Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff

As we approach the deadline the fiscal cliff looms before us. Once far off in the distance it is now upon us.

With the IMF stating we need to do something or else….

The President seems unwilling to negotiate on any terms but his own and will not budge on the tax increase for the wealthy.

While Bohener seems to be moving toward some sort of solution that will most likely be too little too late. It is not clear as to whether or not other Republicans will follow his lead.

So will we all freefall into economic disparity? Hitting rock bottom never to get up again?

The effects of “going over” are not immediate as the spending and tax structure that is affected can always be attended to in a session of Congress. The long term effect current growth and will most likely head us into another recession which would most likely be felt worldwide.

The very long term effects might be positive as it reduces a very large deficit. Whether that reduction is worth the pain most economists seem to say no and this is the worst time to make such an experiment.

So I think that a last minute deal will be made that satisfies neither party. Democrats and Republicans and will point fingers at each other for lack of leadership and once again letting down the American People.

And unfortunately I believe both parties will be correct.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Prop 39 Money to go to schools

I read that Proposition 39 money will be earmarked for schools. I think this is a good example of the waste of government here in California and how the citizens rarely benefit from slick looking political campaigns. 

This is a good example of what is wrong with California and US politics.

Prop 39 is a measure that closed a loophole in taxes for Multistate Corporations that do business in California. The idea is that many Multistate Corporations avoid taxes in California because of a rule created in the 2009 budget.

This rule essentially let Multistate Corporations choose between two tax structures. Obviously this is set up so they can choose the most advantageous of the two.

The first structure is the single sales formula. This is based on sales and the Multi State Corporation pays taxes based on sales in California

The second structure is the rule of three it allows a formula of tax structure based on proportion of sales, California Payroll and California property holdings. This is known as the factor of three.
This was a result of California ratifying the MTC or Multistate Tax Compact
This reduced the tax for Multistate Corporations tax burden in California. California then challenged the validity of the rule in a lawsuit against Gillette. California had an unfavorable decision.
California then proceeded to form a new law which would not allow this formula of the rule of three. On June 27th Governor Brown signed ab1015 into law effectively going against the 2009 budget decision and to trump the unfavorable ruling.

During this time the State of California surmises that this might be in violation of its own rules for a tax hike which requires a popular vote and the campaign for Proposition 39 begins before the ink is even wet on ab 1015

Proposition 39 was touted as a loophole that needed to be closed and those monies would go toward clean energy.

We also passed proposition 30 a tax and sales tax increase for schools. It is intended to revitalize the loss of funds to California schools.

Now the tax from prop 39 is being ear marked to go primarily to schools as a no brainer

Good times for the CTA and other unions here in California. How and if we will benefit as citizens of California will remain to be seen

California residents will now pay more for goods and more in income tax across the board. Where this new money will be spent will be lost in a quagmire of board meetings, prevailing wage jobs, and the good old boy network and political gooblygook language that none will understand.

 I question how much money was wasted on the 2009 ratification of MTC and its subsequent laws suits and ultimately the campaign for 39. I do know however who pays for it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Home Performance Contractor Dreams

The Three Laws of Home Performance Contractor

First Law 
A performance contractor must do no harm through action or in action.

Second Law 
A performance contractor must follow the principles of building science unless they are in conflict with the first law

Third Law 
A performance contractor must protect their own interest unless that protection conflicts with the first and second law.

Oth law

A performance contractor may not harm by inaction or allow harm by action.

For those of you whom have not read the Robot series by Isaac Asimov will not appreciate my total and complete rip off of the three laws of robotics. The Oth Law came later and you cannot promote 3 laws through three books and then simply change to four laws in your next literary endeavor hence the zeroth law which proceeds all but really came later.  By the way the title is also a rip off. I would suggest reading those books rather than my blog  as they are actually interesting

As I have noticed over the years we seem to put many rules on ourselves in performance contracting. As we embark out on our journey to make a difference I wonder if we are hindered by our own rules?

When does do no harm paralyze us to the point where we do nothing at all? Are we so afraid of the results of our actions that we are relegated to inaction?  Have we become robotic that we are unable to break from the confines of our own rules to do the right thing? Have we set the bar so high that we simply gaze up at it and never get over it?

So some of you might wonder how dare I ask these questions and who the hell is Isaac Asimov and those that do know who Isaac is you are probably musing that this guy is no  Asimov but he is somewhat of an….

So I read that we need to rid the world of all atmospheric drafting combustion appliances and cannot recommend anything other than sealed combustion furnaces. That all energy models lie and therefore we are liars. That we cannot seal duct systems because we might reduce the airflow across the coil and cause the system freeze and fail.

