Energy Vanguard Blog

Do Energy Efficient Homes Cause Asthma?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Thu, Sep 24, 2015

The British newspaper The Guardian recently published an article on asthma and energy efficient homes, claiming that reducing energy use in homes can hurt indoor air quality (IAQ). But wait! Asthma may not be the only thing to fear with energy efficient homes. A researcher whose report is cited says that poor IAQ also can lead to "lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease." Should we be worried? Are those airtight houses going to kill us?

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Tags: air leakage, indoor air quality, moisture problems, health & safety, ventilation

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

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

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

Is This the End of the Double-Wall, Cold Sheathing Scare?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Apr 22, 2015

Insulation is good. More insulation is better (although at some point, more may not be cost effective). It reduces the amount of heat a home loses in winter or gains in summer. You can get there by building thicker walls and putting more insulation in the cavities, or you can put insulation on the outside of the structure, as in the Perfect Wall. The photo below shows thick insulation in the cavities of a home with double-wall construction.

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Tags: insulation, air leakage, moisture problems, ventilation

A Beautiful Solar Home in Utah Nears Net Zero Energy Use

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Mar 18, 2015

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.

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Tags: ENERGY STAR, design, heating & cooling distribution, insulation, air leakage, energy code, energy conservation, comfort, windows, environment & sustainability, solar energy, water heating, ventilation, heating & cooling, green building

The Problem of Getting Air for Atmospheric Combustion Appliances

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, Mar 10, 2015

Remember those two furnaces I showed you photos of last week? You know, the ones that had ducts placed—or taped, in one case—right in front of them to bring them combustion air. I told you it wasn't a good way to deal with the combustion air issue, but let's go a little further today. Let's look at what building codes say is the right way to do it.

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Tags: crawl space, air leakage, attic, water heating, health & safety, ventilation, heating & cooling

Passive House Builder Hammer & Hand Helps You Fight the Devil

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

When I was building a home in 2001, I came across a gazillion little things that I needed guidance on. I'd never built anything larger than a bookcase, so new home construction was quite a big step. I bought books, scoured the web, and tried to get as much info out of Southface as I could, but I still couldn't find everything I needed. As a result, I made mistakes because, as you know, the devil is in the details.

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Tags: crawl space, moisture problems, ventilation

An Energy Recovery Ventilator Is NOT a Dehumidifier

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

A common misconception about the energy recovery ventilator (ERV) is that it's good for humid climates because it helps to dehumidify a home. It's usually the better choice for a humid climate when you're trying to decide between an ERV or an HRV (heat recovery ventilator) but not because it's a dehumidifier. It is not a dehumidifier. Here's why.

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Tags: moisture problems, ventilation

4 Ventilation Quotes That Will Rock Your IAQ World

Posted by Allison Bailes on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

I've been writing some articles on ventilation for the Journal of Light Construction lately and have come across some great material. The first quote here makes the point about indoor air quality with a graphic underwear metaphor. It's from an 1893 book whose author was a medical doctor interested in ventilation to prevent diseases like phthisis (what we now call tuberculosis).

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Tags: fun, indoor air quality, health & safety, ventilation