Category Archives: Furnace

How Accurate is your Tape Measure, an Example of Rounding for Third Graders

I was recently asked to make a video for a 3rd Grade Teacher on how I use rounding in my job.  This is a great subject.  My wife is a math teacher and has helped teach estimating and rounding to Grade School children for years.

I chose to use measuring a house to obtain the size in cubic feet and relate that to choosing the size of the furnace. I varied the measurement on each side of the house by 6 inches.  The measurement rounding was shown to be accurate enough for this need. In this case the accuracy requirement was not needed due to furnace engineering issues, not the ability of someone to measure to the nearest inch or 6 inches.

Enjoy the video – help some kids! Thanks to the Third Grade Teacher, Grace for including me.  Here is the video on my You Tube Channel

 

http://youtu.be/xhZvH4RLY6U

What percentage of residential new construction cost do you think a high efficiency HVAC system should be? 5%, 10% ,15%???

This question was raised this morning on one of the professional discussion forums. Below is my response. Included is a link supplied by Richard McGrath in another response.

Let’s use a water bucket and a faucet for an analogy.

Take a page from the British Navy a few hundred years ago. They learned to tar the joints of their wooden hulled ships. Perhaps that’s why British Seamen are called ‘Tars’.

If you build your bucket with wood, you do something to stop the leaks. To use the bucket, you have a faucet to put water into it. If you put less money into the bucket stopping the water loss, you will need to put more water into it all the time, and need a larger capacity faucet. That will cost more money. The reverse is also true.

The question is ‘what should our faucet cost’? Most people would look at it and say not much! For a half million dollar house you might get answers from 2-4%. Some would say less. ??A faucet system is not just the part you see sticking out of the wall? The system includes pipe from the source of water to the house, to the various rooms where water is needed. You can’t buy a $10 faucet and claim to have a faucet system.

For this question, you can’t buy a furnace and AC unit and claim that is the system. You must have a Thermostat and some way to get the heat and cool to the various rooms of the home. For an effective faucet system, you put some thought and effort into the design. The same goes for an HVAC system.

What is the bucket in our house? Sometimes it is called the thermal envelope, sometimes Thermal Enclosure. It is formed by a continuous thermal boundary that is aligned with a continuous air barrier. ??Pretty simple in concept, Not as easy to execute. ??Put some time and effort into the design; then put some effort into the execution. If you are building with 2x4s use 24 inch centers, ladder connections for interior walls and 2 stud corners. Fill the extra room with insulation not wood. NAHB pioneered this in the 1970’s because of the high cost of framing material. ??You can install R-13 batts in those 2×4 walls, or you can use a blown in system. If you get the correct density and verify it, you can get R-15. You can choose a hybrid system with a 1 inch flash of CC SPF and blown in FG or Wet Sprayed Cellulose. R-17 or 18. ??Insulate the basement walls, crawl space walls and the above ground walls. ??Properly flash and seal the openings for windows and doors. Specify the U-factor and SHGC for the windows. Calculate the correct overhang for the eaves. You want to have them cast a shadow over the whole window at noon on June 21st.

Properly air seal the home. Install your WRB (water resistant barrier) correctly. That means following manufacturer’s directions. Wrap types mean gasketed nails, properly lapped and taped with approved products. You can use factory applied WRB to the OSB or a site applied liquid to the house. ??Air sealing doesn’t stop there. Fill each 1 inch hole the electrician drilled with caulk or foam, most wires running through those holes are about 1/2 inch. ??Then seal the joints of the wall and ceiling drywall on the attic side. Caulk or froth pac work. You can flash 1 inch of CC SPF also.

Now your house, bucket, is not very leaky. So you don’t need a big faucet. ??Big faucets relate to size of the HVAC system, they also directly relate to the cost to install. You also have the cost to operate.

After you have a well built air leakage controlled envelope, then you can consider the HVAC system. ??Two choices to start with: Hydronic or Forced Air. Forced air is most common in this area, we will persue that route.

After choosing Forced Air, you can choose gas fired heat or an electrically driven heat source. Again 2 choices. ??With a gas fired heat source you will have conditioned air leaving the ducts at 100 – 110° F. With an electrically driven source the air will leave the ducts at 85 – 95° F noticeably cooler. That will make or break many people on their choice and ultimate satisfaction with their HVAC system.

