Category Archives: Appraisal

Indoor Air Quality Indicators and Measuring Them

The issue of Indoor Air Quality in a home comes up very regularly for a Home Energy Auditor.

People work hard to keep their homes clean and to serve healthy food from their kitchens. We also want to know the air we breathe in our homes is healthy. There are a lot of things out there to spend our money on like, air cleaners, fancy filters, ozone and UV lights to start with.

What types of things cause a home to have un-healthy air?  A recent presentation to the Indoor Air Quality Committee at the EPA used this slide from a researcher at the University of Pittsburg.

Approaches

What I see as important about this list is that these are measurable. A Thermometer and a Humidity meters are commonly found in many homes. Most homes have a CO Detector for Carbon Monoxide and a lot will have a CO2 detector for Carbon Dioxide.  That covers 50 percent of the items in this list.

What is left are things like small particles, Ozone, volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde. Small particles can be a tough one because we are talking really small.  The standard size we look at is 2.5 microns.  A human hair at 50+ microns gives one a size comparison.

The others are gaseous in nature. Much of these gases can come from materials in the home or the the furnishings and are released over time usually referred to as ‘off gassing’.

As a family lives in a home, things change.  You go in and out, opening doors, windows, cooking, living, enjoying your home. How do you keep track of the air in your home? How do you know it is good, or that you may need to do something to fix a problem?

For years homes have had thermometers and humidity meters available.  Now there is a whole new series of measuring instruments to monitor these various indicators. The simple detector technology for Carbon Monoxide has been improved to respond to a range of levels and actually measure the gas. The other gasses have the same technology.

NOTE:  This measurement technology has been available for professionals at a significant price. Now the progress has made the units smaller and more affordable.

My friend Nate Adams has been doing some major work in existing homes. Nate works in the Akron Ohio area.  He has moved his business from an Insulation Contractor to a full service home performance contractor.  Recently, he has been exploring how the energy efficient features he is installing also improve the quality of the air inside those homes.

Nate has written a blog post reviewing some of these newest monitors to provide homeowners with a comparison of the available offerings.

I was challenged to write this post explaining my reaction to Nate’s Review.  My initial reaction was ‘disappointing’.  Nate’s challenge was ‘Why”.  So here is the why.

First:  While the technology for detecting has moved to measuring, it still has a ways to go.  Partly technology and partly continuing to reduce the cost.

Second: There is a very limited offering. Seven Products were reviewed and three more were mentioned, but lacking the data logging feature. I was hoping for a few more.

Third: Each entry reviewed had pros and cons.  I do not feel that any single item is a comprehensive monitoring solution.

Because I chose to wade through my reactions and thoughts, it has been a good exercise for me. Writing down my thoughts and reasons really helped me look at my initial response of disappointment and why my reaction should be more then that.

My second reaction after working through the above is ‘hopeful excitement’.  While we may be disappointed in the number of monitors and the comprehensive coverage;  we should be looking forward to the future developments and monitors that measure more.

The challenge of these developments and the potential they hold are very interesting.  What can we do?  What should we do?  I suggest that realizing the potential is in many ways up to us. Those in contact with the public, the home owners, or renters. We need to advocate for measurement and then taking action based on what the monitors reveal.

‘Show Your Work’ Isn’t Just for Math Class Anymore

percent greenMy wife is a Math Teacher.  She always likes student’s papers that ‘show your work’! This NAHB Report says ‘Show Your Work’ also applies to building and selling Energy Efficient Homes.

An Early Look at Energy Efficiency and Contributory Value examined sales of homes in the greater Denver metropolitan area between January 2012 and April 2014 to determine the impact that energy efficiency has on the home buying process.

Ultimately, the authors concluded, “There is a current lack of researchable and quantifiable data … Until the data is consistently available and easy to find, it is likely that the residential appraiser’s ability to develop a credible opinion of value will be limited.

