Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Declaring Thin Insulation Batts - Defective

Unfaced R15 insulation recommended by my professional supplier as most cost-effective is:

Owens Corning R15 23x93 "Unfaced" Batts 103.98 sf per bag  See that despite forcing a Google search result of unfaced batts, only big-box store offerings show, mainly with kraft facing. A push of kraft facing upon consumers, is adverse. I can buy unfaced batts at Home Depot as a special order, minimum eight bags on a pallet, store arrival in 7 to 10 days, bag price $73.82.

At my professional supplier, I bought a 4-bag pod, at $77.97 per bag, ahead of a declared 9% price increase on 5/1/2018. Imminently then, the price to a professional installer of OC R15 UNF, is 1.09*$77.97/104 sf =  $817.34 per 1000 sq ft.

I brought the four bags of OC R15 UNF to my job site, a detached garage of a new home.
Determined to be trusting, I pushed all four bags up this very excellent Fakro LWP 22x54  newly-installed attic ladder. A 20.5" clearance is tight for the large bags, but there is nothing to snag a bag, with intelligent springs-on-door durable ladder hardware.

I have reinforced the 2x4 truss bottom elements by stitching on 6" rips of 5/8" or 1/2" CDX plywood, then capped by stitched-on new 2x4s. 2x4s at up to 8 ft span can not otherwise bear any storage loads. I want to insulate the ceiling to R15, which one expects to be 3.5" thick. In fact, thickness must be 3.5" to have that value. I am beyond disappointment, although I am not surprised. I have known that unfaced R15 fiberglass batts from Johns Manville and Owens Corning, if not from all manufacturers, are dependably thinner than promised. The same is true of R21 batts not measuring up to 5.5" thickness (2x6), and R30 Cathedral batts not measuring up to 7.25" (2x8). High Density R15, R21 and R30c are premium materials, more expensive by more than ratio of density, than ordinary batts.

Building Science Corporation: Thermal Metric Summary Report (June 2015 Update) , reports at page iii:   When walls are constructed with the same installed R-value in the stud space, and are air sealed both inside and outside (i.e. there is effectively zero air leakage through the assembly), they  exhibit essentially the same thermal performance regardless of the type of insulation material used.
This, to me, is definitive proof from elaborate experiments, that no material has magic, to have declared R-value, even if it does not fill the space. Conversely this is credited by makers of loose-fill insulation, that uniform added and sustained fluff, makes added insulation from thin air. If makers of insulation, both as batts and as loose-fill, would defend the magic in thin batts, they can not have it both ways.

Rejecting magic then, I pulled up the placed batts, some hacked around lighting junction boxes, and returned them with bags not opened, to be credited back to me, and to be returned to the manufacturer, as defective, not to be passed on to a gullible other buyer. I am probably the first buyer to do this, and I hope I will not be the last. I imagine though that my distributor will not follow my instructions, except for the opened bag. I am compelled then, to be a constructive bother, in other ways. There will be first, this blog post that is within my control.

I have an associated action in progress at Insulation Institute Blog of NAIMA, North American Insulation Manufacturers Association . I perhaps abuse a post of April 5, 2018, in posted replies, accusing product design and quality as not-mentioned elements of achieving RESNET Grade 1 standing. Other readers in the few regions where training is offered, only care about the free instruction for their workers.
Free Grade I Training Coming to Four States 
I think I do not need to experience the training, to know its content. In service to RESNET, Insulation Institute has published a handout checklist guide: GRADE I INSULATION INSTALLATION . Nothing in the checklist tests product quality in the matter of reliably filling the space promised. RESNET Grade 1 is not defined in the Checklist. RESNET Grade 1 is not defined anywhere at the RESNET web site . RESNET is in the business of a Home Energy Rating System, HERS.