Gas fired comes in primarily Natural Gas and Propane. Availability is the key here. ??If you choose a gas fired system – go sealed combustion on the furnace and either sealed combustion or fan assisted drafting on the DHW.

If you choose to go with an electrically driven system, you can choose a Heat Pump or an electric furnace. If you choose an electric furnace, IMO you will not be pleased with your operating costs. They will be through the roof and you will invest any capital cost savings in operating costs very quickly.

That leaves a heat pump with Two Choices. You can choose an Air Source or a Ground Source. ??With a well designed and built duct system, meeting the standards for leakage and design for the Energy Star 3.0 program; a ASHP with variable speed ECM motor (which may be overkill) including actual Manual J, S, and D work ups around here will cost between 9 – 15 K. A gas fired system will be very similar in price, as would a dual fuel system.

If you opt for a typical closed loop Ground Source set up, including all of the above, wells and piping your capital cost will run between 25 – 35K. (noted for the next 27 months a 30% tax credit is available, but not considered in this article.)

In this area new construction homes range from 125,000 to 7 million. ??So the lower end is in the 7 – 12 % range. The more reasonable price of 500,000 for a high end spec home in the area results in the 3 – 7% range.

The question of percentages is silly. Builders may like them, but most homeowners will have their eyes glaze over if you bring this up. The goal is to sell homes, not HVAC systems. A home is supposed to be comfortable. Many new ones are not. This link goes into depth on this issue. http://www.healthyheating.com/Thermal_Comfort_Working_Copy/comfort.htm#.Uj9kLr7D_5o

The equation of importance is capital cost to operating cost. Those are best approached with some modeling. I recently completed a model for a 3K sf home with R-25 ICF V 2×4 16OC construction. The operating costs were in the $1,500 range for our utility rates. The HERS Score was 54.

Substituting a GSHP brought the operating costs down by $200 per year and increase the capital costs by 10K. ??The customer opted for the ASHP and ICF over the GSHP and typical construction. He chose where to put his money.

I see a trap in logic using percentages. I provided new construction pricing around here. My cousin in California deals with homes on the bottom range in the neighborhood of 500,000. That makes a hugh difference in the % equation. ??So try rephrasing the question to get some more accurate results. Leave out the percentages.

What Tools do you carry in your Tool kit?

I have all sorts of small items in mine; a list would include flashlight,  screwdriver, hammer, tape measures, wrenches, my blower door and infrared imaging camera.  Plus a bunch of flashlights. Yep!  A bunch of flashlights.  I like those everywhere, usually two at a time.flashlights

What kind of tools do you carry?

furnaceAn HVAC Tech might have the first part of my list, and a set of pressure gauges and thermometers instead of my specialized equipment.  Yes, I don’t really need his specialized equipment.

An Install Tech for an Insulation Company would probably have the general stuff and some specialized tools like an insulation blower, staple guns, and an air compressor.

Yes, the work you do requires certain tools. Most tools are fairly general and found in almost everyone’s tool kit, some are specialized to the work we do.

Now that I have pointed out the obvious, everyone maybe wondering why I’m thinking about tools and home performance. So lets connect the dots a little.

First, what happens if you get to the job and you can’t find a screw driver?  It has happened to me more than once!  I just hate that!  How many knife blades have we broken on our pocket knives when we find ourselves in that position?  We still have a job to do and the wrong tool takes longer, sometimes with banged knuckles.

What happens when the products or services we provide to our customers, can perhaps meet their need, like the blade on a pocket knife, but do not meet the need like a screwdriver?  That is the position many in the building performance are find themselves in.  They have a customer that is uncomfortable in their own home or a business with uncomfortable employees and customers.  How does the management design a solution for their techs to implement and thus satisfy their customer, making them comfortable again.  As a business, we each try to provide the solution to the customer from our stock.  That is how we get paid. You don’t pay the mechanic that fixes your car, when the plumbing needs to be fixed.  You pay the plumber, after the drain works again.

So you have a room that is Hot in the Summer and Cold in the winter?  Who do you call and what solution do the problem do you implement?Insulation Blown

If you call a Heating / Cooling contractor, they have equipment on the shelf, probably not insulation. So you will have a proposal to change your equipment for bigger units or perhaps to add a unit. The proposal will certainly involve equipment.  After all, if your mid size car gets you to the store, a larger car will get you there with more comfort.  Would you expect your HVAC contractor to recommend insulation?

