Category Archives: Things I See

Improving Air Conditioning Effectiveness?

I just noticed a post about improving AC performance. They had a short YouTube Video showing water being sprayed on the condenser coil.

 

 

I’ve seen regular sprinklers used also.  Typically, I see older compressors being treated this way.  I also notice something going on inside. Typically the loads are not calculated correctly or something has changed inside.  The other piece could be extremely high outdoor temperatures.  I’ve seen this in homes, and businesses.

This is a restaurant,  my long distance guess is a load issue.  Was this originally built as a restaurant? Are the exhaust systems and economizers working and actually turned on?

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.

Medical Study Shows Green Homes Decrease Illness

One of the benefits of buying and living in a green home has always been health related. Energy Efficient and sustainable builders have always taken care to keep water out and to seal up air leaks.  One of the effects is to lower your energy bills. Another is to improve the health of those living in the home.

No Flashing Window

The picture above is a window that was not flashed properly. Water was going into the wall. When you have water and wood together, you get mold.  Many new homes do not have this feature. Remember, there is no legal requirement to install insulation or other healthy features in a home in Wichita or Sedgwick County.

Now, US News and World Report’s Health Day column, written by Amy Norton covers a study in Boston.  She covered the research report in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Researchers found that children living in Boston’s newer, greener public housing had fewer asthma attacks, hospital visits and missed school days, compared with their peers in standard public housing. 

Adults, meanwhile, were less likely to report symptoms consistent with a condition called “sick building syndrome” — which include dizziness, headaches, nausea and eye irritation.”

Buying a home that has green features, such as Water Management Details, Air Sealing, and a Planned Fresh Air system is a big part of the Green Home that creates these benefits. You can find green homes, featuring these benefits, in and around Wichita. Some builder’s choose to have their homes certified to a Voluntary Standard such as Energy Star or Zero Energy Ready or or NAHB Green, or Eco Select.  A certified homes have these features verified by someone other than the builder.

So as the New Home market is growing in the Wichita Area, ask your builder about these features.  Don’t accept the answer that it is not needed, or this is what everyone else does. This is about the health of your family.

Read the entire article

 

A Healthy Home Part 4 – Free of Combustion By-Products

This post is written as a conversation between a homeowner and myself as it could have occurred during a Home Energy Audit. It is actually the gathering together of several conversations on different audits over the past few years.

smoky fires

 

A Healthy Home is Free of Combustion By-Products

Homeowner: Oh!  You mean no Carbon Monoxide!  I have a  Carbon Monoxide Detector.  It has had some false alarms, but it has never found a problem.

The Energy Guy: OK!  Carbon Monoxide (CO) is one by product of combustion.  There are others.

Homeowner:   So, you mean the house must be all electric?

The Energy Guy: No, not necessarily.  An all electric home, might have a fire place, and an attached garage. Both are sources of CO and other byproducts of combustion. A healthy home will deal with all of these in some fashion.

Homeowner: What other things are you talking about besides CO?

rustDHWThe Energy Guy: The one I see the most of is moisture.  Many of the flue pipes I’ve seen have rusted from the moisture.  If you have a gas hot water heater, look at the top.  Is the top rusting, what about the flue pipe or the draft diverter? Moisture from open combustion appliances also increases the humidity in the home and adds unneeded work to your air conditioning unit, increasing the bill.

There are others, such as Nitrogen  Dioxide, and Sulphur Dioxide, and various particles of all sorts.

Homeowner:  So, those are like Carbon Dioxide?  Something that is just there?

The Energy Guy:  Yes!  They are just there, with two concerns.  First the Lung Association points out the health effects of Sulphur Dioxide include:

  • Wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness and other problems, especially during exercise or physical activity.
  • Continued exposure at high levels increases respiratory symptoms and reduces the ability of the lungs to function.
  • Short exposures to peak levels of SO2 in the air can make it difficult for people with asthma to breathe when they are active outdoors.

