Monthly Archives: May 2014

Your Opinion Matters

Insulation!  

There are several different types in common use in South Central Kansas. They all have their proponents and their detractors. This subject is worth asking your opinions on.  The answers are somewhat limited, use the comments to expand on them. You can select two forms.  I would appreciate a comment explaining your choice of two. Two different areas, or a hybrid type assembly.

While this poll is open, it will be a sticky post and stay at the top of the Blog Roll.

What type of Insulation do you like?

  • Rock Wood (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fiber Glass (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Cellulose (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spray Foam with open cells (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spray Foam with closed cells (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Other (0%, 0 Votes)
  • (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 0

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A Tour of the Agco Plant in Hesston

Yesterday, I whet on a tour with the Wichita Chapter of APICS of the Agco Plant in Hesston, KS.  Located an hour north of Wichita, they manufacture farm machinery that is sold all over the world.  The plant originally made powered hay equipment. Here is one of their museum pieces SN 7  made in 1955 a wind rower, which cut and raked the hay for the baler. This combined two operations into one.Hesston Windrower

This one has been fully restored and they enter it in local parades.

APICS provides education and certification in resource allocation for industry. They work in Production and Inventory Management. It is always great to see professionals sharing and learning from one another.

The AGCO Tour was a great tour.  They had 3 guides and each group was about 10. They used a wireless system with each of us wearing a receiver to listen over the noise. I really appreciated that. Our tour guide had worked for AGCO for 47 years before retiring.  He now volunteers to return to conduct these tours. They give the tours regularly. They are expecting a group from Europe next week. Most of their tours are related to sales and service of their equipment.  When you have a plant with this level of expertise, it pays to give tours and put your best foot forward.

The plant has 8 buildings, covering 17 acres under roof.  The have 1,650 employees, including office, technical, engineering and production staff. Some areas work 3 shifts.  They manufacture Gleaner and Massey Ferguson Combines, large square and round balers, and other hay processing equipment.

Fordon Tractor with Windrower attached ca 1925Our guide emphasized that if it was made from metal, it was made here, on site. If it was made from rubber or plastic, it came elsewhere. The metal exceptions were fasteners such as nuts, bolts and screws and the engines for the machinery. The engines are made in an AGCO plant located in Finland.  Remember, their distribution is world wide, so this company makes machinery that goes all over.

The CNC and laser cutting processes, the robotic welders and the paint areas were all shown. The assembly areas and sub-assembly areas were shown as well.  It was fascinating to hear the obvious pride of our guide telling about what was made here and there, in this cell or that area.

I was pleasantly surprised to be shown as much of the plant as we were. It was all open and clean, accessible, and actually pleasant to walk through.  I have toured other plants over the years, small machine shops to large plants.  My last tour was a number of years ago.  The difference 20+ years, and the effect of professional management and leadership makes, is very striking.

Histoical PhotosAbove is a display of some historical photos of manufacturing Massey Ferguson implements 80-90 years ago.

Our guide emphasized the ISO 9000 quality control certification the plant had attained. This process, from the limited information provided, seems to be quite the thing.  We observed the areas reserved for parts that did not meet the engineering specifications.  There always seemed to be one or two part there, but never many. It demonstrated that those production staff, take their jobs seriously and are not shy about meeting their production and quality goals.  I would have wondered if I had not seen some parts being set aside.  No process works perfectly on every piece. Part of my job, as a HERS Rater, involves some quality control. It is nice to see people working, checking their work and sending some back to meet a specification.

The last stop on the tour was their education building. They conduct training on all aspects of maintenance and repair of the equipment manufactured at this plant and other AGCO plants. One of the things they do at this building, is to tear down machines that fail in use. Another part of their Quality Control.

Presentation APICS to ACCO

I understand their not wanting pictures taken within the plant. So, I was limited to taking a few of the group at the end.  The picture above is the APICS group presenting a plaque to 2 of our 3 guides in Thanks for the Tour.  Below is the group turning in their head sets and safety glasses.