What is the actual answer to to your comfort situation? Larger equipment with more punch or some insulation?  What if your solution does not involve either equipment or insulation?

Now we are back to the tools of our Trades!  What tools do you have?  Equipment, Insulation, Air Sealing, Windows?  The solutions you provide must involve the tools of your trade. That is why a savvy homeowner might consult with more than one contractor.  That is a great argument for savvy contractors to partner with contractors and others that work on changing the energy use in your home or business. Why should a good contractor limit themselves to providing only part of the solution.

Air SealingThis is happening in many areas of the country.  Contractors are partnering with others in their area to build home performance teams. There are contractors in Wichita that are moving in this direction.  I think that is great!

Deciding on the measures that will solve your comfort concerns, while bringing down your energy costs, involves a team that includes all of the contractors and a Energy Specialist that does not have a product on the shelf to sell you. The ability to recommend, without having a financial interest in the products, has been valued by many home owners. An Audit by Efficient Energy Savers, provides you with the independence in evaluation, and recommendations needed to get the answer you are actually looking for.

 

Some Results from Energy Improvements

When doing a Home Energy Audit, I always tell people that what I find is not good or bad. I tell them that what I can recommend for improvement depends on  the cost of their Utility Bills.

If you have a water leak, we all know that paying the price to a plumber to fix it, will cost us when the plumber comes. We also know if we don’t fix it, we can pay the water company that amount over 1 or 2 or 6 months. How long depends on the amount of the leak and the cost from the Utility for your water. And then we still have to pay the plumber. so we make a choice.

Blowing insulation into the walls!

Blowing insulation into the walls!

Wendy stuffing insulation into the hopper!

Wendy stuffing insulation into the hopper!

Some choices are easy, for improving the efficiency of a home.  Most homes with a tank type hot water heater inside the home, in a balanced or cooling climate (south of the Kansas / Oklahoma border) will benefit from installing a water heater insulating blanket.  They cost about $25.00 and typical savings just north of the above line can run from 6 – 8 dollars per year. So at $6 bucks a year, the blanket pays for itself in about 4 years. And most people can afford $25.00.

Other choices are somewhat tougher.  Instead of $25.00 to invest in the improvement, cost can run $2,000 to insulate a basement.  If you spend time down there, you know it is a little colder in both the winter (brrr) and the summer (nice), then upstairs.  Again, using some Wichita area numbers a homeowner could save in the area of $350 per year. Each house is different, so I am using some averages from various audits. If you apply this  savings over 6 years, the insulation is paid for and you still save the money. The hitch? It is harder to come up with $2,000 instead of $25.00.

In 2011, I had an Energy Efficiency Project approved under the Efficiency Kansas Program. They loaned some cost, I paid some costs and we added some (a bunch) of insulation, air sealing to cut the infiltration, replaced a 18 year old furnace and air conditioner. I also added an Energy Recovery Ventilator.

Wade in the attic! Fixing a dropped soffit in the kitchen! You can see the 3:12 pitch on my roof.

Wade in the attic! Fixing a dropped soffit in the kitchen! You can see the 3:12 pitch on my roof.

My payment over the 15 year loan is 870 per year, due monthly on my Utility Bill.  So the question is, how did I do with saving some money?  I have been tracking my Natural Gas and Electric billings, with numbers going back to 2009. When I changed HVAC systems, I went to an electric Heat Pump with a gas furnace for back up or emergency heat. As a result, my gas bill dropped and the electric bill, which includes the loan repayment amount is higher than I can remember.

To account for the change, I had to do something with the natural gas, billed in MCF (1,000 cubic feet) and the electricity, billed in KWH (kilowatt-hours).  I decided to convert the gas usage to KWH for ease in comparing before and after.  I also wanted to be able to compare usage against the weather.  Some summers are hotter than others and some winters are warmer then others.

The National Weather Service tracks our weather very well.  You can get an F-6 Report from most airports around the country. In Wichita, we have a choice of 3.  There is Mid-Continent, the primary commercial airport; there is Jabara Airport, a smaller facility that specializes in private airplanes.  And we have McConnell AFB.  All have weather observations and reporting.

The F6 NOAA Report for March, 2011 at ICT. The 2 columns between the red lines show the HDD and CDD.

The F6 NOAA Report for March, 2011 at ICT. The 2 columns between the red lines show the HDD and CDD.

