Energy Vanguard Blog

Do Boilers for Home Heating Actually Boil Water?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, Oct 27, 2015

Boilers for heating homes are common in some areas. Not here in Georgia, where I live, but my friends in the colder climates have them. This type of heating equipment takes a fuel like natural gas or fuel oil, burns it to create heat, and then puts that heat into water circulating through the distribution system. Since it's called a boiler, naturally it's heating the incoming water up to the boiling point and creating steam. Right?

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Tags: heating & cooling distribution, heating & cooling

Winterizing Your Home? Don't Caulk the Windows!

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

Caulk your windows. Weatherstrip your doors. It's that time of year again. No, I don't mean the time of year when you should do those things. I mean it's the time of year when all the news stories that include this ineffective advice start appearing. There's a lot of bad advice included in those articles, but let's just look at why the caulking and weatherstripping advice will provide minimal relief.

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Tags: air leakage, windows, heating & cooling

The Best Way to Cool Your Attic

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

The most contentious issue I’ve written about since I started blogging isn’t bad Manual Js. Nor is it endorsing government intervention by raising efficiency standards or improving energy codes. Incredibly, it’s not even whether or not naked people need building science. Nope. The topic that really gets readers hyperventilating is powered attic ventilators (PAVs). Some people swear it’s the best way to keep their attic cool and reduce air conditioning costs. Apparently they haven’t seen the research about what works better than PAVs without the drawbacks.

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Tags: heating & cooling distribution, attic, heating & cooling

10 Essential Steps to Building a Pretty Good House

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

My friends up in Maine came up with the concept of the Pretty Good House a few years ago, and I love the idea! Not everyone can or wants to build a LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge, Passive House. But a lot of architects, builders, and homebuyers would like to design, build, and live in houses that are better than the barely-legal, code-minimum houses that populate the market. The Pretty Good House, then, is the way to go.

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Tags: design, heating & cooling distribution, insulation, air leakage, windows, moisture problems, ventilation, heating & cooling

Must the 3 Little Pigs Die?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Aug 12, 2015

Building Science Summer Camp was last week. That means I was in Massachusetts with 500 of my closest friends, staying up too late, talking building science out the wazoo, and attending some great presentations from leaders in the world of building science. My big takeaways from Summer Camp this year were Marty Houston's "hairy hand of quality," Robert Bean's three little pigs, and a black toenail. The first was a striking image, the second is the topic of this article, and the third will probably fall off in a few days. (Sorry. If that makes you squeamish, just be glad I didn't tell you how I relieved the pressure.)

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Tags: big picture, heating & cooling

Will Shading Your Air Conditioner Save You Money?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

I got a question this weekend that's often asked—and, I'm sure, wondered about—by homeowners: "Will my household AC system run more efficiently (perhaps cycle on/off fewer times, or the compressor won't have to run as long when it cycles on) by shading the compressor?" I've written about the outdoor unit of air conditioners and heat pumps a few times, but I've never tackled this question directly. Let's change that now.

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Tags: heating & cooling

Is Evaporative Cooling the Answer to High Air Conditioning Costs?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

This time of year, air conditioners are running like mad to keep people cool in their homes. Here in Atlanta, we've had a couple of weeks of hot, muggy weather, with a little break on Sunday. Now we're heading back to the mid-90s with high dew points again. As a result, some people are starting to dread those air conditioning bills arriving and wondering what they can do to save energy. Is the Kickstarter-funded Mistbox the answer?

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Tags: scams & ripoffs, heating & cooling

Psychrometrics, Part 2 - The Quantities in the Chart

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, Jun 2, 2015

Psychrometrics, you may recall, is the science that involves the properties of moist air and the processes in which the temperature or the water vapor content or both are changed. To understand how all that works, we need quantities and we need them to be well-defined. Some are easy to understand (e.g., dry bulb temperature and barometric pressure); others are a bit more abstract (e.g., enthalpy). Here we'll take a look at the main psychrometric quanitites, define them carefully, and tell which commonly used term you should avoid.

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Tags: moisture problems, ventilation, heating & cooling

How to Clean Out Your Air Conditioner's Condensate Line

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, May 29, 2015

Your air conditioner does two jobs: It cools down the air and it dehumidifies the air. If you live in a dry climate, you want the AC to dehumidify as little as possible because it uses extra energy and makes you spend more on lip balm and hand lotion. If you live in a humid climate, you really want it to do that second job as well as it can to keep your indoor air dry and comfortable. But where does all that condensate go?

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Tags: heating & cooling

Psychrometrics - Impenetrable Chart or Path to Understanding?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, May 26, 2015

I have a confession to make: I've fallen in love with psychrometrics! After water itself, moist air has got to be the most interesting substance in building science. And the psychrometric chart, in all its many manifestations and with its multitudinous quantities, is a thing of beauty. Well, at least it is to me, and maybe it will be to you, too, after you get to know it a bit better.

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Tags: moisture problems, ventilation, heating & cooling