Health effects of Nitrogen dioxide include:

  • Increased inflammation of the airways
  • Worsened cough and wheezing
  • Reduced lung function
  • Increased asthma attacks
  • Greater likelihood of emergency department and hospital admissions
  • Increased susceptibility to respiratory infection, such as influenza

Homeowner: I’m pretty healthy, but you said ‘First!’

The Energy Guy:  The second is moisture. Moisture could be a high humidity situation, or moisture from the combustion that produced these dioxides and if you inhale some of them, or moisture in your nose and lungs. Here are the basic chemical equations for those interested.

Sulphur Dioxide plus Water ends up as Sulphuric Acid [SO2 + H20 ===> H2SO3 (sulphurous acid) SO3 + H20 ===> H2SO4 (sulphuric acid)]

acid_storageNitrogen Dioxide plus Water ends up as Nitric Acid [NO2 + H2O ===> HNO3 + NO]

Homeowner: But acid eats things up!

The Energy Guy:  Yes, it does. These acids start the rust process, I mentioned earlier. The other place you can look for rust is to look at the flue on the roof of some homes. If the coating is attacked by the acids, then rust occurs.

So How do I keep this stuff out of my home and away from my family?

co detectorThe Energy Guy:  First install some Carbon Monoxide Detectors.  If your furnace and water heater are in the basement, you need one down there.  You also need one near bedrooms.

Homeowner: OK!  I’ll get that one that works with my Nest!

The Energy Guy:  That will work for one.   The Nest Protect is like most CO detectors, it will alarm at the higher amounts of CO as required by the Underwriters Laboratory requirements.   These start at 70ppm of CO for an hour. Professional organizations such as ASHRAE and NIOSH list 35ppm as the level for technicians and others to stop work, turn off equipment and evacuate the building. A low level detector is important.

Low Level CO detectors do not meet the UL requirement because they alarm at lower levels, typically 20ppm.    15-20ppm CO levels have been found to impair judgement in people exposed for short periods of time.  The UL testing does not allow a CO detector to pass if it alarms below 30 ppm. Low level CO exposure can result in headaches and general malaise.  If you are exposed to low levels over a period of months or years the effect is unknown at this time.

Homeowner:  OK!  So I’ll get a low level detector also.  What else can I do.

The Energy Guy:  Do some careful air sealing between the garage and the house. You can add exhaust ventilation to your garage as recommended in the International Residential Code. Open the door before you start the car, and then immediately back out. More information about CO and the garage. Air sealing here and a simple closer on the door to the garage will help keep CO and other pollutants from the garage out of the house.

Inside the house, you can buy smart when you replace your water heater or furnace.  Buy sealed combustion units.  These are generally more efficient units, so they will save you some on your bill each month.

95Water Heaters can be sealed combustion, such as the demand models or a power vented unit. Either of these units can be identified with the use of PVC exhaust flue, instead of the metal flue needed by traditional units. They do not need the metal, because the exhaust is a lower temperature. This has a side effect of increased efficiency. The image to the right is the flue of at sealed combustion furnace.

Finally, think about your wood burning fireplace or your gas oven.  These also create the same problems.  Here a low level CO detector would be very valuable. Following the fireplace manufacturers instructions in keeping the glass door shut and having it checked regularly are important.  For a gas range, especially with a gas oven, install an exhaust fan that vents to the outside.

 

Some of this information came from the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council

Some of this information came from the American Lung Association

A Healthy Home — The first of this series

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.

 

 

 

Are You Going to Pay Me to Install Your Product? – Sales Claims!

I read a Blog Post from my friend Allison Bailes earlier today. He writes for his company Energy Vanguard.  You can read his Blog.  Lots of good stuff.

He ended the post today with this paragraph.

Really now. If a ground source heat pump is a renewable energy source, then so is a refrigerator. Can you see why this drives me crazy?