Among the observations/findings in the study:

  • The percentage of home sale listings citing “energy” increased in both local multiple listing services between 2006 and 2013, apparently indicating that such features are increasingly appealing to prospective buyers.
  • DadBabyESIn a very limited survey the authors conducted of home owners who purchased Energy Star-qualified homes, 96% indicated that if they were purchasing a home in the future, they would like the home to have an energy-efficiency rating so that they could compare it to other homes.
  • According to the authors: “Appraisers need third-party certified and verified energy-efficiency documentation.” Determining a home’s energy efficiency is “beyond the normal scope of work,” knowledge and experience of an appraiser.
  • Although the survey was not intended to estimate property values based on the presence of energy-efficient elements, in most of the case studies, the presence of energy-efficiency features added measurably to the value of the home. Several of the homes featured in the case studies were certified to the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard.
  • It was difficult, and sometimes impossible, for the study’s authors to separate the value of energy efficiency measures from other green features.

NAHB actively supports efforts to educate appraisal and realty professionals about the intrinsic value of home performance, and how certifications like the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard can help non-building professionals and their customers identify high performance homes and appreciate their benefits.

Full Report

Buying an Energy Efficient Home

HomePOHThe Annual Spring Parade of Homes is on the last week in the Wichita Metro Area.  There are some great homes out there. Lots of amenities to consider. Everyone has their own lifestyle and looks for a floor plan to fit. They all have their sense of taste and can look at the colors, finishes and visual effects.

POH_S15Every builder says they build an energy efficient home. Energy Efficiency is built in behind the walls.  It is usually not seen.  Energy Efficiency is about people and how they install the items that create the efficiency.  The specific items are less important then the way they are installed. Generally, the manufacturers install instructions must be followed.

Wichita – Sedgwick County has not adopted any code provisions for energy efficiency in new homes.  It may be legal to build a home with no insulation, but is that a wise decision? No one thinks so.  So how much is enough and is it installed correctly?  In this area we are reliant on the free enterprise approach energy efficiency in new homes.

Phoenix, AZ has an energy code, yet the free enterprise market based system has upped the game for buyers.  Here is a recent article in the Phoenix Newspaper about how a home buyer can see what is behind the walls.

Arizona-Republic-Features-of-ENERGY-STAR-HERS

Be Proactive for a Green Appraisal

greenlightbulbWhen it comes to getting an accurate appraisal for a high-performance home, it’s easier and more practical to take the right steps up front than to try to get a low appraisal revised after the fact.

Appraisal expert Sandra Adromatis, a featured speaker at the High Performance Building Zone during the recent International Builders’ Show, offered advice for securing an accurate appraisal of a high-performance home.

First and most important is documentation, especially of features behind the walls and other items that aren’t immediately obvious.

A good place to start is by taking a close look at the Appraisal Institute’s Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. This is particularly important if the home is built to a nationally recognized program like the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard or includes additional high-performance features that should be documented within the appraisal.

This article appeared on the NAHB Blog.

For the complete article

Ms. Adomatis also presented at the RESNET Conference after the IBS Show. I furnish the Energy portion of the AI Energy Efficient and Green Addendum for every new home rating I do for a builder.  If you would like to see one or see how it would help your building plans, give me a call.

A Healthy Home Part 1a: How Dry is Dry? –

rain

Water in a house, Good Thing, Bad Thing?  Some places like the sink you expect to find water. Other places like the floor, water is a problem. Builders work hard to build a home so water says where it belongs.

RoofLook at the way the roof is installed!  The shingles are layered from bottom to top. They are also lapped over each layer. So water, will drain down the roof and off.  If water gets up under a shingle, the roofing crew has done some other things like roofing felt, metal valleys and flashing to do the job.

Look at the water run off the overhang in the top picture.  When it rains most of the water hits the roof, the overhang changes how much strikes the wall. Matt Risinger, a home builder in Austin, TX, tweeted this graphic recently.

Overhang

Do you think Matt builds homes with short overhangs?

SidingThe layers on the roof are repeated for the same purpose for other areas of the house. They work the same way. Some are installed the same way, some are installed differently. Other areas of your home have a different experience with water.

