The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Choosing the Right Wall Assembly (2013)

Posted on February 25, 2013 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Michael Roland is designing a new house and trying to choose the right wall assembly. It’s down to a choice between a double-stud wallConstruction system in which two layers of studs are used to provide a thicker-than-normal wall system so that a lot of insulation can be installed; the two walls are often separated by several inches to reduce thermal bridging through the studs and to provide additional space for insulation. filled with fluffy insulation, or a single wall wrapped in a layer of rigid foam insulation.

Ductless Minisplit Performance During Cold Weather

Posted on February 22, 2013 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

I tried an experiment this week during our cold snap. We've kept the door closed to the first floor ell (bedroom and bath) and let it run cold, because the Fujitsu wasn't sized to heat that space too. I opened the door early in the cold snap, and let the heat pumpHeating and cooling system in which specialized refrigerant fluid in a sealed system is alternately evaporated and condensed, changing its state from liquid to vapor by altering its pressure; this phase change allows heat to be transferred into or out of the house. See air-source heat pump and ground-source heat pump. go, leaving it set on 70°F. What I found was that overnight the main space went to 66°F, and the upstairs and back bedroom were 3° to 4°F lower.

My calculated heat loss in these conditions is about 24,000 BTUBritish thermal unit, the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit in temperature—about the heat content of one wooden kitchen match. One Btu is equivalent to 0.293 watt-hours or 1,055 joules. /hour, and the heat pump is rated at about 17,000 BTU/hour at about 10°F. You'd think it would not be able to keep up.

FTC Cracking Down on False R-Value Claims

Posted on February 21, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Most of us want to do the right thing in improving the energy performance of our homes. We research energy-saving products like appliances and insulation. We search the internet or clip ads from the paper looking for products that will save us the most energy (and money). We look for the most R-valueMeasure of resistance to heat flow; the higher the R-value, the lower the heat loss. The inverse of U-factor. for the money. Well-meaning homeowners do this all the time.

Air Leakage at Electrical Switches and Outlets

Posted on February 20, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

One thing that invariably surprises people when I walk them through a house during their first blower-door testTest used to determine a home’s airtightness: a powerful fan is mounted in an exterior door opening and used to pressurize or depressurize the house. By measuring the force needed to maintain a certain pressure difference, a measure of the home’s airtightness can be determined. Operating the blower door also exaggerates air leakage and permits a weatherization contractor to find and seal those leakage areas. is how much air leaks in through the electrical switches and receptacles. On a recent Friday, we went out to do the last home energy rating in our latest HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. rater class, and we got to see something even better. But first, let's talk about that air leakage. We have a number of surprises waiting.

Blower Doors Have Become Essential

Posted on February 19, 2013 by Erik North in Guest Blogs

Blower doors are spoken of in reverential tones in energy circles. Or at least they were a few years back. Now you can’t throw a manometer without hitting a contractor setting up a blower door. Which is a very, very good thing.

With the incorporation of air leakage standards into various housing codes, blower doors are becoming essential. In fact, I tell customers that a simple shorthand for whether your insulation contractors grok building science is whether they own/use/understand blower doors.

Placing Concrete In Our ICF Foundation Walls

Posted on February 18, 2013 by Roger Normand in Guest Blogs

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 23rd article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Smelly Fiberglass Batts

Posted on February 15, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

I first heard about the problem of smelly fiberglass batts from Michael Maines, a builder and GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com blogger who lives in Portland, Maine. Maines sent me an e-mail saying, “The latest problem with fiberglass insulation is that it smells like burnt brownies!”

I’ve collected a half dozen reports of this problem, all centering on EcoTouch brand fiberglass batts manufactured by Owens Corning. Two years ago, the company switched from a formaldehydeChemical found in many building products; most binders used for manufactured wood products are formaldehyde compounds. Reclassified by the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2004 as a “known human carcinogen."-based glue (or binderGlue used in manufactured wood products, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, and engineered lumber. Some binders are made with formaldehyde. See urea-formaldehyde binder and methyl diisocyanate (MDI) binder. ) to a new glue described as a “bio-based” binder.

Commercial-Scale Wind Power

Posted on February 14, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Last week I wrote about the challenges of small wind turbines and the difficulty of successfully integrating wind power into buildings. This week, I’ll look at larger-scale commercial wind power developments.

The Thermal Bridge to Nowhere

Posted on February 13, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Let's play a little game today. Take a look at that photo at right. See anything that bothers you?* Well, pretend that you're the heat in the house once everything is finished and people are living in it. Does that help? If your answer is still no, let me give you a little help. Here are the approximate R-values of wood and the standard insulation you might find in a wall (fiberglass, cellulose, open-cell spray foam):

Insulation: R-3.7 per inch

Wood: R-1.1 per inch

Installing Roxul Mineral Wool on Exterior Walls

Posted on February 12, 2013 by Shannon Cowan and Patrick Walshe in Guest Blogs

As the landscape around our building site disappears under a rare blanket of snow, the sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. on our houses has been disappearing under a thick layer of exterior mineral-wool insulation. Known as Comfortboard IS, this insulation has impressed us with its green virtues, versatility, and price.

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