Building Science

The Misleading Numbers Behind the Global Warming Impact of Insulation

Posted on March 9, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

I've been reading a lot of BS lately. No, I'm not talking about blood sugar. It's brain science that's captured my attention: understanding how the human brain works, why we do the things we do, and what common illusions often lead us astray.

What I want to talk to you about today, though, is foam insulation and global warming. But first, we have to talk about calamari.

What Is the Ideal Relative Humidity in Winter?

Posted on February 24, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

It was a little crackly around here recently. We had a cold spell in Atlanta, with high temperatures right around the freezing point. As a result, the indoor relative humidity dropped and we got some static electricity.

Even better, what I call the Southern Lights were visible at night, too. (I've never called it that before, but hey, a man named Allison is entitled to make things up on the spot.) That's when the microfiber blanket on the bed lights up every time I move.

Unvented Gas Appliance Industry Fails to Impress ASHRAE

Posted on February 10, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Unvented combustion appliances were added to the scope of 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. 's residential ventilation and 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. standard (standard 62.2) recently. The committee has begun their deliberations on the issue, and at ASHRAE's winter meeting in Orlando last month, the unvented gas appliance industry folks attempted a defense of their products. Based on the results they presented and the reaction from most committee members, I'd say they failed.

Don’t Let Your Garage Make You Sick

Posted on January 27, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

The odds are high that the indoor air quality is worse in a home with an attached garage than in a home without one. Just take a look at the photo here to see some of the potential sources of pollutants that can get into your home's air. How many do you see?

The Pros and Cons of Skylights

Posted on January 13, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

Everyone loves skylights. Right? They bring so much light into a room they can turn a Seattle kitchen into a bright and sunny Florida room. Especially at this time of year (in the northern hemisphere), having that extra light can brighten even the darkest days of winter.

But skylights have a dark side, too. If you're not aware of that when incorporating these roof windows into a home, you can end up with high energy bills, rooms that are unusable at certain times of the year, or expensive repairs due to moisture problems.

My Top 10 Building Science and Energy Efficiency Ideas of 2015

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

The year 2015 is almost finished. I've written 70 articles in the Energy Vanguard Blog and this one makes 49 here at I've been to a bunch of conferences and talked to a lot of people. A lot of thoughts about building science, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and more have gone through my head. (Not to mention all the thoughts about skiing, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, and those things that I never let out of the confines of my skull!)

Is Your House Too Leaky Because of Fiberglass?

Posted on December 16, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

I read a lot of stuff online about insulation and air barriers and other building science topics. I see a fair number of articles bashing certain products or materials. Sometimes it's because the author sells a competing product. Sometimes they just don't like a product. Take fiberglass insulation, for example. What thoughts just went through your head?

Preventing Accidental Dehumidification

Posted on December 2, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

"Oops! The house just had an accident. Whose turn is it to clean it up?"

Yep. We're entering the season of accidental dehumidification. If you've got windows that start collecting water, like the one shown here, you're a victim of accidental dehumidification. It's not something you want in a building.

Not All Energy Savings Are Equal

Posted on November 18, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

The world of electricity is changing quickly. With all the 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. modules out there generating solar power and the advent of the smart meter, there's a revolution going on within the electric utility industry.

I wrote a little bit about this revolution recently when I discussed the duck curve. Near the end of that article, I mentioned that Matt Golden said something about the "new world where EE [energy efficiency] is dead." So I spoke with Matt last week, and here's some of what he said.

An Introduction to the Duck Curve

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor

You may think there's no more boring topic than electric utilities. Power plants. Transmission lines. Engineers with flat top haircuts and pocket protectors full of pens in their white short-sleeved shirts.

Well, let me tell you two words that might help make them more interesting: duck curve. If you haven't heard this term yet, you're not alone.

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