Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chimney Issues

How could anyone have a chimney issue? Let's start with water damage - tied for heat loss as the number one issue.

Chimney are typically constructed with brick and mortar. Little does the average person know that bricks are EXTREMELY porous. Water can be absorbed into bricks like a sponge. Over time (1 year to many years), the bricks and mortar will start to disintegrate. Along with this destruction, water can penetrate and seep into your home. Soooo, you may have damaged ceilings and walls - along with the threat of a chimney falling away.

What can be done to ensure that this doesn't happen? Preventative medicine - namely applying a repellent protection to the bricks. First, make sure that the mortar is solid - tuck point the weak areas first. Next, purchase a high end sealant, such as Siloxane. Using a spray bottle / container, apply the Siloxane and saturate the chimney. Be careful, for remember that you are up in the air and do not have the capability of flying. Let the first coat of Siloxane dry, then apply a second coat.

This should be done at least every other year. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats are one of the best dollar for dollar investments in the energy savings world. Why? Because these thermostats take "thinking and acting" out of the equation.

Programmable thermostats can pay for themselves within the first year, saving you money from that point on. In a household where everyone is out of the house during the day, the thermostat can be set to reduce the temperature upon leaving and then rise one hour prior to arriving back home in the evening. can be set to go back down at bedtime and back up one hour prior to awakening.

This may seem like additional stress on the furnace (working harder, longer to get to temperature), however the down time easily saves in multiple ratios.

With this being said, the thermostat is only as good as the weatherization and insulation performed on the home. Maintaining temperature comes back to the home's ability to keep it warm (or cool in the summer).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Missing Ceilings

From the file of "it isn't always what it seems...", today we discovered a major heat loss where the owner didn't think he had one.

In a furnace room on a slab home, there was plenty of insulation on the ceiling exposed. First, I'm not a fan of exposed insulation and I told him so. With this being said, we tested to see how secure the insulation was and it pushed directly into the attic. No ceiling. Go figure why their gas bills have been so high.

The client said, "Can I put up plywood on top." Well, of course not. Due to the fact the ceiling is in the furnace room, the ceiling needs to be fire-rated. Drywall is the main ceiling we'd install and we quoted accordingly.

In the future, remember to "trust, but verify." In the immortal words of Terrell Owens, "If it smells like a rat; looks like a rat..."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ice Dams and Gutters

Now that there is a thaw occurring, if you had an ice dam this winter - check your gutters post-melt. Why?

Severe ice dams have up to 10" of ice build up. This 10" of build up can have substantial weight to it. With this weight comes see where this is going...the pressure can bend the gutters out away from the facia. Why is this an issue? Please, someone write and ask me a question...the more I keep asking myself questions the more likely I won't answer.

Once the gutter is bent away from the facia, the water from the balance of the snow - and every rain thereafter - will not make it to the gutters. It will, instead, run down the side of your home. If it does this, you may be creating a basement issue with the volume of unintentional water that is now cascading down your home. This water is meant to be channeled AWAY from your home.

So...walk around your home, directly under the gutters and look for gaps. The repair is simple and cheap...if you catch it before it migrates to the basement.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Overpriced Housing Stock

HZG looks over at least 15 homes that are emailed per day. This equates to 5,475 homes per year. I'm lucky to find 10 good deals. This equates to less than 1%. The real estate industry is very cyclical. What I believe we are going through now is the inflated pricing bubble burst.

The foreclosure rate in Ohio is quite large, and the market is flooded with bank owned homes. These homes are being listed for sale and may I say, waaaaayyyyyy overpriced. Why is this? Are the Realtors working for the banks off their rocker? No - the banks have mortgaged the properties above their value. This is a large issue with predatory lending - from unscrupulous Real Estate Agents (yes, there are some out there - the majority of agents are good) to fraudulent appraisers. I've actually heard an appraiser ask "How much do you need?" Unfortunately, all of these homes hit the market and the banks carry them for months on end - until they are reduced to the point of a bank loss (however the bleeding stops).

If you are an investor, don't let these homes set your market. They will eventually come down - or be purchased high and end up as a foreclosure again. I've known of one home that has had 3 foreclosures on it in a 2-year span.

Know your market. Know the difference between a good street and a bad street. One block can make a $50,000 swing in value. There are quite a few people that say they "flip" houses. These people either are one and out - or stay in business providing poor quality homes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Crown Moulding Electrical Use?

