Guest Blogs

The Flash-and-Batt Method

Posted on January 22, 2013 by Erik North

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that construction methods don't change quickly — and when they do change, the change is apt to be along the lines of current practices. That makes sense. It’d be near impossible to run a business if you were changing your technique and product five times a week.

Flash and batt insulationInsulation, usually of fiberglass or mineral wool and often faced with paper, typically installed between studs in walls and between joists in ceiling cavities. Correct installation is crucial to performance. is one example of a new technique being implemented by insulation contractors. Flash and batt is a hybrid insulation approach combining fiberglass insulation and closed-cell spray foam.

Two Years With a Minisplit Heat Pump

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Marc Rosenbaum

With the exception of one week in February 2011 where I switched back to the oil boiler to take some data before it went away, the Fujitsu 12RLS has now been heating the house for two years. The dedicated meter for the heat-pump system reads 2,584 kWh. So, it cost about $250 per year to heat our house, in mostly milder-than-normal weather. This is about 1/4 the cost of operating the oil heating system.

Do We Really Need 12 Inches of Foam Under Our Slab?

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 21st article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Exterior Insulation Is Like A Sweater For Your House

Posted on January 11, 2013 by Erik North

There are many construction and insulation approaches which allow a builder to create walls and ceilings with high R-values and low levels of air leakage, creating a much better envelope than is achieved with standard framing methods. Structural insulated panels (SIPs), insulated concrete forms (ICFs), double-stud walls, and advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. can all produce more energy-efficient buildings than the ol' stick-built number.

The one thing they can’t do is to improve the efficiency of an existing house.

Insulating Window Shades

Posted on January 8, 2013 by Marc Rosenbaum

One of the technologies I have tried in my house is an insulating window shade with side tracks. I got four Ecosmart cellular shades from Gordon Clements at Gordon's Window Decor. One is translucent, and the other three are blackout shades, achieving that by using aluminum foil inside the cells. Because the foil is reflective to radiant heat transfer, these shades have a higher insulating value than the translucent version.

Passive House Certification: Looking Under the Hood

Posted on January 1, 2013 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 20th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Heat Loss from Air Is No Big Deal, Right?

Posted on December 27, 2012 by Erik North

No, it’s a huge deal. The photo (right) is of air streaming through recessed lights in a cathedral ceiling.

I often and exhaustively speak about air sealing as if it were a universal good. And it is, right up there with brown ale and Avengers movies. My audit customers often look confused when I address their insulation questions by bringing up air barriers and air leakage. I mean, “Why are you talking about air leaks when I asked about the insulation?”

Backup Electrical Power for a Passivhaus Project

Posted on December 25, 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 19th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Self-Cleaning Ovens

Posted on December 24, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum

For the first time in my sheltered life, I have a range with a self-cleaning oven. After over a year which included roasting a number of chickens (which we've been raising the past few years), we had an oven covered with enough spattered grease to cause the smoke detector to go off any time we turned the oven on.

The manual that came with the range cautioned against using the usual oven cleaners and recommended the use of the self-cleaning feature. This process locks the oven and heats it up to a very high temperature — Wikipedia (among others) says 900°F.

Can We Get More and Pay Less To Keep About The Same?

Posted on December 18, 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 18th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

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