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Five of the biggest environmental, climate change stories over the last decade

first_imgchaiyapruek2520/iStock(NEW YORK) — Dire warnings on climate change from scientists warning about more severe consequences and less time to stop them.Microplastics littering the ocean, the growing great Pacific garbage “patch” and dead marine animals found with plastic and other trash in their guts.Concerns about drinking water tainted with lead and exposure to “forever” chemicals.And a country once again leaning on fossil fuels for energy production despite a global push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The last decade has produced some startling climate and environmental headlines in the United States amid growing awareness of the problems faced around the world — as well as potential solutions for some of them.Here are some of the things biggest developments in climate change and some of other big environmental stories of the last decade:Growing urgency around climate change concernsWhile concerns about excess greenhouse gases and global warming have been around for decades, new reports have raised doubts about whether most countries are doing enough to combat those impacts.NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists say the last five years were the warmest in recorded history.The research has increased the urgency of calls to address climate change to protect the survival of animal species, the oceans, the food supply and public health, among other things.And new studies have also strengthened our understanding of how warmer temperatures impact severe weather events, including increasing the amount of rainfall in a short period of time which can worsen flooding during events like Hurricane Harvey in 2017.Devastating and historic wildfires in western states and around the world in the late 2010s have also raised awareness of the link between climate change and factors that exacerbate wildfires, such as drought and deforestation.The politics around climate change have also shifted significantly as more Americans are showing concern about the potential impacts or actions needed to limit the impact of global warming.More Americans said they support strong government action on climate change in 2018 than in 2008, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last year, but there is still disagreement about what steps the government should take and how much it should spend.While American public opinion appears to be coalescing around the gravity of climate change, the government has been engaged in political whiplash over the past 10 years.For instance, less than a year after the United States, under the Obama administration, formally entered the Paris Climate Agreement, which aimed to drastically curb carbon pollution, President Donald Trump signaled that the U.S. would withdraw. The process of withdrawing will become final next year.The administration argues the agreement relied too much on the U.S. and allowed countries like China to do less even though they release a large amount of greenhouse gases.The Environmental Protection Agency administrator also said earlier this year that water quality and polluted oceans were a bigger environmental crisis than climate change.Trump has expressed skepticism about the causes and impacts of climate change, including a report issued by his own administration about how it could hurt the economy.Climate change has worked its way into the 2020 campaign in a more prominent way than before, with Democratic candidates debating a “Green New Deal” and other ambitious plans to limit climate change.Fueling this progressive push, in part is young people taking a more active role as advocates for change, such as Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swede who has become an international icon.Teenagers and other young people have expressed frustration about the lack of action on climate change, accusing older generations of failing to protect the climate and the environment for their children and grandchildren.Ocean pollution and plasticsIn the last 10 years, cities and states in the U.S. — and countries around the world — have adopted policies to reduce plastic pollution that often ends up in the ocean.Oceana, an international advocacy group focused on ocean conservation, estimates 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter the oceans from land-based sources every year.Environmental activists, researchers, and photographers have documented the impact of plastic pollution on sea life, sharing photos of birds, fish, whales, and turtles with stomachs full of plastic trash and debris.And public awareness of the problem has grown as part of campaigns like “Planet or Plastic?” from National Geographic, encouraging Americans to reduce the use of disposable plastic products like straws, utensils and water bottles.The most infamous example of plastics polluting the ocean is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an area where ocean currents accumulate plastic debris in the north Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California.While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it can be difficult to measure the size because the “patch” isn’t a solid mass, a researcher who has been studying the area since the late 1990s said he saw an “enormous increase” in the amount of plastic pollution between 2009 and 2014.Some of the focus on the issue also increased after China announced it would no longer take plastic from the U.S., increasing concerns that recycling in the U.S. may not be able to keep up with the amount of plastic waste generated by Americans.Despite recycling efforts, the vast majority of plastic waste in the U.S. ends up in landfills, an amount that increased in the