Archive for the ‘Wild Stuff’ Category

The Things you Find out in the Garage

April 28, 2014

While visiting one of our locations, Young’s Air conditioning in Los Banos, I had the pleasure of joining their auditor on the discovery of a unique furnace venting arrangement. As you might imagine with combustion equipment, unique is not really a good thing.P1060853
To the untrained eye, this arrangement might look fine, everything’s connected after all. But even from a distance, this furnace and water heater set up, to even the slightly trained eye, looked wrong because…well it was.
Two exhausts into one may be ok if it is sized right and pitched correctly, but here is a natural draft water heater and a power vented “sealed combustion” into the same flue.
Power vented appliances are also called direct vent, implying they are directly vented to the outside, and should be, on their own.
IP1060852’m in awe over the connection where the PVC (used for lower temperature exhaust) is TAPED into the metal connector (high temperature exhaust) of the 6” flue.
Making sure combustion equipment is set up properly is only the beginning. Having certified and trained people to install and assess that equipment is important. Our advisors are BPI-certified for this reason.
I’ve got more to share, till next time.
Stay safe!

Jason.

Can you see that? Contact lenses of the future see infrared?

April 2, 2014

It sounds like science fiction, but having contact lenses that would see infrared might be a great thing for our energy auditors. I’m not sure how soon technology like that will be available, but IR imaging is something our advisors use often.IR_0538
Many of us use infrared on a daily basis. TV remotes for example use an IR beam we can’t see with the naked eye. A TV remote is not the same spectrum as our cameras pick up, so don’t try and do an energy audit with one.
Thermal cameras were tried briefly in professional baseball; focused on the strike zone they picked up the heat of the ball. It’s this kind of technology that can help an auditor.
IR is useful to see cold or hot spots on a wall that should be insulated, or maybe moisture damage that has gone unnoticed. It can also be combined with a fan run in the home to show air flow issues. The picture shows warm air making its way into a home from an attic hatch.
Building science, not science fiction is how we approach our audits. But, if someone wants to send out a pair of contact lenses, I’ll give them a try. Even just one may be too Sci-Fi to see everything in infrared.
Thanks, Jason

Don’t eat your Boots

March 24, 2014

For those in the eastern part of the country, experiencing record breaking cold temperatures and another round of storms, you may be wondering if the continent has shifted north to the arctic, or if winter will ever go away. To cheer myself up, I’ve been reading a book called “The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage” by Anthony Brandt. Winter doesn’t seem so bad anymore, nor does Spring.

Wintering over in the arctic at -30F with your ship frozen in the ice just so you can go further North when it thaws seems… kind of crazy. It’s not for me, but what I did find fascinating with this history, was the ingenuity that came from these voyages over two centuries ago and how little it transferred to home.

One explorer, Captain Parry spent some time with a stove maker to design a better system that not only kept the ship warm and melted ice for the crew, but also handled condensation build up in their makeshift home for the winter. Below zero outside and 70 degrees inside must have felt pretty good. It was not simply a better stove. It was a system. Insulation was added, heat was distributed and in addition to comfort, they burned less fuel. Just like your home should be!

Brand writes: “Mr. Sylvester and Captain Parry had invented a remarkably efficient form of central heating. It’s a shame the system was not applied to British housing, which remained heated entirely by coal fireplaces into quite recent times.

Past explorations led to eating leather boots to survive and worse, and Captain Parry learned a thing or two. Don’t eat your boots to survive at home. Consider making your ship more bearable for the rest of this season and for the next! I’m guessing the good Captain made himself comfortable at home too.

Spring is coming!

 

Thanks,

Jason

image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AIcebergs.jpg

 

Cutting edge science! Circa 1891

January 23, 2014

Dr smithThis time of year our homes are often closed up tight and we can get a little stir crazy by it.

Dr. Smith, pictured in the print, subjected himself to this voluntarily, we find out in a text book on ventilation printed in 1891.  His little home was made of lead and the window was there so he could break out if no one would let him out. A more trustworthy assistant would have been nice.

The door was weather stripped with an India rubber tube.  Funny how over 100 years later we still could use doors on our homes that work as well as his did!

Well Dr. Smith discovered that fairly quickly the room got unpleasant and moist.   He lasted for 100 minutes and then “three persons then went in and at once, pronounced the air to be very bad.”  Not sure this counts as science, but it works for me.  If it smells bad it is bad.  Good enough.

Ironically even today there are ongoing arguments about how much ventilation is needed but we need it.  I’ve written about controlling the airways and it’s a good idea to have your ventilation strategies worked out too.  Expert advice is only a call away.  Don’t worry at GreenHomes America, we don’t use lead rooms and emergency glass.

Thanks,

Jason

image comes from a google book in the public domain

What can you do about Ice Dams and Roof Damage?

January 17, 2014

iceEven though we’ve had a warm spell, and the Polar Vortex seems long ago winter’s not over!  It’s still that time of year that freezing and thawing in many parts of the country means ice dams.   We have a great resource found here that will answer your questions about common household problems including ice dams.

There are some solutions to take care of them immediately but know the long term solutions are not from the outside but from the inside of your home.  It has to do with proper air sealing and insulation.

