Thursday, July 19, 2007

House Diagnostics


Since the last episode with the shoulder, the other one became separated due to protecting the injured one. Guess one truly shouldn't spar when injured, no matter how confident they are...

For the last 3 days, HZG has been in a House Diagnostic course. What is House Diagnostics? It is the determination of air leak zones. To truly determine a good reading, the contractor / inspector should have...a blower door ($3,000) and a TI-86 pre-programmed calculator ($300). Or...the contractor needs to be seasoned enough to visually inspect / crawl through attics and crawl spaces.

While the class was interesting and true to the subject, the main instructor emphasized that it is a TOOL, not the end all be all. There were several methods to determine the percentage of leakiness, one more valuable to the other due to the potential error of 200 CFM's. For those that are not in with the jargon, too bad - I'm tired and going to give you a brief description. The maximum amount the state allows for a zone to be leaky is up to 200 CFM's. This means that if you had a reading of 150 and good the day of the test, the monitor could go out an get a reading of 350 - and you'd both be right.

So while the course further emphasizes the value of an air tight shell, once again it comes down to the skill level of the contractor.

Bottom line? Don't believe for one second that the average Joe is an inspector - ask for credentials!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Old Theories in Weatherization

Today's client was from the old school. She knew she had a problem, but didn't want to hear what was correct to fix it.

A cute little house sitting on a lake - however in need of proper weatherization. The attic was was for the most part floored and small, with one section open joist. There was about 2" of cellulose in the floored (loose floor board) section, and the same in the open joist section with stacks of fiberglass just sitting in various locations.

I recommended removing the floor boards so that a proper R38 could be installed, and the fiberglass be used elsewhere. The immediate response was, "The floor boards are necessary to walk in the attic (although they were loose, dangerous - and no one will ever go into this attic again.) The fiberglass is really good where it's at (yea, stacked four feet high in one location.) I explained what I would do if it were my house and why...however I truly don't think she was convinced.

I told her that I believe her ridge vent wasn't enough ventilation for the attic and that I would check the proper measurements upon getting back to the office. She immediately said that she has 3 roof vents in addition to the attic. I didn't see any, and offered to go up on the roof. Upon getting back down, I explained that she had the best invisible roof vents I've ever seen. Now she is starting to become a believer...

Lastly, her bathroom fan was vented into the attic - not to the outside. She swore see saw the vent on the roof. I explained she probably saw the soil stack - and I verified that as well while on the roof. I explained that she should have the fan vented directly to the outside. Her response was "I only use the fan on occasion. I really like letting the steam filter into the house for comfort."

I was tired at this point of teaching, but I proceeded on. Did I mention that this whole time she must have stated 20 times that she doesn't have a lot of money?

Well, I think she finally believed me (it helps when you give home owners tips to do on their own.)

We'll see if you can teach an old dog new tricks...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Forcing the LAZY to use bathroom fans

Hello from the injured HZG. Had a cortisone shot in the shoulder and the pain was great enough to shut me down for a while. It was enjoyable doing groundhog attic inspections (where you pop up your head). Seriously though - if I saw something, I had my lead techs with me to crawl. Hopefully back at it tomorrow.

Today's topic is the latest and greatest for lazy people. It's the motion detector bathroom fan. For indoor air quality, bathroom fans should be used for every bathing event, running from the time the water runs to 10-15 minutes after exiting the bathroom. In the HWAP programs, we would install fans on switches that you KNOW were never turned on. How do we know? The follow up post-installation reviews showed the majority of the time, the fans were not in action.

With this being said, we found a way for as little as $30 (up to $100 for electrical work) - a motion detector could be put in. This detector is set for 15 minutes connected to the fan, so that when someone is entering the room and leaving the room, the fan remains on for 15 minutes.

The only complaints we receive are from the people that are just using the bathroom to, well, go to the bathroom. Based on some of the bathrooms we've smelled lately, this isn't necessarily a bad idea...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Energy Savings in Utah


Back from visiting relatives in Utah - boy what a difference climates can make. When the low there is the high here (Ohio) - you can imagine the energy requirements may be different.

Utah is one growing place. If you're getting into the home building or fence erecting business - start in Utah - the economy is booming.

Each home has air running full time. The insulation is fair at best, with an R-30 average at best in the attic. There were also retro-fitted air conditioners located on the roofs (causing damage to the shingles, I might add. Very strange to look at (almost like a water tank on the roof.) Speaking of water...while the insulation was a small concern - the water supply is what frightens HZG.

Every yard appears to have a sprinkler system. With the boom in home building occurring, the demands of water will continue to rise. Global warming has affected the snow volume, which then affects the water volume.

I hope the Utah planners have this one figured out...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ceiling Fans in Conjunction with AC

Recovering from the heat / freeze headache that has developed today - you know, when you go from a chilled environment of 68 degrees into 91 degree heat, back into, back out get the picture...HZG had the idea to write about energy savings and AC. The following paragraphs were lifted from another article and tweaked accordingly. The bottom line is still the same...

Circulating fans include ceiling fans, table fans, floor fans, and fans mounted to poles or walls. These fans create a wind chill effect that will make you more comfortable in your home, even if it's also cooled by natural ventilation or air conditioning. Ceiling fans are considered the most effective of these types of fans, since they effectively circulate the air in a room to create a draft throughout the room.

If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about

4°F with no reduction in comfort. In temperate climates, or during moderately hot weather, ceiling fans may allow you to avoid using your air conditioner altogether. Install a fan in each room that needs to be cooled during hot weather.