last decade as the amount of plastic products being produced also increased, according to EPA’s website citing data from the American Chemistry Council. Plastic recycling started decreasing in 2016.Fossil fuelsThe last decade saw some major shifts in the sources of fuel used to provide energy in the U.S. away from sources seen as “dirtier” for the environment and contributing to climate change like coal.The use of coal in the U.S. has declined since 2015 as natural gas and renewable energy sources became cheaper. Between 2010 and the first part of 2019, 546 coal-fired power plants shut down, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.Coal plants continued to close despite President Trump’s promises to revive the coal industry, including the administration’s actions to ease environmental rules on coal plants they called overly expensive and burdensome.Over the past decade, the U.S. reliance on renewable energy sources, petroleum and natural gas have grown, while nuclear has remained essentially stable, according to the EIA.Health policy and environmental advocates have also raised concerns that rollbacks of environmental rules under Trump or lack of enforcement could increase the risk of health problems for Americans by exposing them to more air pollution.Some policymakers saw natural gas was seen as a “cleaner” alternative to coal in the early 2000s because it releases fewer greenhouse gases when burned, but it has also faced increased criticism in recent years because the production process can release methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.There has also been tension around the use of pipelines around North America as environmental activists and Native American communities raised concerns about the risk of leaks damaging the environment or sources of water around the pipeline.In 2016, thousands of activists protest construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in South Dakota, leading to some violent confrontations with police. The pipeline from North Dakota to Iowa was completed but still faces legal challenges from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe about the potential impact to their land and water supply if there is a spill.And earlier this year. the Keystone XL pipeline, which has faced an extended legal battle, temporarily shut down after the company reported a breach that spilled more than 380,000 gallons of oil. Trump issued a new permit for the pipeline in March amid legal challenges over environmental permits.Drinking water safety and the Flint crisisThe Flint water crisis was one of the most high-profile environmental stories in recent years. After Michigan officials changed the main water source for the city of Flint in 2014, thousands of residents were unknowingly exposed to lead and bacteria through improperly treated water that eroded aging pipes.The incident led to criminal charges against several officials for trying to cover up the problems and is still under investigation by the Michigan attorney general’s office. Six officials have accepted plea deals and prosecutors recently dropped charges against eight people connected to the water crisis, leaving the door open to more charges in the ongoing investigation by the state’s attorney general.Government failures to protect residents in Flint have led to lasting challenges for residents. On the one hand, tests over the last two years have found the amount of contaminants in tap water has drastically decreased since the city switched back to its original water source, provided filters for residents and has been working to replace lead pipes.But many residents say they feel so burned by the crisis they don’t think they can trust their water again.State and national environmental officials say the crisis in Flint forced them to look closely at water quality around the country — raising concerns about lead in cities like Newark, New Jersey which has also provided bottled water to residents after high levels of lead were detected.The attention brought new national attention to the issue and prompted the federal government to revisit its requirements on lead and start the process of updating rules to require more cities to replace aging lead pipes. The proposed new rule was released earlier this year.In addition to lead, other concerns have emerged about drinking water quality in the U.S., including contamination from a type of chemical used in a variety of products like nonstick pans and firefighting foam that have been linked to health problems. Those chemicals have been found in water systems around the country and are currently under review by the EPA and multiple state governments.Deepwater HorizonThe oil spill recognized as the worst in American history began on April 20, 2010, with an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people.The well leaked oil into the Gulf off the coast of Louisiana for 87 days, releasing 3.19 million barrels of crude oil into the water.Years later, researchers and environmental officials are still documenting impacts from the spill.In a study published earlier this year, marine researchers from Louisiana found the spill is still causing lingering impacts to marine life around the source.“Deep-sea ecosystem health, 7 years post spill, is recovering slowly and lingering effects may be extreme,” they wrote in the paper, published in The Royal Society Open Science journal.The Obama administration proposed new safety regulations to prevent future accidents on deepwater oil rigs but the Trump administration has faced criticism for rewriting some of those rules. The Trump administration said its proposed changes would maintain safety while eliminating “unnecessary regulatory burdens.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Magogo sets AFCON target for Uganda Cranes

