deep energy retrofit

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Lessons From Our House That Could Be Applied More Affordably

Yes, our house cost a lot more than I would have liked, but many of the ideas used in it could be implemented more affordably

Posted on Mar 20 2014 by Alex Wilson

My wife and I tried out a lot of innovative systems and materials in the renovation/rebuild of our Dummerston, Vermont home — some of which added considerably to the project cost. Alas!

The induction cooktop that I wrote about last week is just one such example.

For me, the house has been a one-time opportunity to gain experience with state-of-the-art products and technologies, some of which are very new to the building industry (like cork insulation, which was expensive both to buy and to install). We spent a lot experimenting with new materials, construction details, and building systems. While we haven’t tallied up all the costs, we think that the house came in at about $250 per square foot.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Report on Our Ductless Minisplit Heat Pump

Testing the limits of the air-source heat pump in our new house with this cold weather

Posted on Jan 30 2014 by Alex Wilson

It’s been pretty chilly outside, if you haven’t noticed. A number of people have asked me how our air-source heat pumpHeat pump that relies on outside air as the heat source and heat sink; not as effective in cold climates as ground-source heat pumps. is making out in the cold weather. I wrote about the system last fall, well before we had moved in. Is it keeping us warm? We’ve only been living in the house for a few weeks, but here’s a quick report.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson
  2. eMonitor data from Alex Wilson

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What’s New with Water-Resistive Barriers

We’ve come a long way from the early Tyvek housewrap: our experience with Pro Clima Solitex, a WRB from Germany

Posted on Jun 27 2013 by Alex Wilson

I remember years ago — I hate to remember how many; it must have been around 1982 or 1983 — writing for New England Builder (now the Journal of Light Construction) about Tyvek housewrap. It was then a fairly new product — and really a new idea: a material that would wrap over the outside of a house to provide an air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. and improve energy performance.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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EcoSeal: A New System for Air Sealing Homes

Knauf EcoSeal, a sprayable caulk installed prior to cavity-fill insulation, can provide a significant reduction in air leakage

Posted on Apr 18 2013 by Alex Wilson

Getting back to our Dummerston, Vermont farmhouse this week, I’m reporting on our use of a relatively new product for air-sealing homes: EcoSeal from Knauf Insulation.

First some context: In the building science world, there is growing interest in achieving a robust air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. at 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. layer of a house, with layers inside of that able to dry toward the interior and layers on the outside able to dry to the exterior. To make that work, the sheathing layer has to be tightly air-sealed.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Installing Cork Insulation

Climbing the learning curve in working with a new insulation material

Posted on Mar 28 2013 by Alex Wilson

What do you do if you’re a builder and your client (that would be me) hands you a material that no one’s ever heard of, let alone installed in this country, and asks you to insulate his house with it? A lot of smart builders would run the other way. Eli Gould, our partner in the Dummerston, Vermont farmhouse we’re renovating (really re-building), took it on as a challenge.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Cork Insulation on Our Farmhouse

Why we chose cork exterior insulation for our net-zero-energy house

Posted on Mar 21 2013 by Alex Wilson

Among the innovative — some might say weird — products we’re trying out at our Dummerston, Vermont farmhouse, none is more unusual than the expanded cork insulation we’re currently installing as a layer of exterior rigid insulation. As I mentioned in a blog last summer, cork insulation has a great story behind it.


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Extending Window Openings for a Deep Energy Retrofit

For weather-tight window installations, we prefabricated the window surrounds and used advanced European tapes

Posted on Mar 14 2013 by Alex Wilson

A few weeks ago I reported on the amazing, high-tech Alpen, R-12 (center-of-glass) windows that we installed on the north and west facades of our farmhouse in Dummerston, Vermont. At that time I promised to report on the other windows we were installing on the south and east facades (windows 2.0 if you will).


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Image Credits:

  1. Alex Wilson

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Serious Materials Exits the High-Performance Window Business

Serious Materials' venture into window manufacturing received lots of press attention, but press attention alone wasn't enough to save the business

Posted on Oct 31 2012 by Patrick McCombe

Serious Materials has abandoned its expensive venture into high-performance window manufacturing.

Based in Sunnyvale, California, Serious Materials (also known as Serious Energy) entered the building materials market in 2002 with a new sound-proofing drywall called QuietRock. Launched at a time when home construction was booming, the new drywall met with initial success. Serious soon went looking for other building products to sell, including high-performance windows. In 2007 the company acquired Alpen, a manufacturer of fiberglass windows based in Boulder, Colorado.


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Image Credits:

  1. Scott McCullough

Flanged window as in-betweenie in a double-stud wall — head detail

Air Barriers

An Air Barrier Is an Essential Part of the Building Envelope

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Image Credits:

  1. Fine Homebuilding
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