Crown moulding is typically used as a "the cherry on top of the sunday." You know, the last decorative piece in a room to give it that "rich" look. Could I possibly use parenthesis more in a single paragraph?

Fix-It Guy was requested by HZG to install can lighting in a room that needed 1) better ambient lighting, 2) spot lighting and 3) one focused light. Since the room was a retro-fit, he suggested running the lighting wires BEHIND the crown moulding. This way the ceiling (for the most part) is saved from destruction.

This sounded like a great idea - and if anyone knows how to fix a room to look right - it's Fix-It Guy. So he drilled the necessary holes, ran the wire through the ceiling to the border and then ran it to the newly installed switches. From there, he installed the moulding and voila - crown moulding and no wires.

On a side note, for ambient lighting he recommended dimmer switches for the 4 corners - and what a difference it makes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Louvered Doors & Air Flow

In homes where there are small Combustion Appliance Zones (also known as CAZ's), it is imperative that there is enough free air to keep all of the appliances running should they be turned on simultaneously. Appliances that fit this description are furnaces, water heaters and dryers. Each one of these takes in air to maintain the appliance's operation.

As a weatherization professional, it is imperative that we address this issue - for we are tightening the house to a point where if all of the appliances were running at the same time AND the area that they are located is small - there is a high chance that the appliance will backdraft. What is a backdraft?

A backdraft is a flame that is a sweep of air backwards; also, a condition in a fire where oxygen is depleted and the fire dies down until a door is opened and the fire flares violently from the intake of oxygen.

So you can see that if there is not enough air in a room, the fire will search out air - and this could cause a large potential problem.

A solution that is used quite often is the installation of a louvered door. This allows air to be naturally pulled from an adjoining room. Quite a few people state that they would just remove the door - however we need to take every precaution when weatherizing so that a family that purchases this home down the road does not install a door and go "poof." Poof, a fun word to use in a sentence...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Crawl Space Venting

Anyone that has a crawl space knows that you may or may not need a crawl space vent. The problem is that I've seen both used when they shouldn't have been.

The vent is needed (and required by code in many municipalities) when the crawl space has been separated from the building envelope. This means that the shared wall is insulated, the floor above the crawl is insulated and all pipework is insulated. This vent allows the earth to vent naturally outside of the confined space and reduce humidity and potential moisture issues. Vents should never be used when the crawl is inside the building envelope...

Today was one of those days when HZG was asked to view a home's "cold room" problem. The room was an addition over a newly built crawl space. I went into the crawl and saw insulation board on the perimeter (R10 foam board...good), no insulation on the floor (good), insulation on the heat runs (why?) and 2 wide open vents. Hmmm...the builder couldn't decide if the crawl was in or out.

I prefer (if at all possible) that crawls be brought into the living envelope. No matter how well you insulate a floor and duct work, it's elevated and subjected to the cold when the crawl is treated as outside. I rarely ever have seen a vented crawl space that was warm in the room above.

Back to the story...HZG recommended to the home owners that they have 2 masonry blocks installed where the vents were, insulate the new area and then remove the wrap from the heat runs. There are two schools of thought with the wrap - yes, by wrapping the heat will be warmer at the registers; however the radiant heat loss as it travels under the floor is lost. Since the floor is exposed, I would trade degrees of heat at the register for more warmth across the floor as it travels.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fixing Ice Dams

Unfortunately, once you have an ice dam, it has to melt and ruin whatever is below it BEFORE you can correct it. There is no sense in correcting future issues until all the damage has been done.

Once all the damage has been done and the dam has been melted, the following should be done to correct future issues:

1) Seal off the indoor temperature from the outside temperature - first by sealing off penetrations directly into the attic.
2) If soffit venting exists, baffle the soffits so that air can freely pass into the attic. This is two-fold - one is to allow air into the attic so that the roof sheeting is maintained and the second is to allow as much cold to hit the roof as possible in the winter months. The colder the roof, the less likelihood of snow melting and freezing.
3) Insert all the way to the edge - a minimum of R38

Icicles are cute - but not on a roof.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ice Dams - The Cause

Ice dams occur every winter in Ohio, and every year I receive phone calls about water inside of the home.

Ice dams are easy to spot from the outside of the home - there are large icicles that develop. Small icicles are OK in extreme temperatures - there is no such thing as a perfect home. However the large "club like" icicles are worrisome.

