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Search for Kyron Horman Still Desperate, Infrared Scans Not Finding Him

PORTLAND, Ore. –

Investigators say not a trace of Kyron Horman has turned up, even with hundreds of people searching. Nearly two days after the 7 year old is believed to have gone missing from Skyline Elementary School in rural Northwest Portland, investigators are still trying to figure out what happened to the smiling second grader after he was last seen here Friday morning.

An entire night and full day has passed since 8:45 a.m. Friday morning when Kyron's step mom says she last saw the boy after taking him through a science fair at school and sent him off to class. His teachers say he never checked in.

If investigators do have solid information giving them any idea where he might be they're not saying: "The information we're keeping from the public and press has everything to do with integrity of investigation," said a search spokesperson.

Now searchers look through tall grass, from the air and on foot, for any sign of the little boy. The FBI has now joined the search, as has the National Guard. Using an infrared system, heat detection and a search pattern grid to not miss an inch, searchers have completely searched an area of about two miles surrounding the school.

We were given an inside look at Kyron's classroom here at Skyline Elementary. Inside Ms. Porter's second- and third-grade blended class we saw a glimpse into who this 7-year-old boy is: Kyron liked art and we're told the second grader is very good at it. Kyron wrote about splashing in a lake, with artwork to compliment his writing assignment. We also saw his science fair project, which was about red tree frogs.

"We're asking people who live in the area to do an exhaustive, no-stone-unturned search of their property," said Captain Jason Gates at the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. They are being asked to search everything, including "their outbuildings, cars and trucks."

Gates said they have enough professionals for the search. Even so, one of Kyron's neighbors has put up missing fliers, hoping the photo will help remind people what Kyron looks like.

Meantime, classmates and their parents as well as complete strangers worry and try to help. The father of one Skyline Elementary School student, 5-year-old Pierce Sherpa, said his son couldn't sit home any longer: "He heard the news last night and he said this morning 'Let's go. We gotta go, gotta go find this little boy.'" 

He, like others around the search perimeter, hope the little boy is OK.

Investigators said the family is cooperating in the case: "Our point is don't lose hope." We asked a spokesperson for the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office about the step mother's whereabouts and what she knows. Deputies said they can't comment, as it is part of the investigation.

The search for Kyron will continue throughout Saturday night. Horman is 3-feet-8-inches tall, weighs about 50 pounds and was wearing the a science-themed T-shirt (see photo below), orange and black cargo pants, white socks and worn black Skechers-brand tennis shoes with orange trim.

Those with any information about Kyron Horman's disappearance are asked to call a tip line at (503) 261-2847 anytime.

UPDATE: At a press conference at 8 p.m. Saturday night, Incident Commander Lieutenant Harry Smith said search and rescue teams also are on standby if they need to be deployed based upon information received by the tip line.

Meanwhile, Skyline Elementary officials are setting up appointments with parents or anyone else who was at the school Friday. Those appointments are expected to take place throughout the day Sunday at 11536 N.W. Skyline Blvd.

"We are doing everything possible," Smith said, "to bring Kyron home."
This photo, from the Facebook page of the missing boy's step mother, was taken the morning of Kyron Horman's disappearance.
This picture was taken at the science fair at Skyline Elementary Friday morning. Friends now say this snapshot
which KATU showed on its 11 p.m. news Friday was the last image of Kyron Horman before he disappeared:

Pictures of Scottish homes taken with thermal imaging cameras will used to cut carbon emissions around the country.

Images of about 10,000 properties will be taken as part of a pilot scheme run by both the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and the Scottish Government.

The scan results will help the association to prioritize work on energy efficiency measures such as loft, cavity wall and water tank insulation in around 2000 properties.

The homes will then be rescanned after improvements are carried out and data showing the improvements provided online at www.sfha.co.uk

Deputy chief executive of the SFHA, Andrew Field, said: "Substantially reducing carbon emissions in a relatively short space of time is challenging and this pilot project is at the forefront of efforts to meet the Government targets.

"The use of cutting edge technology will enable housing providers to pinpoint precisely where heat is being lost and to put resources into work where it will have the most impact, resulting in lower emissions, lower fuel bills for tenants and warmer homes."

The four housing associations taking part in the pilot which if successful, could be rolled out across the country, are River Clyde Homes, Dunedin Canmore, Clyde Valley and Cairn housing associations.

