Q&A Spotlight

Do Ductless Minisplits Work With Every Floor Plan?

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Clay Whitenack, planning a new home in central Kentucky, had assumed that 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. would be a "no-brainer" for heating and cooling. Then he began reading about minisplit air-source heat pumps, and suddenly the situation didn't seem so simple.

He's intrigued with the possibilities for minisplits, but he's not certain he'll have a floor plan that would be compatible with this type of system, he writes in Q&A post at Green Building Advisor.

How to Finish a Third Floor

Posted on August 17, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Joe Watson lives in a three-story 1993 house in Richmond, Virgina, with a walkup attic, part of which he'd like to turn into living space. The question is how.

Trouble on the Roof

Posted on August 3, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Jeremy Ballard is living in a relatively new home built with structural insulated panels (SIPs), and he's already spotted something that's keeping him up at night. The weather in Kentucky is turning hot and humid, and with the humidity has come condensation on corrugated metal panels installed on the interior of the roof.

Why Are Houses Built This Way?

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Readers of GreenBuildingAdvisor's Q&A forum, and the bi-monthly Q&A Spotlights, are probably used to thorough parsings of seemingly small details in high-performance construction. But GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com reader Peter L. brings our attention to an elemental question: Are we still in the dark ages of residential building?

A Canadian Couple Needs Help Choosing a Heating System

Posted on July 6, 2015 by Scott Gibson

John Ball faces the usual questions as he decides on a heating system for his new home: What system will deliver the best results at the lowest price? What will keep Ball and his wife comfortable in their Canadian locale in Climate Zone 7?

But there's something else that Ball has to consider: Their new retirement home will be empty during the winter when they're in Florida escaping the snow and the cold. As they get older, and health care becomes more expensive, they expect to be returning to Canada on a year-round basis.

Is This Insulation Too Good To Be True?

Posted on June 22, 2015 by Scott Gibson

Jan Verschuren has a nicely roofed older house, and a problem to go with it. Cedar shingles have been installed over skip 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. , making for a roof that's not only historically correct but one that allows air to circulate freely beneath the roof deck. Verschuren's next objective is to insulate between the 2x4 rafters, and here's where he has run into a snag.

How to Insulate a Foundation

Posted on June 8, 2015 by Scott Gibson

About to start a new house in Climate Zone 5, Nicholas C is working out the details of how to insulate the basement slab and foundation walls. There is more than one type of rigid foam insulation he could use, and it could be applied on either the inside or outside of the foundation.

For a couple of reasons, he's planning on 2 inches of extruded polystyrene (XPSExtruded polystyrene. Highly insulating, water-resistant rigid foam insulation that is widely used above and below grade, such as on exterior walls and underneath concrete floor slabs. In North America, XPS is made with ozone-depleting HCFC-142b. XPS has higher density and R-value and lower vapor permeability than EPS rigid insulation.) beneath the slab rather than expanded polystyrene (EPSExpanded polystyrene. Type of rigid foam insulation that, unlike extruded polystyrene (XPS), does not contain ozone-depleting HCFCs. EPS frequently has a high recycled content. Its vapor permeability is higher and its R-value lower than XPS insulation. EPS insulation is classified by type: Type I is lowest in density and strength and Type X is highest.). The XPS would perform better in a wet environment, Nicholas says, and Owens-Corning, one insulation manufacturer, claims it no longer uses a "bad" blowing agent.

Does This Roof Need a Vapor Retarder?

Posted on May 25, 2015 by Scott Gibson

David Amenhauser is buying a home near Boston, Massachusetts, that's apparently still under construction, but far enough along to have the roof framed and insulated.

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.

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