An ice dam results from warm air melting snow, however it freezes on the roof prior to falling off. This occurs mostly with extremely cold temperatures. The frozen "dam" prohibits the balance of the snow from melting above - resulting in water traveling behind the roofing shingles.

Once the water has made its way into the attic space, it travels along the joists to the next easiest place - the walls and ceiling.

HZG most recently had a call with one of the worst ice dams. The water flowed from the roof to the attic, down the wall - part rolled out on the ceiling, part rolled BACK outside and down the front door - where it froze again. So much so, that the front door froze shut.

Tomorrow I will explain preventative measures.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Using a drill to test sidewalls

Sorry for the lack of writing the past two days - computer issues (run-time error) prohibited me from typing more than one letter at a time. And as much as a like writing this blog - I don't like it enough to write for 2 hours...

While infra-red cameras work well in Ohio 6-months out of the year, they do not work well in months where the temperature change from inside to outside doesn't vary by more than 10-15 degrees. Infra-reds also do not work at various times of the day when there is a "sun-wash." I'll address Infra-reds in a separate column.

What works all the time? A drill with a 2" hole bit. The bit itself costs approximately $6 - I purchased another one from Home Depot yesterday. The bit has a lead on it, and a very sharp 2" circle. Next, choose a closet that shares an exterior wall. Simply drill a test hole and voila! - you can see into the cavity. Upon completion, you can attempt to put the drywall back into place and spackle (or if lath and plaster, re-plaster the hole.)

You can pick up a real inexpensive drill (I think I saw a Ryobi 12V for $49) and save the money you would have spent on a IR camera ($9,000.) IR cameras do have a great use for determining slope insulation where a drill bit won't work.

Good luck - I'll be test drilling AND infra-redding tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Attic Venting - Sometimes They're Not Even...

From the files of "You can't please everyone all of the time..."

As I've discussed prior, attic ventilation is very important. You need 1 square foot of net free ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic space. In knee wall areas, you need proper ventilation through the gable ends - typically one on each side. Well...

We had a disgruntled community action agency client that didn't like the fact that we installed gable vents on one side of the house "out of line." Yes, one of the gable vents was a good foot lower than that other one. She was incensed that we ruined the look of her house. Per community agency guidelines, we were to install these vents as instructed - one per knee wall side. However, the home's structure had a different roof line on one side, and the knee wall attic space on that side was half the size of the other one. What does this mean? It means the center point of the knee wall space was considerably lower than that of the other side. In order to make the other side even, we would have had to put the vent below the insulation.

We explained it to the agency - and they, of course, completely understood. The client still doesn't get it...and probably never will...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Leaking Attic Hatch

Sometimes you get the phone call where you want to smack the client on the head, but you don't because you feel sorry for them. Today was one of those days...

We received a phone call from a past weatherization client claiming her attic hatch was leaking. An attic hatch leaking...hmmmmm...

We have had issues in the past, but never a hatch leaking. So, when my tech arrived at the job site and investigated, the hatch was indeed leaking water. There is always something more to the story. Upon lifting the hatch, he noticed ice on the pillow that was melting. Looking upwards, the ridge vent had an opening without the screen, letting snow in. This snow froze on the pillow, melting gradually down the hatch.

We simply screened off the ridge and shazam, problem solved. Of course the client is not happy and took vengeance out on my tech. Very politely, the tech stated that "we didn't do the roof, ma'am." That seemed to calm her down...

Some days...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Vapor Barrier / Thermal Bypass / Poor Placing

We've had 8" of snow so far (with a predicted 15" more on the way), but that doesn't stop HZG from trying to help the energy issued people.

Today I witnessed multiple issues in one attic. This person had a $400 gas bill last month (and the temperature wasn't that bad). In order, here are the following issues this person had, and you can check for yourself as well...

1) The attic hatch was not insulated. It was a 1/4" piece of press board.
2) The attic had R19 of fiberglass installed. Not only was it short in R-value (recommended R38), it was installed upside down - with the vapor barrier facing upwards.
3) There was a vaulted ceiling with no insulation around the vertical surface. It should have had a minimum of an R19 installed and wrapped in a 6 mil poly.
4) The slopes of the vault were empty. It should have been dense-packed.
5) Portions of the insulation were laying on top of 2"x4"s. It should have been directly against the ceiling below. Air gaps greatly decrease the effectiveness of insulation.
6) There was a 3' x 3' furnace run chase way, traveling 2 floors to the basement. This being sealed alone would increase the energy efficiency.

