The Profound Effect of Microgrids | Trystate Mechanical Inc

This edition of the blog reviews the impact of micro grids and the significance of Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

Cogeneration growth in New York City | Trystate Mechanical Inc

For the following guest blog post, we thank contributors Matthew F. Zanzalari, Account Manager, and Ryan Rex, Engineering Designer, at H.T. Lyons. A sister PPL affiliate, H.T. Lyons is a full-service mechanical contractor that partners with Trystate to give clients the advantage of energy independence in a competitive marketplace.

Tree Hugger’s Anonymous

Tree hugger. What is a tree hugger? Who are they and what do they do exactly? Let’s examine the term. By definition, the Urban Dictionary defines a tree hugger as “an environmentalist or one who believes trees and all living things should not be cut down or harmed. Someone who works to protect the environment from destruction or pollution.” (1) It may come as a surprise to many that many environmentalists who embrace energy efficiency would opt to cut down trees on their property for the greater good. Yes, this does happen.

Recently, I saw a gentleman speak about politics and economics. This man, who I’ll call, “Ralph,” had a wide range of views about the state of the economy and where I should put my money. Ralph, isn’t a fan of Clean Tech or electric cars, and strangely enough, Ralph isn’t a fan of groups like PETA for hurting the development of windmill fields because of their harm of birds. “Interesting,” I thought to myself. Yet, and to my surprise, he went on to explain how he himself is a self-proclaimed tree hugger. It seems as if somewhere along the line there had be someone who had witnessed Ralph holding up traffic to let a family of turtles cross the road. I realized this joke must normally kill in stuffy, mothball scented conference rooms.

To call yourself a tree hugger for denouncing the deaths of imaginary birds or seemingly imaginary turtles may not be the best argument for swaying the investment decisions of your audience, but Ralph’s point made me question myself as a tree hugger a bit. I feel the definition of a tree hugger has become too convoluted. People who call themselves tree huggers need to think up a new term, myself included.

I’ve come to this conclusion because I’m devoting myself to becoming someone who lives off the grid one day. That is my dream for retirement. You can live on your yacht, I’ll live in my zero energy house. It’s a beautiful dream, and I know if I’m going to accomplish this I’ll need to rely on solar power and wind technology to make it happen. So if I wind up killing birds with my windmill, I’ll be sure to write PETA a check to cleanse my soul of the murderous rage of a tree hugger, and give the winged beasts a proper burial in a pet cemetery. Solar energy though, is something of a different animal.

I live in the Northeast, if you couldn’t tell by my literary accent that is. My town is Blue Bell, Pennsylvania in Montgomery County – a suburb of Philadelphia. As much as people like to say solar power is a waste of money in a town like mine, most of those people are just following the status quo – hang on to what we’ve got because change is the devil. Well, maybe not the devil, but close enough to raise some hairs. Solar power is alive and well here in the great Northeast. As a matter of fact, companies like, Solar City (2), are even installing panels for free plus a nominal monthly fee, which is offset by your energy savings, in exchange for the return on investment. If you want my opinion the return on solar investments called SRECS are hardly worth it since China entered the solar game a few years back, so the trade off from you getting zero to low cost energy compared to the 20+ year payback depending on SRECs is hardly worth the argument.

One thing you have to realize when installing solar is that shading from trees are the biggest issue. Just 10% of shade can reduce solar output by up to 50% or even shut down panels completely. This factor brings me back to my original statement that by definition, and even though I’ve devoted my life to living green, if I cut down trees to embrace the magic and mystery of solar power I may by default forsake my old friends with the beeswax crimped dreads. What a depressing thought. I’ll definitely get ignored at the next Phish concert. Mental note – don’t go to Phish concerts.

“According to American Forests, one tree stores about 0.5 metric tons of CO2 over its lifetime. We’ll assume that removing one tree lowers the net reduction of switching to solar by the same amount. Additionally, we also need to factor in the CO2 emissions involved in manufacturing the solar panels being installed. Producing a typical 5 kWh solar system emits about 10 metric tons of CO2, so the total CO2 emissions associated with removing one tree and installing a residential solar power system are about 10.5 metric tons.

For the removal of the tree to make sense, the net CO2 reduction will need to exceed 10.5 metric tons. That seems like a lot at first, but when you calculate the CO2 emissions you will offset by switching to solar from fossil fuels, it isn’t much at all. Your solar panels should generate at least 6000 kWh of electricity per year, and should last for approximately 25 years.” (3)

So yes, the math is there. If I cut down two or tree trees I can minimize my carbon footprint and begin my journey to live off the grid albeit sacrificing the love and respect of tree huggers everywhere. Now if I do need to cut down trees, what’s the best course of action and how much will it cost? I hit up my local friends and tree surgeons at Creative Design Tree Service to find out.

Their website has real information on the actual cost associated with a tree removal. Their online tree removal cost calculator takes into account not only the tree height and thickness but also the trees proximity to power lines, the percentage of the tree that hangs over a house or structure and the distance from the tree to the nearest place for a chipper truck. Creative Design gives you their tree removal pricing right online and you can even choose to have them come out and confirm the pricing (In Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania only). So if one of my readers in California or Brazil wants to know what to look for, the pricing factors shouldn’t change from one area to the next. The owner of Creative Design Tree Service, Tremaine, recommends you consider these factors when pricing for tree removal: Tree height, tree thickness, type of tree, power lines, overhang of structures (tree limbs over houses/sheds), distance to truck, time of year, recent storms/icing.

