Construction Materials-Air Sealing a Garage Door

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

According to code, a garage is considered an accessory building when detached from a dwelling, and outside the conditioned envelope when attached to the dwelling structure.  They don’t fall under the same energy code requirements as a dwelling.  That being said, it’s common in my market for both attached and detached garages to have some sort of heat source (I live in a very cold climate).  If you are going through the trouble and expense of conditioning a garage, it’s probably wise to also think about its efficiency, both insulation and air sealing.

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Recessed Lighting in Older Homes-The Issues and the Fixes

The post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.  

Recently, I’ve been on a few energy audits and assessments where the homes were built or remodeled in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Electricians working in those times were installing the traditional recessed light fixtures, also known as recessed cans or pot lights.  This type of lighting fixture usually doesn’t have any issues when installed inside the air and thermal boundaries of the building envelope but can be very problematic when they end up displacing insulation and interrupting the continuity of the air control layer.  I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of this type of lighting as well as how we can improve the performance of a home that has existing recessed cans.

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Construction Design-Caulking 101

This is the intro in a series of sponsored post, I’ve partnered with Sashco, the maker of Big Stretch and Lexel sealants to talk about the basics of caulking and sealants, we are calling this Caulking 101.

You’re ready!  The tube of caulking is in the caulking gun, the tip is cut, and the inner seal has been punctured.  You’re ready to start squeezing that trigger.  But are you really ready?  Are you using the right sealant?  Have you designed a proper joint?  Has the surface been prepped?  Did you cut the tip properly?  What’s the plan for tooling?  Caulking is more than just smearing some pookie on a joint, the end product should look good, but more importantly perform and last.  Caulking and caring.

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Barndominium-Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing and Final Blower Door Numbers

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

Work on the “barndominium” project is nearly complete after 18 months of construction.  You can read parts 1-5 here on GBA (linked at the bottom of this post) and on this blog, links to the right labeled Barndominium Project.  This final post will discuss mechanical systems, blower door numbers, along with the challenges and benefits of this type of building method.

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Sealing Electrical Penetrations

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

I’ve been a licensed journeyman electrician since 2000 (I haven’t worked as an electrician since 2005, but still keep my licensing requirements up to date).  Back in those days no one was asking us to seal the penetrations for electrical equipment we were making to the outside or into unconditioned spaces.  Even today, with building codes requiring all air passageways between conditioned and unconditioned spaces sealed, it’s rare that the electricians are performing those duties.  It’s usually left to the insulating contractor, a member of the carpentry crew, or in the case of holes drilled to the exterior of the building, the siding contractor.  I can speak with experience that, with a little training, the residential mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) trades are more than capable of sealing their own holes and penetrations.  I’m finding the MEP contractors I’m working with are taking pride in performing those duties.

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Indoor Air Quality and Building Diagnostics

The post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

I recently purchased the CPS IAQ PRO SmartAir professional indoor air quality meter to use during energy audits and building diagnostics/investigations.  My intent with the purchase was two-fold, first to learn more about indoor air quality metrics by testing homes in my market, and second, to have a more accurate temperature/humidity/dew point estimation inside these homes.  I recently had the opportunity to use the tool on a building investigation, I’ll outline this case study later in this post.  First let’s talk about the features of the CPS IAQ PRO SmartAir.

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Why You Need Blower Door Testing

This article first appeared in issue 304 of Fine Homebuilding Magazine.

I bought my first blower door in 2009, back when new construction was in a downturn and energy auditing and weatherization projects were on the rise.  I took a 40-hour energy auditing training course at a local college which included hands-on training on how to use a blower door.  It took many tests before I became comfortable in its operation and understood the information it was providing.  Though one of the more expensive tools I own, I’ve been able to keep it busy and add this specialized testing to my business’s income stream.

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Duct Tightness Testing

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

Testing air leakage in ductwork used for forced air heating and cooling systems has been required since the 2012 IRC code.  The 2012 through the 2018 code allowed a testing exemption for all ductwork located inside the building envelope.  In other words, if you kept all ductwork inside the thermal and air boundary of the building, no testing was required.  That has changed for the 2021 energy code.

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Construction Design-Wind Washing

Wind: The natural movement of air relative to the planet’s surface.

Washing:  A method of cleaning.

Wind Washing:  Cleaning using air?

Well, not quite.  Wind washing with regards to insulation is the ability of air movement to degrade the effectiveness of an insulation.  We will get to that in a little bit.  First a quick lesson on how fibrous insulations works.

A close-up of Rockwool ComfortBatt showing the fibers and small air pockets.

We use insulation to slow the movement of heat through our building assemblies.  Heat will move in three ways, conduction (heat moving when objects are in contact with one another), convection (heat transferred by moving air), and radiation (heat moving through spaces).  Fibrous insulations forces heat to move through fibers and small pockets of air, which slows heat movement in both radiation and conduction and prevents heat transmission by way of convection. Continue reading “Construction Design-Wind Washing”