This causes me to  ponder at what the hell can we do?

While it appears often the goal is to separate ourselves from the Construction Industry but somehow fail to recognize that that is the industry we are in. I have seen and heard from many how we need strict quality control to promote the integrity of the industry with qualified findings and third party verification. While it might just be that we talk too much and don’t do enough.

Has this fear of never doing anything wrong left us paralyzed and stuck in a quagmire of good intentions?

Tell me if this model would work in the plumbing industry. Customer has a clogged drain. Drain unclogging analyst is called and agrees your drain is clogged. He has 3 immediate solutions
1)      Use a plunger
2)      Use a toilet auger
3)      Use a snake

He then devises three long term solutions
1)      Camera the line for anomalies
2)      Provide a plan for a deep sewer retrofit
3)      Install a zone multi zone flushing kit on your current sewer system
He then further explains there is a rebate for the multi zone flushes kit and after its installation a third party verifier will show up and confirm the multi zone flush kit is installed and working properly

Customer explains he really only wants the line cleared and questions whether you do it or not. You explain that you are a third party drain analyst with certifications as a HIMS Rater which is an acronym for Hydro Industrial Mensa of Sewers  and  if you want to participate in the MZFK or multi zone flush kit program you have to call an MFPC or certified multi flush performance contractor that is participating in WGA or water go away program.  And furthermore in order to qualify for the rebate he needs to have his lines cameraed and receive a bid for a deep sewer retrofit performed by a  SUA or Systems Unclogging Analyst use the flusherator 2000 WGA approved program and that you happen to be both a HIMS and a SUA professional and have the Flusherator 2000 program

Customer again ask if you can unclog the drain You shake your head and smile of course not as a HIMS and SUA you only advise but that you will be extremely happy after the report which tell more about s@#t that you ever imagined! You will upload the information to the WGA database and they will get back to you as to whether or not you have the certification and then you can hire a MFPC. You further explain that this system really does make sense after all as you would certainly not want a MZFK by anybody other than a WGA approved MFPC

I think our system might be a tad bit  over complicated and has way too many acronyms. Our quest for perfection has left us with complicated checks and balances that have left us at the end of the day ineffective. If we are to drive forward in the industry we need to find a balance of what we want to perform and simply the process and get things done.

It might be that this over complication confuses customers and ultimately drives work away from our industry. I think we need to recognize that in any industry there will be good guys and bad guys and we should just focus on getting customers and doing good work.

I think Paul Raymer sums it up best when he asks “How hard can it be? I will now quote the most dynamic quote in modern American history that can save us all.
“Git er done”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Zoned HVAC Systems and Design Issues

HVAC systems are designed to condition air in our homes. The bigger the home, the bigger the system to condition that air. As system size increases so does the amount of air it moves and energy it uses. There are new modern systems that have modulating speed that the flow increases and decreases depending on load needs. The fan can increase and decrease in speed which is balanced between the return and supply air of the system.

Traditional systems that are installed in many homes have a on or off method.  The thermostat calls for conditioned air and turns on reaches the temature setting of the thermostat and turns off.
In each case modulating and traditional system air flow is key for the units operation. Without proper airflow systems do not work as designed.

While zoned systems can be an excellent choice for energy savings and comfort in homes the design and implementation must be correct for the system to work properly.   The idea is that the system can separate zones and only condition the area that you are in.  As we turn on the thermostat in one zone the unit turns on. We are now only pay to condition the space we are occupying saving energy and money with only one HVAC unit. This saves upfront and operation costs.

When using traditional HVAC Systems for a zoned system, the ducting is inadequate to handle the air flow when only one zone is being called for.  The air being produced now in the unit is causing static pressure to rise in the system.  The air must go somewhere so either the system chokes down because the static pressure air is resisting the air flow out and will compensate by resisting airflow in causing a host of problems or the pressure or flow must be diverted to maintain cfm flow.

There are two strategies for handling this problem in a traditional HVAC systems. One would be to “dump” the supply air into the space of the home into a large area such as a hallway.  The other method will use a “by pass duct” which as the pressure rises the air is diverted to the return via this by pass duct. Here are some reasons that make the bypass duct a poor design in any system

1)      By diverting the conditioned air during the cooling season we are pushing colder air into the return. This makes the coil colder and reduces the efficiency of the system. Our cooling capacity is then significantly reduced
2)      Our air conditioner and heaters are designed to have the supply and return separate. By combining the two in this manner air can be detrimental to proper flow. Air can be described as being lazy; it will follow the path of least resistance. Even if all four zones are open having a large hole to escape into right at the point of the most pressure the unit itself, some air will cheat to the bypass duct and system will not have proper return flow.
3)      By having the colder conditioned air directly to the return end of the system and restricting flow from the supply part of the system we now have risk of the system freezing up or icing up.  