A few minutes ago, I was reading through my Twitter Stream. I ran across a Tweet that used a phrase, to quote Allison ‘This Drives Me Crazy!” Here is the Tweet:

     “If your central AC unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with a new model  

       could save you 30%”

My question is 30% of what?  Your total gas, water and electric bills combined? Just your electric bill? or maybe just the cooling cost of your electric bill?

OK!  So, if it is probably a percentage of the cooling cost; where are they in this great country.  If they are where my friend Bud Poll can do their audit, well he says they don’t see too much AC in Maine! Down in the Texas Hill Country, they use quite a bit more! My friend Bob can do your audit down there. He says they don’t get much use out of their furnaces.  So which is it?  Wouldn’t it be nicer if these folks would give you a $$ figure?

Confusing, yes!  Now consider the other claims you hear!  A new furnace saves X%.  Added insulation can save you y%.  And let’s not forget those window guys! The will save you the most percent! If you believe the TV commercials.

Percentage Claims are meant to sway you to do something! They appeal to your emotions.  Because of the ambiguity they are not logical. Consider recent action over misleading and unproven claims by Window Manufacturers.  The Federal Trade Commission is charged with investigating complaints about Truth in Advertising. You can find the News Release and other info with a simple search on any of the search sites. Just use ‘window’  and ‘FTC’.

Window Marketers Settle FTC Charges That They Made Deceptive Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings Claims

Companies Must Have Scientific Evidence Before Making Marketing Claims

The release goes on to specifically target the percentage claims.

So when someone calls, knocks on your door or otherwise makes a claim that the product they are selling will save a percentage …..   think about it.

When I’m faced with claims on Twitter, mail coupons, TV commercials telling me how I can save 40% and 30% and 35% of my energy bills, I just have to ask:  “Are you going to pay me?”   Can you see why this drives me crazy?

The Conversation Continues!

My last posting as part of the ongoing Deep Energy Retrofit #DER conversation regarded a definition of DER.  I made the argument for using a threshold of 30% savings. The specific conversation is in regard to historic homes. There have been several Bloggers involved in this conversation and others reading. You may read my first post HERE.

Sean at SLS Construction has a post that he is maintaining as a startingpoint and links to updates in the conversation. John at Birmingham Pointe is the Preservationist among us? He actually owns and restores these treasures of times past! Peter Troast of Energy Circle has been involved!

Most recently Sean posted some definitions about Historic, home ownership and compliance width various agency requirements!  After reflecting on the discussion It is time for me to pick up the pen for the next post!

During an energy audit of a existing home, I see any number of things related to the efficient use of energy. As I make my list of observations for further examination, I have learned to keep several parameters up front. These would be, in no specific order, Budget, desired outcome, safety, durability, and comfort. I also find it Imperative to remember that I am not in charge, the homeowner is in charge.

There are a number things that I routinely run into during an audit, that are not the most energy efficient. Some are predictable because of the construction techniques used during construction, or the type of construction, or the era in which it was built. Is the house timber framed? Wood stud? Brick clad? Is the house a craftsmen style from the early years of the 20th Century? Masonry Block? Post WWII tract type? Each of these have unique features as well as common improvements that relatively small changes will save some insignificant amounts of Energy. The improvement I can see and model may seem like a no brainier to me, but to the homeowner it becomes almost an insurmountable problem.

One of my first audits was a 1960 ranch with full basement. The homeowner is a young couple and he works construction. Their goal was to get plan of work for him to complete during his down time on the winter. One of the fastest returns for their money was to put some insulation on the basement walls. No problem with blowing into the finished walls. When the recommendation also included 3 inches in the storage areas on the bare walls, my easy to install efficient improvement ran right into the homeowners impression that giving up 3 inches of storage would be a major problem!

Anyone working in the energy improvement field must keep in mind: You must meet the needs and perceptions of the homeowner or nothing happens!  You can have the best ‘fancy dan’ plan with all sorts of neat figures , printouts and scientific backup, if you don’t meet the homeowners need, your plan is worthless.