Ceiling fans are only appropriate in rooms with ceilings at least eight feet high. Fans work best when the blades are 7–9 feet above the floor and 10–12 inches below the ceiling. Fans should be installed so their blades are no closer than 8 inches from the ceiling and 18 inches from the walls.
Larger ceiling fans can move more air than smaller fans. A 36- or 44-inch diameter fan will cool rooms up to 225 square feet, while fans that are 52 inches or more should be used in larger rooms. Multiple fans work best in rooms longer than 18 feet. Small- and medium-sized fans will provide efficient cooling in a 4- to 6-foot diameter area, while larger fans are effective up to 10 feet.

A larger blade will also provide comparable cooling at a lower velocity than a smaller blade. This may be important in areas where loose papers or other objects will be disturbed by a strong breeze. The fan should also be fitted to the aesthetics of the room—a large fan may appear overpowering in a small room.

A more expensive fan that operates quietly and smoothly will probably offer more trouble-free service than cheaper units. Check the noise ratings, and, if possible, listen to your fan in operation before you buy it.

When buying window fans, look for the ENERGY STAR label. Fans that earn the label move air 20% more efficiently, on average, than standard models.

Well, I tweaked it less than I thought. Bottom line - use ceiling fans in conjunction with AC - and save money...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Top 10 worst insulated attic...

Today HZG encountered one of the top 10 worst insulated attic jobs. While the old home was immaculately kept, the attic was, let's say, interesting...

Here's the list of issues; you be the judge...

1) Attic door was not insulated. There was simply a 3/8" piece of plywood

2) Upon entering, there was 1/2" of vermiculite at the bottom of the the joist area

3) On top of the vermiculite was 1" of Styrofoam shells and peanuts - not a solid blanket.

4) Scatter throughout was 1" of fiberglass batting - maybe one run for every 5 runs

5) On top of this concoction was plastic - over the ENTIRE attic

6) A chimney chase that was 2' wide around the entire perimeter, traveling 2 floors

7) Light fixtures that you could see into the room below

Besides this, the attic was fine.

The client was very understanding and is excited to have the issues corrected. Me too...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Floored Attic Consequences

One of the consequences of having a floored attic is the lack of insulation. The typical attic joist is 6", meaning an R19 insulation value.

The plus of a floored attic is a storage space for items you may NEVER see again. The negative is the loss of energy. Due to the need for an R38 in attics, you are losing half of the energy you could be saving.

If you do not need the storage space...I'm talking NEED...HZG recommends removing the floorboards and replacing with the R38. You'll be amazed at how much you'll save...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Psycho Clients

Today, HZG encountered another "Psycho Client from Hell." That's putting it mildly.

This will be more of a rant than a blog - however if you think this is you - PLEASE do not torture other people that come to your home.

From the moment the crew stepped in the house to perform work until the moment they left - this client was always less than 2' away. We typically do not mind someone watching us work, but this lady asked question after question after question. Again, we do not mind people asking questions. However, it was THE SAME question each time. "Why are you insulating the walls? X3". "Why are you putting a weatherstrip on my door?X3". You get the idea.

This lady not only would follow us around, but she carted her oxygen tank along with her...while smoking a cigarette. She must have gone through 3 packs.

Lastly, in order to perform the final blower door we had to put the home into winter operating condition - close all windows, doors, etc. You'd have thought that we had started a riot. "It's too hot in here to be doing this." "How much longer, the house is filling up with smoke - I'm on oxygen you know."

This was a modern day version of "Psycho."

I think I'm done now...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Simple Energy Efficient Tactic

Sometimes saving energy is easy...too easy. Today's topic is about window shades.

Window shades not only prevent people from seeing in your home, it also prevents sunlight - a warmer in the summer and a cooler in the winter. Here's an easy rule of thumb...


Keep your shades down in the east until noon, down in the west after that. This tactic will keep the heat out of your home during the day and keep it cooler naturally.


Keep your shades up in the east in the morning and up in the west in the afternoon. This tactic will allow the sun's warmth to enter your home and aid in keeping it warm.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Concrete Patios - The Big "No No's"

Concrete patios are great. They come in various colors, textures and designs. When installed correctly, the value - emotional and monetary - go up. When done poorly, the costs of maintaining your home can skyrocket - and value can be lost.

What could go wrong with a patio? Well, the biggest "No No's" are..."Don't assume that your patio is sloped correctly" and "Don't assume that your patio is installed against your home correctly."

The first No No is the slope. Ensure that when a level is place on the patio that the slope is AWAY from your home. If it is not, you will have basement issues - end of the story. Walls were not designed to have water pool on them.

The second No No is the attachment, or lack thereof. The patio should not be attached to the house; it should be free floating or sitting on a pre-installed ledger. Too many times HZG has gone to a home with basement water issues only to discover that the water is entering through a rebar penetration. Some contractors actually popped holes in the basement block to install the rebar so that the patio would be levered. What these contractors did not realize is that they created a pathway for water to enter. Once a block is stained, it's stained.

That's it for this ramble...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dirty Ducts

Before you decide to hire a company to come out to clean your ducts due to all of the dust in the air, it will be useless unless you prevent the dust from accumulating again in the future. Per Energy Stars website, the preventative maintenance should be the following:

1) Use the highest efficiency air filter recommended by the manufacturer of your heating and cooling system.
2) Change filters regularly.
3) If your filters become clogged, change them more frequently.
4) Be sure you do not have any missing filters and that air cannot bypass filters through gaps around the filter holder.
5) When having your heating and cooling system maintained or checked for other reasons, be sure to ask the service provider to clean cooling coils and drain pans.
6) During construction or renovation work that produces dust in your home, seal off supply and return registers and do not operate the heating and cooling system until after cleaning up the dust.
7) Remove dust and vacuum your home regularly. (Use a high efficiency vacuum (HEPA) cleaner or the highest efficiency filter bags your vacuum cleaner can take. Vacuuming can increase the amount of dust in the air during and after vacuuming as well as in your ducts).
8) If your heating system includes in-duct humidification equipment, be sure to operate and maintain the humidifier strictly as recommended by the manufacturer.