The bypass duct systems have two methods for controlling the bypass air. The dampener for the bypass duct is controlled by either static pressure and or mechanical.

The mechanical is always preferred as it acts in concert with the supply dampeners and as the system calls for more or less air it adjusts it position mechanically. This can be tested and the flow balanced and set.

A static pressure controlled dampener  also known as a barometric controlled dampener works by pressure and balance. As the static pressure builds the dampener opens to the return for the bypass air such as during the operation of one zone.  As the system calls for more air the static pressure drops and so does the dampener closing the air to the return. The dampener needs to be completely level and the weight on the dampener must be adjusted perfectly and tested to ensure that the flow is correct. For proper operation the perfect level and balance must be maintained.

While used as a solution the barometric controlled dampener is difficult to install correctly and for system operation must really be perfect.

I would never recommend a system that combines the return air to the supply air for many reasons that are listed above and if one were installed I would recommend only a mechanical dampener be installed

In conclusion zoned systems can work quite well.  Zoning systems that are designed from the beginning are state of the art and can increase comfort and reduce cost by conditioning only the space you occupy. There are some key components that are lacking in this system to make it state of the art.

1)      A modulating system that can increase and decrease flow depending on demand.
2)      Mechanically dampened supply and return to isolate zones
3)      Separate returns for each zone for proper temperature control

Monday, October 29, 2012

Building Science is not really science; it is more of a concept. While the concepts were developed by scientists the system itself is not really hard science. The concepts are generally employed by building analysts and construction professionals. While I consider myself a student of building science I do not consider myself a building scientist. I am simply a tradesman with special training. While some in the field might have different opinions about their role in this industry I am comfortable with my statement above.

Building science is easy and yet complex to explain, most of the concepts are simple scientific principles. We take the basic principle such as the laws of thermal dynamic and apply them and how they work within a building. We can easily determine that heat moves from hot to cold and that we want a barrier between our home and the outside. Not exactly hard to conclude.

Where we differentiate ourselves is through testing. We figure out through our blower door test how much is leaking and attempt discover where. As we seal the home we continue to test. We use our training and experience to try to determine if these changes will effect others systems within the house.

You will often here that we look at the house a system. We want this system working for you and not against you. How is the stack effect complicating the efficiency of your air conditioner? Why the house is going into negative pressure when the heater is turned on? Why does your bath fan not work? How can we get these systems working in concert, to provide safety, comfort and energy efficiency?

While some really smart people figured these concepts out. They tinkered, they theorized, they failed and they succeeded. They used this data and shared it and came up with a process to convey this complex information and boil it down into a simple system that could be taught.

I am one those that has studied these principles and has been taught the system. You never look at the house in the same way after this training.

Be Careful what you post

Reading this article simply supports my opinion of internet and social media postings. There was an incident with local high school students that gained national publicity which also involved facebook posting.  I often drive my children and the neighbor to High School and Middle school. In the car this subject came up regarding the high school students and the postings on facebook that made this a short lived national sensation.

My advice was simple “If you don’t want your parents to read what you are saying on facebook don’t post it, they can see it. Also future employers might see it. It’s just not a good idea to post something you might regret, be careful.”

The article in this morning’s paper is another example of this same subject. While the reporter takes the side of the young woman whom was terminated I do not. Her wreck less and inflammatory language posted on a public site was simply a poor decision. The fact that she is an aspiring teacher further exasperates the poor decision on her part.

While I agree with her premise that teen pregnancy is not a good idea, I disagree on many levels of how she supported this opinion from the brief explanation from the article. I would also question the wisdom of having a person that cannot convey an argument intelligently teaching children. Furthermore I would hope that teachers are smart enough not to post inflammatory comments online for the whole world to see including their students.

While a harsh way to learn a lesson I do not think the reaction was unfair. Actions have consequences. While I do not wish her ill in the future and I do think that she should be given another chance but not at this school district. I support the school district and agree with their statement. I applaud them for making the difficult decision.

The question that Mathew posts at the end of the column directed at the outraged citizen I feel is way off the mark “The questions stand: Does Gutterud see herself as a role model? Do you?” This question appears to be an attempt to bully a concerned citizen that objects to behavior that many in society would deem to be unacceptable. I would hope that if Gutterud did not act someone else would.

