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How To Do Everything

The Energy Nerd explains (almost) everything you need to know to build a green, energy-efficient home

Posted on Oct 14 2011 by GBA Team

A collection of links to dozens of
“How To” articles, culled from
Martin Holladay’s Energy Nerd blogs

UPDATED on June 2, 2017

Design and planning

How to Begin Learning About Green Building

How to Design a New Home

How to Design a Pretty Good House

How to Design a Superinsulated House

How to Design a Net-Zero-Energy House

How to Design a House for a Hot Climate

How to Design a PERSIST House

How to Apply Passive Solar Design Principles

How to Design an Attic

How to Plan a Deep Energy Retrofit

How to Plan Energy Upgrades for an Older House

How to Calculate Payback for Energy-Efficiency Improvements

How to Decide Whether to Use Energy Modeling Software

How to Decide Whether to Use Manual J Software

How to Decide Whether Your Wall Needs a Vapor Barrier — Part 1

How to Decide Whether Your Wall Needs a Vapor Barrier — Part 2

How to Decide Whether Your Roof or Walls Need a Smart Vapor Retarder

How to Decide Whether Your Roof or Walls Need a Radiant Barrier

How to Decide Whether Your House Needs Extra Thermal Mass

How to Plan Ahead for Insulation

How to Perform Dew-Point Calculations

How to Avoid Problems With Inward Solar Vapor Drive

How to Understand the HERS Index

How to Decide Whether to Install a Swimming Pool

How to Design Lighting for Your Home

How to Design for Aging In Place and Universal Access

How to Use the Psychrometric Chart

How to Prevent Cold Floors

How to Design an Off-Grid House


How to Build a Frost-Protected Shallow Foundation

How to Design a Slab on Grade

How to Build a Basement

How to Build a Crawl Space Foundation

How to Pour Concrete Footings Over Rigid Foam

How to Install a Capillary Break Above a Footing

How to Grade Soil

How to Fix a Wet Basement

How to Install a Radon Mitigation System


How to Design a Wall

How to Build Walls That Won't Rot

How to Choose Wall Sheathing

How to Install Nailbase Panels on Walls

How to Build a Straw-Bale House

How to Implement Advanced Framing Techniques

How to Install Larsen Trusses

How to Build Walls With Service Cavities

How to Design and Build a Rainscreen

How to Design a Wall Using I-Joists As Studs

How to Choose Airtight Wall Sheathing

How to Choose the Right Wall Flashing


How to Design Roofs

How to Design Roof Overhangs

How to Perform a Chainsaw Retrofit

How to Decide Whether to Include Roof Vents

How to Make Site-Built Ventilation Baffles for Roofs

How to Prevent Ice Dams

How to Fix a Roof With Ice Dam Problems

How to Decide Whether to Install a Vegetated Roof

Exterior rigid foam and mineral wool

How to Calculate the Thickness of Rigid Foam Sheathing

How to Install Exterior Rigid Foam on Walls

How to Choose Between Polyiso, XPS, and EPS

How to Fasten Furring Strips to a Foam-Sheathed Wall

How to Install Mineral Wool Over Wall Sheathing

How to Calculate the Effect of Windwashing on Exterior Mineral Wool

How to Install Rigid Foam On Top of Roof Sheathing

How to Attach Exterior Trim on a Wall with Exterior Rigid Foam

Windows and doors

How to Order Windows

How to Install Windows In a Foam-Sheathed Wall

How to Improve the Energy Performance of Old Windows

How to Specify Window Glazing

How to Choose Triple-Glazed Windows

How to Choose Orientation-Specific Glazing

How to Choose Windows That Perform Better Than Walls

How to Specify Windows for a Passivhaus

How to Decide Whether High-Performance Windows Are Worth the High Cost

How to Install Windows in a Foam-Sheathed Wall

How to Nail Window Flanges Through Foam