first_imgFILE PHOTO: Uganda CranesKampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The President of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), Moses Hassim Magogo has said if the Cranes don’t make it out of the group stages at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), it will be termed a failure.Speaking to URN in an exclusive interview in his office in Mengo on Wednesday, Magogo said they have made the targets known to the head coach Sebastien Desabre and the players.“We qualified for the 2017 Afcon in Gabon and bowed out in the group stage and now we are a much more experienced team that should be able to qualify for the knock out stage,” added Magogo.Desabre’s team is pooled alongside hosts Egypt, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Group A for Africa’s biggest tournament which runs June 21st to July 19th. “We qualified for 2019 Afcon with a game to go and without a goal conceded before we lost to Tanzania. We have given the coach the training camp in Abu Dhabi that he requested for and two build-up games that should prepare the team well enough,” added Magogo.Although Magogo refused to reveal how much, he made it clear that they have also introduced hefty winning bonuses which will keep increasing if the team progresses to the later stages of the tournament.“This time we are more than prepared even on the logistical side. In 2017 we were returning to the big stage after 39 years and we were like amateurs who did not know a lot of things,” he explained. Magogo also explained that having a bigger part of the team having played at the 2017 Afcon in Gabon is a very big advantage in-terms of experience. “These boys are not scared of facing any team now because they have beaten top teams in the continent before,” he explained.Assistant captain Hassan Wasswa Mawanda has also made it clear that they will do all it takes to make an improvement this time round by qualify for the next round of 16. “We need to die a little for the country and put up better performances that in 2017. The Federation has made sure they provide us with all that is needed and it’s now our duty to perform,” added Mawanda.Uganda will open her campaign against DR Congo on June 22rd before they take on Zimbabwe and complete with a game against Egypt.*****URNShare on: WhatsApplast_img read more