I will in turn ask Mathew that do you deem someone that proudly and publicly proclaims  “I ------ all through high school and because i was ‘RESPONSIBLE’ I never got knocked up!!!”” on a thread called “I Hate Teen Moms” an excellent candidate to teach children? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why was the plug pulled on Google PowerMeter?

Why was the plug pulled on Google PowerMeter? 

Google’s philanthropic branch launched Google PowerMeter in February 2009. Its goal was to put the power of seeing electricity usage into the hands of the consumer. The idea was born of a study that showed that those that had access to daily energy data reduced usage by 10 percent. A powerful concept that information delivered could have such a great effect.

I was lucky enough to live in SDG&E territory and smart meters have been installed. I received a postcard from SDG&E inviting me and 100,000 of my fellow San Diegans to join Google PowerMeter. I also receive emails from the CCSE ( so I was in the loop. I installed the software and awaited the launch.

The data was excellent. It would show always on usage so you could see your baseline make changes and see immediate effect which in turn is immediate satisfaction in my estimation. You could look at hourly charts, daily charts, weekly charts, yearly charts. The ability to set goals was also part of the system and you could see when you met these goals with a star designation on that day of your data. I had it on my Google home page and it was up every time I booted up my system as I have Google as my homepage.

All this data for the price of nothing, zilch, nada, neinte, ingting.  The price was certainly right. The product performed well. It was available to a large city whose utility promoted the service. With all this going for it why did it fail?

 On September 16th 2011 Google pulled the plug on PowerMeter.
A criticism I had right away was that it did not include gas to which is also billed from the same utility with smart meters also installed.  How hard would it be to track both and make the tool twice as powerful?

With PowerMeter shuttering its door there are many theories.
Not available on a Universal scale.
The 24 hour lag time and no access to real time data.
The Utilities didn’t want it to succeed and buried it into obscurity
Pressure from Wall Street to stop “wasting money” on unpopular projects
Lack of access by third party developers 
Lack of commitment by Google

While I can agree with the first point that it was not available on a large scale out the gate I am not sure that is reason enough for its failure. The immediate data is a good point but does that cause you not to even use it? That the utilities buried it into obscurity sound a bit conspiracy theory like and  does not make sense. SDG&E has a watered down version available on the web immediately after Google shuttering its door. It is called Energy Charts and is not as sexy as PowerMeter but is quite good and the data is there. If they are attempting to hide it then why spend money to keep a version of it.  I seriously doubt that Wall Street dictates anything to Google. When Wall Street has that power I would suggest you dump your shares if you are holding it. Third party developers felt left out but there is a privacy issue as well. If Google couldn’t give it away where was the market for the third party developers? Google has increased its investment in green technology to over 700 million so far in 2011. That shows a pretty strong commitment to me.

So why did it fail then?

I think the answer is quite simple really. Energy Costs are not painful enough for most to show interest. It is a strange commodity in the sense that every customer is more willing to accept the bill as the part of the cost of living. And we all have to live. While families will often cut back to save for whatever reason the power bill is often overlooked and or the last place they look to save. It seems only the folks who are already interested in saving electricity costs are the ones that signed up to use PowerMeter. According to Wiki, about six percent of SDG&E customers signed up for PowerMeter or a total of 11,000 homes.
I would contend that with a two year run and a six percent penetration the market is clearly apathetic. That apathy, more than anything else is the reason I believe is responsible for the failure of PowerMeter.

Is it all doom and gloom for the energy efficiency market?

Hardly, I will take the half full glass please.  94 percent of the market is out there waiting for the news. It is easy to save on power consumption with the right information. The costs are low and the paybacks fast. Real energy savings work every day and night of the week rain or shine. The house as a system approach leads to a healthier more energy efficient environment where we spend a great deal of time, our home. The market is there undeveloped

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What does the the N factor stand for?

I have a theory for what the N stands for in the N factor but really no clue. I understand what the n factor intends to do and how to use it but fail to understand how it applies in the real world and in particular to San Diego.

The N factor is a correction number that smooths the data for blower door numbers in multiple climate zones of homes of different size and height and brings the homes into a level playing field. We then can use this number to determine ventilation rates and put everyone on the same page.

Using the N factor is rather simple. We take the number and plug it into a formula. See my MVG page*.
It’s simple its slick and it is easy to use. It is even been updated in a new ASHRAE formula that I learned about in a training session that I was fortunate to attend taught by ventilation guru Paul Raymer, great class and very informative. At one point the class went to using the new N formula. We did the math for our climate zone plugged the numbers in and Voila, our 2500 sq ft 2 story home here in San Diego needs ventilation at 2778 cfm50. Paul asks for what number should we shoot for a tight home? 2500 the answer comes from the back.

