About

Who is Ted and Why is he doing this?

The focus of my work is making homes as safe, comfortable and energy efficient as possible. Consider me as your guide to energy efficient design and retrofits. In addition, I can help you meet your green-building goals. I’ll help you answer questions like these:

  • Which is most cost effective – replacing windows or adding insulation?
  • Is it worth buying a high efficiency furnace?
  • Why is the room above the garage so cold? How can I fix it?
  • Is my utility bill normal for a home of this size?
  • I’m installing radiant heat, is there anything I should look out for?
  • How can keep the upper floor of my house cool during the summer?

I encourage you to browse the site and learn as much as you can. If you have questions, please subscribe to my blog and ask questions there. Please note - I am no longer accepting phone calls or taking on new jobs.

Simple Solutions for Big Problems

Throughout my life, I’ve been a troubleshooter – looking for practical, cost-effective solutions to everyday problems.

Since the early 1990′s, I’ve focused my attention on how to make homes more efficient. Much of what I found in efficient home design was experimental and unscientific – it simply didn’t hold much mass appeal. I understand that most people don’t want to alter their lifestyles. People have demanding lives. They want to reduce their utility bills. And as they become more aware of global warming, they want to do their parts to save energy and reduce their “carbon footprint”.

People also want to create a healthy and comfortable living environment for their family. Ultimately, they all want to increase their comfort, health and well being.

All About Health, Energy and Comfort

Since that time, I have immersed myself into learning about energy and its consumption. I have studied heating, ventilation and air conditioning, insulation science, ground source heat pump technology, green home design, building science, infrared thermography, solar power and alternative energy. In addition, I am on the faculty for the Sustainable Building Advisor program being held in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Each step of the way, I have tried the technologies, learning what works and what does not. Through this blog, I hope to share what I’ve learned.

Why do incompetent contractors hate me?

I’m on a mission to give you the information you need to know when they’re ripping you off.  On the other hand, quality contractors love my blog because I arm you with knowledge so you can tell the difference between the good ones and the bad ones. As an informed consumer, you have a better chance of knowing when your contractor is doing a good job or a bad one. I take this seriously because a bad contractor costs you money. Worse, they can risk the health of your family. Ever hear of carbon monoxide poisoning? Many of these cases would have been prevented if the heating contractor properly serviced the equipment. But through ignorance or incompetence, many simply don’t know better.

P.S. – Why Ted-san?

Both my wife and I are half-Japanese. My wife’s mother is Japanese and when she met me, she started calling me Ted-san, roughly translated as “Mr. Ted.” We were all so tickled by this that it stuck. So now, I often use that as my moniker for web postings.

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Comments
  1. mark greendove says:

    Hi Ted,
    Great new look of your blog BTW!
    I hope you don’t get tired of my questions.
    I had a question about “slow cookers” and microwave ovens vs conventional gas or electric stove. What are the pros and cons?

    • Funny you should ask…I’ve got a brisket in a slow cooker right now…

      The slow cookers/crock-pots that I’ve used are just low-temperature hot-pots, that you run for many hours. The problem is, the outer surface gets really hot, so it’s radiating a fair amount of energy away from what’s cooking. I wrapped my last one in insulation (a radiant barrier bubble foil) to greatly reduce this loss, but my wife wouldn’t let me do that to my new one….
      I saw an article last week asking “what’s most efficient, heating water with a microwave, the stove or an electric kettle?” It turned out that an electric kettle was much more efficient than either the microwave or cook top. I think the kettle is well designed to put the heating coils around the water so that most of the energy goes right into water.
      Another article compared a microwave to a stove. It said that it took 3-4 minutes to boil water in the microwave and 10-12 minutes on the cook top. Both are using 1500w or more, so the microwave was much more efficient.
      It’s a good question worthy of more discussion.

  2. mark greendove says:

    I know a guy who used “insulation” paint. I know some of this stuff is a rip-off but he said it worked! He said it was based on the tiles they used on the space shuttle that doesn’t convey heat very well and insulates too.
    While I’m at it what do you think of roof colors? Are they important to keep a hose cool or warm?

    • Great question! There are several “energy saving” paints marketed. At one point, I purchased bucket of ceramic micro-beads that were supposed to do this when mixed in with paint. Here’s a link to one such product. They claim “…same material coated with insulating ceramic reinforced paints and the difference between the two is equal to an average of 35% reduction of heat transfer”
      The problem is, there’s no peer-reviewed research supporting the use of this material for interior painting. They reference a paper from the University of Las Vegas and the Arid Regions Environmental Laboratory, which I have been unable to find. So that doesn’t lend credibility to their claims.
      However, it is conceivable that it does have some “radiant barrier” capabilities.
      On the roof colors, here’s a quick link that can start to answer the question. I’ll write up an article that delves into your questions more. Thanks for asking!

  3. Leon Papir says:

    Love your blog. Extremely useful information.
    Continue the great work.
    Leon

  4. Amanda Detweiler says:

    Ted – just wanted to tell your blog looks excellent!

  5. MS says:

    Ted, I saw your post on the Fujitsu Central HEat units you like. Where are you located? I have heard conflicting info re its ability to heat in cold areas.

    • I’m in South-Eastern Pennsylvania. We’ve got relatively mild winters. Typically, the temperatures are from 15-35 in Jan-Feb (but this winter it’s been pretty warm).

      All conventional (non geothermal) heat pumps have reduced heat output when it gets cold out. The good thing about the Fujitsu and similar units are that they can ramp up the compressor speed in order to maintain a significant percentage of their rated output even when it gets down into the teens or below.

      It’s really important with these things to match the output of the unit over various temperatures with the heating requirements of the rooms that it will be used with. That’s where a real professional HVAC company comes in handy.

  6. MS says:

    Thanks. Are you aware of other websites that discuss these units and their efficiency in non technical terms (or at least not tech giberish)?

    • The best reference I have is the study that I linked to, but that is an engineering study. However, it lays things out pretty clearly, proving that the heat output is maintained even at lower temperatures.
      Otherwise, I haven’t seen anybody else delve into these units like I have. You’ll find references to the Fujitsu 12RLS in a number of discussion groups because a lot of energy efficiency consultants are in love with them because of their high performance and world-class efficiency.

  7. MS says:

    Thanks again. I know Mitsubishi makes a similar product, but it costs more. Have you seen that? Any thoughts re comparing them? Is there any reason to assume that the more expensive unit will be better equiped on the heating? BTW, I’m in NYC, so my weather isn’t that much different than yours.

    Thanks for your comments.

    • The Mitsubishi products are widely used but from what I’ve seen, the build quality of the different high-end manufacturers are comparable.
      Just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Mitsubishi has so many different units that it’s easy to be comparing lower efficiency units. The Fujitsu RLS units are rated at ~25 SEER and have excellent HSPF (heating performance) as well. You have to start diving into the technical manuals sometimes to really ensure that you’re looking at units that are comparable.

      Regardless of what units you use, I always recommend people have some backup heating for miserable-cold nights or if you just need to give a boost to the system. For example, those inexpensive oil filled plug in radiators work great as backups. Just remember that any cheap electric heater costs about 2-4 times more to run for the same amount of heat output than the heat pump, so they’re really backup units.

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