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BS* + Beer

The BS* + Beer Show: Combustion Appliances

Two leading experts explain the way combustion works and the risks involved

This episode of the BS* + Beer show features Allison Bailes, founder of Energy Vanguard, and Ross Trethewey, founder of TE2 Engineering, discussing combustion appliances. Ross’s presentation introduces some of the basics, explaining key chemistry principles. He makes the point that the majority of U.S. homes are equipped with natural gas- and oil-fueled appliances, noting that fossil fuels are not going away, so we better understand how combustion works and how to use it safely. He advises against ventless appliances; describes the risks of atmospherically-drafted units; and explains the difference between direct and power vents. For his part, Allison lays out fuel-, combustion-, and venting-related problems; he explains how backdrafting results in high concentrations of carbon monoxide; and he illustrates the dangers of negative pressure. By way of example, he points to the importance of properly locating appliances, and explains the benefits of monitoring technologies. There is discussion of wood-burning stoves, the move toward sealed combustion (Ross’s rallying call), and the ultimate adoption of total electrification. The chat box was humming on this one—find out why.

Enjoy the show!

Join us on Thursday, December 10, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. EST when architect Greg Fisher, and Mariana Pickering and Enrico Bonilauri—founders of Emu Systems, a leading Passive House consultancy—give an in-depth look at Millhaus, a pilot project formerly featured on Matt Risinger’s Build Show. They will talk about elegant design solutions that allow for long-term durability and occupant health and comfort. Such builds are typically complex and rich in lessons. The team will articulate the challenges and solutions unique to this project, as well as highlighting the elements that allowed them to reach their ambitious performance goals.

Guest bios

Mariana Pickering, co-founder of Emu Systems, is a recovering architect and an expert in communicating the construction industry’s movement toward a better understanding of building science. With over a decade of work on high-performance projects and products in three continents, she is passionate about translating data, results, and needs into stories that help shift the cultures and mentalities of building professionals towards change. She manages strategic partnerships and the licensing of Emu’s CPHT curriculum, has worked on the Presidential Climate Action Plan, was a founding member of Passive House Rocky Mountains, is the elected Chair of the Denver Chapter of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, and organizes both the Colorado Passive House Happy Hour and the Green Drinks Denver meetups.

Enrico Bonilauri holds two masters degrees—one in architecture from the University of Parma, Italy, and one in design science from the University of Sydney, Australia. As a registered Italian architect and CPHD, he has worked in Australia, Europe, and North America. He specializes in building envelope design and analysis, informed by the thousands of hours spent on construction sites. Speaker experience includes: 2016-2019 IPHC, 2016 and 2018 NAPHN; 2017 and 2018 SPPHC, 2017-2020 CPHT courses.

Greg Fisher is the founder of Greg D. Fisher, Architect, an award-winning firm established in 1993. His practice focuses on simple, progressive, authentic, and responsible designs. Greg’s commitment to sustainability has led him to serve as a founding steering committee member of the Northern Colorado Branch of the USGBC, board member of the Institute for the Built Environment, founding board member of CLEAR (Center for Living Environments and Regeneration), founding developer of the LENSES (Living Environments in Natural Social and Economic Systems) framework and founding board member of the NoCo Rebuilding Network. Greg has been involved with many LEED, net-zero, LENSES, Passive House, and highly sustainable, regenerative-minded projects. Millhaus will be used as Fisher’s own residence/office and as a pioneering example of what is possible in our industry—the beautiful combination of elegant design and measurable high performance.

Use this link to register for The BS* + Beer Show

BS* + Beer Book Club

Because the hosts of the BS* + Beer Show all love to read, we thought we would celebrate the authors in our industry by adding a book club to the show every few months. We’ll announce the book, give you a few months to get it and read it, and conclude with a BS* + Beer Show episode where we will invite the author to join us, present, and take questions.

We have selected our second book: Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity by Joseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber

We hope you will pick up a copy and join the discussion on Thursday, December 17, from 6 to 7:30 pm.


-You can contact Kiley Jacques at [email protected]. Photo courtesy of Ross Trethewey.


  1. Will R | | #1

    Hi folks, I’ve been enjoying the shows but the sound quality is quite poor. Perhaps, investing in some microphones would be helpful for the folks who run the show if there are plans to continue the show. I’m not a sound engineer but I’m sure there are people who could recommend equipment that doesn’t cost too much and would be better than the headphones being used.

    1. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #3

      Hi Will,

      I will mention this to the Brew Crew to see if anything might be done. Thanks for letting us know.

  2. John Clark | | #2

    Being that my house is about a leaky as a collender I'll never have to worry about is CO2 or CO from my vented appliances. Especially the vented hot water heater in a closet off my second story hallway.

    rofl. ;)

    1. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #4

      I'm in the same boat, John. It's a leaky boat that I don't feel so good about owning.

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