How did I compare the before and after?   Excel works great for prototyping number crunching and charting the results.  I collected my data on usage, cost and Degree Days from the Weather Service.  I built two charts. First one covering January 2009 through present. After looking at this chart, I built another showing January 2011 through present.

The charts show three (3) lines. The Blue Line represents Heating Intensity by month.  I took Heating Degree days, multiplying by 5.  The Red Line represents Cooling Intensity by month. I took Cooling Degree days, multiplying by 3.5.  The Green line represents Energy, show in KWH.  I converted my gas usage to KWH by ” MCF x 293 “. Then I added the KWH from Electric and Gas to chart the Green Line.4 years

2009              2010                     2011                  2012                 2013

If you look at the top peaks of the Blue Line – you see the cold months. Imagine a level line averaging those tops. Somewhere between 4000 and 5000 on the Y-Axis. Look at the Red Line Peaks – you see the hot months. Imagine a level line on the Average of those peaks, just a little over the 2000 on the Y-Axis.

Now look at the Green Line, it goes up in the winter, and summer, down in the spring and the fall. This line doesn’t really run level on the peaks. If you pick about 6500 on the Y Axis in 2009 and 2500 in 2013, the line slopes down.  The Red vertical line shows when the improvements were made. This chart shows 3 years prior to the date of improvements and 1 year after.

The Chart below just shows one year before and 1 year after.  So the horizontal spreads out a little. I think the point is made in either chart.  The improvements require less energy to be purchased.

How much less in dollars, instead of Energy Usage? I’m saving my 870 annual repayment amount plus enough to repay myself over 15 years for what I kicked in.  And a little extra.

2 years

2011                                    2012                                   2013

Some one will ask why did I adjust the HDD and CDD numbers.  I did it to match the scales on the charts.  I first set it up with direct numbers. When you looked at the chart you could not make out any significant ups or downs to compare. So I reworked the numbers with multipliers, to make the charted numbers line up better.

In September, 2011 the chart shows 155 HDD, 591 CDD, the energy usage in KWH is 2261.  In September, 2012 the chart shows 0 HDD, 960 CDD with 1217 KWH used. Using the same Y-axis scale required some changes. So I used a multiplier to move from direct Degree Days for Heating and Cooling to an intensity measure for heating and cooling.

Thanks for following along.  I will make another post with more of this story.

Ductless Mini Split Heating and Cooling – Is it any good?

I’ve had the concept of a Ductless Mini Split HVAC unit brought up recently. I’m out doing a home energy audit, I’ve been asked on Twitter and in other contexts several times.  A discussion on a Professional Linked In group and my follow up comment has resulted in this post.

First – What is a Ductless Mini-Split?  The simple answer is ‘One type of residential HVAC equipment’.  Other common types of residential equipment are Single Package Unit and a Split Package System. An example of a Mini Split on the right by LG Electronics USA Commercial Air Conditioning. The top image is what you see inside. The bottom two views are of the outside unit. LG is one of many mini-split manufacturers.

If you are building to Energy Star, your HVAC contractor must perform various calculations to figure the size of the units, set up the duct work and select the unit. These calculations are specified by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) an industry trade group. Known as Manuals J (size) D (ducts) N (equipment selection).

If the process and calculations, especially Manual N will show a Ductless Mini Split as fitting the need, great! An example of a Single Package Unit on the right. Outside both summer and winter.

If you are not building the Energy Star – the 2012 recommended Energy Code requires the same process.

If your jurisdiction has not adopted the 2009 or 2012 Energy Code, the prior Residential Mechanical Codes require ACCA calculations or similar. The outside condenser of a Split System on the Left.

Heating and Cooling equipment is routinely oversized in existing homes and in new construction. This approach avoids the math and fits the American image of ‘bigger is better’. It also avoids after hours service calls concerned with the home not heating up or cooling down fast enough.

HVAC equipment, just like your car, operate most efficiently traveling at a constant speed. For your car a highway speed without starting or stopping in city traffic is the efficient speed. Note the Fuel Economy Numbers show the best and the worst MPG figures for each model. At the right is an example of the inside unit of a split system.

Due to the variations in climate from South, with little heating and lots of AC; to the North with a lot of heating and no AC; ACCA uses a design temperature in the calculations. Essentially you can figure the design temperature for your area. The National Weather Service publishes the daily highs, lows and average temperatures for each weather station. The report you want is monthly and is referred to as a J6.