House Passes Energy Efficient Homes Tax Credit Extension

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4213 that included the extension of the $2,000 federal tax credit for energy efficient new homes.  Below is the language that was passed:
 
SEC. 206. NEW ENERGY EFFICIENT HOME CREDIT.
 
12 (a) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (g) of section 45L is
13 amended by striking ‘‘December 31, 2009’’ and inserting
14 ‘‘December 31, 2010’’.
15 (b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendment made by this
16 section shall apply to homes acquired after December 31,
17 2009.
 
The extension of the energy efficient homes credit was part of an omnibus tax extension bill.  Since the House version differs in total content it must go through a reconciliation process with the Senate.  Since the House and Senate language for the energy efficient homes credit extension it will not be affected by the reconciliate process.  Once the House and Senate passes the bill, President Obama must sign it.
 
RESNET efforts now need to be directed in extending the credit to homes that meet 50 on the HERS Index and extending the credit to 2014.

Buyers Beware

May 5, 2010 2:46 PM, By Rob 'Doc' Falke


An increasing number of building performance contractors are entering the HVAC industry at an alarming rate. This new breed of contractor has the potential to deliver effective all inclusive energy packages, but some newcomers are installing the worst quality HVAC systems we’ve seen in decades.

The ability to deliver real HVAC system efficiency requires much more than hiring an employee with a state issued license and buying a 95 AFUE furnace and an 18 SEER condenser at the parts house. Unfortunately, few consumers have the ability to discern the difference between a good or bad energy contractor. They also can’t tell which part of the energy package might be effectively completed separately by an HVAC contractor.
Unless those of us that can deliver quality and performance can learn to educate our customers to see the difference between us and them, our future may not be so bright.

Let me report on two “energy contractor” cases that came in just this morning.



Case Number One

One HVAC contractor had a customer that was in trouble. The consumer had spent over $30,000 to add solar panels and a hot water coil to his heating system. The solar contractor had stuck a 20-in. x 30-in. coil on top of a 16-in. x 25-in. cooling coil without a sheet metal transition. One third of the coil was outside of the airstream. The solar contractor had been in business over 30 years.

The solar contractor had added a super restrictive air filter to “improve indoor air quality” and has sealed the duct system without adding additional duct capacity.

The system total external static pressure was nearly 1.5-in. w.c and the existing blower was rated at only .50-in. w.c. The system had less than 200 CFM per ton of airflow and the temperature rise over the solar heating coils was only 5 degrees.

When the consumer called the solar contractor about our contractor’s findings he was told that the 5 degree rise over the solar heating coil was normal and was a good deal for “free” heat. With a price tag of $30,000 the payback on this system would be about 230 years.

The question is, when our customers call and inquire about bogus building performance contractors, how do we defend against these multi faceted box sellers?

Although there are many high quality building performance contractors out there with decades of HVAC experience and who are fully equipped and able to deliver the goods, many, like this solar contractor, are not. Unless we obtain an operating knowledge of building performance, we may be shut out from theses opportunities.

Things are changing, my friends. Unless we’re prepared for inquiries that will come from our customers, we may not even be invited to the dance as consumers seek whole house solutions to their energy needs.



Case Number Two

A top notch HVAC contractor was called out to a 6 year old home to fix a whole house energy upgrade disaster. The discouraged and frustrated homeowners were not realizing the fifty percent energy savings that had been promised when they bought the $199 energy audit from Green Something Solutions in a storefront at a posh local mall. The $20,000 plus they had subsequently spent was lost money. Meanwhile the storefront has a new for rent sign. 

Apparently after an 8-hour energy seminar they had purchased a used blower door and infrared camera on E-bay. The young “green” energy guys weren’t as qualified as they had claimed they were.

The attic was filled with foam board and empty cans of spray foam.

The heating and cooling system performance was measured in the 40% range. The supply air temperature was 168F but lost 60 degrees of its heat before it entered the supply registers on the main floor. The flue was damaged during the whole-house energy upgrade and carbon monoxide was pouring into the attic. A high efficiency filter had been added to the furnace and was installed so the new filter couldn’t be removed from the filter housing when it was time for a filter change.

When our contactor presented his findings, the customer summarized the situation. “It looks like the Green Something Boys left my home with the energy grade of an “F.” Can you get me up to an energy grade of a “B” so I can put all this behind me?”