NAIMA then, steps in to do the quality description in words and illustration focused entirely on RESNET, despite a confusion of rival quality rating-by-number schemes. I think this is the most-complete expression of NAIMA teaching:


Advanced Energy is a non-profit energy consulting group in North Carolina. Advanced Energy separately publishes its' advice as:
prepplusinsulation.pdf, SUCCESS WITH HOME ENERGY UPGRADES What every contractor needs to know

NAIMA publications including those by Advanced Energy, take care to not conflict with a thin-batts problem  in manufacturing, that defies achieving claimed insulation value. Nothing may compel an installer to fully fill insulation space, to achieve best rating. Here is deliberately-foggy instruction, in words:

Summary of RESNET Grading Criteria:
Grade I – Minor Defects

Occasional very small gaps are allowed. Voids can’t extend from the interior to the exterior (i.e. the full width of a wall cavity). The product is installed according to manufacturer’s specification and cut to fit around electrical junction boxes and is split around wires and pipes. Compression or incomplete fill amounting to 2% or less, if the empty spaces are less than 30% of the intended fill thickness, are acceptable for Grade I.

If a batt fills the insulation space from side to side and is on-the-bag called the correct R-value, this is good enough for Grade I.


Know that the installer has carefully avoided pushing batts to contact with the exterior sheathing, to then unavoidably, very difficult of retraction, lack Ithe appearance of a full fill.

I think the NAIMA/RESNET Grade I definition in words, allows under-fill on thickness by up to 30%. Maybe Grade I, not Grade 1, is abbreviation of Grade Incomplete. Grade II is really-incomplete.

Know that the consensus quality labeling attributed to RESNET is in Arabic , not Roman numerals.

Should I be concerned that I am threatening to fiberglass insulation manufacturers and their lobbyists, NAIMA? If so, this is not the first instance published. At this thought, I have added Label: Thin Insulation Batts in this blog. Find associated writing at that Label, and at Label: Building Codes . I have been engaged in this for at least ten years, and addressed incomplete insulation fill of walls in a proposal for the 2018 revision of the International Energy Conservation Code.

My so-far-best summary of the 2018 building codes quest is in this post:
Math Assessment Of Poorly-Placed Insulation . Copied from that post is this statement of the proposal to deal with thin batts:

My proposal 11881 offered:
R402.2.1 Over-fill of insulation. Wherever possible, insulation shall be confined on all six sides. Insulation fill shall be complete and without voids that could allow air bypass of the insulation. Overfill of insulation shall be required to achieve complete insulation fill. In addition to installation methods that prevent voids within the insulation, the methods shall prevent the presence of air spaces between a barrier film such as the kraft facing of a batt or the containment mesh for blown cellulose, and hard wall coverings such as drywall.

I was an inexperienced individual, investing about $5,000 in preparation and attendance at hearings in the Louisville, KY Convention Center. I stood up for ten proposals and in each, in less than five minutes, accepted unanimous disapproval. Things move so fast, that each Judge surely has somehow noted his vote in advance, I accuse, with small regard for technical merit. If there is weight in standing up to defend or oppose, it is with those honored for repeat engagement, the lobbyists. My sure opponent each time was the National Association Of Home Builders, NAHB . NAHB guards the short-term interests of major home builders, to pocket as much as possible in each home sale, not much caring about interests of home buyers. For the Overfill of insulation proposal, the overwhelming single opponent, was NAIMA.

I have remained engaged with NAIMA, to no effect. I have been willing to try again in Louisville, but know it will be futile if NAIMA has not seen that the proposal is in fact good for its represented manufacturers. How could it be harmful to manufacturers if better code allows them to sell more insulation, I figured. Where in this conversation I state my observation that placement technique for photos and instructional videos, thin batts are delicately placed proud of joist front faces, for appearance of fullness, I am threatened: I must not question the honor and good intentions of NAIMA. Else, I will be shut out of conversation. I have been in defiance of this threat for more than a year, still thinking I might have NAIMA as an ally in Louisville. This post is perhaps the ending of that hope.

Get on then to what I have done on a job, after returning Owens Corning batts R15 unfaced, as defective.

Here is Rockwool R15 in nominal 22 1/2" space. No fussing needed to have uniform 3 1/2" thickness.

There is no buckling in accommodating 5/8" reduction of available space where I have used plywood webbing in growing the truss bottom elements to load-bearing 7" thickness. In a five-star review at the Rockwool web site, I credit edge compression without buckling,  to material friability . Crushing without buckling is virtue, but in trade, the batts are subject to falling apart when carried. The densely-packed insulation bags could not be pushed through 24" oc framing reduced to 20.5" clearance in the attic ladder frame. I carried insulation up one batt at a time, with occasional fragmenting in my grasp.

