Green Building

Do Solar Panels Need to be Cleaned?

Subtitle:  How the accumulation of dust, pollen, and bird droppings affects the energy production of a PV array Images: 

I was at my brother’s house in Lee, New Hampshire, recently and looked up to see that his photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) panels looked a bit dull (see Image #2 below). His PV array is easy to get to — the long north slope of his roof has a walkable 5:12 pitch — so we went up and took a closer look.

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Simple Steps to Improve Air Conditioner Performance

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  If your air conditioner struggles to keep up in the heat, these measures can help Images: 

It's getting hot out there. Here in the Southeast, we love our air conditioning.  In fact, without air conditioning, far fewer people would live in places like Houston, Hattiesburg, and Sopchoppy. And that's true for the hot, dry places, too, like Phoenix, El Paso, and Boron.

So if we're going to have air conditioning in our homes, we want it to work.  It should be effective and efficient.  It should keep us cool without creating new problems, such as excessive noise, bad indoor air quality, or comfort that varies from room to room.

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How to Read Manual J Reports

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  If you know what to look for, it’s easy to check for accuracy Images: 

When you enter the world of building science — whether through building a house, becoming a home energy rater/building analyst, or just hanging out in cyberplaces like this — everyone talks about the importance of getting actual heating and cooling load calculations based on ACCA Manual J. A great number of HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. contractors sell and install oversized equipment with air distribution systems that don't work because these contractors base their choices on rules of thumb.

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Proper Sizing Isn’t the Real Reason for HVAC Design

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  Yes, size matters, but another factor matters more Images: 

Many people seem to think HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. design means you get a load calculation (Manual J in the ACCA protocols) so you know what size system to put in. Hey, that's a great start. It's way better than just using a rule of thumb or Manual E (for eyeball).

But there's so much more to real HVAC design than simply finding out how much heating and cooling a building needs when it's at design conditions. And we might as well start with the fact that my first statement is incorrect: The load calculation does not tell you what size system you need.

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Understanding and Measuring Mean Radiant Temperature

Subtitle:  Mean radiant temperature, a major component of thermal comfort, is easy to measure Images: 

All the way back in 1993, one of my first research projects at the NAHBNational Association of Home Builders, which awards a Model Green Home Certification. Research Center was assessing the performance of radiant ceiling panels for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Housing Technology Program. (The final report was titled “An Evaluation of Thermal Comfort and Energy Consumption for the Enerjoy Radiant Panel Heating System.”)

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Sweaty Southern Slabs

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  Here’s why wet concrete and stone in winter are common along the coast Images: 

If you live anywhere in a warm, humid coastal area, you're no doubt familiar with wet concrete in winter. Some days you walk outside and find the carport slab is soaking wet. How did it happen? Did rain blow into the carport? If it's not rain, is it moisture from the ground that came up through the concrete? Could it be condensation from the water vapor in the air? Let's take a look.

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HVAC Design Requirements in the International Building Codes

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  A look at what the codes actually require for load calculations and duct design Images: 

Building codes, especially those related to energy efficiency, have improved a lot over the years. With building enclosures, this has made a big difference. We now have more insulation, less thermal bridgingHeat flow that occurs across more conductive components in an otherwise well-insulated material, resulting in disproportionately significant heat loss. For example, steel studs in an insulated wall dramatically reduce the overall energy performance of the wall, because of thermal bridging through the steel. , and tested air barriers. On the mechanical side, the improvements are significant — reduced duct leakage and mechanical ventilation in airtight homes — but there's still a gap between some code requirements and what's being installed.

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Converting Heating and Cooling Loads to Air Flow Needs

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  Here’s how Manual J software takes your inputs and gives you both the BTU/hour and cfm needed for each room Images: 

When you embark on the project of educating yourself about building science, one of the first things you encounter is the concept of heating and cooling loads. Every building has them. (Yes, even Passive House projects.) That's why we do heating and cooling load calculations. We enter all the details of the building, set the design conditions, and get the heating and cooling loads for each room in the building.

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Wingnut Real-World Testing of Basement Waterproofing

Subtitle:  UGL Drylok Extreme, Koster NB1 Grey, Xypex Concentrate: Do these interior waterproofing systems really work? Images: 

Back in May 2017 I wrote a blog about negative side waterproofing (NSW). But I was still feeling troubled. The standardized test for NSW from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Standard Test Method for Water Permeability of Concrete”) is frankly really complicated; the schematic seems impossible to decipher (see the Image #1 at the right). Instead of using this test, could we do a real-world, Wingnut-style test for negative-side waterproofing?

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Is a Ventless Fireplace More Efficient Than a Condensing Furnace?

Prime:  prime Subtitle:  An energy conversion conundrum for building science geeks Images: 

One of the primary benefits of a ventless gas fireplace is that you don't lose any heat up the flue. That's because there isn't a flue, of course. (The potential problems with indoor air quality, however, outweigh any benefits, so don't run out and buy one just yet. Or ever.) That ought to make it a winner for heating efficiency in comparison to any vented heating appliance, such as furnace or boiler. Even the highest efficiency condensing furnaces still lose some heat in the exhaust gases that go up the flue.

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