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Eco-Glossary

Active Solar:  Strategies that harness solar energy whether for electrical production, heating water, or heating air that use mechanical devices to transfer collected heat from the collector to the end use.

Air Cleaning:  An indoor-air quality-control strategy that uses particulate filtration, electrostatic precipitation, or gas sorption to remove various airborne particulates and/or gases from the air.

Airborne Particulates:  The solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.

Alternative Energy:  Energy from non-conventional (non fossil-fuel) sources such as the sun, wind, geothermal, and moving water.

Array:  A group of solar modules or panels connected together in a structure.

Carbon Dioxide:  A gas that is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels and the respiration process in all animals.  It is used by plants during photosynthesis.

Carbon Monoxide:  A colorless, odorless, highly toxic gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels.

Cellulose Insulation:  Insulation made from plant fibers, typically recycled newspaper and treated with a fire retardant.  It’s thermal properties are comparable to fiberglass batt insulation.

CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp):  An energy-saving, long-life fluorescent light bulb that fits into a standard light bulb socket.  They come in various shapes, sizes and wattages to meet most lighting needs.

Composting:  The aerobic decomposition of vegetable matter into a humus-like material that can be used to return organic matter and nutrients back to the soil.  The decaying material should be periodically mixed to provide air that aids the decaying process.

Conservation:  The use of various strategies to reduce the quantity of energy used by increasing energy efficiency and limiting waste.

Cost effective:  Strategies used to save energy and resources that will pay for themselves and their maintenance costs over a given period of time.

Day-lighting:  The use of natural light instead of artificial light in interior spaces reducing energy usage in the process.  Natural light has also been shown to have a positive effect on people.

DC:  Electricity which flows in only one direction as from a solar panel or battery.

Embodied Energy:  The quantity of energy spent to create a product which included extracting raw materials, processing, manufacturing and transporting it.  It is one measure of the environmental impact of a product.

Emission:  Any gas, particle or vapor that is discharged into the air, soil, or water.

Energy Efficiency:  Any activity that uses less energy to provide the same results or that uses the same energy to provide greater results.  It is expressed as the ratio of effective energy output over energy input.

Flat Plate Collector:  A glass or plastic covered box that collects the energy from sunlight by heating a dark absorber material, usually a metal plate or tubes.  This heat collected without the use of reflective surfaces is transferred to air or a liquid that moves through the collector.

Flow Reducer:  A device used to limit the amount of water that will flow through a pipe or plumbing fixture, used to cut water usage.

Fossil Fuels:  Naturally occurring hydrocarbons such as oil, coal, propane, natural gas, methane and gasoline that are derived from the fossilized remains of plants and animals.

Global Warming:  An increase in the mean near surface temperature of the earth.

Glazing:  The transparent or translucent portion of window and skylight assemblies. Glazing is typically made of one or more panes of glass or plastic that may also utilize thermally broken spacers and various coatings that can increase performance.

Harvested Rainwater:  Collected rainwater that is used for irrigation, flushing toilets and/or other indoor uses.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning):  An acronym for heating, ventilation and air conditioning and is the mechanical system that helps to control the climate in a building.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ):  A term that refers to how the air in a building effects the health and comfort of the building occupants.

Infrastructure:  Water and sewer lines, roads, urban transit lines, schools and other public facilities needed to support developed areas.

Inverter:  An appliance used to convert direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) for standard household use.

LED’s (Light Emitting Diode):  A semiconductor diode that turns almost all of the electrical energy it uses into light when it is charged.  The light bulbs from this up and coming technology can last up to 60,000 hours, as compared to 10,000 hours for CFL’s and 1500 hours for incandescent bulbs.  They are expensive, but they more than make up for it in energy savings.

Mechanical Ventilation:  The use of fans or other mechanical devices to introduce outdoor air to the inside of the building.

Mercury:  A toxic odorless silver metal that is liquid at room temperature, which can be found in fluorescent light bulbs and old thermostats.  The amount of mercury contained in newer fluorescent laps is much less than in the past.

Natural Ventilation:  Air that moves into and through a space or structure due to natural convection and/or air currents.  This can be accomplished through the use and judicious placement of thermal chimneys, operable windows, doors and skylights.

Occupancy Sensor:  An electronic device typically connected to a lighting source that can sense when a space is occupied and subsequently will turn the lights on and keep them on for a set period of time or as long as the space is occupied.

Passive Solar:  Harnessing the sun’s energy to heat and cool buildings that are designed to take advantage of solar orientation, and employ various other elements such as overhangs, thermal mass and appropriately placed glazing without the use of mechanical devices or other controls.  Most houses can be modified to take better advantage of the sun’s energy to help reduce heating and cooling costs.

Payback:  See Return on Investment.

Photovoltaic (PV):  The use of semiconductors typically silicone incorporated into a device that turns light directly into electricity (direct current).  The primary component is a cell which can be grouped to form a module or panel.  A group of multiple panels is called an array.

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