Full Disclosure: First, there are a lot of different ways to get continuous air and water control layers on the exterior of a building enclosure. You can use housewrap, taped-and-sealed rigid foam insulation, liquid-applied membrane, or either the Huber Zip or Georgia-Pacific ForceField system. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses.
So the United States has announced it's withdrawing from the Paris Accord, the international agreement with nonbinding measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. Now everyone's up in arms, speaking in exasperated tones about the travesty of this decision.
"But... but... the science," they say. Yeah, let's talk about science.
I've been guilty of perpetuating a myth. Not long ago I wrote an article in which I said installing insulation, "cavities [should be] filled completely with as little compression as possible." But is compression really such a bad thing? Here on GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com, commenter Dana Dorsett wrote, "Compression of batts is fine (resulting in a higher R/inch due to the higher density) as long as the cavity is completely filled.”
We've had some beautiful cool weather here in Atlanta this spring. It's about 50°F outdoors as I write this, one week into the month of May. The high yesterday was only about 70°F.
We're getting a few more heating degree days (HDDThe difference between the 24-hour average (daily) temperature and the base temperature for one year for each day that the average is below the base temperature. For heating degree days, the base is usually 65 degrees Fahrenheit. For example, if the average temperature for December 1, 2001 was 30 degrees Fahrenheit, then the number of heating degrees for that day was 35.) in the middle of May. (Heating degree days are really just another way at looking at temperature, which I explained in more detail in a look at the fundamentals of degree days.) We occasionally pick up some HDD even in July and August. But it's the winter HDD that matter for heating — and that give us a clue about the climate.
Negative-side waterproofing (NSW) is a tough topic that I have frankly been dancing around for quite some time. Manufacturer claims and homeowner anecdotes of successful interior waterproof solutions for basement walls and slabs did not completely add up. But I did not think that I understood the topic or the physics well enough to challenge the claims or explain my skepticism.
Most new homes in North America are built with sticks. The early home builders used bigger pieces of wood — timbers — and when the smaller dimensional lumber that we use so much today hit the market, they scoffed at those new-fangled little woody things, calling them sticks. Now our home construction industry is full of people who do stick building and the home you live is most likely stick-built. And sadly, many of the techniques used to build many of those homes are the same used before we started insulating them.
Seven years ago, Georgia led the nation. Yep. We were the first state to adopt an energy code that made blower door testing mandatory. All new homes built in the state had to show through performance testing that they had an air leakage rate of less than 7 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals of pressure difference (ach50).
I don’t do blower door work every day, but I do enough of it to appreciate the attention to detail that The Energy Conservatory (TEC) built into its new blower door kit. The kit features a digital pressure and air flow gauge, the DG1000.
You're having your dream house built. You're into the design phase, working with an architect or looking through collections of house plans. You're doing your homework, trying to find out how to ensure you get a top quality house. And that's when you run into all this stuff about building science, high performance homes, HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. design, blower door testing, and the like. Now you're hooked.
You can tell how energy-efficient a furnace is by its official efficiency rating, the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency(AFUE) Widely-used measure of the fuel efficiency of a heating system that accounts for start-up, cool-down, and other operating losses that occur during real-life operation. AFUE is always lower than combustion efficiency. Furnaces sold in the United States must have a minimum AFUE of 78%. High ratings indicate more efficient equipment. (AFUEAnnual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Widely-used measure of the fuel efficiency of a heating system that accounts for start-up, cool-down, and other operating losses that occur during real-life operation. AFUE is always lower than combustion efficiency. Furnaces sold in the United States must have a minimum AFUE of 78%. High ratings indicate more efficient equipment. ). It's a measure of how much of the heat originally in the fuel that's being burned is available for delivery to the home. The more heat that gets lost up the flue or through the cabinet, the lower the AFUE.
But that rating doesn't capture all the ways a furnace can lose efficiency. Some, like how well the heat gets distributed to the house, aren't related to the furnace itself. But there's one big one that is related to the furnace.
Ventilation is a great thing. Bringing outdoor air into the home and exhausting stale indoor air improves indoor air quality. Well, most of the time, anyway. Sometimes the outdoor air quality is worse than indoor air. Sometimes you bring in too much humidity and start growing mold. And sometimes you bring in the wrong outdoor air. But the issue of outdoor air vs. indoor air is a topic for another article.
The Internet age has made it easy to find information. Occasionally you can find some that's even true. That's where it becomes helpful to have someone more knowledgeable than yourself to be able to ask for advice and input on stuff you read online, get feedback on ideas you'd like to try on a project, or discover what cool things other home energy pros are doing.
A new client called me, saying that his insulation contractor urged him to contact me about some moisture problems in the home before they actually embarked on a major energy upgrade. (That was gratifying.) The home was actually moved many years ago off of a failing rubble foundation to a new concrete masonry unit (CMUConcrete masonry unit. Precast concrete block used to build walls. CMUs have hollow cores that can be filled with concrete onsite for additional reinforcement. The use of stronger, more lightweight types of concrete such as autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) is becoming increasingly popular in CMU manufacture. ) foundation on a different site.
Image #2 (bottom of page) shows the home from the front. Image #3 shows the bare CMU on the above-grade portion of CMU foundation.
But it is Image #1 (right) that is the real puzzle. Here are the puzzle pieces:
What happens to the heating and cooling loads when you encapsulate an attic? With the insulation and air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. at the ceiling below the attic, you're excluding the attic space. That volume of air up there isn't involved in the conditioning of the home. But when you move the enclosure to the roofline (usually by installing spray foam insulation beneath the roof deck), now the attic's volume is included in the conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. .
Occasionally I hear people say the loads will be higher because of the extra volume. Does having more air inside really increase the loads?
Here's a little conundrum for you. To get the right amount of heating and cooling to each room in your home, you need a load calculation. Rules of thumb don't work. But if you do a load calculation, the result isn't the size of air conditioner, heat pumpHeating and cooling system in which specialized refrigerant fluid in a sealed system is alternately evaporated and condensed, changing its state from liquid to vapor by altering its pressure; this phase change allows heat to be transferred into or out of the house. See air-source heat pump and ground-source heat pump., furnace, or boiler you need. It's only the first step to sizing your system.
Do you know why? Let's take a look.