APICS at AGCO

Turning a Bowl, Thought, Process and Life Lessons

Most posts on this Blog relate to Energy Efficiency and Homes.  One post pointed out how I depresssurized after a Home Energy Audit by running a Blower Door Test.  Another way for me to relax is to go out to the shop and work on a bowl or other turned item.  I enjoy turning wood. I remember doing some woodworking with my father growing up.  I enjoy the fresh smell of cut wood and the look is always unique.  I recently re-organized my shop and have been able to easily work in shorter, and more productive, sessions.

Last night I was working on a bowl.  Above Right on the right. This was was from maple that had spalted. During an Energy Audit, I look for the potential for mold to grow and make recommendations to eliminate that process. Spalting wood is a process where I want the mold and fungus to grow.  You get some really interesting patterns in the wood.

Left is Maple, right is spalted maple. Finding a piece of wood that has begun the spalting process is always neat.  The piece is usually wet or very damp. It is not in the bright sun. It looks stained or crumbly on the outside. The bark may be gone or partly gone. The best spalted wood, for turning, is still fairly solid on the inside.  This is very much like finding mold or a fungus in a home.  You just combine water, and a food source, usually wood.  The mold or fungus spores are always around.  So it starts growing. Remove the water or the food and it stops.  In a home we call that remediation.  I don’t know if wood turners have a name for it.

Each piece of wood is unique and each seems to have a mind of its own.  Last night I had removed the tenon that held the bowl on the lathe. I had started sanding the bottom. This bowl suddenly started to show its own mind.  Right. The center of the bottom, was not getting smoother, so I moved to a rougher grade of sandpaper.  Not much change, I moved down another grade.  Not getting any better. Geez, this is just a little spot, less than a inch in diameter. A little frustrating.

A look over to the side shows me this piece of a bowl. This one went flying when the hidden crack went ‘Crack’.  It went away from me.  See the second picture.  Yes, wood has a mind of its own.  Remembering the other bowl, tells me it is time to stop.

Tonight, I will work on it again.  Bowls, among other things, don’t like to be hurried.  I started this one in 2006 or 2007. It spent several years drying. Another 24 hours will not make much difference.  The wood has taught me that patience is rewarded. I have learned that lesson, and last night it was retaught again.  Not only with bowls, but homes, families and all over society, one must learn, and practice, that lesson.  If not, it will be retaught.

Addendum:  The next day.  Last night, I put the bowl back on the work space and worked some more on that troublesome spot.  It worked out and patience paid off.  When the final finish is applied and cured, I will post a picture.

International Code Council Adopts Energy Rating Index Compliance Option into the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code

This was released today!  The NAHB noted the approval through their Twitter Stream @NAHB on Tuesday!  More options to meet the Energy Code!  Great way to provide flexibility for all builders. One more reason for adoption of an Energy Code in Wichita/Sedgwick County.

Factsheet on adding the HERS Index compliance path

TEXT OF ANNOUNCEMENT:
On October 7, 2013, the International Code Council (ICC) voted to incorporate an optional Energy Rating Index compliance path into the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) at its meeting in Atlantic City.

The ICC action establishes a new voluntary performance compliance path for the 2015 version of the IECC the “Energy Rating Index”.  The Energy Rating Index is a numeric score where “100” is equivalent to the 2006 IECC and “0” is equivalent to a net-zero energy home.  The current HERS Index Score is compatible to the Energy Rating Index requirements.  This means a builder can use a HERS rating to comply with the 2015 IECC.

The adopted new performance path also requires that a builder must meet the mandatory envelope requirements of the 2009 IECC.

The rating scores that were adopted by the IECC are:

Regions 1 and 2                52
Region 3                           51
Region 4                           54
Region 5                           55
Region 6                           54
Region 7 and 8                  53

The new compliance path was proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Institute of Market Transformation and the Britt/Makela Group.

