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Passive House Builder Hammer & Hand Helps You Fight the Devil

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When I was building a home in 2001, I came across a gazillion little things that I needed guidance on. I'd never built anything larger than a bookcase, so new home construction was quite a big step. I bought books, scoured the web, and tried to get as much info out of Southface as I could, but I still couldn't find everything I needed. As a result, I made mistakes because, as you know, the devil is in the details.

How Much Should You Worry About Asbestos in the Home?

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Asbestos was a popular material for most of the twentieth century, mainly because of its ability to insulate and act as a fire retardant. In fact, it's still used heavily in some parts of the world, such as India and China. We know enough about the risks now, though, that it's banned outright in more than 50 countries according to and banned for some uses in the US. But how worried should you be if you find it in your home?

Building Enclosure Blunder in the Basement

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The photo below shows a common problem in new homes. It's also one that can make it difficult to pass the blower door test required by many building codes these days. If I tell you that the wall pictured here separates two rooms in a basement and one of them is not conditioned, can you see the problem? If so, how many mistakes do you see here?

The Diminishing Returns of Adding More Insulation

blown cellulose insulation grade 1

If you're building a house and want to have a really good building enclosure, you need it to be airtight, handle moisture properly, and have a good amount of insulation. Ideally, you'd also consider the effects of solar radiation on the home, but for now let's just focus on the insulation. What exactly is "a good amount" anyway?


Insulation to Go - Creativity in the Attic

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Someone got creative with their attic insulation!

Are You Being Responsible with Numbers?

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Numbers. We deal with them all the time. They come at us from all directions. We believe them. Or we don't. We throw them out and expect others to believe us. Those of us who work in the field of building science have a responsibility to understand them, to use them wisely, to share them appropriately. But there's one word that describes the irresponsible way that numbers are used much of the time.

Amazon to Use Server Farm Waste Heat for Office Heating

computer data center server farm waste heat

This morning in my ASHRAE newsletter, I saw an interesting story about a cool thing is planning to do with heat. Amazon, in case you didn't know, is a heavy user of computers. Not only do their run their online store but they also have a popular cloud computing service. Computers turn electricity into kitten videos, celebrity tweets, and waste heat. And that last one is huge.

RESNET Changes Training Policy with Interpretation

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The RESNET board of directors last week issued Formal Interpretation 2014-04 (pdf). If you're on RESNET's mailing list, you may not have noticed this one come through on 24 September because they send out so many emails, but it's an important one to look at. It's titled "Clarification of Training Ratings" on the RESNET website. But it's more than a simple clarification. It's a change in policy that doesn't have to go through public comment since the board issued it as an interpretation.


On the Edge: The North American Passive House Conference

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The 9th annual North American Passive House Conference happened two weeks ago in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) has been holding this conference every year since 2006, and it just keeps getting better. I've been to the last three now, and it's one of my favorite events of the year, right up there with Building Science Summer Camp (Dr. Joe Lstiburek's conference) and Possum Drop (the New Year's Eve party I go to each year in Georgia). This year's conference seemed especially good because of the direction PHIUS is taking the passive house movement in North America.

An Energy Recovery Ventilator Is NOT a Dehumidifier

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A common misconception about the energy recovery ventilator (ERV) is that it's good for humid climates because it helps to dehumidify a home. It's usually the better choice for a humid climate when you're trying to decide between an ERV or an HRV (heat recovery ventilator) but not because it's a dehumidifier. It is not a dehumidifier. Here's why.

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