Another audit was a very large home, 2 story, full basement, 3 bedrooms, 6500 sf!  I spent a full day on this audit. Presented the plan over 2 hours, and another 4 hours in follow up field work. The comfort concern was the 2nd floor rooms on each end of the home were hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  I fixed up a ‘fancy dan’ plan for him. Dropped his $6,400 annual energy bills to $3,200.  Solved his comfort problem with a recommendation to increase the return air in the effected rooms.  Estimated cost for the additional returns was $200.00

He cherry picked the added attic insulation, because he could see the problems.  He did it fast, and soon.  It met his real need which I finally discovered on the 4th visit.  He really didn’t think his energy bills were that high.

Therefore, anyone wishing to complete a DER for a home, must have the Home Owners Approval, and that approval meets the perceived needs of the homeowner – it will not necessarily meet the perceived needs of the ‘Energy Guy’ writing the plan.  You should think of this as “Rule #1”, when all else fails remember Rule #1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Second Point of this post is about the Deep in a DER.  Deep Energy Retrofits should meet some type of savings across the board.  The Twitterverse lit up last night when @EnergyVanguard was Tweeted for people to give him a percentage.

Let’s look at Retrofit.

The implication is certainly not a rebuild, or a gut rehab. That would involve taking most of not all the exterior walls back to the studs or other type of internal framework and then rebuilding. If a DER was a Rebuild or a Gut Rehab, why would it be called a Retrofit.

Could you substitute reduction for retrofit? – Yes.  What about rework? Remodel?  Restore? All of those work for me.  They also all imply that the work is more of an improvement to the structure instead of a rebuilding of the structure.

Now that the “R” in DER has been established as improving as opposed to rebuilding, we can move on.  “E” of course is Energy.  Which leaves “Deep”.

Asking how deep is deep reminds me of the wood turning question about gouges:  “How sharp is sharp?”  We have established some limits on Deep.

We know the structure is not going to be rebuilt, we know the structure is not going to have major removal of visible material, only for the purpose of installing energy efficient components, such as insulation.

We also can use ‘Deep’ as meaning not shallow.  Therefore Deep must involve a plan of systematic improvements that total to deep.  This plan will only be implemented as the home owner has the money/time/desires.  This may be over a period of years.  If a deep plan cannot take place over a longer period of time, then I must send you back to read  ‘Rule #1’!

So, deep means more than doing one or two things. It means having a plan.  A plan of improvements that can be phased over a period of years, if need be. A DER would not just involve equipment change out or windows, as most sales types would lead you to believe.  And deep doesn’t mean rebuild.  It therefore falls in the middle.

In the middle means a 50% maximum reduction.  Not being a one or two item improvement plan also means that it should be at least 30% reduction.  Which leaves reduction in what.

We are talking about historic homes.  These homes have history and therefore we know what the energy costs are.  The reduction must be calculated from historical that applies to that home.  Trying to bring in code becomes an exercise in futility.  We have already ruled out rebuilding. We also need to remember ‘Rule #1”.  How does this work out.

If we start with a home built in 1800, with a historical usage of $5,000 annual energy usage, what are we talking about in reductions of usage?  30% would end with a $3,500 annual usage, and 50% would be $2,500.  If you look at a reduction from code, then you introduce an additional step.  You first have to arrive at a code usage; then make the reduction.  So, if the code usage on this home comes in at $3,200, we have range of $1,700 – $2,250; if the code usage comes in at $4,000 the range would be $2,000 – $2,800.

That means we define our DER as:

  • A 30% or more reduction in usage compared to historical.
  • It means the DER is a plan that uses the concept of the ‘House is a System’. It must address the construction of the actual structure. It cannot just consist of generalities. Timberframe is different from Balloon Framing which is different from a 50 year old American Suburban ranch.
  • It allows various parts of the plan to be implemented in phases.
  • And last, but really first – we acknowledge ‘Rule #1’. The home owner is in charge.

