2013: A Look Back at the Year in Building Science

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Possum Drop 2012 6 eyes afire

2013 is almost history. Just a few short hours left before the giant possum drops into the bonfire to ring in 2014. (That's the New Year's party I go to each year, and it's always a lot of fun.) So let's take a quick look back at the year that we're finishing up, as witnessed through this blog.

The great ventilation debate

Perhaps the biggest issue I covered this past year was the debate over ventilation rates for homes. ASHRAE 62.2 is the standard that coveres this, and it's been immersed in controversy since the beginning.

Here are the articles I wrote about the debate:

Residential Ventilation Smackdown — The Battle Over Simplicity (1/18) A little debate between John Krigger and Paul Raymer that kicked things off.

A Blower Door Can't Tell You How Much Mechanical Ventilation You Need (2/1) Based on one of Dr. Joe Lstiburek's main beefs with how we decide to ventilate homes. Be sure to see the debate between Michael Blasnik and Joe in the comments.

Why Do Airtight Homes Need Mechanical Ventilation? (2/4) An explanation of why this whole thing is important to begin with.

Lstiburek Has New Ventilation Standard—Resistance May Not Be Futile (7/8) My big scoop of the year. I wanted to write another article about ventilation and asked Joe if he had anything to contribute. He told me they (Building Science Corporation) were about to release their own ventilation standard to compete with ASHRAE 62.2.

Interview with Dr. Joe Lstiburek — The Ventilation Debate Continues (7/22) I interviewed Joe about his new standard. This article was published the day after he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain to help his son celebrate his 30th birthday.

ASHRAE 62.2 Committee Chair Predicts Confusion & Frustration from BSC-01 (8/5) Paul Francisco contacted me and asked for equal time to give some balance to the issue, so I interviewed him, too. You can read the full transcript here.

ventilation rates and illness absences at school

Will Higher Ventilation Rates Reduce Student Absences in School? (12/5) This one's not as directly related to the core topic as the others, but it's still an important one. Be sure to see my updated version of this article at Green Building Advisor.

The Mixed-Up IAQ and Infiltration Blues (12/13) A nice little song by Eric Werling about the confusion that Paul Francisco alluded to.

Stay tuned. I'll have more about this issue in the coming year.

Meat and potatoes

Every once in a while, I write a more substantial article. These are the ones where I explain an issue in depth, like my posts on the HERS Index and the refrigeration cycle in previous years. Here are my best meat-and-potatoes articles for 2013:

How to Install Flex Duct Properly (2/20)

Do You Know Your Building Science Climate Zone? (4/22)

IECC climate zones

The Wicked Witch of the West, Phase Changes, and Building Science (6/19)

What Is the Best Way to Deal with Crawl Space Air? (9/16)

Does Your Spray Foam Insulation Need a Thermal or Ignition Barrier? (11/11)

Same old stupid stuff...

As usual, I've written a number of articles about the same old stupid stuff that makes buildings underperform. Here are a few of the best:

The 7 Biggest Mistakes That HVAC Contractors Make (1/7)

The Thermal Bridge To Nowhere (1/28)

Ice Dam Bandaid Solution: Heat Strips on the Roof (3/14)

A Building Enclosure Double Disaster - Control Freaks Missing Again (5/3)

Are You Breathing Dead Possum? — Crawl Spaces, HVAC, & IAQ (5/10)

Are you breathing dead possum?

An Interesting Way To Freeze Your Air Conditioner Coil (6/13)

Are You Making These Mistakes with Your Garage? (8/2)

What Happens in the Real World Stays in the Real World (10/11)

Bats Can't Live Under a Thermal Bridge (12/3)

And some things done right!

Here are a few articles about the good stuff that's happening in the world of building science and home building:

A Really Cool Net Zero Energy Home in the North Carolina Mountains (4/29)

Beautiful Duct System in a Beautiful Crawl Space! Was I Dreaming? (6/28)

beautiful duct system in beautiful crawl space

Radon Venting—Do It During Construction or Add a Zero (7/10)

Is Mushroom Insulation the World's Greenest Insulating Material? (7/18)

Georgia Power Fills the Void Left by ENERGY STAR (10/28)

Scoops and news

Propane in your air conditioner?I've already mentioned my big scoop of the year (Lstiburek's new ventilation standard), but here are some other big news articles I wrote:

ACCA vs BPI—The Brouhaha Over Home Energy Audit Standards (4/10)

Propane in Your Air Conditioner? Bad Idea! (7/5)

Patent Troll Tactics Target Infrared Camera Use of Home Inspectors (9/3)

My favorite article of 2013

Yes, I do have a favorite. Some articles just seem to flow out of my fingertips. They may not be my most popular articles, but I can tell when I write them that they're special. I wrote 118 articles in 2013, covering a lot of different topics, and my favorite of the year is the one I wrote while sipping Scotch in a Dallas bar last March. It wasn't the article I sat down to write—it's much better.

The Mad Hatter, Isaac Newton, and That Old Thermostat (3/22)

Farewell, 2013!

It's been a great year. I learned to ski. I made a lot of new friends. The Energy Vanguard Blog continued its amazing growth. (We exceeded 100,000 unique visitors in a month for the first time in November.) We hired Alexander Bell, our new HVAC designer and building science associate.

One of the best things is having so many people appreciate what I do here in the Energy Vanguard Blog. When I spoke at the Better Buildings conference in Chicago earlier this month, a reader from Illinois came up to me to tell me how much she learns here and how it helps her remodeling business.

The next day in Massachusetts at BSC's Experts' Session, another person came up to me to tell me how much they get out of the blog. I'm not saying this to boast. I'm saying it because I'm touched that people not only read what I write but that they tell me things like that. Thank you all for caring and reading and helping me carry out this crazy mission of trying to change the world.

I wish you all a safe and happy new year!

 

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Comments

Armando

I appreciate all your efforts to  
help us become better informed, and  
with a good sense of humor. Keep up  
the good work. Happy New Year! 

David Richardson

Keep up the great work Allison! Here's to 2014.

John Proctor

Allison, nice summary. I was surprised to follow the bypass duct link and find that was in 2011. I wonder if we have made any progress in the two years. California's sometimes hated, sometimes loved Title 24 Building Standard that goes into effect mid 2014 allows bypass ducts. However you either have to prove you have at least 350 CFM per ton going out of the conditioned space and back into the conditioned space in every zonal mode or make up the energy penalty with another energy efficiency measure. The easiest solution is to eliminate the bypass and follow the suggestions included in the blog. (some delivery to each zone even when they are not the zone calling -- damper stops or run(s) without any damper). Happy 2014, things have to get better. John

Allison Bailes

Armando: Thanks! Happy New Year to you, too! 
 
Paul R.: Likewise. I always look forward to your Ventilation News & Views and encourage everyone interested in this stuff to subscribe. Here's the link to the Heyoka Solutions website for those interested. 
 
David R.: Thanks! You keep up the great work, too. I learn new stuff from your blog all the time. 
 
John P.: Yeah, that was a while back. I need to write about that again. I'll see you at the Dry Climate Forum in February, so I look forward to discussing this and more with you there. 
 

Lee Thompson

Happy possum hunting!

Bill Smith

Thanks for all you do Allison. You've saved me a lot of work this year. Instead of spending time writing I send people a link to your blog ;-) A very efficient use of my time! 
 
Seriously, great job. Your skill at writing clear and engaging posts is an inspiration to us dubbers. I always look forward to finding time to read your latest posts. 
 
Have a great 2014.