Remember, treat the cause, not the symptom.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Building Tightness Limits

Otherwise known as the BTL...hold the mayo.

The building tightness limits (BTL) show how tight, well, the building is. When a weatherization contractor air seals a home and runs a blower door, there is a number that is very important that when you exceed it - additional steps must be taken.

Each home has a different limit based upon size of the home, number of occupants, pets, weather they smoke (occupants, no pets) and other moisture sources. When a home gets too tight, the indoor air quality takes a turn for the worse. Imagine if you will being in a room that has a window that's open all the way. Then imagine if you will 3 people in the room, one of the people smoke, there's a dog and an aquarium. Now, one last time, imagine if the window is shut so that only 1" remains open. Is the indoor air quality better or worse?

Duh, it's worse. What could be done (besides opening the window back up)? Introduce an exhaust fan. This aids in the recycling of the air.

The key to exhaust fans shall come in a later writing. It's time for HZG to go to "get thrown" training.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Educational Day - House Diagnostics

Every so often, one needs to sharpen his skills and learn something new. It's no different for HZG.

Today, we are meeting with the State Monitor to review house diagnostics. While we will be attending the full blown training in July, this is more of a "one on one" session.

What is house diagnostics? It's making sure the house is first of all, healthy. Any work that we do must keep the house healthy. This involves backdrafting, room pressures, CAZ areas, etc. The second part is making sure that the house is communicating as a system - sealed appropriately around the thermal envelope.

Today is more of a day to learn through the eyes of someone with just as much experience, if not more...

Will update you if any "nuggets" are had...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Energy & Art

Today's blog isn't a blog at all. It's an interesting link to a website - part of which goes to show American environment, energy and human waste. Pretty amazing stuff...

It's remarkable what can be created into art...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuckpoint before Treating

Before doing any work around your basement walls (such as insulating, waterproofing, etc.), make sure to tuckpoint the block.

Tuckpointing is the recementing of mortar joints that have come apart over time.

In a crawl space that we just finished, we tuckpointed for a good 2 hours. Since we were going to adhere insulation board to the block, we first had to do whatever we could to stop the air flow as well as prevent as much potential water breach as possible.

If you use a hydraulic cement, the mortar will dry much more quickly. However, we still suggest waiting a full 24 hours for the best cure.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cost Saving Material - Insulation Board

When performing an insulation job using foam board, it is important to measure cost versus labor. Does buying a more expensive item that takes less time to install make sense? Absolutely.

HZG came from a job our crew was on today where the material quoted was not used. We originally were quoted 4' x 8' sheets of 2" R7.8 foam board at $26.00 per sheet. At the warehouse, the lead foreman called me and stated that they were now carrying 2' x 8' sheets of 2" R7.8 for $16 per sheet. We needed 7-4' x 8' sheets - or 14-2' x 8' sheets. The difference equated to $42 more in expense. Was this a good deal? Once again, absolutely.

The extra $42 was not only quickly saved, but earned extra money for the day. The labor saved was the cutting (to fit into the crawl space) and the ease of seaming the straight cuts. This portion was a break even. However the time saved was parlayed into getting in another job, thereby earning us additional cash. The last positive result was the appearance. Nothing beats a pre-cut look, and the homeowners were very pleased.

So when pricing a job, look at all aspects - not just the ones that clobber you in the head...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Insulating the Door

Good day all!

Today, HZG went on a sales call to an FOP home. Supposedly, the gas bills for this newly acquired home were quite high - and the air conditioner runs non-stop. Well, the answer was a little surprising.

The attic space was not going to be used for anything but storage. The owners had previously insulated under the wood flooring - both in the main part of the attic and the kneewalls. A fairly decent job, no less. The issue was the entry leading to the attic space.

Upon opening the door, you still felt cool in the space (mid-80 degrees today). It wasn't until you got to the top of the attic that the temperature drastically switched. Why?

The walls and staircase were not insulated. Worse than that, the door was not insulated - and a LOUVERED door to boot.

Solution - dense-pack the stairway wall and steps, replace the louvered door with a solid door and add an R19 batt with 6 mil poly to the door's surface. Lastly, weatherstrip the door - yes, it must be treated as if it were to the outside, which in essence it is.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Unforeseen aggravations...add to cost

Hail is not a beautiful thing when it involves your transportation. Today we had TENNIS ball size hail, accounting for a smashed windshield and 11 dents.

This type of issue MUST be included in your job costing. Where does the time lost and expense go? To the overall cost of the product, service or sale of home. Soooo, don't forget when you get a quote or figuring in you calculations...add in maintenance and service to your overall yearly picture.

OK, so I'm aggravated...sorry for the short diatribe...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Garage issue...and the wonders of Caulk

HZG went on a crawl space call today that also resulted in a moisture issue - easily fixed.

Prior to insulating a crawl space, you need to ensure that any moisture issue is taken care of first for indoor air quality reasons. In this home, the crawl space wall along the garage was saturated from the floor level down. I asked the home owner if there was quite a bit of water in the garage during the various seasons - snow in the winter, car washing in the summer. The answer was "Yes."