How to figure that is a little much for this post.

A properly designed HVAC unit, like your car will run constantly at or in excess of the design temperature. So these hot summer days, most of us are above the design summer temperature; your AC is OK if it runs all the time. Preventive Maintenance is needed for the HVAC equipment, not sleep.

All that aside; a ductless mini-split is a great choice for a smaller space. My experience with specifying these for Homeowners is that HVAC manufacturers and contractors dearly love them. They are priced accordingly. At the left, the outside duct of a Single Package Unit, typically with no insulation.

 

The Mini Split gets away from the use of ductwork to distribute the conditioned air. That is the strength. Most ductwork in our homes is not designed correctly, it leaks and requires too much fan capacity to distribute the conditioned air. In the right sized space, going without ducts has many advantages.

Shivering And Bowl Turning are not Compatible!

When I am not out auditing homes, or working with builders on Energy Star New Homes, I enjoy Woodturning! Making a bowl or other turned object is fascinating; it takes my mind from serious things and to important things. It lowers my blood pressure!

I have been using my garage to work with my lathe and the wood! It keeps my head from getting sunburned, and keeps the sun and weather off the wood waiting to be turned.  My. attached garage is 57 years old. The common wall between the garage had unsealed drywall on the garage side!  The exterior walls are open studs. The house is old enough the wall and  roof sheathing is 1x material. You could see the boards that were used to form the basement walls.  That is one form of recycling!

The use of 1x material, despite the recycling, is not the most green approach that could have been used. The garage has not really been usable in the cold, so 4-5 months are lost. I have tried various types of heating to allow work to proceed. It works with warmer, less windy days. This is Kansas and there aren’t many of those!

One of the personal goals involved in my becoming an energy auditor was to learn how to make my shop workable 12 months a year. My study of insulation types, heat loss, installation methods and costs, all applied to my quest!

I looked at installing Fiberglass Batts, inexpensive.  I thought about adding rigid foam, also inexpensive. I could do the labor on each of these.  Each of those would require a covering, at least for physical protection of the insulation, and ignition protection of the rigid foam. The same problem, of a protective covering would apply to blown in rock wool, fiberglass or cellulose. And yes, I could do those or contract them out.

Each of these choices must also have the insulation in contact with the Air Barrier, to work at the rated R-Value. In our climate zone, the air barrier is the lath and plaster, or drywall.

The other option, slightly more expensive than the others is commercial 2 part Closed Cell Spray Foam.  This product at 1 inch thickness provides an air barrier. The manufacturer’s material shows R-6.5 per inch.  So 2 ½ inches is about R-15.  And the air barrier and the thermal barrier are in contact thus forming a valid thermal envelope.  The underside of the roof deck and the walls could be done.  The actual time to install would be less than one working day.

So one March 1, the Foam Installer was here and sprayed the foam.  Following the weather in March we had several days the low temperature was in the 30s, with highs in the 50’s or 60’s.  By April the lows moved into the high 40s and 50s.

Now it is July and we have had highs in the triple digits or close for about three weeks.  Lows in the 70’s, a few 80s and high 60s.

How is the insulation performing?

The temperature in March never dropped below 50 degrees, even on the days with a low of 35.  One night I left a window open and the low of 40 did not drop the temperature below 55 after a 65 degree high.  That seems very satisfactory to me.

Since our high temperatures hit the 90s and then into the triple digits, I have observed a 5 – 10 degree delay in the temperature inside the garage.  I don’t have any AC there.  So a 103 degree day like today, the temperature in the Garage was 93.

I have two fans to create air movement.  One is a squirrel cage fan I purchased at a garage sale.  The other is a box fan.  I also can turn on the air cleaner hanging from the ceiling and it will move air around the garage. Use of the fans with doors and windows providing a source of air movement have made those triple digit days seem much more like 80 in the shop.

My choice to insulate my garage for use as a shop was not simply based on this type or that type of insulation.  It was based on how the wall would work with an air barrier and a thermal barrier in contact.

I could have used: Fiberglass, Rockwool or Cellulose with drywall covering. The time involved with any of these would work using a contractor or doing it myself and would have taken several days to a week.  Going the Closed Cell Spray Foam approach took less than a day, and I was done.