How to Avoid Condensation on Your Windows

How to Decide Whether Vinyl Windows Are OK

How to Make Sure Your Window Shutters Are the Right Size

How to Select an Exterior Door

How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Garage Door

Water-Resistive Barriers

How to Choose a Water-Resistive Barrier

How to Use Rigid Foam as a Water-Resistive Barrier

How to Decide Where to Put the Housewrap

How to Install a Liquid-Applied Water-Resistive Barrier

Air sealing

How to Create an Air Barrier

How to Create an Air Barrier At Your Sheathing Layer

How to Air Seal an Attic

How to Air Seal a Basement

How to Comply With the Thermal Bypass Checklist

How to Implement the Airtight Drywall Approach

How to Seal Air Leaks in Your Home's Envelope

How to Determine Which Holes to Seal First

How to Select the Best Tapes and Gaskets

How to Use Sprayable Caulk for Air Sealing

How to Use Canned Spray Foam Intelligently

How to Conduct a Blower-Door Test

How to Conduct a Thermographic Inspection

How to Find Leaks With a Fog Machine


How to Compare the Properties of Insulation Materials

How to Determine How Much Insulation You Need

How to Understand R-Value

How to Install Cellulose Insulation

How to Insulate an Attic Floor

How to Install Cellulose Insulation on an Attic Floor

How to Install Fiberglass Batts

How to Insulate Using the Cut-and-Cobble Method

How to Insulate Using the Flash-and-Batt Method

How to Decide Whether to Use Closed-Cell Spray Foam Between Studs

How to Install Rigid Foam on the Interior of Walls

How to Determine the Best Ratio of Exterior Rigid Foam to Fluffy Insulation

How to Insulate a Basement Wall

How to Insulate Walls in an Old House With No Sheathing

How to Protect Spray Foam from Ignition

How to Insulate Rim Joists

How to Insulate an Old Cape Cod House

How to Insulate an Old Brick Building

How to Build an Insulated Cathedral Ceiling

How to Insulate a Low-Slope (Flat) Roof

How to Decide When to Use Foil-Faced Bubble Wrap

How to Create a Conditioned Attic

How to Ensure That Your Conditioned Attic Doesn't Have High Humidity

How to Build an Unvented Crawl Space

How to Reduce Thermal Bridging

How to Design a PERSIST House

How to Plan a Deep-Energy Retrofit

How to Build a Foam-Free House

How to Insulate Under a Slab With Mineral Wool


How to Install Stucco

How to Approach a Siding Replacement Job

How to Install Siding Over a Rainscreen

How to Install Flashing for a Wall With Brick Veneer

Heating systems

How to Choose Someone to Perform Your Load Calculations

How to Design a Heating System for a Small, Tight House: Part 1

How to Design a Heating System for a Small, Tight House: Part 2

How to Perform a Heat-Loss Calculation — Part 1

How to Perform a Heat-Loss Calculation — Part 2

How to Design a Forced-Air Heating System

How to Design a Heating System Using Ductless Minisplits: Part 1

How to Design a Heating System Using Ductless Minisplits: Part 2

How to Heat Your Whole House With Just Two Ductless Minisplits

How to Stay Out of Trouble When Using Ductless Minisplits

How To Buy a Ductless Minisplit

How to Design Your Duct System

How to Keep Ducts Indoors

How to Solve Room-to-Room Pressure Imbalances

How to Seal Leaks in Ductwork

How to Test Your Duct System for Leakage

How to Heat Your House With a Tankless Water Heater

How to Decide Whether to Heat With Wood

How to Heat Your House With a Wood Stove

How to Heat Your House With an Air-To-Water Heat Pump

How to Decide Whether to Install a Ground-Source Heat Pump

How to Decide Whether to Install a Radiant Floor System


How to Perform a Cooling Load Calculation

How to Decide Between Central Air Conditioning and a Window-Mounted Air Conditioner