Well, even after hearing this the client said, "We've got a couple of other contractors coming out and we won't tell them what you said. It will come down to if we can afford it." Well, no other contractor to this point had even gone into the attic...and how can they NOT afford it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Why Insulation Quotes Can Be High...

This is a real quick blog on why insulation quotes can be high...

A client was a little perturbed when I informed them that prior to our arrival, the knee wall attic space (floored) needed to be empty. Also, the walls of the home needed to be stripped clean of photos, dressers moved away and items of value covered (interior drill). The client stated that they didn't have time to do my quote to them was raised by over $300. Why so much?

We would have to not only remove the items, but put them back as well. This takes time - and my crew will move items very carefully so as not to damage any of them. The liability factor goes way up when we are asked to do something that isn't weatherization. We will typically move the heavy items if the client is unable; however we are not "movers" in general. The client understood the quote and was willing to pay the additional money just to have "nothing to do" with the project.

Before asking your contractor to do this, I would advise having a good sense in how they will treat your belongings. What you don't want is a guy playing rhinoceros with your possessions.

I feel better now...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

House Close to Foreclosure "Bargain"

It's amazing what some people think are bargains. Tomorrow HZG will go to a private showing of a house perilously close to foreclosure. "It's a steal", says the current homeowner (and friend).

Prior to viewing any property, one should hop on line and view the auditors' card to see the particulars of the home going in. This home has an assessed value of $91,000 and the friend is willing to part with the home for $47,000. This, on the surface, looks to be a deal. However...while the home has 3 bedrooms, the largest one is 9' X 10'. That isn't a bedroom, it's more like a dog kennel. The resale opportunity diminishes greatly. While the house has been gutted, you now have to figure in the cost of a new kitchen and bath. The profit margin continues to grow more slim. From what I pulled from on line and from others associated with the home, the best part of the house is the vacant city lot that goes with it. However, this involves building a home and tying up funds that could go elsewhere.

Well, we'll go check it out tomorrow and see if the issues on paper are real.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The $800,000 New Home Pipe Freeze

Poor design is poor design - regardless if your home just cost you $800,000. Yep, HZG went to a brand new home (the client lived in it 1 month) and the pipes froze - no water. Luckily, they didn't burst - but you can imagine the owners' thoughts. "We just spent $800,000 on a home and the pipes freeze. Expletive, expletive..."

This was truly a beautiful, 6-bedroom home with many roof line cantilevers. In two of the cantilevers, the builder contracted a reputable insulation installer. Unfortunately, the design predicated the need for air sealing and additional insulation due to the way the water pipes run. However, this did not happen.

Upon investigation, I pulled back some of the fiberglass (not encapsulated) behind the wall of one of the water issues. "What ho! Daylight!" Yep, I could see into the bathroom through one of the water drain penetrations. They ran the pipe through a non-conditioned space, did not seal off the hole, did not fit the fiberglass in the cavity, and lastly, did not put enough insulation in the area to protect the piping. There is also a good chance that the floors underneath were not stuffed properly, allowing the cold air to effect another shower.

This is an easy fix, however a brand new home should not need easy fixes. It needs better design.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fallen Insulation

Today's weird call of the day came from a nursing home. The temperature had dropped to 42 degrees in one entire section of the home. So much so that the sprinkler system burst in one area. The original design of this building was unique...the addition was "uniquer." Let me preface this by saying the home was extremely clean and the staff enjoyable. Now that I've said that, the ceiling / insulation design was borderline stupid. No, I take that back. It was STUPID.

The furnace system down the 2 halls was located in the attic area. There was no actual ceiling; just ceiling tiles. So you could literally lift a ceiling tile and gain access to the attic. They had R19 fiberglass stapled to the rafters, so in essence they were heating the "attic". Well, the super-duper staples finally gave way and the insulation fell. The "cold" now permeated downwards and the furnace could not keep up.

What makes this even more humorous is that the attic had a ridge vent, so heat was being lost anyway.

How to repair. Of course, budgets are important - so they want the least expensive treatment to put the insulation back the way it was. This is where plumbing straps are of great use. We proposed (and they accepted) to re-install the fallen insulation (if in good shape) and then run 3 plumbing straps across the rafters so that in the event the insulation would come loose - it wouldn't fall.