Naked Teen Triple Murder Suspect Arrested After Trying to Flee Police

first_imgThere’s always a Florida connection: Matthew Bernard is a Virginia man accused of killing his mother, sister and 1-year-old nephew at his home in rural Pittsylvania County, authorities say. He was apprehended running around naked outside. The victims include 24-year-old Emily Bernard Bivens and Cullen Bivens, the wife and son of Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Blake Bivens. Bernard’s 62-year-old mother, Joan Bernard, was also killed. The 19-year-old Bernard was taken into custody by police while running naked through Keeling, Virginia, hours after the murders. He has since been booked into a local jail, authorities said.vmargineanu/iStock(KEELING, Va.) — A teenage suspect in a triple murder in Virginia was taken into custody after fleeing from authorities while naked.Matthew Bernard, 18, of Keeling, Virginia, was arrested on three counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office. He is believed to have shot and killed three relatives at a home in Keeling, an unincorporated area near Virginia’s southern border with North Carolina.While responding to a 911 call about someone being shot on Tuesday morning, deputies found the body of one of the victims, a woman, in the driveway of the residence, while the two other victims — a child and a second woman — were found dead inside the home, the sheriff’s office said.The bodies were taken to the Roanoke office of Virginia’s medical examiner for autopsies to determine the cause and manner of death. The victims’ names will be released once family members have been notified, according to the sheriff’s office.Danville Community College in Danville, Virginia, was under lock-down Tuesday as a “precautionary” measure after Bernard, who was a student there, was identified as the suspect at-large in the slayings, according to the Danville Police Department. He was said to be armed and dangerous.ABC affiliate WSET-TV of Lynchburg, Virginia, was in a media staging area at the scene in Keeling that afternoon when suddenly Bernard, who wasn’t wearing any clothes, ran out from a nearby wooded area and attacked a church groundskeeper then took off again. Authorities chased Bernard down the street and were able to apprehend the teen, who was taken to a local hospital for treatment, according to WSET.The investigation is ongoing, and Bernard’s first court appearance has not yet been scheduled, according to the sheriff’s office. Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