Inside the garage was a nice exposed block (part of the crawl space) and a nice size seam where the floor meets the block. Exposed.

Easy recommendation: apply a water repellent product (Zinsser, among others) to the block and an inexpensive silicone caulk run along the floor wall seam.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hidden Costs of Weatherization & Retro-fits

In today's climate (no pun intended...), prices are continuing to climb. Not only in the cost of the product, but the hidden costs of what it takes to complete a job. This hidden cost in business is the price of gasoline. To and from jobs, special runs, changes, etc. - these all cost additional funds of labor and GAS.

The price of gas MUST be figured into your service costs. If you have a round trip of 50 miles, not only do you have the time involved with drive-time - but you have to calculate truck expenses...those 50 miles can equate to $90 in expenses.

On retro-fitting of houses, the cost of gas must be figured in the overall net profit of a home sale. Too often we take gas for granted - and it can be a LARGE expense when it comes to a lengthy rehab...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ranch Homes & Staircase Rakes

If you own a ranch home with a basement that has not been weatherized (air sealed), it more than likely has a staircase rake that is losing vast amounts of energy.

A staircase rake is the area where the basement stairs' ceiling is exposed to the attic space. Typically, insulators simply ran batt insulation over the rake - without having a ceiling underneath. This means that the heat (or air) from the home would escape through the drywall - directly into the attic space.

If you were to properly air seal rakes (and other bypasses) it is a guarantee that your energy consumption would go down.

HZG prefers using foam board to cover the area, sealing the edges with caulk and foam. Once this has been done, we insulate over the area - giving the home a barrier that it never had.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bathroom Fan Venting Oops Part Duh

Today's sales call involved a nice bathroom fan installation. It was sealed tightly in the ceiling. It was the right sizing for the bathroom scale. It had the electricity routed correctly for the 3 stages. It was a very quiet fan. Everything was done well...except the positioning and venting - which there was neither.

Too many times bathroom fans are simply vented into the attic space. Very few people realize what type of moisture damage can occur - until it's too late. So besides the need to straight pipe tube and insulate the exhaust, the reason for this blog is the positioning of the fan.

Common sense...oh, a commodity that if we could sell we could make a KILLING. As stated above, the fan was indeed installed and wired securely. However, the, person, installed the fan with the exhaust 1 inch - that's 1 INCH - from the joist. No wonder it wasn't vented - it was blasting the wood (keeping the wood nice and moist).

The home owner stated that the fan never worked right - or as right as they thought is should. No wonder...

HZG re-positioned the fan and vented it properly to the outside. The clients were amazed when I ran the bathroom steam test how well their fan worked.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Real Estate Sales


Whether the house is in pristine shape; weatherized; discounted; applianced; you name it - sales of existing homes are slow.

The home we've had on the market for the last 90-days has been slow to get people through - although it is in excellent shape. When talking to many Realtors, the talk is the same - the market place is slow.

Price drops are happening at every corner - and yet the market is still in a standstill. While we have been used to seeing 4% to 10% yearly housing price increases - this year we will see drops. Substantial drops.

Funny thing, I don't see the the County Auditors giving us tax money back based upon depreciation...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Idiots and Lead Based Paint

Today HZG encountered a first in idiocy - a terrified Lead Based Paint home owner.

Our crew was out to perform an easy weatherization job. We were told up front that the client was a neat nick - no problem; and that their house had lead based paint, but it was abated. Although it was abated, the client still believed that lead based paint existed.

The client very politely asked that whomever we sent in the attic to do work NOT come in their home due to your children. She did not want them to be exposed to the potential lead dust. Since the access to the attic was through an exterior gable vent, we'd come in contact with the abated paint that was not abated... Since the customer is always right (unless their dead wrong), we complied. I sent a 3rd crew person to the job to ensure that we had enough people inside of the home.

This is where it gets interesting. The guy we had in the attic did his job. As he was blowing the attic, we had one of the guys on the bottom rung of the ladder with the remote to hand up to the person. The client saw this. Apparently, lead based paint can travel via osmosis through the ladder to the person on the bottom rung. She asked the guy at first to make sure he washed his hands...then changed her mind and asked him NOT to come inside. Lead based paint via osmosis... Good thing we had a 3rd guy to run the final tests.

On a secondary humor note, the client also sent back religious literature for anyone in our office that needs a spiritual awakening. Why does this information always land on my desk?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tankless Hot Water Systems

The new "rage" is tankless hot water systems - "new" being in the States for the last 20 years. European countries have had these systems for well over 40 years.

Tankless heaters have pros and cons, just like everything else. They can supply an endless supply of hot water, and can save energy. However...

They are limited in the amount of hot water that can be produced at one time and they are more expensive to purchase than a conventional storage type water heater.

They also make it take longer for you to get your hot water, since they don't start heating the water until you turn on the faucet. This problem can be solved by using a specialized pump, which in combination with the tankless unit can get your hot water to you at less than half the time it would take running the faucet full blast.

The tankless water heaters also cause an increase in water wastage since you have to let the water run longer to get your hot water. This problem is also solved when using the specialized pumping system. Water conservation is an important advantage to the pumping system.

Tankless hot water heaters save energy and thus money. Water heating accounts for 20% or more of an average household’s annual energy expenditures. The yearly operating costs for conventional gas or electric storage tank water heaters average $200 or $450, respectively.
Storage tank-type water heaters raise and maintain the water temperature to the temperature setting on the tank (usually between 120° -140° F (49° -60° C). Even if no hot water is drawn from the tank (and cold water enters the tank), the heater will operate periodically to maintain the water temperature.
This is due to "standby losses": the heat conducted and radiated from the walls of the tank—and in gas-fired water heaters—through the flue pipe. These standby losses represent 10% to 20% of a household’s annual water heating costs.