As an industry we’re left with two questions to consider:

First, how do we alter our approach to meet and defeat this new competitor? Some will be a flash in the pan and be gone before we know it and will be stealing jobs and damaging consumers every day until they’re gone. Some will be as good or better quality than we are, and are able to deliver the whole energy package. Whatever the answer is, it better include the ability to respond and satisfy the needs of our customers, or we’ll lose them.

Second, do we need to consider the building performance approach in our offering? This doesn’t mean we need to go out and buy a foam insulation truck for $100,000.00 and add additional crews. Can we include basic testing and evaluation services and form alliances with qualified partners and provide what our customers are asking for?

Look ahead for yourself. Learn what’s rolling out in your area. Keep an eye on the incentive money and new tax credits driving new business your way and arriving soon in a competitor near you.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company with technical and business level membership organizations. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free system renovation procedure, contact Doc at robf@ncihvac.com or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.

Energy Star Fraud - Beware, Applicable to Homes Too

A new report from the auditing arm of Congress shows that the federal Energy Star program has a sloppy certification process that can be easily abused.

The 18-year-old program, which is administered jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, offers consumers rebates and tax credits on appliances that meet certain standards for energy efficiency.  American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies rely on the Energy Star program to identify products that decrease greenhouse emissions and lower energy costs. Companies use Energy Star certification to market their products to consumers in the hopes they will buy products based on government certification of their energy consumption and costs.

Given the millions of dollars allocated to encourage use of Energy Star products and concerns that the Energy Star program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse, GAO was asked to conduct proactive testing to (1) obtain Energy Star partnership status for bogus companies and (2) submit fictitious products for Energy Star certification. To perform this investigation, GAO used four bogus manufacturing firms and fictitious individuals to apply for Energy Star partnership and submitted 20 fictitious products with fake energy-savings claims for Energy Star certification. GAO also reviewed program documents and interviewed agency officials and officials from agency Inspector General (IG) offices.

But in a report issued today, the Government Accountability Office says its auditors obtained Energy Star certifications for 15 of 20 products it submitted using fictitious companies and individuals. Those certifications led to requests from real companies to buy some products because they had received Energy Star endorsements.

The phony products included a gasoline-powered alarm clock, which was approved by Energy Star without a review of the company web site or questions about the efficiency claimed for it.  Auditors also submitted a geothermal heat pump, which they claimed to be more efficient than any product listed as certified on the Energy Star Web site.  The product was certified and its efficiency data was not questioned. Two bogus products were rejected by the program and 3 did not receive a response. One of the products that an outside company wanted to buy was a computer monitor that had been approved by Energy Star within 30 minutes of submission.

This clearly shows how heavily American consumers rely on the Energy Star brand.

At briefings on GAO's investigation, DOE and EPA officials agreed that the program is currently based on self-certifications by manufacturers. However, officials stated there are after-market tests and self-policing that ensure standards are maintained. GAO did not test or evaluate controls related to products that were already certified and available to the public. In addition, prior DOE IG, EPA IG, and GAO reports have found that current Energy Star controls do not ensure products meet efficiency guidelines.

In 2008 Energy Star reported saving consumers $19 billion dollars on utility costs.  Energy Star is slated to receive about $300 million in federal stimulus money to be used for state rebate programs on energy-efficient products.

Energy Star fraud not only affects products, but your house. Many homes are Energy Star “approved”, while a quick thermal scan can determine whether the house is, in fact, energy efficient. As a licensed home inspector, I have come across many homes that were “Energy Star compliant” but consistently had gaps of missing insulation among other problems with air leaks, thermal barriers, duct issues, leaks, etc. Beware of an Energy Star rated home, get an infrared energy audit before investing in a property.

Below are some sample pictures of mine from home inspections of Energy Star approved houses:

Get an Energy Inspection, Earn up to an $8,000 Tax Credit

A major source of energy waste in homes is an incomplete or improperly sealed building envelope—essentially, the boundary between inside and outside. One third of all heating and cooling leaks are found between joints in the floors, ceilings, and walls; almost half of the remaining leaks are found between fireplaces, windows, doors, or heating and cooling ducts. Today a homeowner is faced with the burden
of perfecting weatherization of their house in an effort to fight rising energy costs. To assist homeowners in identifying and fixing these common problems, the Obama Administration has recently announced the HomeStar program.