How to Remember the Names of Air Conditioner Components

How to Choose an Evaporative Cooler

How to Adjust Your Air Conditioner to Work Efficiently in Your Climate

How to Cool Your House With a Whole-House Fan

How to Specify and Operate Ceiling Fans

How to Decide Whether You Need a Dehumidifier

How to Fix a House That is Too Hot

Ventilation systems

How to Design a Good Ventilation System

How to Select and Install a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

How to Ensure Your House Has High Indoor Air Quality

How to Ensure Adequate Bathroom Ventilation in a House With an HRV

How to Determine Whether an HRV is Cost-Effective

How to Choose Between an HRV and an ERV

How to Duct an HRV

How to Select a Ductless ERV or HRV

How to Maintain Reasonable Indoor Relative Humidity Levels

How to Decide Whether to Install Passive Air Inlets

How to Decide Whether to Install a CERV

How to Design a Ventilation System That Includes Earth Tubes

How to Condition Outdoor Ventilation Air With a Glycol-Filled Ground Loop

How to Measure Air Flow

How to Measure Air Flow Without Fancy Equipment

How to Maintain Your Ventilation Equipment

How to Determine a Ventilation Rate for Your Home

How to Install a Range Hood Safely

Domestic hot water

How to Choose a Water Heater

How to Reduce Energy Used to Heat Water

How to Decide Whether to Install a Tankless Water Heater

How to Choose a Heat-Pump Water Heater

How to Install a Drainwater Heat Recovery Device

How to Design and Install a Solar Hot Water System

How to Decide Between a Solar Hot Water System and a PV System

Renewable energy systems

How to Design a Solar Electric (PV) System

How to Decide Whether Your PV System Needs Batteries

How to Decide Whether to Install a Wind Turbine

How to Design and Install a Solar Hot Water System

How to Decide Whether to Install Solar Hot Air Collectors

Appliances and plug loads

How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Refrigerator

How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Clothes Washer

How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Television

How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Dishwasher

How to Choose a Clothes Dryer

How to Choose a Microwave Oven

How to Choose Between Smart Appliances and Dumb Appliances

How to Choose a Garage Door Opener

How to Reduce Electricity Devoted to Plug Loads

How to Reduce Electricity Used By Your Swimming Pool Pump

Interior finishing

How to Tape and Finish Drywall


How to Manage Lead Paint Hazards

Miscellaneous advice

How to Decipher the Tax Credits for Energy Retrofit Work

How to Understand the Difference Between Energy and Power

Tags: , , ,

Image Credits:

  1. Karyn Patno

Oct 14, 2011 10:05 AM ET

Good Grief
by 5C8rvfuWev

Martin, why on earth isn't this a book?

Oct 14, 2011 10:23 AM ET

Response to Joe
by Martin Holladay

Talk to Taunton Publishers -- put in a word for the idea!

At their last book editors' meeting, the idea was shelved. I guess the bankruptcy of Borders Books has publishers wondering how books can be marketed these days.

Oct 15, 2011 10:45 AM ET

Great Resource
by Troy Farwell


Oct 16, 2011 12:28 AM ET

Good Grief indeed
by Gordon Taylor

God knows I'd buy it.

Oct 18, 2011 8:42 AM ET

by Keith Gustafson

The book I would like to see him write is:

"Replacing the Hippie House"

subtitled 'what I am going to do with the millions you pay me for writing this book'

Seriously, without all of the 'well you could do this' or 'you might choose to do this' that is required of Martin in this online job of his.

I think it would be a good read.

Oct 18, 2011 9:07 AM ET

Response to Keith
by Martin Holladay

Trust me -- there will never be "millions" for writers who advise builders on construction methods. It's not a lucrative field. So if you have kids in college wondering about what subject to major in, I don't recommend journalism or English literature -- especially if they seek "millions."

So, am I reading you correctly: you are tired of advice that explains that there are always two or three solutions to every problem? Instead, would you rather hear me voice a strong opinion stating, "This is the way to build a house"?

Oct 18, 2011 10:33 AM ET

RE Martin
by Keith Gustafson

tongue was firmly in cheek regarding the millions.

I think it is interesting to see what smart people do regarding choices and trade-offs. I think the personal decision making is sometimes more interesting than general advice. It is a very different thing, educational in a different way.

Oct 18, 2011 10:37 AM ET

Response to Keith
by Martin Holladay

Here's the short answer: I try to plug a few more air leaks every year, and I burn firewood that I cut myself. I don't anticipate building myself another home in my lifetime.

Oct 18, 2011 5:17 PM ET

This is the way.....
by John Brooks

I think that Keith asked a very good question.
It is a question that you usually seem to dodge.
Perhaps you do not need or want another home....
What construction method would you suggest if a close friend or family member wanted to duplicate your hippie house in Vermont?

Joe Lstiburek's "perfect" (outside insulation) ?
or a "Double Wall with cellulose" AKA Turd ?

Oct 18, 2011 6:47 PM ET

Edited Oct 19, 2011 9:19 AM ET.

Response to John Brooks
by Martin Holladay

Believe it or not, I'm being honest when I say there are a lot of ways to build energy-efficient walls, and they all work. I am in favor of double-stud walls filled with cellulose, and I also like walls with thick exterior polyisocyanurate insulation. Both work well.

I recently had an exchange of e-mails with architect Jesse Thompson, who says he is getting tired of the endless discussions about walls. I may be putting words into his mouth, but I get the impression that he is thinking, "Enough already! Who cares?"