Unlike "conventional" storage tank water heaters, tankless water heaters heat water only as it is used, or on demand. A tankless hot water heater has a heating device that is activated by the flow of water when a hot water valve is opened. Once activated, the heater delivers a constant supply of hot water. The output, however, limits the rate of the heated water flow.

HZG was at a seminar recently, sitting enjoying the silence. Two people next to me were in a discussion - loud enough to be heard so I wasn't eaves-dropping. A new complaint regarding the system came up - and I had never heard it before. Some systems have a "minimum" amount of water flow necessary to turn the system on. This gentleman was having issues with not running a faucet full force, for the heat wouldn't turn on.

Sometimes we learn something when we least expect it...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

House as a Thermos

HZG hopes everyone had an enjoyable Memorial Weekend.

Many thoughts passed through HZG's mind this weekend (along with deciding not to do a stitch of "job" work). As the temperature steadily rose and hit 88 degrees, I felt it was time to re-address the value of insulation.

Yes, we typically think of insulation needs in the winter, with the price of gas being what it is. However, we all too often forget the extreme value of insulation in the summer months. While electricity is currently less expensive than the price of gas, it is still an expense.

Insulation's purpose it to keep the "hot, hot" and the "cool, cool." There is nothing better than coming home in the summer and walking into a home that is cooler than the outdoors - and the AC isn't even on. When the extreme summer temps get here and the AC does run, you'll notice that it runs less.

One side-perk is that you can usually get an insulation / weatherization contractor in your home quicker during these "down" months. Until people realize the house is a thermos, the summer months bring slower weatherization times.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Seminar "Nuggets"

Yesterday HZG attended a conference on "Homes that work." Energy stuff, you know...

Some nuggets jotted down for your perusal.

* 20% of customer satisfaction is determined by the warranty service program

* Wet spray cellulose does not work in a humid climate as well as a dry climate...if builders encapsulate in drywall too soon. Mold issues...

* Large overhangs provide great solar control, saving energy

* The new CFL may become the incandescent light; in process is the development of the LED and the Cathode Ray

* Water can climb in concrete in excess of 1,000 feet

* Capillary breaks on footers should be completed to stop water from rising

* A single pane window has an R-value of .92. An 8" concrete wall has an R-value of .62. Go figure...

* 19 independent tests were done on exhaust fan ventilation. Out of the 19, it was shown that all 19 will installed / vented incorrectly - resulting in a 50% capacity of operation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Air Leakage Hint...

Today's topic is short and sweet - due to the fact that it was an 85 degree day in the attics...

When you go into the basement, one easy sign of air leakage detection is...


Typically a sign of poor housekeeping (excluding Mrs. HZG, of course), cobwebs can also lead you to air leakage. Why? Spiders build their webs close to fresh air sources to attract bugs. Cobweb - air leak.

Just a little tip from your Uncle HZG.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Roofing Quotes Gone Bad

Sometimes in the weatherization field (and home retrofit) we run into bad roofs. Getting quotes on roofing can range from $3,000 to $14,000 - on the SAME roof.

Besides the obvious - shingle style and life, chimney / stack flashing, etc. - there is a blatant area that should be looked at on EVERY single job. This area is the roof decking.

Too many quotes are generated from ground level. Even walking on a roof sometimes is not enough.

Before hiring any roofing contractor - AFTER checking all references - if the roofer does not go into your attic, do not hire this person.

In the attic is where you can truly discover decking issues, rot, mold, poor framing, etc. If the roofer doesn't check, you are likely to get hit with a DISCOVERY fee. This is a fee that the roofer will charge for discovering an issue not included on their quote. What are you going to do once your roof is half off - not have them finish the job. That's right - they've got you.

Sooooo, make sure all of your quotes are all inclusive of ever issue that may occur - and have them sign a statement such as "The quote given includes are issues - seen and unseen. The quote will not be adjusted upwards for any reason." The roofer that does not flinch is the one to hire...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Old windows and one easy fix...

Today, HZG had an opportunity to go on a weatherization sales call in a century home (100 years and older). Although this was a century home, we've seen this problem exist in 20 year old homes.

This home had many issues, the most visible being old, leaky windows. As part of the weatherization quote, we added "caulking the window panes."

Caulking window panes can be the easiest and least expensive fix out there. With a $4 silicone caulking tube, you can stop air leakage in approximately 5 average sized windows.

If the window "rattles" upon touch, it needs - at minimum - caulked. Simply run a bead around the inside perimeter of the window pane and frame, trowel smooth with your finger and let set. 90% of the time it will solve a "leaky" window issue.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Siding Issues and Water

You've heard me say before that water is the "Devil." OK, maybe in not those exact words, but close. Not only can water be a home issue for basements and roofs, but siding as well.

HZG had a sales call over the weekend due to a mysterious leak in a living room. During the last rain storm, a couple of drips of water plopped on the home owner's head while on the couch. Right above the room was a bedroom - not running water.

After measuring from the edge of the house to the leak spot on the interior, I proceeded to go outside to correspond the measurement. Low and behold, at the exact same level as the leak, there were not one but two issues.

The first issue was blatant - a new cable line inserted into the room above. The cable installer forgot to caulk the hole - exposing the opening to rain.

The second issue was a poorly sided home. Aluminum siding has notches that are hidden when properly overlapped. The installer must not have measured properly and had the notches exposed to the air. As rain would cascade down the siding, it would wick into these notches.