I sat and said nothing but inside I was screaming “2500 cfm50 is not a tight home! It’s a %$#^&* colander with a roof and a door!” Paul had allot to teach and the class was moving fast so I kept it to myself. This conversation is not for this class.

So as we use the N factor and on face value it says if your home meets a certain tightness limit you need mechanical ventilation. Now I have no issue with the mechanical ventilation part but have some major issues with the factor N tightness thresholds. As we explain this we contend if your house reaches a certain tightness level you need Mechanical Ventilation. Right or wrong explanation it is one I have often heard. Why is my tightness level so out of whack and not tight at all?

I have a basic MVG calculator* that I use from the BPI standard that uses the LBL N factor and the one that most of us have been trained in. I will use it for this discussion. First there are four climate zones for the United States. Really? Only four? Heck we have 16 climate zones according to California standards and four right here in San Diego County. Fine let’s accept four and move on.

So we will figure out a 1000 sq ft shielded one story home and the MVG for each home in the following

Zone 1 Fargo ND                  MVG=  871
Zone 2 Ellenville NY             MVG= 1039  Fargo plus 19 percent
Zone 3 Miami Fl                   MVG= 1207  Fargo plus 39 percent
Zone 4 San Diego CA           MVG=1376 Fargo plus 59 percent

Ok so lets take this data and bring into basic blower door formulas***and estimate the size hole we will have for each home at this MVG I am using a basic formulas for comparison. I got these formulas from a post on JLC by Martin Holiday** of Green Building Advisor but I plugged it into a excel spreadsheet a long time ago. I think I might have gotten a couple of others from other locations as well. I did not develop any of these on my own. While these numbers might not be precise they should serve for comparison.
                                       Natural Infiltration      ACH        EqLA        ELA
Fargo  ND                        43.5                                 6.5           87.1         48
Ellenville  NY                   52                                    7.79         104           58
Miami       FL                  60.35                               9.05          121          67
San Diego   CA               68.8                                 10.32         137          76 

So let’s look at our houses Lets say they are 25 wide by 40 feet long we then have a surface area of 3040
Fargo ND    We have a total leakage of 2.875 percent or a window open at all times of about 7x7 open
Ellenville NY we have a total leakage of 3.425 percent or a window open at all times of 7.5 x7.5
Miami FL we have a total leakage of 4 percent or a window open at all times of 8x8
San Diego CA we have a total leakage of 4.5 percent or a window open at all times of  8.5x8.5 and that this is where I am considered a tight house

I would argue that none of these homes are tight. But why does the home in San Diego require ventilation at almost 60 percent higher rate of leakage than Fargo ND? This is rather counter intuitive. I am certainly more inclined to have a window open in the winter, spring, fall and summer than my neighbor in Fargo due to weather conditions. The chance of me getting fresh air from an open window for natural ventilation year round are greater in my area than any other in the US. We have little to worry about with humidity. I heard a comedian once refer to San Diego as a huge unfurnished apartment. I am simply lost when looking for reason for this standard. Why are we required mechanical ventilation before any other climate zone but more importantly why are we considered tight at such a loose state?

Quite honestly it is not the mechanical ventilation I have issue with. it is simply a good idea. Seal it tight and Ventilate it right.

 What makes this tricky in my minds eye is that we use this formula as a delta of which homes are loose and which homes are tight. My main concern of course is in my territory. How do I convey to my customer base that the national recognized standard is pretty much laughable and that almost any home can reach the tightness level by simply closing their doors and using a can a spray foam in a couple of key areas here in Americas Finest City. That when we reach our “tightness” level we are looser than a nut without a bolt. Our infiltration rate in a “tight” home is unacceptable and should be thrown out into the trash and moved on down the road buried and forgotten.

I don’t know what the answer is but I do know I don’t like it when I have to label a home with somewhere around 10 ach and more than a 75 sq ft hole in the structure as tight. I know I want my customer’s homes far below that level before I would entertain the thought they are tightened up on their envelope.

And while I respect the folks at LBL and recognize that they probably forgot yesterday more than I will ever know about blower door data I am not in love with the N factor. 

I think it stands Necromancy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dubious Marketing

Dubious Marketing

I was perusing the Home Energy Pros post as I often do and ran across a post regarding a radiant barrier insulation product Costco was offering.
There were some negative comments from the group regarding claims of energy savings and product selection. I did not disagree with them but looking at the video I thought the workmanship looked pretty good and thought that while they were only adding R-11 it might do the home owner some good if they performed some duct sealing, air sealing and insulation realignment before applying the product.