 

Flags: A ‘Let’s Blog Off Post” about Flowers!

Flowers are nice. They indicate that spring is here, winter is over and we can spend more time outside.  The birds chirp, the bees buzz around and the colors are wonderful.  I have memories as a child of flower gardens and ponds in them.  I don’t remember much detail, except they were always fun.

We moved to the Southern Nevada Desert early on.  I lived there until I left for college.  I went back east from Nevada to Kansas.  My flower journey has me getting married and joining into my wife’s Kansas family traditions.  The flower tradition is rooted in Decoration Day.

Known to most as Memorial Day, I learned Decoration Day.  My wife’s folks were quiet farm types.  They had many opinions, and occasionally would even state them.  Most of the time they listened.  They remembered that God gave us two ears and one mouth.  I  have to continually remind myself of that. They taught me all about Decoration Day, by doing, not by talking.

It was a day to visit the various cemeteries and the graves of family members. You made sure the grave stone and appearance was acceptable.  You didn’t wait until the actual Memorial Day. I started this when Memorial Day was May 30; not always on a Monday. That came later. You started the weekend before Memorial Day.  The goal was to make sure when the ceremony started on the Memorial Day, or those from out of town came to visit the cemetery, you graves looked good.

In the yard around the house, my Mother-in-Law, Eda (Roberts) Greenfield, had lots of flowers.  She had a green thumb, and could keep her African Violets blooming year round. In the first years as I learned about Decoration Day, she would have a number of jars ready. Jelly, mayo, etc. Ready meant cleaned out and covered with aluminum foil.  Final preparation was to cut flowers from the farm yard and put them in the containers in water.

Then off we went.  They would go to two different cemeteries. There was the Princeton, KS Cemetery. This is where the Roberts side of the family was buried.  Her folks, and grandparents, and others.  Then we went the other way, to the Williamsburg, KS cemetery. There were the Greenfield family members. Parents and others, including their baby son.

In time, we added more cemeteries. Last year, my wife and I visited 7 cemeteries. Three of those have been added to our list from my start, because life goes on and ends. So people I knew were buried, it was not just about people that I had heard stories about.

One of the cemeteries we added, was my father-in-law’s mother. Glenn was born in 1907, his mother, Myrtle Irene Lightle, died in childbirth in 1917.  She is buried in Hall’s Summit, KS Cemetery.  If you find the intersection of I-35 and US 75, (BETO Junction) south of Topeka, you are close. It is actually 5 ½ south on US 75, then 3 East and ½ south. You will see the ATT Long Lines tower before you get off 75.  My brother-in-law, Paul would not find it that way.  He is a Geologist by training and works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  He would tell you how far is is from the Wolf Creek Power Plant. (About the same as from BETO junction.)

This grave had a large plot of flowers growing behind the grave stone. Perhaps a circle 20 feet in diameter. The few that were blooming were a pale yellow. They were Iris.

Eda always liked these ‘Flags’ as she called the Iris.  This cemetery had a number of graves with Flags planted nearby.  Both entrances to the  cemetery were marked with plantings of Flags.  Through the next few years as we drove in and out different ways, we found the country roads were spotted with Flags growing in fence lines, hedgerows and farm yards.

We could see them on this weekend before Memorial Day because they were in bloom.  All the bright Yellow, Purple, and mixed colors were there.  Watching them over the years gave me an appreciation for them.

Each year at Halls Summit, we would remove a few from that large circle. As we did so, more would bloom the next year.  Some years just one or two Rhizomes, some years we might get 30. Last year the circle was closer to 10 feet in diameter.  Those Flags have populated a lot of places. We just didn’t throw them away. They went to churchs, yards, a school that I can think of.  One Boy Scout used them in his Eagle Project.  I’m sure some of those have been thinned and have moved on.

So when I think of flowers, I think of Flags. I think of Road Trips, cemeteries and family.

