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Energy Vanguard Blog

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California Mistakes Put Spray Foam Insulation on the "Bad List"

 
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Last summer I learned about the state of California's efforts to create more healthful buildings and working conditions. In 2008, they passed the California Green Chemistry Initiative with the intent of reducing state residents' exposure to toxic chemicals. California leads the US in new directions all the time, and green chemistry could be another. Unfortunately, though, they were slow out of the gate and their initial attempts to implement the law don't instill confidence.

Insolation Is Not a Typo for Insulation

 
grandfather mountain insolation insulation solar energy

In 1993 I took a graduate course in solar energy from Professor Yogi Goswami. It was a great course, and one of the projects we had to do was to compile a whole binder full of solar radiation data for Gainesville, Florida. I used an ancient spreadsheet called Lotus 1-2-3 (remember that?) to do all the calculations for various azimuth and elevation angles throughout the year. Another thing I learned in the class was a new word.

A Beautiful Solar Home in Utah Nears Net Zero Energy Use

 
near net zero energy home utah 2

I'm writing this on St. Patrick's Day so let me tell you a wee bit about the O'Mearas. Kevin and Svetlana O'Meara live in a beautiful home in Utah that's oh-so-close to being a net zero energy home. After I wrote about how home building is like skiing two years ago, Kevin invited me out to see their home and this year I managed to do so. My wife and I visited them for two days last week and Kevin told me all about the house, including his one major regret.

The Layers and Pathways of Heat Flow in Buildings

 
fiberglass insulation wall cavity johns manville spider

We used to build houses without giving much thought to heat flow through the walls, ceilings, and floors. The main thing was to provide some resistance against wind and rain, and then we'd get a fire going to try to make the indoor temperatures bearable. If you've ever lived in an old, uninsulated house, you know that method didn't work that well so later we started putting insulation into the cavities in building assemblies. Homes with insulated cavities are much more comfortable, but how exactly does heat flow through building assemblies? Turns out there are two ways.

The One Thing I'd Love to See Building Enclosure Workers Do

 
fiberglass batt insulation grade 1 building enclosure

I think a lot about building enclosures. I've looked at a whole lot of houses and seen a whole lot of problems with the enclosure. I've also seen a few good ones, although they're all too rare. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've also written about this topic a lot and have posted a lot of photos, of both the bad and the good. Today I'm going to tell you the one thing I'd love to see when I look at building enclosures.

Fiberglass Insulation Manufacturer Gets Serious About Installation

 
fiberglass insulation owens corning grade i

One of the major fiberglass insulation manufacturers (the color in the photo below gives away which one I'm talking about) is getting serious about the installation quality of fiberglass batt insulation. They've put out a video (embedded below) and a document showing how to achieve RESNET Grade 1 installation quality with fiberglass batts. Have you seen these things yet?

The Fundamentals of Heating and Cooling Degree Days, Part 1

 
thermometer heating degree days

Let's say you did some work on your home to make it more energy efficient - air sealing, more attic insulation, and a duct system retrofit. You've got your energy bills for 12 months before and 12 months after you did the work, and now you want to see how much energy you saved. So you sit down with all 24 months worth of utility bills, convert everything to a common unit if you use more than one type of fuel, and take a look at the numbers. Unless, however, you take into account another important factor, you may be led to incorrect conclusions.

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 asbestos.com and banned for some uses in the US. But how worried should you be if you find it in your home?

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

 
attic insulation to go polystyrene boxes 1b

Someone got creative with their attic insulation!

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