We're currently investigating whether we can seal up the ridge vent due to the location of the insulation. More on that later...possibly...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Furncace Heat Runs

This day's weatherization sales call was a bust - but beneficial to the homeowner...

The client complained about a temperature difference in the upstairs of his 1950's built home (5 degree difference, to be exact). He believed he had an insulation issue. So, HZG crawled up in the attic to find...plenty of blown fiberglass insulation throughout. He did have a furnace up in the attic space, however it didn't look functional to me.

Upon climbing back down, I asked him if his furnace in the attic was functioning properly. He said, "No, we had that disconnected when we put in our new furnace in the basement." I asked him where the new vents were. He stated, "In here, in the bathroom. They installed a duct where this clothes shoot is." That was the only heat run for the entire (1,000SF) upper level.

I told him that the 5 degree difference is outstanding due to the lack of direct heat. He was grateful I didn't try to sell him something that he didn't need. Hopefully good Karma will result.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Selling with a Lease / Option

While we are currently looking to purchase property "in need", we have a small inventory to sell. The market is currently slow - so we are entertaining lease with option to purchase. What separates this from the standard lease agreement is that we have set a fixed price for purchase within a window of opportunity (from 1 to 2.5 years). The prospective home owner must make at least a 5% down payment and make "rent" payments consistently.

Why this direction? With a lease purchase, you can typically "sell" for a higher amount than on the open market, for your client is a little more desperate to buy. If you have a house in GREAT shape, the process is easy. The keys to success are:

1) Make sure to get a minimum of 5% down
2) Have the client write you 12 checks (11 of them post-dated) to ensure that they realize the repercussions of late payments
3) Have an iron clad contract - stating EXACT terms of purchase and what happens if the contract is violated (loss of down payment).

In tough markets, it pays to get creative.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vinyl Siding and Cold Temperatures

It's the second day off for kids in Northeast Ohio due to the intense cold (-3 degrees F). This doesn't mean that insulation is not being done - just not outside on vinyl sided homes.

Vinyl siding is great to work with typically. It removes easily so you can cover drill holes back up. It doesn't warp or wave upon removal. It basically makes the home look like you've never been there insulating. Unless...

It drops below 20 degrees. When the temperature drops, the siding gets very brittle. How brittle? I demonstrated for a confused home owner as to why we couldn't do his sidewalls until later week. The client obliged me and allow me to take a piece of his siding and demonstrate the "flexibility" of it (he had a spare piece in his garage...) I simply began bending it as I would do it on any other job and within seconds - snap and shatter. Shards lay on the ground. Needless to say, he was happy that we were not there insulating today.

Everything has an Achilles' heal. Cold weather is siding's.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Frozen Water Pipes

We hit -25 degrees wind chill today, and with that temperature came the unexpected "frozen pipes" call from a tenant. Some days, Mother Nature can be such a bad person...

HZG owns several up and down two units. In this particular 2-family, it was the upper unit that had the pipes freeze in the sink area (not the bathroom). What could be causing this headache? This unit sits into a hillside. The main water line should (I repeat, should) be 4' into the ground where it enters so as not to freeze. With this being the case, Fix-It Guy and I believe that it's not.

The bad part of this is that there is literally nothing we can do short of ripping up drywall and installing heat tape. The tenant has passed on this idea, for the mess won't be worth the inconvenience. As the temperature warms up, the pipe will thaw and water will flow...that's the theory, anyway.

You can be the best landlord / retro-fitter and it may not matter when Momma Nature comes to town. There is only so much you can prevent against.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor security lighting is becoming more and more desirable these days. If you are buying a home to keep as a rental (or even going to resell), make sure you allot for security lighting in your budget.

There are various types of security lighting; always on/off, motion sensor, timer, etc. HZG is a fan of the motion sensor due to the energy savings part. Having a light always on during a set period of time, while very secure, is a large waster of energy. The motion sensor can be annoying if it goes on and off periodically, however the majority of the time you are sleeping any way. So get over it.

There are CFL security flood lights that promise longevity. As addressed in a previous blog, my own test of them in the Ohio climate has had poor results. Maybe in a warmer, drier climate they last longer than standard lighting.

Either way, secure the property - it's worth the investment.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cracking Basement Walls

Last week, HZG went to a client's home where we rebuilt 2 basement walls (removed the old, built new). The client complained about cracking in the walls - "extreme cracking" as he put it. Upon arrival, he was right.