When winter comes, as it always does, I will watch and comment again. The old furnace is now installed in the attic of the garage to kick on if the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

One goal is to have a shop that is warm enough to work in all year round. Another is to keep the shop equipment above Dew Point.  That is the temperature when the humidity begins to condense on cold objects. In the summer we think of our cold beverages sweating .  Today the Dew Point was 59 degrees and any cold beverage, including tap water is colder than that. If the temperature of the equipment goes below dew point, the condensation will cause rust.

Rust on the shiny steel of the saws or the lathe is not good. So here is to keeping the shop above the dew point, and your cold beverage below dew point.

Cheers!

Common Approaches to Heating Your Home: Part III

This is Part III of a 3 part Series.  Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.

Hybrid Heat Pump

This choice is sometimes referred to as a Dual Fuel Heat Pump. It utilized both gas and electricity to heat your home. The efficiency of a heat pump is because at most heating temperatures, it moves heat from outside to inside.

Think about your refrigerator. When the inside warms up to 40•, the food risks going bad, so the fridge finds the heat and pumps in out.  Your food stays refrigerated. At 40• outside, a heat pump can find heat and efficiently bring it inside. This costs less than consuming natural gas, propane or electricity to produce heat in a furnace.

At much lower temperatures, a heat pump will need a boost to maintain the heat. This is an electric resistance strip heater. It is used in emergency and back up situations.

A hybrid heat pump uses a conventional furnace for emergency and back up. This is less expensive than electric resistance heat.

Your Choice

In our climate zone; I believe the rank of these approaches should be:

  1. Geothermal
  2. Hybrid Heat Pump
  3. Traditional Furnace / AC
  4. Air Source Heat Pump

This ranking is based primarily on Efficiency Issues with overall comfort issues second.  This rank considers only long term operating costs. It does not consider capital costs (installation).

There are two primary considerations for all of the installation and ultimately comfort issues.

  • The home must be ready for an efficient heating/ac equipment installation.  This means the thermal envelope must be sealed and well insulated. Your thermal envelope is defined as the basement walls, or crawl space walls, the wall above ground, the ceiling.
  • The calculations for equipment size, and selection must be done professionally. The use of a recognized computer program authorized by the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America); showing the Manual J calculations of the improved home for determining heat loads; and the Manual S calculations to select the equipment. You may wish to have your ductwork reviewed and perhaps resized.  This would call for calculations with ACCA Manual D.

The choice to go with Geothermal or ASHP would mean very little gas usage, only the hot water heater. That could be converted to electric with the ASHP. With a Geothermal Unit, you could utilize a system of hot water that is known as ‘de-superheating’.  It uses otherwise wasted heat from the Heat Pump unit to heat water.

The capital costs of these units in the Wichita area are estimated at:

  • Geothermal:               15-25,000 (open or closed loop)
  • ASHP:                           7 -10,000
  • Hybrid Heat Pump:    7 – 10,000
  • Furnace/AC                 7 -10,000

The Geothermal unit is considered to be a renewable energy source and carries a 30% tax credit, with no limit.  It is available through 2016.

Comfort Note: Conventional Furnaces blow heated air into the duct work at temperatures from 105 – 150; depending and the design factors of the furnace.  If you have come in from the cold and stood neat the supply register of a forced air furnace, you feel the heat.  A heat pump type of heating does not create heat to be blown into the duct work at these high temperatures, a heat pump typically blows air into the ducts at 85 – 105 degrees.  This change can cause people to not like a heat pump; air source or ground source. A hybrid heat pump would provide the same range as a furnace with lower outside temperatures.

Please post your questions below as comments!

My Nest Labs Thermostat – Week 1 Ends

 

 Last Saturday, I installed my new Nest Thermostat. You can read how that went   at http://bit.ly/yNhq3x .  It is billed as a “Learning Thermostat’, so I promised to let you know how the first week went.

Saturday and Sunday we just watched, as related in the previous link. On Monday night, we noticed the schedule had been filled in to some extent. The Nest was learning from our use over the weekend.

 

 

From the web interface here is the schedule the Nest thought we were following after two days of use.

Here is the schedule after I tweaked it a little. I filled in a few blanks and evened out some times.

My wife is somewhat more comfortable with the system.  She is checking it on her phone and even showing it to her friends. Last night she told me the wall unit is displaying some type of message. When I checked it today, the message said learning at home had started “Push Continue”. The next message said “Ready to Learn Away Schedule”, I pushed and the Nest will do it’s thing.  I’ll have to check regularly to see what it does next.