One thing I can suggest, in addition to the process of finding the right contractor, is maybe thinking about sending the trees to a mill. This is a good way to re-embrace Mother Nature and live by the rule established by our forefather Ben Franklin when he said, “Waste not, want not.” So hey in addition to solar panels, finding a reasonably priced tree surgeon and the banishment of a non-violent community of Phish fans, you can have yourself a fancy new banister or TV stand courtesy of that annoying oak tree that caused you to spend countless Sunday afternoons raking leaves. So by my count that’s a win for everyone.


1. The Urban Dictionary. Tree Hugger by Rick. January 09, 2005.
2. Solar City Corporation. 2014.
3. Ralph Ralf J. Muenster. “Shade Happens”. February 2, 2009.


Cooling India_August 2014

This is the soft copy for the August edition of Cooling India, an HVAC trade journal for the country. The editor reached out to me to do a piece for this issue. I chose to research the longstanding relationship between the US and India, the world’s two largest democracies, and their impact on building performance standards and energy efficiency. The article begins on page 22.

Furnace Change Out is Just the First Step

This article highlights my thoughts on replacing your home furnace, and how the replacement practice these days goes much deeper than “one out one in.” Someone needs to actually look to see if there are large areas of heat loss in the home first, correct those issues, then focus on the furnace replacement. There are a number of ways to do this, and things to look for. If you’re in a jam, and need to have an emergency replacement, there are also options.

Whole-House Humidifier Benefits

An article by Aaron Crowe about the benefits of whole-house humidifiers for AOL Real Estate. Aaron included my thoughts on what a homeowner can expect when installing a humidifier on their forced air system.

Converting Constant to Variable Volume

After finding out my work had been profiled in a published case study for ACHR The News back in 2011 (1), I decided to reach out to see if they’d be interested in using some of my written work for their publication. They agreed to give me a shot! This is my first article with ACHR The News. They are a fantastic resource for any contractor looking to beef up their knowledge on the mechanical trades.

This article discusses the benefits of converting commercial package heating and air conditioning units from constant volume to variable volume. My former colleagues at Bes-Tech, Inc. (2) specialize in these conversions, and have earned great success with the practical application of their technology.



Train Your Team Accordingly 

This article is about the importance of the continuing education of contractors. This topic is important for all people in the building trades because as technology advances at the rapid pace of modern times, contractors have to educate themselves to stay ahead of the competition. This will enable us to become a more savvy group, allow us to recommend the most advanced technologies and services the market has to offer for our clients thus giving us the edge we need to prosper in a tough economy, also separating us from the “fly by night” guys who give all reputable builders a bad name.

Making Ice House a Hot Property

This article was a case study on a LEED project we performed in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia for the The EnVision Group (1). The scope was to convert and old ice house (literally they sold blocks of ice) to a sustainable condominium complex, which earned a Gold certification. The case study was published in ACHR The News back in 2011.

I find it always makes for an interesting day when you get a random phone call from England asking you to go on the record about the products and services you offer. The people who contacted me, represented Kingspan (2) for their KoolDuct (3) product line, and were great to work with on this project. KoolDuct is an insulated panel product that is used to fabricate ductwork, among other uses, and out performs the competition offering less than a 10% energy loss through their material.




Green Policies in Action

Lori Kasallis, a writer for the RSES Journal, gave us a nice plug in her expose on Green Innovation back in 2010. She directly quoted one of my previous articles on Indoor air quality “Green Building: The Inside Story (Benefits We Can Breathe In) (1). This is an important topic that can improve the health of occupants and contractors by reducing harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC), airborne allergens, and sick building syndrome.


My Heater is Blowing Cold Air

If your heater is blowing cold air, chances are it’s also the coldest day of the year and you’re in the middle of a home emergency. This would be the epitome of Murphy’s Law, which states “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” This should be the unofficial motto of the service industry. However, a homeowner can protect themselves by being as construction davy as possible.

This article gives a crash course on some types of home heating systems and what people should think about when they’re in need of service.

How Do I Light My Pilot?

This article highlights my suggestions on how to go about lighting a pilot on your home heating system of water heater. Although I recommend calling a professional, this is important knowledge for any homeowner. Keep in mind, this article was written a few years bcd when standing pilots were more of the norm.

Can I make My Air Conditioner More Efficient?

New technologies come out every year to improve comfort and efficiency in terms of home heating and cooling. My friend, Jim Fung, created the “Soothing Comfort System” that puts a new spin on the design of split system air conditioners. I interviewed him about his research and saw one of his systems installed at The Plough in the Stars restaurant & Bar in Philadelphia. Jim was able to reduce one of the air conditioners by 50% with his design.

Need a PET/CT Scan? You Deserve Maximum Comfort

A few years back, we performed a LEED certified interior renovation for the Abington Health Care Center in Willow Grove, PA. The project received a Silver certification from LEED and has continued to provide maximum comfort to the people within ever since.

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