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 of...you 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 idio...er, 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...