RESNET backed an amendment that represented a compromise on higher rating scores that was reached between the Leading Builders of America and the cosponsors.  This amendment, however, was defeated.

RESNET Executed Director Steve Baden lauded the ICC’s action as a “victory for consumers and builders.  Homes complying through this path will be higher performing hence having lower utility bills while at the same time provides more flexibility to builders in meeting the code.  The action is also a big step for RESNET and the HERS industry.  With this new responsibility RESNET has to step up its game and make a concentrated effort to ensure consistent and accurate HERS Index Scores.”

Much appreciation must be expressed to our partners for their effective leadership.  Without the leadership of the by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Leading Builders of America, Institute of Market Transformation and the Brill/Makela Group this would not have been possible.  Support from the National Home Builders Association, North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, DOW, Green Building Coalition and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Program was critical as well as the more than 150 RESNET member companies and organizations added their voices in support of this effort.

Your Opinion Matters

I have a new feature on the website.  Polls.  Here is the first one.

The Wichita Area Builders Association just completed the Spring 2013 Parade of Homes.   If you went out to see some of the entries.  Let us know how many homes you visited.  Comments are available below.

While this poll is open, it will be a sticky post and stay at the top of the Blog Roll.

WABA Spring Parade of Homes: How Many Homes Did You Visit

  • 10 - 20 (100%, 2 Votes)
  • Up to 10 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Over 20 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 2

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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

What % Of The Cost of a New Home Cost, Does The HVAC System provide? 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’.

taringshipIf 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.

Choose your insulation types and amounts carefully.  Each have advantages and disadvantages. Air seal the building. All fibrous insulation types allow air to flow. That flow will decrease or eliminate the value of the insulation.

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.

Private HERS Rated Homes

During 2013, New Home Builders in the US placed a HERS Rating on over 50% of the new homes built. Builders in most large housing markets have found that a HERS Rated Home sells faster than one that is not Rated.

Is the new home builder the only one that can place a rating on a home?  Actually anyone with an interest in the home can have a HERS Rating completed. The process is the same as when the builder completes the process.

Tonight a new home is on the page listing ‘Actual HERS Rated Homes’ .  This home is one the owner chose to have the HERS Rating completed.  It is being built in Derby, and is listed as Sold Projected. This home was planned to be lower than the standard new home. It is projected with an INDEX of 86.  It will come in lower.  The projected HERS process took into consideration the plan and the levels of insulation and equipment the owner and the builder have decided on.

HERS Rated Homes

HERS Rated Homes

The reports also show how much energy will be used in both heating seasons and cooling seasons by this home.  Several recommendations for cost effective improvements were made.  Several were based on simply lowering the annual utility bills of the home.  When the builder gets pricing for these improvements, the home buyer can make a good decision to proceed with that improvement or not.

Several of the additional insulation recommendations fall into this category. Several of these improvements were based on improving the comfort and Indoor air quality of the home. Again, when the builder has prices in hand the home buyer can make good decisions about these health and safety items. These items include improved equipment, and improved mechanical ventilation over the code required fresh air duct into the furnace.

Yes, there is no code adopted and enforced in the Wichita area requiring insulation in a new home. There is a code item that requires fresh air to be brought in. I have yet to see a new home without provision for a dryer and spot ventilation fans in the bathrooms. The fresh air is needed to compensate for these items.  If it is not provided, these fans will cause fresh air to come in where it can, not where you want.

When think of  a Heating and Air contractor, you have seen them referred to as HVAC Contractors.  The V is for Ventilation.

Remember to ask your Builder for the HERS Rating when you look at a new home. If the builder isn’t Rating his homes, you can obtain a HERS Rating for your favorite model.

The Energy Guy Does Rounding For 3rd Graders

I was recently asked to make a short video for children 8 – 9 years old. The subject was to involve how I use rounding in my job.

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