Q&A Spotlight

Heating and Cooling in North Dakota

Posted on May 11, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Adam Emter is building a new house in North Dakota, a Climate Zone 7 location with some 9,500 heating degree days a year, and temperatures that fluctuate from 30 below zero in the winter to a humid 90 degrees during the summer.

"My family and I plan on living here for many decades," Emter writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor, "so I'm very focused on building an efficient and comfortable house. I am also trying to keep a reasonable budget and simple design."

Is a Ground-Source Heat Pump My Best Bet?

Posted on April 27, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Cathleen Dalmeida is budgeting for a heating and cooling system as part of an energy retrofit and is wondering whether a 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. is part of her future. An obvious question: How much do they cost?

"Is there a general rule of thumb for pricing of a ground-source heat pumpHome heating and cooling system that relies on the mass of the earth as the heat source and heat sink. Temperatures underground are relatively constant. Using a ground-source heat pump, heat from fluid circulated through an underground loop is transferred to and/or from the home through a heat exchanger. The energy performance of ground-source heat pumps is usually better than that of air-source heat pumps; ground-source heat pumps also perform better over a wider range of above-ground temperatures. and air-to-water heat pump for a medium sized installation?" she asks in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor.

Where is This Water Coming From?

Posted on April 13, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Writing from Climate Zone 6, GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com reader David Metzger is looking for some advice about his standing-seam metal roof. More to the point, why is there water dripping from the soffit when the winter's accumulation of snow and ice starts to melt?

How Would You Insulate My New House?

Posted on March 30, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Nik Fiorito is grappling with the same issues every owner/builder eventually confronts: What's the best way of insulating a new house? Only in Fiorito's case, it gets a little more complicated.

First, he's building in Climate Zone 7, forty minutes north of the U.S.-Canadian border, on a hilltop where the temperature averaged 3 below zero F (-19.6 degrees C.) this past February. He's also considering a fully off-grid 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.) system plus a ground-source heat pumpHome heating and cooling system that relies on the mass of the earth as the heat source and heat sink. Temperatures underground are relatively constant. Using a ground-source heat pump, heat from fluid circulated through an underground loop is transferred to and/or from the home through a heat exchanger. The energy performance of ground-source heat pumps is usually better than that of air-source heat pumps; ground-source heat pumps also perform better over a wider range of above-ground temperatures. for both heat and domestic hot water.

Does a Fireplace Belong in a Green Home?

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Clara Kim and her husband are nearly finished planning their new custom home. Only a few details remain before they can seek construction bids. But one of the remaining loose ends has major energy implications.

Can Solar Electricity Trump a Ductless Minisplit?

Posted on March 2, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Ven Sonata's query is simple: If the falling cost of installing 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. (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.) system has killed off the viability of solar hot water systems, as GBA senior editor Martin Holladay believes, does it also represent a threat to the beloved ductless minisplit for heating and cooling?

Why Is It So Humid In Here?

Posted on February 16, 2015 by Scott Gibson

From the sound of it, Andy Chappell-Dick has left no stone unturned in his quest to keep the air inside his house comfortably dry.

His extremely tight new house in northern Ohio (Climate Zone 5) is built with structural insulated panels, and heated and cooled with a pair of ductless minisplit heat pumps. For ventilation, Chappell-Dick has a Venmar Kubix heat-recovery ventilator(HRV). Balanced ventilation system in which most of the heat from outgoing exhaust air is transferred to incoming fresh air via an air-to-air heat exchanger; a similar device, an energy-recovery ventilator, also transfers water vapor. HRVs recover 50% to 80% of the heat in exhausted air. In hot climates, the function is reversed so that the cooler inside air reduces the temperature of the incoming hot air. that pulls exhaust air from two small bathrooms and supplies fresh air to two upstairs bedrooms with a flow rate of between 40 and 80 cubic feet per minute (cfm).

Choosing the Right Wall Assembly

Posted on February 2, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Southwest Nebraska sounds like the kind of place that gets all kinds of weather: hot and occasionally humid summers, cold winters, and by many accounts lots of wind. This is where Nicholas C will be building his house, and the question is, how?

He's done so much reading on the subject that he's now confused by the number of options he has. Getting it right is important because Nicholas plans on living in the house for a long time.

His best thinking so far? A 2x8 stud wall framed on 16-inch centers and insulated with blown-in cellulose, then wrapped in 2 inches of rigid foam insulation.

Designing an HVAC System for a Cold Climate

Posted on January 19, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Randy Bunney is building a new house in a challenging environment — north central Minnesota, where overnight temperatures plunge well below zero and heating-degree days over the last three years have averaged more than 8,600 annually.

The high-performance, passive-solar home will be a relatively small 1,100-square feet with two bedrooms, an open living-kitchen-dining area, 1 1/2 baths, a mudroom and a mechanical room. Bunney is planning on exterior walls insulated to R-40, the roof to R-60, and "near airtight" construction.

Choosing a New Wood Stove

Posted on January 5, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Patricia Appelbaum is in the market for a new wood-burning stove, one without a catalytic element, to provide mostly supplemental heat for her 1,600-square-foot home. There are a lot of models to choose from, and that's part of the problem.

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