HZG suggested the home owner spend $10 on caulk and fix it himself. Hopefully the day's good Karma will come back.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wheelchair Ramps

Today, HZG was at an energy sales call when the topic of wheelchair ramps came up. The client was interested in weatherizing their home for the summer's air conditioning needs (yes, weatherization works year round). Their parents were moving in with them due to a disability, and they wanted the home as comfortable as possible.

While the client was talking, they mentioned that they were going to have a wheelchair ramp built on their deck. Being extremely inquisitive (a.k.a. nosy), I asked where they were going to put the ramp. She showed me - and I asked if the ramp was going to be code in the location she pointed out. Bewilderment. I explained that in the location she was looking to have the ramp, the slope would be 1:4 at best - and that the person in the wheelchair had better be an ex-bodybuilder.

The average code around the country is 1:12 for wheelchair ramps. The higher the second number, the better. The "1" stands for the rise, the "12" stands for the run. What does this mean? For every one unit of height (inch) you need twelve units (inches) of run. The slope is the line that connects the two. So you can see that a 1:4 is a SERIOUS slope.

Sooooo...if you don't know, ask somebody that does. Or leave the door open for an INQUISITIVE person...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Copper Piping

When your hot water tank finally goes...and it WILL go...this is the opportune time to replace your piping.

The 3 most common piping that HZG sees in homes is copper, galvanized and PVC.

Galvanized is commonly found in older homes and will eventually rust and rupture. If you are buying a home that has galvanized piping, realize that there will be an expense - if not now, down the road.

PVC piping is commonly found in "inexpensive" new homes and existing "I done repaired the plummin myself" homes. HZG HATES PVC plumbing - for it doesn't function as well as it should and will eventually give out.

Copper piping is the most reliable and functionable (is that a word?) out there. If your hot water tank goes bad, start here.

NOTE: If you own a rehab house, guard the copper piping like it's gold - it worth almost as much. In lesser income level areas, copper piping has been ripped out of homes and sold to scrappers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Insulation Oops...and the mild aggravation that followed

A walk-through of HZG's home after the dense-packing revealed that even my trainer needs additional training. Shame on me - shame on him.

As was stated earlier, the home was built in 1952. Weatherization during the fifties was no more than insulation - and very little at that. Architects did not view a home as a system - meaning the HVAC did not coordinate with the insulation.

Well...while dense-packing the walls (which the newbie did a good job), 2 exterior return air panning runs were dense-packed. The trainer walked through the home (as he should have), however did not check behind bookcases or in a closet. Both spots had return air grills.

Spot one was discovered when HZG junior went to feed his fish at the end of the night and discovered the fish was NOT happy with the cellulose covering his bowl. Upon moving the bookcase away from the wall - there was cellulose poofing out from the vent.

The second area was not discovered until the morning - when Mrs. HZG went to her closet to get out her shoes for work. Let's just say that she is NOT a fan of cellulose shoes.

The clean-up involves not only sucking the cell out of the wall cavity, but opening up the return air panning in the basement to remove fallen cell. This is a chore amongst itself.

At the ACI conference, a lecturer stated that he was one of the smartest people out there - because he made many mistakes and learned from them. We're well on our way...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Final Sidewall Numbers

Well, we completed the lower level of sidewalls today. No injuries or deaths...

The most recent blower door reduction was 204 @ CFM50 for the lower level. This brings the overall reduction from 2,778 @ CFM50 to 2,344 @ CFM50. In essence, the sidewalls brought the blower door reduction down 434 @ CFM50. This reduction is equated to closing up a 4.5" x 4.5" hole in the wall to the outside.

So not only will the home retain heat and A/C better - the overall draftiness will be greatly reduced.

Remember, anything BELOW 2,750 @ CFM50 is to be optional air sealing. We are now below the optional.

The only thing that is "left" to do - and I haven't decided to at this stage - is to pump foam into the above grade masonry block to stop that air leakage and insulate to the frost line. The hesitancy is due to only having 3 small areas to insulate due to ground height (it's above almost to the sill plate).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sidewalls and Air Sealing

So far, so good.

The initial blower door reading this morning was 2,778 @ CFM50. Per Ohio Weatherization standards, 2,750 is OPTIONAL air sealing. To begin, this is a fairly tight house.

The crew worked on the upper level today - we're training semi-experienced personnel to dense-pack. We started on the upper level simply to give them additional experience on a ladder.

The final blower door for the day was 2,548 - a 230 CFM drop by simply insulating the walls.

We'll let you know tomorrow (pending completion; they're calling for thunderstorms) the final blower door reading.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sidewalls and Air Tightness Experiment

Tomorrow we will begin a training / experiment on what effect dense-packing sidewalls has on air leakage. We will run a pre-blower door, a blower door once the upper walls have been completed and then a final blower door once the lower level walls are done.

The home is a 1952 colonial style, approximately 2000 square feet. The attic has been air sealed and cellulose blown to an R40. The basement has had the addition crawl insulated, and the main portion has had the band joist stuffed and foamed. The exterior is vinyl sided; the interior is drywalled.

This past winter was frigid - however the gas bills during the heating season averaged $150 - proving the attic is the "place to be."

Over the next few days we'll check in with the blower door readings...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Glass Block Windows

If you have a basement or crawl space with windows - hoppers, if you will - consider switching them to glass block. Glass block offers the obvious - safety. You can go with clear, frosted or glass angled, depending on your privacy needs. However they also offer energy efficiency, with an R-value of 1.96 - almost twice the R-value of a 1/8" pane of glass.

