Musings of an Energy Nerd

Solar Hot Water System Maintenance Costs

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Martin Holladay

I installed my solar hot water system about six years ago. It’s a good system. I have two 4’x8’ AE-32 flat-plate collectors (manufactured by Alternate Energy Technologies), a Superstor Ultra stainless-steel tank (at 80 gallons, it’s a little small, but it’s what I could afford), and an El Sid DC pump from Ivan Labs. Since I installed the equipment myself, it cost significantly less than a professionally installed system.

A Green Building Conference in Montreal

Posted on May 9, 2014 by Martin Holladay

Although I live in the middle of nowhere, in the woods of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, my house is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, Quebec. A few weeks ago I made the drive north to meet a few green builders from Quebec and to attend a green building conference called Ecohabitation 2014.

Montreal is a fun city where it's easy to buy a decent baguette. The city also offers the chance to sample delicious food prepared by Quebecois born in Lebanon, Tunisia, Mexico, India, and many other countries.

WUFI Is Driving Me Crazy

Posted on May 2, 2014 by Martin Holladay

Is it possible to describe all of the factors that influence heat and moisture movement through a wall during a single day? Perhaps. We could start by listing the outdoor conditions, including air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, the angle of the sun with respect to the wall (its altitude and azimuth), the cloud thickness, the precipitation rate, and the depth of snow on the ground. Needless to say, many of these factors change from minute to minute.

Does a Home with an HRV Also Need Bath Fans?

Posted on April 25, 2014 by Martin Holladay

UPDATED on June 29, 2017, with information on Aldes constant airflow regulators.

All About Radiant Floors

Posted on April 18, 2014 by Martin Holladay

So-called radiant floors have an excellent reputation. Many customers report that this type of heating system is comfortable and quiet. Moreover, some suppliers of radiant floor materials and equipment claim that these systems can save energy.

In spite of the purported benefits of this type of heating system, few green homes include a radiant floor heating system. This article will explore why.

Thermal Barriers and Ignition Barriers for Spray Foam

Posted on April 11, 2014 by Martin Holladay

Do building codes require spray foam insulation to be protected with a layer of drywall or a comparable barrier for fire safety? There is no simple answer to the question, for several reasons. The first reason is that the code is complicated.

The second reason is that the code is poorly written.

The third reason is that the code is subject to interpretation by local code officials.

And the fourth reason is that even when the code clearly requires spray foam to be protected with a thermal barrier or an ignition barrier, many code officials don’t bother to enforce the code.

Residential Commissioning

Posted on April 4, 2014 by Martin Holladay

Building a new home usually requires work by several subcontractors, including electricians, plumbers, and HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. installers. At the end of the job, someone — usually the general contractor — has to verify that all of the specified work has been completed.

Has the water heater been installed? Check.

Air conditioner? Check.

Ducts? Check.

Ventilation system? Check.

Deep Energy Retrofits Are Often Misguided

Posted on March 28, 2014 by Martin Holladay

All through the 1980s and 1990s, a small band of North American believers worked to maintain and expand our understanding of residential energy efficiency. These were the pioneers of the home performance field: blower-door experts, weatherization contractors, and “house as a system” trainers. At conferences like Affordable Comfort, they gathered to share their knowledge and lick their wounds.

These pioneers understood what was wrong with American houses: They leaked air; they were inadequately insulated; they had bad windows; and their duct systems were a disaster.

Stay Away from Foil-Faced Bubble Wrap

Posted on March 21, 2014 by Martin Holladay

Most brands of foil-faced bubble wrap are only 3/8 inch thick or less, and have an R-value of only 1.0 or 1.1. Since the product often costs more per square foot than 1-inch thick rigid foam rated at R-5, why would anyone use bubble wrap as insulation?

When the Gas Pipeline Shuts Down

Posted on March 14, 2014 by Martin Holladay

In the wake of the recent military crisis in Crimea, energy experts have been discussing whether Vladimir Putin will be tempted to gain political advantage by shutting the valves on the Russian natural gas pipelines that supply Ukraine and Western Europe. Regardless of whether this scenario is likely, such speculation raises the question: How would urban residents in a cold climate cope if the supply of natural gas were suddenly turned off?

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