the building is leaky it can result in high heating and cooling costs.

Indoor air typically contains more types—and higher concentrations of—pollutants than outdoor air, even in industrialized areas. Common home indoor air pollutants include biological pollutants (mold spores, dust mites, viruses, pollen, animal dander); combustion pollutants (including carbon monoxide); lead from old paint or lead-tainted soil; VOCs emitted from many paints, glues, and other building materials (this is called “outgassing”); and, in some areas, radon.

The Department of Energy recommends the practice of integrating mechanical ventilation into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. While whole-house ventilation is not required in Florida building codes, this system can provide fresh, filtered, outside air in a controlled amount using the existing HVAC delivery system for even distribution and mixing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Innovative Packaging

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

It is always interesting to see new innovative ways to use waste products. Dell announced the beginning of a pilot for mushroom based packaging. The mushroom cushioning is unique because it is grown and not manufactured in the traditional sense. Packaging products are created by growing mushroom fibers on waste like cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls. Waste products are placed in a mold which is then inoculated with mushroom spawn. Cushions take 5 - 10 days to grow as the spawn, which become the root structure - or by the scientific name, mycelium - of the mushroom.

All the energy needed to form the cushion is supplied by the carbohydrates and sugars in the agricultural waste. Once the material has grown into the shape, it is heat treated to stop the growth, and the packaging is done. There's no need for energy in the process and manufacturers estimate it takes 98% less energy to create mushroom based packaging than Styrofoam. Now you know why there has been such interest in mushroom packaging. Dell plans to eliminate about 20 million pounds of packaging material from their shipments by the end of 2012. The organic based mushroom cushions are easily composted after use.

Floridians throw away about 8 pounds of garbage per person each day, double the national average. There are a number of ways to tackle the problem of garbage. One way starts with you and the products you buy. You can shop with the environment in mind. Try to buy products that:

  • make the best use of energy resources
  • don't pollute our air and water
  • are reusable or recyclable
  • are made from plentiful resources or from recycled material
  • use a minimum of materials in design and packaging

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Choose a Roofing contractor?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Your home’s energy efficiency has a lot to do with the quality of your roof. Because you expect your roof to last for many years, it makes a lot of sense to research the quality of the roofing contractor or company you select.

Generally, a roofing license is required. Under limited circumstances, roofing may be performed by a general, building, or residential contractor. The key is to make sure the contractor is qualified to do roofing and the specific type of roofing for your house.

If you select a contractor or company without proper workers’ compensation insurance or good general liability insurance, you may be held responsible for any injury or damage.

Contact your local building department to determine the requirements in your area.
A warranty may not help much if the roofing company is out of business by the time you need a repair. Verify the length of time your contractor has been licensed and in business.. You should also check your local court records for any liens or judgments involving your contractor.

To learn more about roofing, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Halloween Color Change

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

The traditional Halloween color is orange but it doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate green ideas for this year’s celebration. From costumes to lights to decorations, “greening” this pumpkin color fest is easy.

Costumes are a huge part of Halloween but instead of the usual store splurge, have a grand time making your own and saving some of your green. Use old or recycled clothing, fabrics and other materials when putting together your costumes. Reuse bits and pieces from last year’s costume or even better, do a costume swap with friends or family.

Halloween lighting is trouble-free when you choose LEDs. Light Emitting Diode (LED) is a small electric component that converts electricity into light and because of this they are extremely flexible. LED lights are available in different colors, sizes, shapes and light intensity. The biggest benefit of LED lights is the energy and dollar savings to be gained. LEDs use at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 35 to 50 times longer.

Halloween decorations can easily be made from household items. Do you remember your art classes from elementary school? Toilet paper rolls, plastic bottles, fabric swaps and pipe cleaners can often turn into magical decorations. Don’t forget to use some natural elements to “green” your Halloween décor – pine cones, pumpkin seeds or seasonal fruit.

To make the orange holiday even more fun serve some “green” and healthy party treats to your guests. Chocolate is great but so are carrots, granola bars, and raisins.

Together these tips will save you money while protecting the environment.


LED Factsheet
Energy Star – LED
Healthy Snacks for Children – Factsheet

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Six things to consider for roof repair

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Your roof is one of your biggest investments
in your home. Be sure to maintain it well, and consider these precautions before hiring a contractor.
  1. Re-roofing estimates and work can be heavily impacted by the quality of previous roofing work, including repairs.
  2. If roof damage is extensive, you may be required to bring your entire roof (not just the damaged portion) up to current building code standards.
  3. Failure to hire a properly licensed and qualified contractor may invalidate your homeowner’s insurance coverage. It may also subject you to criminal penalties.
  4. Failure of your contractor to obtain a roofing permit and comply with workers’ compensation and safety requirements may stop work and cost you more money to complete the work.
  5. If your contractor suggests it will be best if you obtain the building permit yourself—beware: this is never a good idea.
  6. If you pay your contractor and he or she does not pay the suppliers and subcontractors, you may legally be required to pay twice.
Your roof is the first line of defense in protecting your home and its valuable contents against the elements. Maintaining it will help keep you comfortable while being energy efficient.

To learn more about roofing, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Salty Topics: Sea level rise in the southeastern US: What have we seen and what do we expect?

Join us for the kick-off of our all new Marine Science Speaker series at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center. The series will be held on the 1st Thursday of October, November, and December 2011.

Professor Mitchum has been a faculty member in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida since. His interest in sea level rise began in the mid-1980's, and he remains especially interested in the study of 20th century sea level rise. Professor Mitchum's research focuses on the use of satellite and in situ data to study sea level variations and climate change.

For more information please contact Libby Carnahan at (727) 453-6522