I then found their website and looked and thought nice slick and easy. Well put together and easy to get around. I notice they have a number of products such as insulation, air sealing, a refrigerant charge check. Although many of these things are using proprietary name brands with some dubious marketing, however solid recommendations and not all smoke and (see radiant barrier) mirrors.

I then move to their FAQ page an find this little gem

Why don’t building codes specify E-values as well as R-values?

In the last century, the only cost-effective insulation for the home was mass insulation like fiberglass, cellulose and foam that reduced heat transfer by convection and conduction. The was the measure of how good a job those insulators did. Yet R-value measures only the smallest part of residential heat transfer. E-value is the measure of emissivity, radiant heat transfer, the principle source of energy loss. New technologies make it practical to achieve extremely low emissivity in window glass and in a reflective film ideal for the attic. As these low-E technologies advance, the codes will catch up and E-value will replace R-value as the primary measure of energy efficiency

Ok now I have a bit more of an issue than my original glance at their product offering. 

The above statement was pulled straight from the website is for lack of a better word is ridiculous. Why would intelligent people print this statement? Is it so difficult to sell their product that they have to take solid science and twist it into half and even non truths and then push forward with serious leaps of faith for conclusions?

As we push forward in this industry I think that good marketing is important. I personally lack this ability as I have struggled with finding my groove. If in order to sell my service I need to misinform and practice dubious marketing I choose not to play.

Glen Gallo
Red E3

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Carbon Credits in California.

So it begins. California is now on its way to carbon trading. The first wave is to hit in November for Industries here in California. Only 10 percent of the credits will be auctioned in the first year and by 2020 50 percent will be auctioned.
I have never been an advocate of the carbon credit/carbon trading. Touted as a simple Pigovian Tax (like any Pigovian tax is simple) It’s aim is to reduce carbon emissions. The idea is to put a limit on carbon and then have the market trade these credits around.

While I would agree that the reduction of carbon is a goal that must be pursued. We need to do better on a Global National and Individual level. I will not get into arguments about global warming and its causes. Nor will I comment on Kyoto or Copenhagen. I will simply point out that pollution is pollution and we need to mitigate this problem to the best of our abilities.

The truth is this is simply an energy tax. There is no plan to use the monies collected to research and development of carbon reduction.  The money will simply go into the hands of traders and in to the coffers of a government. As it is not taking care of externalities it cannot be considered a Pigovian Tax.

I do not like a hidden tax that everyone pays for a few understand. Put it up front for us to examine in society. Call it a tax and provide a clear path of who is paying and how much. Document where this tax money will flow, which should be for and only for carbon reduction. Plant some trees, install some carbon banks, nurture a plankton bloom, install solar water heaters with the tax money.

Call it what it is, labeling a tax as a credit is insulting.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical ventilation of your home is a good idea. That means a fan running 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It provides a means of reducing indoor air pollutants and improving IAQ. It’s good for you and your whole family. We have a cute saying “dilution is the solution to indoor air pollution”

But aren’t you supposed to show me ways to save money and use less electricity? I don’t get it

True our goal is to save you money and we will show you how to use less electricity. Remember our goal is to address your safety and comfort and using methods of performance contracting and building science and our end result will be a more efficient home. Even though a fan will be running at all times these fans are very efficient and sip electricity rather than guzzle it. The benefit more than outweighs the cost.

Can’t I just open a window?

Sure you can it’s a good idea to open your windows.  We still want to mechanically ventilate your home to ensure it has fresh air at all times. We want to have control over our fresh air and not simply guess. You can open a window whenever you want but we still need ventilation.

Ok so now we have established you need ventilation. What kind and by what standard. The logical answer would be to use ASHRAE 62.2 2007 here in California s a guideline.  It is what the current California new home construction standard uses. There are some rebate programs that require other versions but we will stick with the referenced code.

Let’s take a 2000 square foot four bedroom home as an example
The formula is pretty basic (sq ft * .01) + (bedrooms + 1 * 7.5)
(2000*.01 =)20 +37.5( =5*7.5)

So we need 57.5 cfm for our home.
So let’s get a 60 cfm fan right? Uuuummmmm probably not

The thing is that we want that amount delivered not close. The type of material used for ducting is important. The length of the run is important. How many elbows does it have is important. Proper sealing of ducts is important. Quality of the product is important.  Not accounting for these factors will have our 60 cfm producing 40 cfm or even less.

I would normally recommend that we take that size and add 15 percent and round up to the next available fan. I would recommend a 70 cfm fan in most cases for proper ventilation.

What about using more cfm would that be better?

