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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?

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Insulation to Go - Creativity in the Attic

 
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Someone got creative with their attic insulation!

Why Is Clark Howard Giving Bad Energy-Saving Advice?

 
clark howard diy ways save energy bill

Clark Howard is the penny pincher's guru. My wife loves his radio show and website for all the money-saving tips he provides. Naturally, anyone trying to help people save money at home has to address energy use, and Howard does, too. Unlike some others, though, he's generally well educated on the topic because he's hung around the Southface Energy Institute enough to know the basics. (I don't know if he ever used the clip, but he filmed me teaching how to do a blower door test there a few years ago.)

The Pen Test — A Control Layers Tool for Architects and Contractors

 
pen test liquid water control layer epa moisture guide 550

I listened to the IAQ Radio podcast a couple of weeks ago when they interviewed Lew Harriman and Terry Brennan, who were discussing the new moisture control guide published by the EPA last year. Brennan is the lead author of the document, and it's a really great resource full of useful information about indoor air quality, fundamental building science principles, and how to control moisture. If you have anything to do with buildings, you really should download it now and read it.

Stockton Project Demonstrates Huge Home Energy Savings

 
bruce wilcox john proctor dry climate forum 2014

At the Forum on Dry Climate Home Performance earlier this year, I got to hear three building science experts talk about a really cool research project they've been working on in Stockton, California. Bruce Wilcox, John Proctor, and Rick Chitwood (Wilcox and Proctor shown in photo at left) filled us in on the Stockton project, which now has two years of data and shows some really impressive results.

What Happens When You Put a Plastic Vapor Barrier in Your Wall?

 
polyethylene vapor barrier in a wall

A lot of people have heard advice about vapor barriers and vapor retarders. Many of them have walked away confused. A big part of the problem, I think, is that they've been told what to do—"Put it on the warm-in-winter side," or "Never use one"—but they haven't had the physics of what happens explained to them.

Will Open-Cell Spray Foam Insulation Really Rot Your Roof?

 
spray foam insulation open cell roof rot moisture problem

Murmurs and hearsay about open-cell spray foam insulation have been gaining traction for a while. It rots roofs, people have told me. Not long ago, someone even told me that in Florida, roofing companies won't let their workers go up on roofs with open-cell spray foam because the roofs are so spongy, the guys fall right through. Open-cell spray foam is getting a bad reputation among some people in the construction industry. But is it deserved?

Who's on Your Insulation Crew?

 
fiberglass batt insulation grade iii installation modular home crew

I used to do some consulting with a modular home manufacturer. We first visited their plant in 2007, and, as you can see below, they didn't quite have the insulation installation thing down. What you see below would be Grade III installation quality according to RESNET's insulation installation grading protocol. Six months later, Mel, their plant engineer, made an illuminating remark to me about why their insulation looked like that and how they changed it.

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Bats Can't Live Under a Thermal Bridge

 
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I was in Austin a couple of months ago, and I got a chance to watch the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue bridge. (See my video at the end of the article!) I also saw a great example of how a bridge can conduct significant quantities of heat between the inside and outside of a building. A thermal bridge, that is. Take a look at this photo.

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A Net Zero Energy Home in a Beautiful Green Community

 
net zero energy house serenbe proud green home imery

I spoke at Serenbe, a beautiful green community southwest of Atlanta, this weekend and got a chance to visit a net zero energy home while there. Built by Luis Imery, one of the home energy raters we're a HERS provider for, the home has garnered quite a bit of recognition. In fact, they recently picked up a pretty big award from Southface.

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