How to Enroll in Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

first_imgPharmaceutical company Moderna reports its potential coronavirus vaccine is promising after all 45 patients in its human trial produced a “robust” immune response. The group given the highest dose had four times the amount of antibodies than recovered COVID-19 patients.Moderna continues to track how long the immune response lasts and plans to follow patients for a year after they’re given the vaccination.Their report was published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine today, causing Moderna stocks to spike by more than 16-percent. As result of the promising trial, Moderna is now planning to recruit 30,000 people for the next stage of testing of its COVID-19 vaccine.The NAIAD says the new trial is posted to the National Institutes of Health’s clinical trials website. It says it will enroll an estimated 30,000 participants for a randomized trial, with participants either given the vaccine or a placebo. The trial is expected to begin on July 27 and end on October 27.To be eligible to enroll, people must be over the age of 18 and healthy. They must be at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Women must not be pregnant and must agree to use contraception throughout the study period. They must also not be breastfeeding. Men must refrain from sperm donation from the point of the first dose and for three months before enrollment.People not eligible to join include those who have already been infected with SARS-CoV-2, people who are acutely ill, have previously been infected with the coronaviruses MERS-CoV and SARS.Trials will be taking place at 87 locations across the U.S.A full list can be found at the end of the NIH’s clinical trial page, along with contact details for Moderna’s clinical trials.Researchers are not yet recruiting for the trial. More details will become available on how to enroll once recruitment opens.Further information on the trial will also be available via Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine page.You can also register interest in volunteering for clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines under development via the NIAID here. The COVID-19 Prevention Network has been set up to combine four clinical trial networks dedicated to the new coronavirus, including the Moderna trial.last_img read more

West Palm Beach man arrested for sex trafficking

first_imgThe Palm Beach Sheriffs Office is reporting that the have arrested a 23-year-old man who reportedly offered two teen girls payment for sexual favors.Cheridon Tyler Edgar was arrested earlier this week after the two victims told authorities Edgar had been offering them “things of value” in exchange for sex.According to the report, Edgar offered one of the victims an iPhone 11 and vape pens but when the teen no longer wanted to have sex with him, he reportedly threatened to return the phone and then sent her a video of himself with guns in his waistband. Edgar then allegedly began sending sexually explicit text to the girl’s father and her sister.The second victim told investigators that Edgar gave her $150 for sex but then kept pressuring her for sex until she paid him back the money. The teen says when she tried to cut off all communication with Edgar, he became angry and then threatened to harm her and her family. Once the girl’s mother became aware of the threats, she contacted the police.Edgar has since been arrested and is facing two counts of human trafficking and two counts of lewd and lascivious battery.last_img read more

First Nancy Greene Race of the season at Whitewater a success

first_imgby Graham TraceyWhitewater Ski Team’s record athlete enrollment for 2015 seems to be paying dividends already, with the first stop on the Rio Tinto Alcan Nancy Greene race series at Whitewater being declared a complete success.“This was our best Nancy Greene race yet,” exclaims head coach Dylan Henderson.“We owe it to an army of volunteers, the unbelievable support of Whitewater Ski Resort, and of course, our amazing racers.”More than 170 young athletes under the age of 14 came to Whitewater from Red Resort, Phoenix Mountain, Salmo, and Summit Lake. The sun was shining, the course was firm, and the Silver King lift churned out an endless stream of eager young racers spurned on by the promise of speed, glory, and hot dogs.Athletes under 12 years of age are assembled into teams, and are awarded first, second, or third place ribbons based on overall team performance. This subtraction of focus upon awarding individuals creates a friendly atmosphere where skills acquisition and participation are at the forefront.As the mother of two young racers commented, “The fun of skiing is emphasized without sparing the technical aspects of the sport.”The course was a combination of quick slalom turns through stubby gates, and wider, GS-style turns through larger paneled gates.Each racer had a chance to inspect the course before taking two timed runs. In between runs, most of the racers appeared to be off doing what they love best — skiing.Whitewater Ski Team president Tracy Punchard emphasizes the growing appeal of ski racing in our region:“It’s not about winning; it’s about learning, and having fun,’ Punchard  said.”We’re attempting to teach these kids not only the necessary skills they’ll need to be competitive, but to love the sport first and foremost. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is our biggest enrollment year yet. Parents are seeing the value in this program for their children.”last_img read more