Yesnomaybe is the answer.

Yes              It is better for IAQ
No               It is wasting Energy
Maybe       Every home is different and occupants are different. If you have 10 100 gallon fish tanks we might want to ventilate a bit more. There are other reasons as well. We call them when we see them.
For the most part we want to size according to the standards that is why they are there. We want size and install the system correctly and test it to make sure it’s providing you with what you need.

What kind of fan?

This is a good question and the answer can vary given the any different factors.

Balanced system’s which brings fresh air from outside and exhaust stale air from inside. Cost is the biggest issue with this style

Supply only ventilation which brings air from the outside. It puts the home under positive pressure (see does my house suck?) and ensure the air is fresh

Exhaust fans. These are already set up in many homes. The install and parts are more cost effective. However this air will be made up from wherever. Studies have shown that even though there is no control of where the air is pulling from that the air that it pulls in is better than the air in your home. This is the most common strategy not due to performance but due to price.

OK lets seal it tight and ventilate it right!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fight Club

Ok its kinda of weird bur recently it seem that I have been in more confrontations then normally happens. OK  I can own it, for those that know me you might not understand but you are not surprised.  It’s just Gallo being Gallo and let’s face it he can’t help it. While I would agree that I am not the smartest guy in the world, however I am not stupid (okay some would disagree) and I will not back down when I think I am right.
Prove me wrong and I will acknowledge with an apology. However if you cannot substantiate expect a response. Normally not pretty.

I have been recently challenged what in my mind is simply mind boggling.  Adhering to an old standard which none in industry would agree with. I protested, I stood by my values. I supported my arguments and I lost. I would surmise that those I protested against are none too happy with me.  

I am moving on.

Next would be a supplier reneging on an agreement for a discount. Take that away without notice and explanation and expect me to agree.  Well once again I would have to say I disagree. I spoke with te harbinger of this bad news. They reviewed my account and changed their position.

You win some and lose some

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dilution is the solution to Indoor Air Pollution

Cute saying, it rhymes and rings true. Those of us with training in Hers Rating, Performance

Dilution is the solution to Indoor Air Pollution

In Performance Contracting and Building Science have heard this time and again. If we are dozing off in a classroom environment because of the ever so interesting subject of compliance procedures for Energy Star for dealing with an interstitial space in an attic. When the same person for the fifth time asks if he can use visquene to cover this hole and you are past screaming in your head “no shut up you are holding up this ever so interesting class”. The instructor kindly answers that the answer is still no regardless of how many times you ask and how many different ways you ask it, visquene is not solid and that is how I interpret the rule.

The sandman closes in as the gentleman colleague disagrees and continues to expand on the fact that it should be.“Sleep….. you are not in an attic you are in a dimly lit air conditioned classroom” says the sandman “ you do not care about  visquene and interstitial space you want to sleep” and you agree. As gentle sleep folds you in its arms with your head bobbing like a buoy in the ocean while sitting in the classroom in a sea of complete boredom. The instructor then asks how do we handle Indoor pollution “Source Control, dilution” you unwittingly blurt out in an automated response as the rhyme “dilution is the solution to indoor air pollution” dances across your limited consciousness as our gentleman colleague has still not let this visquene point go and expands further.

We do not need to be awake; we do not need to think about it we know this.  What about the average homeowner? How do we convey this information in such a way that they shout from a window “I’ve got indoor air pollution and I’m not going to take it anymore”

How do we get the good word of indoor air quality a subject of conversation? “Well no George I do not have solar but I do have a reduced energy bill due to my source control through air sealing and a continuous use ventilation fan that improves that air I breathe, you should look into it. My house is now cleaner and healthier and I have a reduced energy bill to boot.”

Maybe we need a jingle

ASHRAE 62 point 2 is healthy for us and is good to you shooby  bedooby dooby dooby  doobyity do Call 1800 CLNEAIR for your consultation Today!

put on TV put it on the Radio, publish it in the newspaper, develop the website with cutting edge seo, Have a mass mail campaign, and a full social media assault. WE WILL BUILD AND THEY WILL COME!

Ok bad idea

The answer of course is education and good information. As we move forward in this industry the importance of good information readily being available to the public is important. I think most would agree the good information is out there. Sure we could do better and I am sure we will. The next bit is a bit tricky. How do we get a larger customer base looking for this information? The answer of course is the burden is on us.

Next would be lower cost solutions. Sure we can install an exhaust bath fan at the prescribed rate and pull make up air from wherever at a reasonable cost and is effectively what most customers/builders choose.