Tyvek TopThe outer layer of a wall, the siding, like the shingles, are lapped. The next layer behind the lapped siding is usually known as house wrap. That’s the white covering you see on many new homes, before the siding is installed. Technically, the term for this is ‘Weather Resistant Barrier’ or WRB. Just as the roofing felt helps keep water outside on the roof, the WRB helps keep water outside on walls.

Just as the roofing felt, shingles, and siding are lapped; house wrap should also be lapped, each new layer draining onto the top of the layer below. The directions call for a 6 inch lap, and then tape. The tape is used on house wrap and not roofing felt, because it is a different material, cap nails should be used.

IMG_7672How does the home buyer know the house wrap is right? It passed a code inspection, didn’t it?  This image shows damaged house wrap. Is it taped and lapped correctly? Are the fasteners used according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Do these problems mean that house wrap is bad.  Certainly not!  House wrap is a great product when installed correctly.  It will do the job it is designed to do; act as a Weather Resistant Barrier. It will then, direct water back outside and not allow it into the wall.

DetailWindows and doors need an opening in the wall. These openings must be detailed correctly or water will enter. These details involve flashings, and tapes. How the window is made, with nailing flanges, with foldable nailing flanges or field installed nailing flanges must be considered. Here we see a tape used to seal the nailing flange to the house wrap.

Is house wrap the only type of WRB used?  No!  It is the most widely used in this area. The others will be covered in a future post.

Now if the roof and the wall properly shed water, and they guide any water that gets inside back out, we get to the ground. At this point the water should be directed away from the house.  Gutters and down spouts do a great job when the ground slopes away. Recommended slopes are 1/4 inch per foot for hard surfaces like concrete, and 1/2 inch per foot for other surfaces. Local codes may require more, or a builder preference may result in a larger grade.

damp_proofingThe basement or foundation walls should be damp-proofed on the outside. This is the black spray applied to the concrete. A tile drain system is installed around the exterior of the foundation and tied into a sump to be pumped out of the home.

 

If these or other equivalent measures are built into a new home, the builder is doing the job right. They are all in the building code. The issue is not what material, the issue is quality of workmanship.

This post is part of a series of posts on A Healthy Home.

 

 

 

Question about Builders

google_adwordsGoogle Adwords is one way to promote a product or service.  I have used their approach in the past and currently have an ad campaign going. This campaign promotes New Home Buyers asking Builders ‘What is the HERS Score!’  The HERS Score is a transparent method the Builder can use to educate the buyers, appraisers and others essential to a success of the sales transaction.

I saw an interesting Google Referral today that is worth Blogging about.

The search term used was:  “Best HERS Rated Builder in Wichita”

The short answer is, there isn’t a best builder. That is because a HERS Rating is for a specific home, not for a builder.

images-1A HERS Rating looks at the features of a specific home and evaluates how well they are installed. The builder can specify a great furnace. The quality of the workmanship that is put into installing that furnace will effect the HERS Score.  Insulation is treated the same way.

The HERS Score shows the difference between two or more homes.  A new home buyer may be best served with a HERS Index in the low 90s.  A second new home buyer may be best served with a HERS Index in the upper 70s.

That reasoning, on the best Index Score, is best covered in another post.

HERS-scaleVAny builder can choose to build with either HERS Score above. Using one or the other does not make a builder better, it means the builder is meeting the needs of the buyer.

The HERS Score is a way of demonstrating transparency from the builder to the buyer to the realtor, the appraiser and others involved in the transaction.

NAHB and Greening the MLS

I receive an email news letter each Friday as a member of Wichita Area Builders Association and NAHB, the local and national Builders Trade Groups.  This is titled Monday Morning Briefing.  There are usually 8 to 10 concise articles of interest to the residential building industry. NAHB has an outstanding Research Arm.  Every time they post something they have researched, I learn something.

Some of these posts are self-promotional.  I don’t blame them. They work hard and deserve to put that hard work out for everyone to know about.

In this case, the article that caught my attention relates to work the NAHB has done with other industry trade groups to advance the shared knowledge for builders, buyers, real estate agents, appraisers and others.  Everyone in the home sales transaction benefits from common, verified sources of information about specific homes.

Here is the actual article.  Thank You! NAHB!

NAHB_MLS