Q&A Spotlight

Making the Case for Exterior Foam Insulation

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Writing from Climate Zone 3, Farm House seems to have worked out many of the details for the dream house he plans to start building in a few months.

"Plan to live in it for 30+ years," he writes in a post at the Q&A forum at Green Building Advisor. "The house will have Zip System sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. and will be well insulated on the inside. I will just leave it at that. Not interested in installing rigid foam on the outside of the roof sheathing. (I have my reasons, so please don't try to convince me otherwise.)

All-Electric vs. Natural Gas

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Given a 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. system with a capacity of as much as 8 kilowatts, does it make any sense to include natural gas appliances in a new house, or would an all-electric design be more practical?

That's the question Markus ponders as he plans a new house in Houston, Texas. Although he has natural gas service in the house where he currently lives, the size of his new rooftop solar system could prompt a change of heart.

Tackling an Energy Remodel in New Hampshire

Posted on May 1, 2017 by Scott Gibson

From the sound of it, Ben Balcombe is about to buy a house built like many others in New England in the 1980s: 2x6 walls (presumably insulated with fiberglass batt insulationInsulation, usually of fiberglass or mineral wool and often faced with paper, typically installed between studs in walls and between joists in ceiling cavities. Correct installation is crucial to performance. ), double-pane windows, baseboard hydronic heat linked to an oil-fired boiler, and vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). siding. The house is in southern New Hampshire in Climate Zone 5.

Balcombe plans to renovate the house in phases. He'd launch a kitchen and bath remodel "as soon as we get the keys," with other upgrades to follow.

Roof Assembly for a Getaway Cottage

Posted on April 17, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Plans are taking shape for Quinn Sievewright's holdiay home: a small retreat with a shed roof that will be built in Climate Zone 4 near Vancouver, Canada. During the winter, the building won't be occupied full-time, but enough so that Sievewright has included several layers or rigid foam insulation in the design for his low-pitch roof. (The drawing at right shows how he's proposed to build it.)

Are Ductless Minisplits Overpriced?

Posted on April 3, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Ductless minisplit heat pumps have received a tremendous amount of attention in the last several years, and Peter L. would like to include one in his own house. There's only one problem: an estimate that seems far higher than it should.

"I was quoted $4,800 to purchase and install a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim 1-ton unit (MSZFE12NA)," Peter writes at GBA's Q&A forum. "That seems very high. Especially since it's a new build and the 3-inch hole is already in the wall."

Is This SIP Roof In Trouble?

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Matt Melton lives in central Washington state in a 3-year-old house with a roof made of structural insulated panels (SIPs) that are 12 1/4 inches thick. The pitch of the roof is very low, only 1/2 inch-in-12, and the metal roofing has been applied directly over the SIPs with no air channel beneath the roofing for ventilation.

Adding Air Conditioning to Radiant-Floor Heat

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Radiant-floor heating systems are unobtrusive because the plastic tubing that distributes hot water around the house is buried in or under the floor. Homeowners like that. But because there are no air ducts with a radiant-floor system, air conditioning must be added separately.

When There Are Too Many Insulation Options

Posted on February 13, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Colleen A, planning a new house in Michigan's Climate Zone 5, has discovered there's a downside to the wealth of insulation products on the market: It's hard to make a decision.

Can We Live Happily Underground?

Posted on January 30, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Earth-bermed houses built with the Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) approach are a little off the beaten track for most builders and prospective homeowners. These houses go back a bit: John N. Hait described the construction of an early "umbrella house" in the 1980s.

As unusual as they may be, PAHS houses have their advocates. One of them is Laurel Davison, who is planning to build one in Missouri on a gently sloped lot with an unimpeded southern exposure.

What’s Wrong With Our New Furnace?

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Scott Gibson

John Melichar has upgraded the furnace in his two-level San Francisco home, one of several improvements that should have made the house more comfortable as well as more energy-efficient. The new furnace has the capacity recommended by his heating contractor, but so far the house seems less comfortable, not more comfortable.

In a post at GBA's Q&A forum, Melichar explains his concerns:

"Our contractor told us to buy a 60K BtuBritish thermal unit, the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit in temperature—about the heat content of one wooden kitchen match. One Btu is equivalent to 0.293 watt-hours or 1,055 joules. /h furnace; we opted for 96% 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. with two-stage variable blower — the Goodman GMVC960603BN.

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