Building Science

Wingnut Real-World Testing of Basement Waterproofing

Posted on March 22, 2018 by Peter Yost

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?

Is a Ventless Fireplace More Efficient Than a Condensing Furnace?

Posted on March 14, 2018 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

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.

Advice for Getting the Most Out of Your Insulation Contract

Posted on February 28, 2018 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

I love insulation. It's a wonderful thing because it saves energy. It makes buildings more comfortable. And it's pretty inexpensive considering how long it lasts (or should last). I get asked a lot for my opinion on the best insulation to put in a building and my answer is straightforward: A well-installed insulation is the best. I like fiberglass. I like cellulose. I like spray foam. I like mineral wool. I like blown, sprayed, batt, and rigid insulation.

Installing Insulation With the X-Floc Ventilated Dry Injection System

Posted on February 22, 2018 by Peter Yost

At the end of my recent blog on Kooltherm rigid phenolic foam insulation, I mentioned that the roof and wall assemblies at an energy retrofit project in Brattleboro, Vermont, were insulated with cellulose by a company called American Installations.

Is R-8 Duct Insulation Enough?

Posted on February 14, 2018 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

If you know a little building science, you've no doubt seen a lot of problems that occur with air distribution systems. Ducts just don't get anywhere near the attention they deserve in most homes.

I've written about ducts quite a bit here and have shown problems resulting from poor design and installation. We all know how stupid some of those problems are. So today I'm going to talk about a problem that doesn't get nearly enough attention: duct insulation — even when the design and installation are perfect.

Kingspan Kooltherm Phenolic Foam Rigid Insulation

Posted on January 25, 2018 by Peter Yost

Improving the thermal performance of an existing attic is often challenging: workers are faced with narrow cavities, low clearances, and claddingMaterials used on the roof and walls to enclose a house, providing protection against weather. systems that make it hard to achieve desired R-values while still maintaining the necessary drying potential of the assembly.

The house at 81 Chapin Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, is no exception. It’s a 100-year-old wood-framed two-story home that Alex Beck and Candace Pearson are determined to comprehensively retrofit to high performance.

Adjusting Bath Fan Use in Winter

Posted on January 24, 2018 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

You may have heard or read somewhere that you should run your bathroom exhaust fan whenever you take a shower and then let it run for a while after you're done with the shower. Showers increase the humidity in the bathroom. Sometimes it gets high enough to cause condensation to appear on the mirror and other surfaces in the bathroom. And that can result in mold growth.

So you should always run your bath fan when you shower. Or so they say.

Ventilating a Home in Cold Weather

Posted on January 10, 2018 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

When I woke up Saturday morning, the temperature outdoors was -40 degrees. The wind chill was -100 degrees! It was just unbelievably, impossibly, inhumanly cold outside. Fortunately, that was on a mountaintop in New Hampshire and not where I was. I happened to have woken up on a mountaintop in North Carolina, where the temperature was a much warmer -3°F.

Night Surveys: The Lights Are On, But Nobody is Home

Posted on December 21, 2017 by Peter Yost

Julie Paquette has been Director of Energy Management at Yale University for about 6 years. That means the buck stops at Julie’s desk for the energy consumption of over 400 buildings on campus. Yale has a pretty sophisticated approach to energy, including the Yale Facilities Energy Explorer, an energy dashboard system that shows energy consumption and details for every one of those 400 Yale buildings.

The Buy-in Problem

Posted on December 20, 2017 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD

Last week I read a nice little article by Steve Baczek about getting buy-in from the various stakeholders involved with building a home. He's an architect who works closely with the people who build the homes he designs. He's also a former U.S. Marine who understands the importance of what he calls "a ladder of leadership and responsibility."

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