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The Empire State Building, as seen from 26th Street and 5th Avenue, has undergone a massive, if imperceptible, retrofit that has cut its carbon footprint by about 40 percent. Once a building has been streamlined as much as possible, the equipment that heats, cools and powers it can be replaced with smaller, more efficient devices. For the Empire State Building, that meant refurbishing the chiller plant and ventilation systems. For an average homeowner, it might mean getting a smaller water heater or scaling down air-conditioning units. These measures are meaningful. According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. electric grid emits about a pound of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of power produced. (Kilowatt hour, the standard unit for measuring power consumption, describes the amount of energy that can power 1,000 watts in one hour; one kilowatt hour will power a standard 60 watt incandescent lightbulb for two-thirds of a day.) According to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, highly insulated windows save about six kilowatt hours of energy a day. Over the course of a year, that’s about 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide saved — equivalent to emissions from a cross-country road trip in an […]

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