First, basement walls are not warrantable during retro-fits. We use city inspectors to make sure we are installing to code. However, things can go wrong that have nothing to do with the wall installation. Because we believe in good client relations, we honor all requests to come out and observe - even if we are not at fault.

There were 2 vertical cracks that sheared the block from first course to bottom course, and a horizontal crack the length of one wall at the bottom of the 3rd course. The client had another waterproofing company install a system prior to our arrival. This system was done on the interior perimeter.

This was a prime case of a perimeter system not doing the job in full. Yes, it was keeping water out of the basement; however there was severe hydrostatic pressure in the interior. So much so that there was a crack running along the floor - coincidentally from vertical crack to vertical crack. This pressure put undue pressure on the walls and created a shifting.

How to fix? You cannot repair cracks without replacing the block. However, you can alleviate the issue that causes the cracks. We recommended installing a 20' lateral line. A lateral line is the same as a perimeter system, but it runs out from the perimeter into the middle of the floor. This line would allow the water pressure to be relieved and flow to the perimeter system and out of the basement. HZG, in a sign of good faith, installed this line at our own cost due to the client spending so much money originally to rebuild the wall.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Roof Venting Requirements

There are all types of roof venting; gable, soffit, high mount, etc. The bottom line to roof venting is to make sure that you have enough square footage of travel to relieve the attic space of temperature.

Calculating how much venting your attic needs is relatively simple. All you need to know is the area of the attic floor. Include the garage, if you have one, and the soffited overhang because heat gets trapped above them, too. A common rule of thumb is the 1/300 rule, which means 1 square foot of net free vent area per 300 square feet of attic floor space. Say you have an 1,800 square foot home with a garage that that measures 20 feet by 22 feet. This will yield a total area of 2,240 square feet. You then divide this number by 300 - equaling 7.5. This tells us that we need 7.5 square feet of ventilation for the attic. Most attic vents are measured by square inches, so we need to convert the 7.5 square feet to square inches. This is done by multiplication. 1 square foot is equal to 144 square inches, so we multiply 7.5 by 144 - equaling 1,080. So we need 1,080 square inches of Net Free Vent Area (vent size minus obstructions).

If you are installing 12" by 16" vents, you would need 5 of them to accomplish the 1/300 rule.

More is not necessarily better, and it can actually hamper flow if you are using soffit vents to ridge vents. Lastly, the higher the venting, the better.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bathroom Exhaust Fans

This is a topic that addresses both weatherization and retro-fitting homes. Bathroom fans are crucial to exiting moisture from a bathroom, providing a better indoor air quality to a home.

Why is HZG talking about the simple bathroom exhaust vent? Because it is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine. I enjoy the solitude of a shower, not noise. When I get out of the shower (and I like HOT showers), I also enjoy being able to view my aged face in the mirror when shaving. We used to have an exhaust fan that sounded like an aircraft carrier landing. It did, however, exhaust the steam out of the bathroom within 3 - 4 hours...

When shopping for a bathroom fan, there are many things to look at - however I'm only going to address the two that I find most important: Exhaust and Sound. These are both equal to me, but I would recommend selecting your fan based upon exhaust first, sound second - combined to match your budget. I've seen fans range from $30 to $260. HZG bought a $135 fan (installed by Fix-It Guy for $55.)

Exhaust should be measured by CFM - Cubic Feet per Minute. This measure states how much air will be exchange in the bathroom space. The fan will state on the side of the box how large a bathroom the fan should be installed in. If your bathroom is 80 square feet, I would recommend purchasing a fan that is 20 square feet greater in capability. Remember, the size of the bathroom fan listed on the box is the recommended MAXIMUM size. The extra 20 square feet will ensure the proper exhaust. In my bathroom, I was amazed at the elimination of steam.

Sound in bathroom fans is measured in Sones. The higher the Sone, the louder the fan. As the Sones go lower, the price of the fan typically goes up. HZG purchased a 1.2 Sone fan - it sounds like a light background hum. The following best illustrates the various Sone levels:

4.0 - Normal Television (loud for a fan)
3.0 - Office Noise
1.0 - Sound of a Refrigerator
0.5 - Rustling leaves

Remember, by the BEST fan for your budget - however the more you spend (better CFM, sound reduction), there is a stronger chance that you will be happier per dollar spent.