Dr. Bailes speaks regularly at conferences, training classes, and special events.
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Many of the problems that people experience with cooling their homes are pretty straightforward — simple to fix and often simple to prevent. Of course, there are also bigger problems, like bad insulation, air barriers, and duct installations, but today my focus is (mostly) on the immediate concern of cooling off homeowners whose air conditioners aren't cooling.
It's summer here in the Southeast. Yeah, I know we haven't reached the official beginning of summer marked by the summer solstice, but air conditioners are roaring here, and that's official enough for us. With that in mind, here are a few tips and trivia about air conditioning as we celebrate the beginning of a new cooling season here in the Northern Hemisphere. (If you'd like to learn more air conditioning, check out our upcoming webinar.)
My wife and I visited family in Florida recently and our first stop was the home of my sister and brother-in-law in Lakeland (east of Tampa). They haven't lived in the house all that long, and my brother-in-law, Jack, moved his man-cave into the one upstairs room when they settled in. After one summer in the room, however, he abandoned that room for the cooler space downstairs. The problem, although not obvious to homeowners facing it, is a relatively simple one.
One of the fundamental principles of building science is that buildings must be suited to their climate. When they're not, problems can ensue. Maybe it's just that they're not as efficient as they should be. Maybe it's worse. Put plastic between the drywall and framing of your exterior walls in Ottawa, and it can help control vapor drive from the interior air and its associated moisture problems (rare in all but except in extremely cold climates). Put that plastic in the same place in Georgia, and you're going to rot the walls.
The tragedy of this is that in the effort to sell Advanced Framing as a whole package, presenting it as an alternative to Western Platform Framing, the sensible housing industry has thrown out the very easy and productive suggestions from the first list along with the bathwater that is the ill-conceived proposal of the grid dependent single top plate. By putting these all together and regarding this as a whole package, we are all complicit in the marginalization of what could be some very useful practices to increase efficiency in framing.
A few weeks ago Allison made a couple of quips that could be construed as critical of Advanced Framing methods, also often referred to optimistically as Optimum Value Engineering (OVE). I myself am generally critical of Advanced Framing, so perhaps I was just reading into Allison's comments what I wanted to hear. So I messaged him "You ought to do a whole article expanding on the criticism of Advanced Framing," and he replied "Ok, you ought to write it for me." So here I am.
I was a kid a long, long time ago. Seems like it was another century...another millennium even. Wait a minute — it was another millennium! That was back in the day when we used to ride bicycles without helmets, apply mercury to our wounds, move seat belts out of the way (if the car even had them), and put our tongue on steel poles in the middle of winter. Of course, in Texas and Louisiana we just ended up with a bad taste in our mouth from those steel poles and wondered why people made such a big deal about it.
Occasionally I get asked if it's OK to put the condensing unit for an air conditioner or heat pump in a garage or other room that's a buffer space. The thinking is that since the temperature may not be as hot in summer or as cold in winter, the system will operate more efficiently. I just saw yesterday that this same question came up in a column in Home Power magazine, so I thought this would be a good time to cover this issue (once and for all?) here.
Texas is a hot state, right? Certainly then, homes in my original home state use more energy for air conditioning than for heating. That's why they need such massive air conditioners, like the one you see here. Right? Not so fast. The real answer is yes, they do, but the other real answer is also yes, they do.
On my trip to Aspen, Colorado last week, when I learned to ski, I noticed an interesting snow pattern on a lot of the roofs of the houses near where we stayed. Not being from snow country, I didn't know what they were. In fact, when I posted the lower photo in this article to Facebook, my friend Nate Adams of Energy Smart Insulation wrote, "Heat cables? Are you going to make me come down there?"
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