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...