Energy Vanguard Blog

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

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

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

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 Drainage Plane Flashing Battle Continues

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Feb 2, 2015

I don't think I can ever say it enough, but the building enclosure consists of several control layers and each one has its job. The primary control layer is the one that keeps liquid water out, and it can be a tricky business. Take the case of this condo building (yes, it's in the community where I live). It's got several problems, so I went to bat for building science here.

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Tags: windows, moisture problems

2 Bad Ways to Install Windows the Hard Way

Posted by Allison Bailes on Fri, Nov 14, 2014

I see a lot of interesting stuff at construction sites and in people's homes. I also see stuff I never got to see because people send me photos. I like photos! Remember that ice chest someone had incorporated into a duct system? That was sent to me. So are the first two photos below.

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Tags: windows, moisture problems

Why Is Clark Howard Giving Bad Energy-Saving Advice?

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

Clark Howard is the penny pincher's guru. My wife loves his radio show and website for all the money-saving tips he provides. Naturally, anyone trying to help people save money at home has to address energy use, and Howard does, too. Unlike some others, though, he's generally well educated on the topic because he's hung around the Southface Energy Institute enough to know the basics. (I don't know if he ever used the clip, but he filmed me teaching how to do a blower door test there a few years ago.)

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Tags: heating & cooling distribution, insulation, air leakage, attic, windows, water heating, heating & cooling

Stockton Project Demonstrates Huge Home Energy Savings

Posted by Allison Bailes on Tue, May 20, 2014

At the Forum on Dry Climate Home Performance earlier this year, I got to hear three building science experts talk about a really cool research project they've been working on in Stockton, California. Bruce Wilcox, John Proctor, and Rick Chitwood (Wilcox and Proctor shown in photo at left) filled us in on the Stockton project, which now has two years of data and shows some really impressive results.

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Tags: heating & cooling distribution, insulation, air leakage, attic, windows, ventilation

Fixing an Old House? Follow Einstein's Advice

Posted by Allison Bailes on Mon, Nov 4, 2013

I get a lot of questions from people asking how they should go about fixing their homes. Sometimes it's specific (What's the best way to insulate my kneewalls?), and sometimes it's a hands up in the air, With all these problems, where do I start?  I'll focus on the latter today and let Albert Einstein provide the guidance you need.

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Tags: HVAC, building enclosure, crawl space, air leakage, attic, comfort, windows, indoor air quality, diagnostic/performance testing, solar energy, water heating, health & safety, ventilation