Q&A Spotlight

Does a Crawl Space Make Sense?

Posted on November 24, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Michael Geoghegan is designing a house for a mixed, humid climate and he plans on using an insulated crawl space.

An Energy Upgrade On a Budget

Posted on November 10, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Christian Rodriguez has taken an important first step in improving the energy efficiency and comfort of his 1880s home by arranging for an energy auditEnergy audit that also includes inspections and tests to assess moisture flow, combustion safety, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and durability.. With the results in hand, his first step was to air-seal the attic and add 20 inches of cellulose insulationThermal insulation made from recycled newspaper or other wastepaper; often treated with borates for fire and insect protection..

"This made quite a difference both in comfort and heating bills," he writes in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor. Now comes a difficult decision: what to do next.

Determining the Best Attic Option

Posted on October 20, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Attics come in many shapes and sizes, but they are either conditioned or unconditioned. That is, they are insulated and heated like the rest of the house and can be considered conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. , or they are designed to allow the free circulation of outdoor air and become unconditioned spaces.

Is one option better than the other? That's what Rus Pearson would like to know.

Passivhaus Design in Minnesota

Posted on October 6, 2014 by Scott Gibson

As net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. and PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates.-certified houses become more commonplace, it's not at all unusual to hear of exterior walls rated at R-40 or R-50. But that's not going to be nearly good enough for Tom Schmidt, who's building a 3,800-square-foot house in Minnesota.

R-80 is more like it, and the walls need to be "cost-effective" as well as not too thick.

What’s the Best Way to Insulate Crawl Space Walls?

Posted on September 22, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Andy Chappell-Dick is at work on a house in Climate Zone 5 where the task at hand is to upgrade a crawl space by adding insulation as well as a membrane to block the infiltration of moisture. The catch? The owners want to avoid the use of rigid foam insulation if at all possible.

Coping With a Wrong-Sized AC System

Posted on September 8, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Florida is not the kind of place where you'd want to be without air conditioning for very long, so when Chris Marriner's old system died last spring, he didn't waste much time in replacing it. But what should have been a ticket to indoor comfort hasn't exactly worked out that way.

Marriner's HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. technician decided to replace the 4-ton system with one of the same capacity, even though Marriner knew that because of improvements to the building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials. the new system probably would be oversized for the 2200-square-foot home. The tech told Marriner the system could be "tuned."

What’s More Important, Air-Sealing or Insulation?

Posted on August 25, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Green Building Advisor reader Ani Brown is getting ready to build a new house, and like most people in her position Brown will have to make some important choices on how to make the most of a limited construction budget.

Her immediate concern is insulation and air-sealing, two related details that will have a lot to do with how comfortable and durable the new house will be.

Why Is My House So Hot?

Posted on August 11, 2014 by Scott Gibson

When Jeff Watson realized that the insulation on his attic floor was rated at R-11, he did what any energy professional would have suggested: he added more insulation. He air sealed the attic floor, added ventilation baffles where necessary, and blew in a thick layer of R-60 insulation. But he isn't entirely satisfied at the results.

"As expected, the temperature in the house doesn't fluctuate as much," Watson writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor. "However, I feel as if I'm using AC more.

Heat Losses Are Way More than Planned

Posted on July 28, 2014 by Scott Gibson

Bob Holodinsky was hoping for a better outcome from the heat loss calculations he received for his new Peterborough, Ontario, home — calculations that appear to have upset his plans for heating with a ductless minisplit. "I thought I was on the right track," he writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor, "but now I am not so sure."

When the Problem Is Heat

Posted on July 14, 2014 by Scott Gibson

If you have problems dealing with the heat, you probably wouldn't like the desert Southwest, especially when conventional air conditioning is simply too expensive to use on a regular basis.

That seems to be the case for a GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com reader who's trying to learn more about building in a climate where the challenge of staying cool far outweighs the minor and occasional inconvenience of staying warm.

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