Building Science

California Study Shows Big Savings in Home Energy Retrofits

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

At the Forum on Dry Climate Home Performance earlier this year, I got to hear three building science experts talk about a really cool research project they've been working on in Stockton, California. Bruce Wilcox, John Proctor, and Rick Chitwood (Wilcox and Proctor are shown in photo at right) filled us in on the Stockton project, which now has two years of data and shows some really impressive results.

How to Buy an Energy-Efficient Ceiling Fan

Posted on May 14, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

A little over a decade ago when I was building a house and buying a bunch of ceiling fans, it wasn't so easy to figure out which fans were energy efficient and which weren't. That's not the case anymore because every ceiling fan now has a label on the package that tells you how much air movement you can expect for each watt of electricity you put into the fan.

The Great Ventilation Debate, Live at the ACI Conference

Posted on May 6, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Last week at the Affordable Comfort Conference (also known as ACI), I co-moderated a panel called The Great Ventilation Standard Debate.1 Duncan Prahl of Ibacos proposed the session and rounded up a collection of some of best building science folks in North America to be on the panel.

What Happens When You Put a Plastic Vapor Barrier in Your Wall?

Posted on April 30, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

A lot of people have heard advice about vapor barriers and vapor retarders. Many of them have walked away confused. A big part of the problem, I think, is that they've been told what to do — "Put it on the warm-in-winter side," or "Never use one" — but they haven't had the physics of what happens explained to them.

Does Open-Cell Spray Foam Really Rot Roofs?

Posted on April 23, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Murmurs and hearsay about open-cell spray foam insulation have been gaining traction for a while. It rots roofs, people have told me. Not long ago, someone even told me that in Florida, roofing companies won't let their workers go up on roofs with open-cell spray foam because the roofs are so spongy, the guys fall right through.

Open-cell spray foam is getting a bad reputation among some people in the construction industry. But is it deserved?

How to Detect an Internet Solar Energy Scam

Posted on April 16, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

All I was trying to do was find some sports scores on Yahoo the other day when I saw it. I don't go looking for this stuff, and when I do see it, I try to ignore it. But this one clotheslined me with an unfair term.

That's the ad in question to the right. Have you seen it? I probably shouldn't tell you the name of the website (powerfreedom.com), but the kryptonite term that made my fingers go apoplectic was “free energy.” Seeing it capitalized intensified the effect. And the photo! Is that a diseased wireless router robot surrendering its secrets to me?

Four Ways Bad Duct Systems Can Lead to Poor Indoor Air Quality

Posted on April 9, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Indoor air quality (IAQIndoor air quality. Healthfulness of an interior environment; IAQ is affected by such factors as moisture and mold, emissions of volatile organic compounds from paints and finishes, formaldehyde emissions from cabinets, and ventilation effectiveness.) is a big deal. It doesn't get nearly as much attention as energy efficiency or green building programs, but it should be one of the highest priorities for anyone who breathes air and spends time indoors.

It's actually part of an even bigger deal called indoor environmental quality (IEQ), but I'm just going to focus on IAQ here as I show you four ways your ducts might be hurting your indoor air quality.

A Classic 1970s Home Goes from Solar-Heated to Net Zero Energy

Posted on April 2, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Last week I was in Lexington, Kentucky speaking at the Midwest Residential Energy Conference. It was a great regional conference, and the folks there are making things happen. (I even played nice. With all those Kentucky Wildcat fans there, I held back and didn't mention in any of my talks that I'm a Florida Gator.) One of the many highlights for me was getting to visit Richard Levine’s 1970s active solar house. It stands out like no other house I've seen, and I've seen other solar houses.

An Interview with Dr. Iain Walker on Ventilation

Posted on March 26, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

The debate over how much to ventilate a home has been going on a long time. Last year, Building Science Corporation introduced its own standard to compete against ASHRAE 62.2A standard for residential mechanical ventilation systems established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Among other requirements, the standard requires a home to have a mechanical ventilation system capable of ventilating at a rate of 1 cfm for every 100 square feet of occupiable space plus 7.5 cfm per occupant. because (according to Dr. Joseph Lstiburek) of problems that weren't adequately addressed in the ASHRAEAmerican Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). International organization dedicated to the advancement of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration through research, standards writing, publishing, and continuing education. Membership is open to anyone in the HVAC&R field; the organization has about 50,000 members. standard. I've written about the standard and interviewed Lstiburek and ASHRAE 62.2 committee chair Paul Francisco. (See links at bottom.)

Induction Cooktops, Steve Jobs, and a Lone Nut Dancing

Posted on March 19, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Last Friday was Pi Day, named for that special number, 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288...

The three dots at the end mean that I've exhausted my memory of the digits of pi, but pi doesn't care. It just goes on and on. Anyway, Pi Day is a perfect day for a physics lesson because so many physics equations (and solutions) use that special number. And what better physics lesson for Pi Day than one about a device that cooks yummy things for us!

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