A’s Mike Fiers processing the reality of his second no-hitter

first_imgOAKLAND — Mike Fiers got home early Wednesday morning after making history with the second no-hitter of his career and the 13th in the history of the Athletics franchise.If anyone loves baseball more than Fiers, it might be his father, Bruce. Still, son resisted the urge to call dad at home in South Florida — and it wasn’t because of the time of day. Bruce Fiers has a routine.“He wants to wake up in the morning and watch my start before he goes to work,” Fiers said Wednesday before the …last_img

Photo library: Infrastructure 6

first_img{loadposition tc}Click on a thumbnail for a low-resolution image, or right-click on the link below it to download a high-resolution copy of the image.» Download Infrastructure contact sheet (1.1MB) » Download full image library contact sheet (10.5MB) Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Industries and businesses surrounding Cape Town International Airport. Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: Cape Town International Airport undergoing renovations and enlargement to accommodate the increased number of visitors expected for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res image Cape Town, Western Cape province: The road into Cape Town International Airport. Photo: Rodger BoschMediaClubSouthAfrica.com » Download high-res imageINFRASTRUCTURE 6: {loadposition infrastructure}Having trouble downloading high-resolution images? Queries about the image library? Email Janine Erasmus at [email protected]last_img read more

How Southwest handles complaints: the social media connection

first_imgSouthwest has big plans for lesisure routes Other airlines rely on social media these days to handle complaints, but few employ e-connections as seemingly successfully as Southwest Airlines, the largest domestic carrier in the United States.The airline sports a Social Care Team, whose job it is to take care of complaints, acknowledge compliments and, when the occasion calls for it, crack a joke to lighten the mood.We don’t know if all this contributes to Southwest’s second place ranking as the least-complained about carrier in the country during 2014 according to United States Department of Transportation statistics, but it can’t hurt. Consider, according to DOT statistics the airline boarded 135,769,098 passengers last year, second most among all U.S. carriers. It received 714 complaints, or 0.53 per 100,000 boardings. By contrast, United Airlines boarded 90,520,319 folks according to DOT and got 2,452 gripes. That translates into 2.71 complaints for every 100,000 passengers. The average number of complaints for the dozen U.S. airlines DOT ranks was 2.71 per 100,000 passengers.Tweet, tweetNothing galls a flyer more than being ignored. Southwest’s Social Care Team tries to make sure that doesn’t happen often. It strips away layers of bureaucracy and gets down to business fast. “The Team can handle virtually any inquiry without having to escalate [the issue to higher-ups] or direct the Customer to another channel or department for service,” says Southwest spokeswoman Melissa Ford in written response to AirlineRatings.com.Seven days a week the Social Care Team toils and Tweets. A couple of examples are illustrative:– When summer weather raised passenger hackles and played havoc on airline schedules along the East Coast of the U.S. the rock band The Fray found themselves delayed aboard Flight 176. The band Tweeted “@SouthwestAir owes us a drink.” A member of the Social Care Team got back to them, saying, “So sorry to delay you guys. Looks like Mother Nature is going to be nice and you should be your way soon.”The Social Care representative worked with Southwest’s Proactive Customer Service Team to make up for the band’s delay by issuing, via e-mail, what the airline calls a ‘LUV Voucher,’ good for passage on a future Southwest flight.– After arriving late in St. Louis because of a delay Hadas Gold Tweeted Southwest, “Dear @SouthwestAir please hold the plane from St. Louis to Phoenix so we can make it home.” She offered “to bake the whole plane pies if you hold flight 351 for 10 extra min.”The Social Care Team worked with the airline’s Network Operations Control center. NOC responded, getting right back to the flight: “PLZ MAKE ANNOUNCEMENT: THE STL-PHX FLIGHT WILL HOLD – AND SAY YOU EXPECT THE PIES TO BE KEY LIME.”The message mirrors the airline’s attitude: it takes its job seriously, but not necessarily itself. No word on how many pies produced. In short, Southwest spends a lot of time and effort attempting to nip problems in the bud, before they have a chance to blossom into a full-blown complaints.Traditional channelsWhile Southwest leans heavily on social media to mediate passenger problems, there are other channels as well. During business hours you can contact the carrier’s Customer Relations Department at 214-932-0333. E-mail contact can be had at www.southwest.com/contact _us. Finally there’s traditional snail mail. The address is Southwest Airlines, PO Box 36647-1CR, Dallas, Texas 75235.last_img read more