What have I learned so far?  The iPad or the Web Interface is the easiest for me to use to set and view the schedule. The phone is very handy to check the setting, to watch the outside temperature and to keep an eye on things.  On the smaller screen of the phone, turn from portrait to landscape view to see additional controls other than just temperature settings.  Under Settings – Technical, it will give you a reading of the interior Relative Humidity Level.

Monday through Thursday, we watched the settings change as scheduled.  The Nest was learning the settings for its ‘Away’ function.  Two times this week we have come home and found the Away setting triggered.  My wife is on my case. I need more info about exactly what that away function is.  I have the idea it should be like a vacation mode.  I am beginning to think it is more of a ‘not at home for a while’ mode. After reading a few other posts, I am wondering if it has to do with the function that turns the wall unit on, when you approach it?

Got up early Saturday morning.  I thought Tori might knock on the door selling those Wonderful Girl Scout Cookies! This is the weekend that Girl Scout Cookies can be sold! Headed out the door to see my dad and head for Woodturning Club.  Checked the Nest on the iPhone.  It is in away mode again!  So just 2 clicks and the temperature is set where I expected it.  LOML is still having a slow start Saturday.  Especially nice after her Fast Start Friday!  About 10:00 am from Turning Club, I checked the Nest and the temperature is up a degree.  LOML is up and around.

I just listened to the video on the Nest Site about the Learning Mode.  Away is when the Nest thinks the home is unoccupied.  During set up, you were asked to put in a Hi and a Lo.  So that is what is being used.

Following up on the video, I looked at the actual Nest!  The video went through doing everything from the thermostat, not from a remote device.  There are some differences in the interface, the ease of use was amazing.  You either turn the dial either way, or you push to click.  No double clicks.  The turning is not all that sensitive.  I actually under turned for a couple of tries. This is where you can change the Away Settings, not from a remote device. Right is a shot of the Nest with one click showing the menu.

 

 

One of the sub menus under Settings is Energy.  Here are two different shots of the Nest under the Energy Tab.

Sunday Morning, we were at church and the Nest went into away mode.  Nice to be able to control this on the phone.  The other blip was Sunday afternoon, the Nest lost the Wifi Connection. I ended up resetting the router. Nice to watch the Nest work as a regular non-Wifi thermostat also.

This is a thermostat that one week after installation, could be left with a parent living alone and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. In this case they could still run the ‘stat’ and see what they were doing.  You could observe from a distance, if you hooked up the wifi connection. Your parent could also control their thermostat. Here is the schedule that has been set from the tweaked schedule shown earlier. (These three images are from Laptop Screen Shots.) Also an image of the schedule on the iPhone.

 

I still like this item!  It is learning! It is easy to see the schedule on multiple interfaces.  It is not the small buttons with clumsy fingers, or a screen that is hard to read.  It is fairly intuitive.  If you do Time Share vacations, and come across one, it will not be a problem.

I have a few further thoughts on improvements, but those will wait and see if I can find some others. It also makes for another post.

And last but far from least, my neighbor Tori will get here!  I will get some Girl Scout Cookies.  Then I can show her my Nest Thermostat!

A Knock on the Door, Early Saturday Morning

 

I was just getting around, 8:03 AM.  Who could be at the door?  It’s January, Tori might be selling Girl Scout Cookies. That would be good!

No!  It is the FedEx guy.  On a Saturday!  He has my Nest Labs Thermostat!  Yes!!!  Arm Pull!!!  I know what I’m doing today.

First Cup of Joe!  Open the packing box. Look at the box, just what you would expect from a guy that helped develop the iPad.  Exquisite packaging.

Working my way down the first cup of coffee, into the package I go. The first Look at my Nest.

And take that out, the second layer.  Interesting! Again, just what you would expect from a guy that helped develop the iPad.

Ok!  Breakfast!  Check! 2nd Cuppa Joe! Check! Time to start! Here is the 20 year old programmable thermostat. It has small buttons and sliders and I’ve never been able to get it to program.  I can text on my phone, I build FileMaker Databases for my own use, and I have even written a number of Shell Scripts in Unix over the years!  Technologically challenged?  No!  It is just those small buttons and not liking to be controlled by that small white box on the wall.