 

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A Cold and Frosty Morning: What might an Energy Auditor Do?

Energy Auditing uses observation and science to determine what is happening in a home related to Energy Usage.  Necessary tools are a good flashlight, a blower door, and some way to record the observations for later analysis.

Optional tools, well – Energy Auditors can be come “Tool Junkies”.  Digital Dual Channel Thermometers, Spot Radiometers, Infrared Cameras, Computers, Software, Digital Cameras, Smart Phones, iPads, you name it, an Energy Auditor could probably find a use for it.  Then along comes a Cold and Frosty Morning and you are driving to your next audit. How do you make the most of your drive?

You could look at the roof of various homes as you drive.  On a couple of recent morning drives, I was doing just that. I stopped and shot a few pictures of different homes.  All of these homes were built between 1960 and 2000.  So here they are with comments. I have cropped the images to show just the roof, in most cases this will allow the home to remain one of many.

I have not audited any of these houses, and have only been inside two of them.

 

This frosty roof shows no frost along the roof line, directly above the exterior wall.  Note how it turns the corner on the hip of the roof.  I have outlined interesting points.   The vertical bar marks the point of the electric service, note the service line.  The lack of frost directly above this area is telling.

 

The issue here is that heat is being lost into the wall, and then through the top plate into the attic and then out the roof.  If you look at the area where the electrical service enters from inside the attic, you will find some type of holes in the top plate.  Perhaps a larger hole then necessary to allow the electric wiring.  A little caulk could go along way here.

 

 

Again the top plate of the exterior wall shows leakage.  Also in this image, an interior wall shows leakage in the upper roof area.

Heat loss occurs in interior and exterior walls.  Just caulking the outside of your home is not the best bang for you effort in sealing air leakage

This is interesting.  Without knowing the inside plan of the upper floor I am uncertain about the cause.  I would look for an attic access hatch, a furnace located in the attic, or perhaps some type of missing insulation along with a unique floor plan.

This picture shows the heavier frost over the eves of the home and less frost over the entire attic.

I would expect to find little insulation in this home, and what is there would be deteriorated in terms of effectiveness.  I would expect to find insulation moved or non-existent in several places.  I would also not be surprised to record a high leakage result from the blower door test.

Another picture of the top plate in an exterior wall.

 

This is an infrared image of the home with Frost pattern above.  I took this image at a different time then the exterior picture.  Both images are as is, no Blower Door going to exaggerate the air movement. It was also taken in the summer, so the heat coming in from the top plate leakage matches the heat escaping in the Frost Image.

Preliminary Conclusions:

Are these pictures definitive?  No, like most items on an Energy Audit, you need to look at several things to make a firm determination. Picture two is an interior wall, my knowledge of the homes interior, assists with this determination, even though I haven’t audited the home.

These are not necessarily a single look.  At least three of the homes, I have different pictures of different frost patterns.  What might make the difference?

  • Outside temperature and dew point differences.
  • Inside temperature differences.
  • Weather conditions; calm with little wind VS a steady wind of 20 mph or more during the 6 hours before and during the frost buildup.
  • Exposure:  These images have a western, or northern exposure. There may be differences.

What if I look at my house and do not see a pattern?  Look on another day, preferably several days.  The different conditions, may present different patterns.

Does a pattern like this cost me a lot of money?  Perhaps yes!  Perhaps no!  It depends.  To get more details get your Home Energy Audit. Each home is as unique as each person is.

Images like these only paint a picture.  We cannot determine how good or bad the heat loss is from the picture.  It provides a place to look, or not look.

If you take a picture of your Frost Pattern, upload it and put the link in a comment.  Let’s see what readers come up with.

Here are a few more with minimal comments.

 

Neat image with the Geese flying over.

This is a  most interesting pattern.  I have no idea what is causing this pattern. I would look for high air leakage, patterns on the ceiling with the IR during the Blower Door testing, and it would be interesting to look around the attic in this house.