Glass block windows can come pre-made or custom made. HZG recommends that if you have 2 windows in a space, make one of the glass block structures vented. In our basement, we have 4 (2 per side) and we vented the two that were across from each other.

The cost of installing GBW ranges from $125 - $200 for non-vented, $175 - $225 for vented.

Besides the advantages listed above, the maintenance is great - no more cleaning the panes - just squirt with a hose.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Easy Energy Saver - Window Sash Locks

If your home is one that is older (and has old windows), one of the easiest and least expensive energy savers is the window sash lock.

The window sash lock will ensure that the window is shut tight. It will do nothing regarding the leakiness of a window in general, however it WILL stop unnecessary air flow.

A sash lock runs about $3.00 and can be installed within 10 minutes.

Easy Speezy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid - Bad Room Temperature

It must be getting close to the weekend, for my tolerance is once again dropping for stupid people. Of course, they never see my anger - just a Curious George smile.

Today's call was a "comfort" call. The client stated that their bedroom is never warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Typically, HZG would start in the basement and then go to the attic in search of the reason. However, this day I felt giddy and thought I'd start in the room itself.

Low and behold, the issue was simple...and stupid.

The bedroom was located close to the middle of the house, so I felt the supply run was not the issue. I was right, it wasn't. The bedroom has 2 supply registers for its size. Normally, that would be enough. Not in this room though. Here comes the stupidity...

There was a dog's bed (big fluffy circular bed) located directly OVER one of the registers. The other register was covered by a dresser. So, in effect, this room had NO registers.

I pointed this out to the owner. I suggested a new furniture arrangement.

Maybe it's the cost of gas ($3.07) that's getting to me when I drive to someone's house and find stupidity...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Weak Generators Kill Krendl's

From the desk of "Don't believe everything a salesman tells you," come this little dity.

Today HZG was approached by a generator salesman. I explained that we had no need at this time for another generator, however he just kept on a selling. He explained that his generator could drive our Krendl's without a problem. I hate the uninformed.

I pointed out that his generator would blow our machine due to the lack of power. He disagreed. I then proceeded to get our supplier on the phone (speaker) and asked him the non-leading questions "What happens if we use a generator without the proper power output, and what is the proper output for our machines?" His response was that we'd have to buy a new Krendl. I thanked him and politely hung up.

I then looked at the salesman with his red face and said I would buy today if he put in writing that if our machine explodes that he would replace it at no cost. He stated that he couldn't do that. I stated that I couldn't buy it.

The salesman slithered to the door...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Opinions Vary...

Today is a brief post - it's late and I'm tired (and sweaty)...attics in 90 degree heat are no fun.

The last sales call today was interesting. I was the last person to view this attic - and sometimes it's good to be last.

The various attic values given to this home owner were..."You should install up to R45", "You should install to R50", "You've only got 3" (when in reality it was 7").

Of course, I recommended installing to an R38 level and the home owner was shocked. I explained that I'd be more than happy to install an R50 and take his money - but I wouldn't do it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Interesting Facts

Courtesy of Green Builder Magazine...interesting environmental facts.

* Percent of US business schools that now require a course in environmental sustainability or corporate social responsibility: 54%, up from 34% in 2001.

* The warmest January ever recorded: January 2007, 1.53 degrees warmer than normal.

* The dollar equivalent of the amount of energy and cost savings delivered by the Energy Star Program in 2005 to US businesses, organizations and consumers: $12 billion.

* Typical number of diapers used per baby in the United States, depending on when toilet training occurs: 5,000 to 8,000.

* The US burns 10,000 gallons of gasoline a second.

* Amount of time it takes to change a lightbulb: 18 seconds. Amount of CO2 that can be averted each year when that incandescent lightbulb is replaced with a compact fluorescent: 104 pounds.

* If just 25 percent of US families used 10 fewer plastic bags per month, we would save more than 2.5 billion bags a year.

* Every ton of recycled office paper saves 380 gallons of oil.

More useless trivia for your next party...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Shower Curtains for a Healthier House?

A shower curtain can contribute to a healthier house, you ask? Yes. Even more so if you own a rental property.

Shower curtains, when properly used, keep liquid moisture IN the shower - not letting the water hit walls and flooring. When the curtain is NOT used properly, well, you get moisture on the walls and floors, followed by BLACK MOLD. Actually, mildew - but tenants have a tendency to exaggerate a bit (sometimes a lot).

Make sure the curtain is attached with the proper amount of bar clips. This keeps the curtain from sagging. Mold-resistant curtain exist for under $15.00. When showering, make sure the curtain is pulled over completely so that it can adhere to the surround or tile. If you have a gap, water will find it and go outside your shower. After showering, make sure to shake the curtain before opening it back up - the curtain should not be left folded, for you are increasing the likelihood of shower-cheese.

HZG had to explain how to use a shower curtain to one of the dimmer tenants. It was hopeless - we're installing a plastic shield so she can splash away...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Roof Vents Used for Exhaust Venting

Although a sealed termination kit is what is recommended for exhaust (bathroom and kitchen) venting, roof vents will do in a pinch. Many home owners want the cheapest route to go, and a roof vent can cost less that $12.00 versus a termination kit for $40.

The reason termination kits are recommended is that they do not share ANY air with the attic space - the exhaust is vented directly outside. The roof vent will allow the air to go outside, however their is residual exhaust left in the attic.

Today HZG experience a client that did not want those "zits" on his roof. Instead, he wanted us to run the exhaust to a gable - some 22' away. I explained that the best exhaust is the shortest exhaust, however he would have none of that. Soooo, I had him sign a form stating that he did not want the shortest vent run possible in favor of cosmetics.