How Would You Insulate My New House?

first_imgInsulating his planned wood foundation is an entirely different issue.Those are the topics for this Q&A Spotlight. Nik Fiorito is grappling with the same issues every owner/builder eventually confronts: What’s the best way of insulating a new house? Only in Fiorito’s case, it gets a little more complicated.First, he’s building in Climate Zone 7, forty minutes north of the U.S.-Canadian border, on a hilltop where the temperature averaged 3 below zero F (-19.6 degrees C.) this past February. He’s also considering a fully off-grid photovoltaic (PV) system plus a ground-source heat pump for both heat and domestic hot water.Throw those variables in the mix and Fiorito’s situation is a little more complicated than building, say, a nice little ranch in suburban Cleveland.“The home has large, south-facing windows with a walkout basement and as Thunder Bay is quite sunny (no city east of us in Canada gets more sunshine), I think we’ll have a nice solar gain into the home during the winter,” he writes in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor.What, he asks, should the wall assemblies look like? He’s leaning toward using Roxul mineral wool insulation in the 2×6 stud cavities, with Roxul Comfortboard mineral wool panels on the outside to lessen thermal bridging and a polyethylene vapor barrier to keep water vapor out of the walls.A second option would include the use of 1 1/2-inch tongue-and-groove rigid foam on the interior over mineral wool batts. “This would allow me to avoid a poly vapor barrier and flash the windows against the exterior sheathing (OSB, most likely),” he writes. “I know this method (interior rigid foam) is less favored here, but I’m thinking it might work.” RELATED ARTICLES Vapor Retarders and Vapor BarriersForget Vapor Diffusion — Stop the Air Leaks!Insulating Roofs, Walls, and FloorsInsulation ChoicesVapor Retarders and Vapor BarriersHeat Pumps: The BasicsAn Introduction to Photovoltaic Systems Our expert’s opinionPeter Yost, GBA’s technical director, added these thoughts:If I were designing and building a home off-the-grid in “chilly Thunder Bay,” I would beef up the enclosure performance, minimize and simplify my heating system, and plan on keeping cool mostly with ceiling fans and natural ventilation.We are about 250 miles south of you and cool passively on all but a handful of summer days (Brattleboro, Vermont, has about 390 cooling degree days, base temperature 65°F). Not a scenario into which a ground -ource heat pump fits very well.Thunder Bay also seems like a good fit for use of a smart vapor retarder (SVR) system, which can be — and typically is — detailed as an air barrier, and more easily and effectively than polyethylene plastic.In terms of continuous exterior rigid insulation on either the above-grade or the below-grade wood walls: warm the wood by putting the insulation on the exterior. The wood-frame walls will be more hygrothermally stable over time, and this approach will reduce thermal bridging. Sure, this will complicate both the planar location and the flashing of your window installations, but GBA is chock-full of all sorts of resources on just these issues.Finally, if you are pursuing net-zero energy for an off-the-grid home in Climate Zone 7, it’s worth more than a look at Thorsten Chlupp’s work on off-the-grid high performance homes in Alaska.See also:Using Sand to Store Solar Energy A Passive House Design for Alaska’s Frigid ClimateNatural Resources Canada Net Zero Energy HousingNet-Zero Energy Coalition. We’re going to lob this one over to them. Stay tuned. Maybe a Honda cogeneration system is the answerAJ Builder has another suggestion — a cogeneration system built by Honda that uses propane or natural gas to create electricity, domestic hot water and heat. “No noise,” AJ Builder writes, and a long life. “Perfect.”Holladay thinks the U.S. distributor went out of business, but Dana Dorsett writes that FreeWatt actually sold the business to another company, which eventually dropped the unit because of slow sales. “Honda still makes ~1 kW natural gas and propane generators, which saw a huge uptick in domestic sales in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster,” Dorsett says. More than 100,000 of the devices are running in Japan, and one version can be used in off-grid systems.Although Dorsett’s business partner has one “humming away quietly in his house,” a cogeneration system may not be the best fit in Fiorito’s area. “In the much more temperate climate of Japan they are usually mounted on the exterior of the house, which would have serious freeze-up potential in that configuration,” Dorsett writes. “(It’s probably able to handle coastal British Columbia type climates, though.) But it’s probably adaptable for mounting inside of conditioned space.”center_img Insulating wood foundation wallsFiorito’s plans also call for a wood foundation, and that raises its own insulation issues.He thinks he’ll insulate the stud cavities of the foundation with mineral wool, and then add between 2 and 4 inches of rigid foam (expanded polystyrene). That would be capped with drywall and paint.“I don’t think it ever makes sense to install an air-permeable insulation like mineral wool on the interior side of the cold plywood of a wood foundation,” Holladay says. “If you get condensation against the cold plywood, water can trickle down the plywood and form puddles at your bottom plate.“The only interior insulation I can recommend for this type of foundation is closed-cell spray polyurethane foam. Of course, you can always insulate the plywood on the exterior (with mineral wool, EPS, XPS, or closed-cell spray foam).”Yes, insulate the foundation from the exterior, says Dorsett, it will keep the wood warmer and drier. First, the question of the heat pumpIf Fiorito is really going off-grid, he should reexamine his choice of a ground-source heat pump, writes GBA senior editor Martin Holladay, because it won’t work.“You can’t operate a ground-source heat pump with an off-grid electrical system,” he says. “When you get a week of cloudy weather in December, there is no way that your battery system can power your heating system.”He offers three suggestions: a wood stove, a propane space heater vented through the wall, or an oil-fueled parlor stove gravity-fed from an outdoor, elevated fuel tank.Nonsense, says Richard McGrath: a heat pump, possibly with a propane or oil backup, will work just fine.“Solar thermal storage has moved into the 21st century,” McGrath writes. “You could easily enjoy [coefficient of performance] over 5.5 during heat pump operation. Possibly a diesel generator as electric backup just in case the sun doesn’t shine.”No, Holladay replies, “it’s nuts to run a heat pump with a fossil-fuel powered generator.”“Just as nuts, McGrath says, “to build a large enough battery for PV during those times that that bright thing is not up in the sky. Hydronic solutions are readily available to store plenty of water at a temp that would heat a well built home for quite a long time with properly sized storage and controls. It is a shame that you are unaware of these things or just discount them.”Holladay, who has lived off-grid for 40 years and has been using a generator for 22 years, would advise Fiorito not to build off-grid at all, but to connect his PV system with the grid.“I stand by my advice that for an off-grid house, the only heating systems worth considering are heating systems that don’t require electricity,” he says. “When off-grid homeowners ignore this advice, they usually abandon the expensive heating equipment that requires electricity within one or two years.” Is poly in the walls a good idea?Using polyethylene sheeting in the walls as a vapor barrier was routine not too many years ago, but it’s use has fallen out of favor as builders recognize it can trap moisture in wall cavities. Increasingly, designers emphasize the importance of air barriers to reduce the flow of warm, moist air into cold wall cavities.“Shouldn’t we just be doing air barriers?” asks Lucy Foxworth. “There are a number of air barrier materials that allow drying to either side that would work better, I think. Some examples are MemBrain from CertainTeed, Intello from Pro Clima (distributed by 475 Building Supply in the U.S.) and Siga Majpell from Small Planet workshop.”Foxworth adds, however, that Fiorito’s plans for above-grade wall insulation seem a little skimpy. With insulated 2×6 walls and 2 inches of mineral wool panels on the exterior, she suggests, would add to up R-28 to R-30, which “won’t get you very far in terms of insulation in a zone 7 climate.”If the walls can dry in both directions with a more vapor-permeable air barrier and mineral wool insulation, she adds, the threat of condensation inside wall cavities may not be as much of an issue as Fiorito thinks.“Poly is the rule around here, not the exception it seems.” Fiorito adds. “That being said, I am meeting with the building inspector on Monday and could see how high his eyebrows rise at the mention of omitting it.”last_img read more