I will use a quote I got from a industry partner Dadla Ponzil currently of CCSE. He  calls it air that Contains Ridiculous Amounts of Pollutants or CRAP. It is hard to argue with him as we are uncertain where the air comes from when we exhaust only. Studies would indicate that the air we bring in is of higher quality then the air we exhaust. It would still be nice to know that our fresh air ventilation is actually fresh.

Sure we have balanced ERV and HRV but they are costly. For most homes the uninstalled cost of $ 450-$2000 is pretty big price point I am not saying they are not worth the money merely conveying the objection many have. We can look at supply only and match them with our bath fans in an attempt at a balanced system. But most supply only start at about $ 400 which could hardly be called a savings. We have not added the cost of special switches and ducting.

It  would be nice to have a price point and efficiency  for supply air  something like the whisper quiet fan in the 30 to 80 cfm range to provide fresh supply air into the home. Better yet if it had a point of entry filtration system for easy maintenance. It would seem such a system in combination with an exhaust fan without the recovery could retail less than the current $ 450.00-$2000 of an HRV or ERV for just the parts in the current market.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Does my house suck?

We are not talking in a slang term when we ask this question. What we want to know is if your home is under negative pressure or is it sucking. This important to know and understand when we look a a house as a system. A house under negative pressure will" suck" air in from a host of unwanted areas increasing the chance infiltration and all the negative attributes that come with it.
This is different than the stack effect but the two interact.
We are most concerned about negative pressure in a tight house. By nature a home that is not sealed well we have less of a risk of being in negative pressure. This is because make up air will be drawn in from whatever penetrations are available (infiltration) there and balance the pressure difference. Our homes can be under negative pressure for a number of reasons.  Wind can push on one side of our home and cause a pressure anomaly on the leeward side.
We are always worried about negative pressure in a tight home. This can cause a negative pressure boundary inside the shell of the home. This can cause back drafting and spillage in natural drafting combustion appliances and could bring dangerous CO gases into living space. These gases can then be trapped having nowhere to go in a well sealed home that remains under negative pressure. Moisture build up is also enhanced and the risk of mold, mildew and durability issues is increased. Sick house syndrome is often attributed to a home under negative pressure. Finding the homes minimum ventilation rate is essential information on a tight home.
We are also worried about mechanical systems in all homes. The average home owner might have the ability to put their home into a negative pressure by running appliances. These include but are not limited to clothes dryer at 200 CFM, bathroom fans at 50 to 150 cfm, central vacuums at 100 to 200 cfm, downdraft ranges, microwave and kitchen exhaust vents of 100 cfm or more. Whole house fans can put our homes under severe negative pressure. A leaky ducting system can cause a home to be under negative pressure. Fireplaces can also put our homes under negative pressure.
So what can we do about it? There are several strategies. First we identify through testing. This would be conducting a CAZ test. 
Our goal is to have the home neutral pressure or ideally just slightly positive. This will keep unwanted infiltration and all the problems that come with it entering our homes. If the home is under too much positive pressure we will waste conditioned air through exfiltration and possibly push contaminates back into our living space.
Understanding our pressure boundaries and establishing them where we want them is crucial for indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

“I don’t get it why would we want to make the house so tight that you would need ventilation?”

I was asked this question by a potential customer. I think that this is certainly valid question. I answered it to the best of my ability within the short amount of time. I explained that the mantra of our industry is to seal it tight and ventilate it right. I explained the positive impact on IAQ and reducing the amount of infiltration from the dirty attic. I said our goal was make the house safe and comfortable and we would naturally become more efficient. That our repairs would work 24 hours a day hot or cold rain or shine.
I explained that the house was already tight and our measures would make it tighter and ventilation was necessary if the work was to be performed. ”but I keep windows open all the time” she replied. I explained that the ventilation would still be needed in case the windows were not open. And that filtered fresh air is a good thing. I explained that this is not a new thing as commercial buildings have been employing ventilation needs for decades. I also explained that current codes here in California have ventilation codes.
“Well I could see it if I had small children but I just don’t see the benefit.”  Our customer base is sometimes willing to listen and sometimes defiant. The fact is that these principals for a performance home are difficult for some folks to accept.  They do not understand nor see the benefit. Nor do they want change.
It is easy for most to grasp the concepts of insulation, duct sealing, windows (as misguided as much of the information is) high efficiency HVAC systems and Photovoltaic’s.  The highest hurdle for most of our customers to understand is Ventilation. The fact that we state we can save you energy and then require a device to be installed that was not currently in the home is counter intuitive. You can’t visibly see stale air or infiltration.
While good ventilation might have the highest positive impact it is in my opinion the hardest concept to sell.