Win some, lose some...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sound & Cellulose

One usage of cellulose that few people think of is as a sound barrier. Sure, cellulose is one of the best insulation R-value materials out there. However, it also has a sound barrier (retarder, more like) capability.

Today, HZG went to a local police / courthouse that was in need of a sound reducer. Whenever the client had a private meeting, well, it wasn't so private. This is where the art of dense-packing comes in.

Our proposal was to dense-pack the interior shared walls to reduce the sound infil - exfil-tration. There isn't a value to the R-factor, simply noise reduction.

Soooooo, if you have a room in your office or home that needs to be quieter, consider the option of cellulose in the wall.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A little gravel goes a long way...

Idiots, idiots, idiots...

This is a quick blog - frustration is high...

I think HZG needs a vacation - or in need of refreshing clientele...

I ran into a builder that said, "We don't need gravel on the footer tile...code doesn't require it." Gravel is an excellent water diffuser - and will help prevent hydrostatic pressure. Damp proofing,'s only as good as the drainage down the wall.

This builder states that he's not worried. I'm drying to prevent future issues...however I will gladly take his money and say (in parenthesis)..."I told you so..."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mold, and why I sometimes hate tenants...

Today I received a phone call from one of my tenants..."I've got MOLD under my daughter's bed and in the bathroom. I had to buy 3 dehumidifiers. My rent will be short this month."

Of course, mold is to be taken seriously when it's real. The key word is "real."

We immediately (within 2 hours) went to her unit to discover a small mossy mold under her daughter's bed...reminiscent of a juice spill. Of course, this could never happen. In the bathroom, there was indeed "mildew" behind the toilet, next to the bathtub...with the look of "water splashing." The tenant thinks that since there is mold in the lower unit (it's unoccupied, in the state of demo) that the mold has come UP through the ceiling and into her daughter's room. Well, the ceiling in the room directly below hers was a nice, pristine white.

We are going to take care of the bathroom issue by installing a plastic shield directly up against the tub so that the tenant will not have to worry about splashing...and then cleaning.

On a side note, there were not any "new" dehumidifiers in the unit...Must be still in the car...

AMAZING what tenants come up with when rent is due (and overdue...)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Guerilla Customer Service

"If your customer has a bad experience, they'll tell ten others. If they have a good experience, they'll tell one other."

Today's society is the weakest at customer service. Whether it's the age of the worker or the lack of training, customer service is what separates the competition (it also allows one to charge a premium for the satisfaction delivered.)

Today's opportunity was with a disgruntled customer, not satisfied with the weatherization job. The little things (a small paint chip, a piece of existing insulation hanging, air penetrating under an existing door) rolled into one large complaint. The client was just not happy after the sale with the follow through.

HZG listened (a crucial step) and then took the blame for not being more thorough. The customer was taken aback by the apology. I then explained that we want overly satisfied clients, for we count on the referral. We scheduled for my crew to go out and address her concerns. She asked "So how much more will this cost." Again, she was taken aback that I said "no charge", for she wasn't happy with the original service.

Hopefully we'll get her issues happily resolved. We sleep well at night knowing that we try are best (and 99% of the time are successful.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

ACI in Review; Some Stupid Chatter Amongst Brilliance

All of the conferences' topics were not excellent; there was even an example of "just plain stupid".

There were 2 sessions that touched on a topic. One was excellent; one was pathetic. The first one had a great comment - "The difference between a pond and a basement is the drainage at the bottom." How true.

The other session had a comment stating "We try to get the basement as dry as possible by routing the water through it to a drain." Through it to a drain. Exposed. To a drain in the basement floor. Exposed.


Sometimes conferences can expose that "maybe we aren't as dumb as we thought."

Friday, April 27, 2007

ACI in Review; Green Healthy Housing

One of the more enjoyable courses was on "Is green housing healthier housing." It involved Dennis Creech from Earth Craft Homes, Attorney Tom Neltner as well as a gentleman from the EPA named Eric "Damned if I know his last name." While we are getting closer to building and weatherizing healthier homes, there is no consensus on what a green healthy home is.

A study was done using 5 organizations; LEED for Homes, NAHB Green Home Building Guidelines, Green Communities, ALA Health House and Energy Star Indoor Air Package. The categories rated were: Keep it Dry, Keep it Clean, Keep it Ventilated, Keep it Safe, Keep it Free of Contaminants, Keep it Pest Free and Keep it Well Maintained.

Across the board, no program passed on Keep it Safe. All passed on Keep it Well Maintained. ALA Health Homes passed on 6 of 7 while the next closest was Energy Star at 4.75 out of 7.

The gentleman from the EPA was very black and white - "it is what it is." The Energy Star program ( goes through more research than the others, however this makes some items slow to change. Indoor Air Quality is the main focus of the Air Package program.

Good stuff...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back from ACI; Training "Nuggets"

It's good to be back from the wonderful world of Affordable Comfort. As usual, each day's classes offered numerous "nuggets" (aka - things to remember). Over the next few days, I'll be sharing some of these nuggets with you - although some of you may already know them.

One of the topics covered crawl spaces and whether to vent or not to vent. HZG has his own thoughts on this; however it was interesting to hear others' opinions. One aspect of the session that I took as a nugget - due to the fact that I had not thought of it within my daily realm - was other areas climates.

A zone map was shown showing different treatments for different climates. HZG is in climate 5, which is entirely different from the others. It interesting to think of a climate that has a 95% constant RH - and how these weatherization professionals address their issues.

So while the course was on venting, the nugget was on regional issues. What works in my market would definitely not work in others...

Note: Thanks Allison for your comment - the response has been posted.