Ice on your roof may be normal, in fact sometimes it’s unavoidable. Don’t accept roof damage, dangerous icicles and roof rakes as just another fact of winter.  Have your home looked at by an energy auditor that can recommend solutions for the long term.

Thanks,

Jason

Bird’s Nests and Broken Flues

December 6, 2013

We are well into the heating season for many areas of the country.  And recently we talked about

bird nesta clean and tune; the annual servicing of your heating equipment.    This can be done at any point in the year but some of us wait to the last minute to do it.  Some sign on with a service agreement so they don’t have to think about it.

Efficiency is a big part of getting your furnace or boiler running in top shape, but it’s important to check equipment attached to flues or chimneys to ensure that they are actually drafting properly.  The bird nest built over the summer in this home in Allentown Pa  caused a lot of problems for the residents, in particular potentially lethal levels of Carbon Monoxide.

Consider a BPI certified contractor capable of doing testing needed to ensure the worst case doesn’t happen.   Make nesting for the winter comfortable and safe!

Thanks,

Jason

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seggerde_Storchennest.JPG

What really happened? And is that cabin insulated? The energy audit of 1623.

November 22, 2013

800px-The_First_Thanksgiving_cph_3g04961

This image is a classic one, and even though it’s titled the First Thanksgiving, it wasn’t called that then or immediately afterwards. The Pilgrims likely didn’t dress like that nor did the Wampanoag wear feather headdresses as shown.  Those Europeans were likely in rough shape happy with a first harvest, but they were by all accounts outnumbered almost two to one by their guests.  The holiday as we know it came to be under the Lincoln Presidency in the 1800’s not 1623 as portrayed in this painting from 1914.

This holiday is one of my favorites because of the food and family, and I encourage all to enjoy it to its fullest  The painting is lovely but doesn’t really tell the story, its much like other ways we sell ourselves short.

A clip board energy audit done in 15 minutes or a form can be filled out online.  This is sort of like this painting,  it might look nice, but it might be wrong or misleading.  To really know what is going on you need to be there, which is exactly why we like to spend time in your home inspecting the attic, the heating and cooling system and other areas up close and personal.

I’m sure there wasn’t an energy audit done while they were celebrating for three days.  It’s likely they ate well, largely thanks to their guests.  But I bet they wished there was someone that could really help with comfort issues.

Stay warm,

Jason

footnote

Photo in the public domain from the Library of Congress

Ghosts and other Horrors!

October 28, 2013

Its Energy Action month this month and soon will be Halloween.   In the past we’ve talked about zombies, and vampires , witchcraft, and Trick or Treat but never about ghosts!

Armed with ghost buster-esque diagnostic equipment our advisors go from home to home looking for abnormal signs as part every energy assessment.

IMG_1487

Sometimes we don’t need fancy equipment, but usually need a strong understanding of building science.  Seeing patterns on walls revealing the framing are great signs. So are spider webs. Spider webs can reveal air flow.  Spiders, looking for a meal, often set up shop where dinner might fly by.  Leaks to the outside can be doorways and death traps for insects.

The ghosting pattern in the picture is often caused by a lack of insulation and moisture in the home.  With the right conditions, dirt collects on these under insulated surfaces.  Not only is there an insulation issue, the moisture can lead to more than dirt, there could be mold growth eventually.

Don’t be too scared, we’ve got some good solutions.  Give us a call we can help bust those ghosts, as well as other creatures lurking in your home!

Thanks,

Jason

photo courtesy of Energy Efficent Solutions http://www.greenhomesamerica.com/locations/172-energy-audit-and-energy-assessments.aspx

Doing Your Part for the War on Uncomfortable?

October 16, 2013

These government posters from WWII urged homeowners to do their part, but I think they still apply today, maybe a little differently though.  The War is against inefficiency and a fight for comfort.

war

Vacation at home if you like, and make sure you and your dog are comfortable.   Maybe what you save from the travel can go towards comfort improvements at home.  Plan for winter now, I like that any time is a good time to winterize or summarize your home.

Carpooling is great, especially if you get to use that special lane on the highway!  Sharing resources is a good idea and so is reducing your fuel use.  It doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice though.  Home Performance is fighting the good fight right here on the Home front.

Take action, stay cool, stay warm, stay comfortable!

 

Jason

Integrating Resilience & Energy Efficiency in Existing Homes

May 22, 2013

This was a topic at national conference recently and a very relevant one.   As we respond and react to the terrible tragedy in Oklahoma I urge you to consider what it means to you and your home. remains of homes

The “opportunity” to rebuild thinly veils the great loss that has occurred and my heart goes out to those in need.  Let us also take this “opportunity” to make those homes better and all of ours.

Our homes should be safe places and while some natural disasters cannot be avoided no matter the type of building, it is important to consider saftey first.  For those homes that survive events like this or Hurricane Sandy, the ability to weather the storm longer is, in my mind, the strongest argument for energy efficiency.

Properly sheltered from the elements, a well insulated and air sealed home lasts longer in the extreme heat or cold.  Energy efficient lighting and appliances and their reduced load are better suited for alternative power supplies such as battery back-up or generators.

Take this “opportunity” to help now, here are some resources, and help plan for the future too.

Thanks,

Jason


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