It is off the wall and the base plate is mounted.  Not bad!  About 15 minutes.  Less if I had gathered all my tools first.  Just a pair of plyers, and a small punch.  Notice I will need to paint, but that can wait!  Also notice there are no screws to wrap the wires around and tighten down.  Eight wire holders. Push one down and push the wire in, let up.  That is why I needed the plyers, to straighten the wire.  Yes, that is a small bubble level at the top. Built in.

Now, Plug in the Nest ,to the base plate!  Oops! Error says no power.  Help on the Nest says RH wire is not connected.  Pull off the Nest – yes it is!  Must not be making contact! So, I pushed it in a little more.  Yes!  Arm Pull!  Nest is now asking to be hooked up to the Wifi Network.  Easy, just twist the dial and push to select.  No double clicking!  Done!

Nest Updating software! This finishes while I am setting up a Nest Account and getting it on both phones and the tablet. Then I run through the remaining set up steps. Max and Min temperatures, and a few others. All easy and common sense!

It works.  Shows the temperature setting in large numbers! Won’t need my glasses! Also shows the house temperature at 72.  That is the ‘free heat’ because I have a picture window on the south side of the room, single pane; very high Solar Heat Gain Coefficient!

Back on the 3rd picture what was there beside the base plate?  Oh!  A neat little Nest Screwdriver. Interesting!

Well, how does it work? The thermostat, not the screwdriver!  My wife posted on FB, that I got a new gadget and we will see how it works! Oh, Ye of little faith!

All day Saturday, I kept watch via the Nest App on my phone.  I could see the current temperature setting, the room temperature, and the outside temperature.  The high was 49° F.  The house stayed at 72° F until the sun went down and then started down. The thermostat did not call for heat.  About 8:00 pm, The room was down to 68° F.  Started turning the setting down 1° at a time.  Down to 65 at 11:00 and bed time.  We turn it down at night.  Usually 66° F.  Now, from the phone, I can turn it up in morning without going down stairs, so perhaps a little lower would be OK.

Sunday, I kicked it up to 69° F about an hour before the alarm.  Nice when we started getting around for church.  Oops!  In the the car heading for church. Forgot to set the thermostat back.  There is an app for that.  Done, set on 67° F.

I continued watching and saw the temperature in the house dropping much faster than yesterday.  By noon, I had dropped the setting to 66° F and the outside temperature is at 50° F.  Higher than yesterday.  Why the difference?  Windy today! That mean I need to do some more Air Sealing! I moved the setting up to 69° F about 15 minutes before we got home, and it was nice to walk into the house.  Set to 70° F now.  Outside is 63° F.  Windy!

The information on the website says, the Nest Learning Thermostat will spend the first week learning, your home, your habits.  So, I am going down this road.  Look for an update next week! This last image is the app on the table.

And what about Tori? After 2 cups of coffee I remember, Girl Scout Cookie Sales start closer to the end of January. So I will expect another Saturday knock on the door in a couple of weeks.

 

The Unglamorous Conservationist

This article is a Guest Posting. I read this yesterday and thought it was very timely and appropriate with our current heat wave!

Originally Published: August 13, 2010 by kathrynkfletcher

Going green is trendy. Everyone is doing it. ‘Green collared’ jobs are the way of the future. Even oil companies are spending millions to convince us that they are green at heart. So we should all jump on the bandwagon, right?

Right.

But Scott’s post last Friday (Pruis vs. Home Energy Retrofit) brings to light an important issue – the best ways to go green are not necessarily the sexiest ways. Sure it is cool to drive around in a shiny, sleek new hybrid vehicle, but if you haven’t done the basics around your house it just doesn’t make sense. Which brings me to the unfortunate paradox when it comes to energy and water efficiency…

Even though it is fashionable to be environmentally friendly, some of the friendliest things you can do for the environment aren’t fashionable.

You can’t show off the new insulation in your attic to your friends, and I’m guessing that your neighbors aren’t going to find your on-demand water heater a particularly fascinating topic of conversation. Unfortunately, unplugging electrical devices when they’re not in use isn’t going to help your public image one iota, but all of these examples are very green… unglamorous, but green.

But there is an up side to energy efficiency that flies under the social radar … $ in your pocket, and I’ve never heard anyone argue that money isn’t sexy!

Dr. Kathryn Fletcher is with GreenHomes America [http://greenhomesamerica.com], a leading home energy retrofit company.