Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer 2014: Hot Mess?

Remember last fall when people scoffed at the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of a Super Bowl Snowpocalypse and a bitterly cold and overly wet winter?  Turns out the Super Bowl prediction was wrong, though it was probably done just to get people’s attention.  The other half of the prediction?  I’d say they stuck that landing, as we experienced the 4th-coldest winter on record.

Now, the Almanackers (new word) are at it again.  And if they’re right, then this summer is going to be a hot mess.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Most Important Fuel In The World, Pt. II: "Stay thrifty, my friends"

Lots of smart people are coming to the same conclusions about the non-fuel behind America’s hey-look-suddenly-we-make-and-own-all-the-fuel-in-the-world energy boom: it’s energy efficiency.  Now, The National Resource Defense Council has issued their first annual report on energy by concluding that the United States’ energy efficiency push “has more than doubled its economic productivity from oil, natural gas, and electricity over the past 40 years, which means energy efficiency has contributed more to meeting America’s needs than all other resources combined.”  Mull on that a bit.  

More from the NRDC report:

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Most Important Fuel In The World

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is the global authority on worldwide fuel supplies, trends, and outlooks.   They have the ear of the world’s governments and business, and they help set policy by conducting the research necessary to define global fuel inventories and costs.  So when they release a first-of-its-kind report that pinpoints theworld’s most important fuel, it’s kind of a big deal. 

Here’s a list of the fuels that will not wear the crown of “Most Important Fuel in the World”: oil, biodiesel, nuclear, wind, hydro, geothermal, solar, wave energy, biomass, hydrogen, ethanol, coal.  

Wait, it’s not a renewable like wind or solar?  And it’s not ‘clean coal’?  Okay.  The US is sitting on enough natural gas to power the world for a hundred years so that’s gotta be it, right?  Nope.  It’s not even natural gas, the USA’s  game-changing energy trump card.  In fact, the IEA says the most important fuel in the world isn’t a fuel at all

The most important fuel in the world…is energy efficiency.

Here are the guts of the IEA’s report:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A word about loose-fill fiberglass in attics: "No!"

Along with stopping air leakage into/out of the home, the strength of your attic is frequently the biggest factor in determining how well your home can protect you from the cold in winter months.  Strong attics create comfort.  So when a homeowner is told that they have 12” of insulation in their attic, that might just sound reasonable (it's close).  Except that it depends on what material constitutes that 12” of insulation.  This infrared image of a ceiling at a home in Hecker, IL provides a case in point:  

Orange = warm, Blue = cold

Why does this ceiling look like it’s been tye-dyed?   The answer is in the 12” of insulation material.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Is my home more valuable after insulation and air sealing?

The obvious answer to this clearly rhetorical question is ‘yes’.  All of the home’s occupants see an immediate improvement in comfort, utility bills are reduced by 15-35%, shorter run times mean the air conditioner and furnace will need to be replaced less frequently, and indoor air quality is improved after sealing off the areas of the home you don’t want to get your breathing air from.  If that's not value, we obviously don’t get it.

But if the question is re-phrased as “Is my home worth more after insulating and air sealing?” then the obvious answer to this clearly rhetorical question is ‘no’.   Your appraiser, your lender and your real estate agent aren’t currently offered the tools to place a value on a home’s energy efficiency and properly credit the homebuyer and/or seller . 

That may be about to change.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What is a 'rim joist' and why should I care?

It’s the invisible part of your walls that nobody pays attention to, partly because it’s out of sight in some homes.  And maybe it’s because it has so many names that nobody knows what to call it the darned thing: band joist, rim board, rim joist, band board, ribbon, box band, box closure, and header joist.  But it’s all the same and the cavity looks like this:

If you have a basement with drywall on the ceiling, you won’t see it and you can’t access it.  If you have a drop ceiling basement, you can’t see it but you can access it by moving some panels around.  If you have a crawlspace, you have one of these, even if you can’t see it.  (And you can access it, even if the thought of going to see it isn’t attractive!)  Only houses built on a slab don’t have a rim joist.

Here’s why these things matter to your healthy home and energy efficiency: it’s a whole foot of wall that is usually uninsulated or underinsulated.  Worse, this is typically one of the leakiest parts of a home’s assembly.  And worse yet, if improperly insulated, it could cause serious health concerns.  This is a big triple whammy.  So what’s the fix?