HomeStar will provide tax rebates of up to $8,000 for a projected 3 million
homeowners across the country. These credits will fund improvements to address the energy losses caused by leaks and air loss in unsealed houses. The HomeStar program will provide incentives for products
and services affiliated with energy efficiency and, upon completion of weatherization improvements, rewards will be offered to homeowners for every nominal 5% saved in home energy consumption. Depending on the
size and average energy consumption of the household, the improvements are expected to save between $200 and $500 annually. The program is expected to pass through Congress quickly due to strong
bipartisan political support for energy efficiency.

The HomeStar program is divided into two tiers corresponding to the extent and expense of improvements. The Gold Star program will provide up to $8,000 for inspections including an energy audit and any efficiency measures that are projected to result in a 20% reduction in home energy costs from the previous year’s data. An additional credit of $1,000 is also available for each 5% increment of energy reduction costs. It is expected the GoldStar program will provide rebates to 500,000 homeowners in the United States.

The Silver Star component of the HomeStar program targets the Do-It-Yourself-ers who prefer to perform the work themselves. This program will provide rebates of up to 50% of the cost of weatherization materials. Products eligible for rebates must meet program efficiency standards, though they may include both synthetic and eco-friendly insulations, caulks, windows, doors, duct wrapping, fireplace seals (including flue repairs), as well as plumbing and electrical fixture seals. Homeowners will be eligible to claim credits of up to $3,000 from store rebates found on eligible products or through local energy providers; 2.9 million homes are projected to participate.

In the process of tightening the envelope, homeowners are advised to either have a professional home inspection or a do it yourself radon test in sub level basements upon completion of the weatherization process, as a perfectly sealed home can result in a rapid spread of formerly accumulated radon pollution, commonly found in sub-basements. Congress has projected a total home energy savings of $9.4 billion over the next decade with an improved health and comfort rating for up to 3.3 million homes. These energy savings are the equivalent to taking 615,000 cars off the road or four 30-megawatt power plants. Check back to our blog for more about program developments, participants’ success stories, or to learn more about how to bring green to your home - and profit!

"Home Star" Program to Plug Home Energy Retrofits

(re-published from CNET news, Isaac Savage)


You heard of Cash for Clunkers, get ready for Cash for Caulkers, a proposed multibillion program designed to create jobs and give homeowners lower energy bills.

Representatives from building efficiency advocacy groups on Friday held a “Webinar” to outline the Home Star program–nicknamed Cash for Caulkers–and said that its prospects for becoming a law should be known within several weeks. A Home Star Coalition has been formed, which includes large retailers Home Depot and Lowes, equipment suppliers such as Dow and GE appliances, along with energy-efficiency contractors, labor groups, and environmental advocacy groups.

For homeowners, the proposed legislation provides incentives to weatherize homes, through the the inspection of an energy audit, and upgrade to more efficient lighting or heating and cooling systems. Another part of a comprehensive energy audit is a blower door test, which measures how air tight a home is by measuring air flow at a given air pressure.

It will be structured on two levels; silver and gold – depending on the level of investment made, said Matt Golden, the chair of the EfficiencyFirst advocacy group.

To get up to $2,000 in tax credits for an energy efficiency retrofit, a homeowner needs to do at least two approved improvements and work with contractors that meet certain “basic standards,” said Golden, adding that Home Star is designed to fit with the EPA’s Home Performance EnergyStar standards and state programs.

The gold level involves having a building’s energy “performance” rated by contractors accredited by the Building Performance Institute. The more stringent performance goals, which could reduce a building’s energy consumption of 20 percent, would be eligible for up to $4,000 of tax credits, according to the description on the EfficiencyFirst Web site.

The intent of Home Star is to create jobs in the short term, either through training or creating demand for home efficiency products and services. But given the amount of money being discussed and its standards-based approach, Home Star has the potential to be “transformative” in the building efficiency industry, Golden said. “This is a moment in time where we are going to have a foundation to drive a strong industry,” he said.

President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which includes venture capitalist and green-tech investor John Doerr, has endorsed the plan as it meets economic and environmental goals, Golden noted. There’s also the potential to create demand for green building products. Among some of Home Star Coalition members is Serious Materials, a Silicon Valley company that makes energy-efficiency building products including windows and sheet rock that’s manufactured in a relatively low-polluting way.

Golden cautioned that Home Star is not yet law. But it does have clear support from President Obama, who has touted the benefits of home weatherization many times and called insulation “sexy” during a Home Depot visit last month.

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