Energy Vanguard Blog

How Much Insulation Do You Need in a Passive House?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Jul 15, 2016

Passive house has a reputation for requiring ungodly amounts of insulation. It grew out of the superinsulation movement after all. If you're familiar with any passive house projects, you may be thinking about double-stud walls that are a foot thick or regular walls with 6 to 12 inches of rigid insulation on the outside. But how much insulation can you use and still meet the requirements of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)?

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Tags: environment & sustainability, heating & cooling

Daniel Boone's Dew Point Problem

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Jun 27, 2016

In Missouri for the ASHRAE conference, I took some time to visit with my Cajun baby sister the other day. As we were making our way to one of the local wineries outside of St. Louis, we saw a sign for Daniel Boone's house. Now who can resist that? So we took the short detour and spent a few minutes there. (Yes, minutes. There was wine at the wineries after all.) And here's what I saw there.

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Tags: moisture problems, heating & cooling

7 Reasons to Gut Your Bathroom When You Remodel

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, May 17, 2016

If your home is old enough for a bathroom renovation, you may want to go ahead and completely gut it. I started my bathroom remodel last month with a complete demolition. If I hadn't, a number of problems would have been unavailable for repair...or even undiscovered. Here's what I found when I opened up the walls and ceiling of my 1970 condo in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

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Tags: ventilation, heating & cooling

4 Types of R-Value

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Apr 29, 2016

We talk about R-value all the time. "I've got an R-19 wall," or "Code requires R-38 in my ceiling." But what are those numbers? As it turns out, when we talk about R-value we usually give the R-value of the insulation. That's the case with both of those statements above. But what's the real R-value of the wall or the ceiling? Insulation makes up only a part of each. There's also wood and drywall and sheathing and cladding and...

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Tags: insulation, heating & cooling

The Humid Climate Conference Is Gonna Rock!

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Apr 8, 2016

The first ever Humid Climate Conference is being held next month in Austin, Texas. Kristof Irwin and I have been kicking this idea around for a couple of years now, and he's making it happen. It's a one-day event on 6 May with some great speakers. It's being hosted by the Austin chapter of the Passive House Alliance US (PHAUS) in partnership with the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and PHAUS. In other words, the emphasis is on high performance buildings.

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Tags: moisture problems, heating & cooling

The Misleading "Science" Behind Heat and Insulation

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Apr 1, 2016

Conventional thinking says putting insulation in a building prevents heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. This comes from the 19th century physicists who invented the laws of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics in particular gives us the impression that insulation can be a good thing. It says, in simplified terms, that heat flows from warmer areas to cooler areas. But it's always good to question conventional thinking, so I've been looking into the history of heat.

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Tags: heating & cooling

The Tale of the New Mexico Dehumidifier

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Mar 18, 2016

Last Friday I did a workshop on HVAC design and installation best practices for the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico. They had a great crowd in attendance. I told them why I was on crutches (the polar bear story, the ladder story, and the basketball story). I explained the importance of getting the heating and cooling distribution system done right. And I used a dehumidifier example that bombed.

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Tags: moisture problems, heating & cooling

What Is Home Performance? Part 1

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Feb 29, 2016

Maybe you're a homeowner investigating how to make your home more comfortable. Maybe you're contractor (HVAC, insulation, remodeling...) looking to grow. Or maybe you're an artist looking for the latest trends in performance art. However you got here, I'll see if I can help you understand what this term "home performance" really means. In part 1, I'll cover the big picture. In part 2, I'll give an overview of the home performance process.

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Tags: crawl space, air leakage, attic, indoor air quality, heating & cooling

Heat Is a BTU-tiful Thing!

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Feb 8, 2016

Every year on New Year's Eve, I head over to some friends' house here in the Atlanta area. They have the best party around—Possum Drop—and I've been going for nearly a decade now. As midnight approaches, the newly-crowned Possum Queen leads the countdown. The possum is lowered slowly onto the fire and then erupts in an explosion flames and sparks. Don't worry. It's not a real live possum. It's a giant possum made of chicken wire, papier-mâché, fabric, and other scavenged materials...and it's stuffed full of fireworks!

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Tags: fun, heating & cooling

HVAC Hacks and Other Screwups — The Backstory

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Feb 3, 2016

I love me some good bad photos. You know, good photos of bad stuff. If you've been here a while, you've seen some of the doozies I've posted in the Energy Vanguard Blog. Take Stumpy, the duct amputee or Release the Kraken or the ice chest in the duct system or any of a number of building enclosure failures. They can be funny and instructive. In 2012, Ralph Harmon started HVAC Hacks and Other Screwups on Facebook and took this thing to a whole new level.

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Tags: fun, heating & cooling distribution, heating & cooling