The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Seeking an Affordable Energy-Efficient Exterior Door

Posted on January 24, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Despite the chilly (seasonable) weather, work is progressing on the renovation/rebuild of our house in Dummerston. Last week, the three exterior doors were installed. Which brings me to one of my pet peeves: the lack of really good choices for highly energy-efficient exterior doors.

We ended up with a solution that I think will be okay, but there is a huge void in the world of truly high-performance doors. Here, I’ll describe the three doors we put in. I hope you can put up with my whining.

A Ventless Gas Fireplace Doesn’t Belong in Your Home

Posted on January 23, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

First of all, let's call it what it really is. The industry likes the term “vent-free” when talking about gas fireplaces that keep all the exhaust gases in your home. I prefer the term “ventless” or, even better, “unvented.” Some people suggest “room-vented” or “lung-vented.”

Not a huge deal, but the ventless gas industry wants you to feel that you're being liberated of a burden by not having an exhaust vent. I think it's important for people to know that they're actually missing something important when they go with a ventless gas appliance.

The Flash-and-Batt Method

Posted on January 22, 2013 by Erik North in Guest Blogs

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.

Building With Steel Framing

Posted on January 21, 2013 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Sal Lombardo is planning a new home in the New York-New Jersey area (Climate Zone 5) and is looking at a long list of high-performance construction options: double-stud walls, structural insulated panels, insulating concrete forms, Larsen trusses, and walls built with light-gauge steel framing.

Wait a minute. Steel framing, as in the stuff that leaks heat through the building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials. like a proverbial sieve? Maybe, Lombardo says, it deserves another look.

Do I Need a Vapor Retarder?

Posted on January 18, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

UPDATED on May 15, 2015

Every couple of weeks, someone sends me an e-mail with a description of a proposed wall assembly and an urgent question: “Do I need a vapor retarder?” Energy experts have been answering the same question, repeatedly, for at least thirty years. Of course, even though I sometimes sigh when I read this recurring question, it’s still a perfectly good question.

To Save Transportation Energy, Change Behavior

Posted on January 17, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Before the holidays I wrote a blog on how to save energy in the home by changing our behavior. This week we’ll take a look at some of the ways that we can save energy by changing our driving behavior. Below are some simple measures — most cost nothing and some even save money — to reduce your energy use for transportation.

How to Install a Branched-Drain Graywater System

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Back in the summer of 2003, I was finishing up the green home I'd started building in 2001. One of the last pieces we had to complete was the graywaterWastewater from a building that does not include flush-water from toilets and (as most commonly defined) water from kitchen sinks or dishwashers. In some places, graywater can be collected and used for subsurface irrigation. system, and we'd already put a lot of work into it before we ever moved a spadeful of dirt.

Two Years With a Minisplit Heat Pump

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Marc Rosenbaum in Guest Blogs

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 in Guest Blogs

[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 in Guest Blogs

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.

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