Energy Vanguard Blog

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

Can You Cool Your Home with Crawl Space Air?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Feb 1, 2016

I know it's not air conditioning season, but this story is too good to wait until summer rolls around. My friends at E3 Innovate in Nashville — you may remember them for finding the home ventilated with dead possum odors — have done it again. This time they've discovered a crawl space with an unhealthy innovation. Let's take a look at the photos.

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Tags: heating & cooling distribution, crawl space, indoor air quality, ventilation, heating & cooling

The Surprising Building Science History Behind the Revolving Door

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Jan 29, 2016

Revolving doors have been around for a century and a half. You see them at the bottom of tall buildings, which tells you something right there. They weren't invented merely to function as a way to enter and exit these buildings. There's a building science reason behind their invention. In fact, the name given them by H. Bockhacker, the original inventor in Germany, tells you why he did it: "Tür ohne Luftzug."

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Tags: design, air leakage, heating & cooling

A Tale of Two Roofs - Frost, Snow, and Attic Heat Loss

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Jan 27, 2016

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of cold, it was the season of heat, it was the ignorance of what was right in front of us, it was the opening of our eyes, we had warmth in our homes, we had warmth in our attics — in short, the period was so like the present period that indeed it is the present period, noisy authorities and superlative degrees of comparison aside.

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Tags: insulation, air leakage, attic, heating & cooling

Even New Windows Won't Stop This Heat Loss

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Jan 22, 2016

This will be a quick article. I just want to show you four images to make a point about heat loss at windows. (I say "at" windows because we all know that windows themselves allow more heat through than the surrounding walls. Here in Atlanta, for example, builders have to insulate walls to R-13 but windows only to R-2.) The first photo shows the window as it normally looks, photographed in visible light. Looks fine, right?

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Tags: air leakage, windows, heating & cooling

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Skylights

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Jan 13, 2016

Everyone loves skylights. Right? They bring so much light into a room they can turn a Seattle kitchen into a bright and sunny Florida room. Especially this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere), having that extra light brighten even the darkest days of winter. But skylights have a dark side, too. If you're not aware of that when incorporating these roof windows into a home, you can end up with high energy bills, rooms that are unusable at certain times of the year, or expensive repairs due to moisture problems.

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Tags: attic, windows, moisture problems, lighting, heating & cooling

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