After all, if you build a good, tight, well-designed high-R wall, it's going to work. So let's stop arguing. There are other aspects of houses to discuss: attic insulation, windows, airtightness, house size, orientation, passive solar features, and heating systems. If anyone of us builds a house with very low energy bills, let's just say, "Bravo!" and move on.

Oct 20, 2011 3:20 PM ET

Almost complete but needs one more...
by albert rooks


Can you help us with:

"How to survive the recession"?

Oct 20, 2011 3:25 PM ET

Edited Oct 20, 2011 3:26 PM ET.

Response to Albert
by Martin Holladay

Ask your grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles who remember the 1930s. Here are a few reminders:

1. Have a vegetable garden.

2. Turn out the light when you're not in the room.

3. Invite the extended family to live together in the same house.

4. Barter with your neighbors.

5. Cook more grits, oatmeal, rice, and beans. Cook a big pot and it will last for several days.

6. Patch your clothes.

7. Walk and bicycle to get around.

8. It's never too cold to cut firewood when you are all out.

Oct 24, 2011 11:20 AM ET

ICF Construction

I don't know, maybe I missed something but I didn't read one 'How To' title which even made a reference to ICF house construction. You go on and on about fancy framing, vapor barriers, thermal bridging, and so forth up the ying yang but for my construction dollar nothing beats ICF to deal with all those issues in one fell swoop. End of story and of my rant.

Oct 24, 2011 11:36 AM ET

Response to Jeff
by Martin Holladay

Although I haven't written a blog about ICF construction, plenty of other GBA authors have.

If you search our website using the search terms "insulated concrete form" or "ICF," you'll get lots of links, and have plenty of articles to read and videos to view.

Oct 26, 2011 6:29 PM ET

by Brian Carter

I live in Hew Hampshire,but I'm ready to break camp and relocate.I would be a good neighbor.How is the real-estate market in your neighborhood?

Oct 26, 2011 6:34 PM ET

Brian - about the real estate market
by Martin Holladay

I don't know much about real estate. I think it's fair to say that real estate prices everywhere have dropped from two or three years ago.

Nov 15, 2011 5:50 PM ET

top post
by Minneapolis Disaster, 6B

May I suggest permanently and prominently linking to this digest at the top of the Q&A page?

Nov 15, 2011 6:41 PM ET

Thanks, MD
by Martin Holladay

Glad to hear that you find that the page is useful.

Oct 11, 2013 3:49 PM ET

Thanks Martin!
by Greg Smith

I would order this book right now, if it was a book.

Taunton Press pay attention, please!!

Jul 8, 2014 8:47 AM ET

Martin I have followed GBA
by W. Timothy Ward

I have followed GBA for the last few years. Your blogs are always interesting, balanced, and well written. You are fundamentally an educator who will have a lasting effect in your field. Making millions is not generally part of being an educator but respect from people who may have millions is not uncommon.

Jul 8, 2014 10:05 AM ET

Response to W. Timothy Ward
by Martin Holladay

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad that you find the articles to be useful.

Jul 9, 2014 11:16 AM ET

Maybe an E-Book ?
by bob holodinsky

Possibly put all the articles together in an E-PUB format and make it downloadable for a fee ...I know I would want it just to reference articles more easily..thanks,Martin for all your research...Bob

Jul 14, 2014 11:17 AM ET

You need a DONATE button!
by Jason Burk

Sounds to me like a lot of folks would be willing to pay for this, whether it was a legitimate book, fee-based e-book, or just a button to click "buying you a cup of coffee" through Paypal. Take note! And great work...

Jul 14, 2014 11:48 AM ET

Response to Jason Burk
by Martin Holladay

If you or any other readers want to contact Taunton Press with any suggestions for a book which you are interested in seeing published, you can contact Taunton via this e-mail address:

Jul 13, 2015 4:41 PM ET

Thank you
by Ben Rush

Thanks for putting all these links in one place. Very helpful.

Jan 26, 2017 5:45 AM ET

Edited Mar 11, 2017 8:37 AM ET.

Yes, Taunton will publish a book
by Martin Holladay

Taunton Press will soon publish my book, titled Musings of an Energy Nerd.

[Later edit] The book is now available from the Taunton Press web site. Here is the link: Musings of an Energy Nerd.


Musings of an Energy Nerd book cover.jpg

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