I am quite happy with 3 1/2" fill of R15 Rockwool batts (always unfaced). The honest-value Rockwool batts cost less too. Unit cost is $39/60.1*1000 = $649 per 1000 sf. Compare to an unsupportable, price-fixed $817 per 1000 sf cost of Owens Corning R15 unfaced fiberglass batts (see above).

Addition to this post will detail layup of batt insulation in layers, rather than thinking batts are readily parted to sandwich wall plumbing and wiring. Knowing that underfill shall not be allowed, unfaced batts about R11 shall be readily available, for sandwiching, and for fill-in at any low spot at an internal or outer layer. Layering/ fill-in batts must be visibly on offer for novice installers at big box stores too. Where fill-in might slow a pro, batts thinner than promised might remain unacceptable.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Insulating A Roof

Who says it is OK to foam a roof, for any odd contractor or home owner? We should fear roof rot within twenty years, unless foaming is with perfect completeness and perfect maintenance, forever, of a vapor barrier over the expanded living space. No one can offer that guarantee. A roof, foamed, rotted, is ruined. 

Instead, Raise The Roof. Look for agreement with the statement "raising a roof does better weatherization than insulating the roof ." Practically, it is less a quest to save energy if a bungalow attic has been converted to living space, and is uninhabitable especially in Summer. Claim comfortable living space, and more of it.

Raise a roofThen weatherize an ordinary attic . Be smart though, about second floor spaces outboard of new and existing attic walls. The excellent builder here sealed none of the large openings between not-conditioned floors, and the walls and ceilings below. Whimsical bungalows will remain challenging of weatherization. Simple cape construction has much hope of rewarding and fairly easy cures, in modified roofs.

As a weatherization contractor working alone, and not as manager of a crew, I have insulated a roof, only a few times. Foaming a roof is not an option, in my opinion. The task with batts is a serious one and will usually be only-wishful thinking of a home owner. As growth of weatherization activity it is not likely in one's budget.

I want to illustrate my general approach, and immediately think of this example of a nice home in the prosperous Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. The link is a Google Photos album.

This afterthought child's play room in a kneewall closet, was cozy only a few months each year. It was mostly uninsulated, drafty, intolerable in high Summer and deep Winter. Here I begin demolition of flimsy paneling. The work followed thorough insulation of the upper attic and all  other kneewall closet floors, with imperfect treatment of all challenging heat bleeds of bungalow construction. Work done in 2008 is reported here in 2018, as example of best-effort coping with difficult-to-insulate bungalow construction, vs. better practice of raising the roof as an ordinary attic over a full second floor.

My method is durable, unlike found flimsy layup of paneling with nails. And yet, it is not honest treatment of all second floor heat bleeds.

Brittle stiff paper behind the paneling removed, a surprisingly full fill of cellulose on this gable wall only, tumbles down. See that insulation blown from outside with ending any hope the exterior sheathing is air tight, failed to treat very leaky non-insulation about the rough frame of a remodel vinyl window. Insulation was almost entirely bypassed by convection and large leakage-movement of conditioned air, between buckled stiff felt paper, and the flimsy wood-panel sheathing of the knee walls and ceiling.

See that I had previously insulated the ordinary floor of the upper attic, and had air sealed and stuffed floors of knee wall closets.

I am quite displeased with my leaving of perhaps-useless paper-faced mineral wool batts upon the second floor attic walls.

See my placement of R15 kraft-faced batts with full filling against roof sheathing. In 2x4 space thinner insulation as with joke "R13" - - must not be commanded to cool  the roof. Allowed convection in foolish and ineffective deference to composition shingle warranty, ruins any insulation value. R15 was little enough, to be achieved. See that some odd roof pitches challenge the imagining of how to place batts.  Did I do right?

Know now that the kraft facing is nearly useless as an air and vapor barrier. I want both.

Apply then, Tenoarm 6-mil virgin polyethylene vapor and air barrier. Lose my shirt with the immense difficulty of setting strong GP Densarmor drywall. Accept meager payment that was larger than the customer wished. Learn that the room was nice for a family with growing-up little girl, now grown. Family moved on, out of Oregon. A heat bleed remains in the triangular wall to left in the photo above, where a difficult, expensive trapezoidal door, was not afforded although framing of the door was provided, just needing a cut through the drywall.

Might the new home owner now wish to raise the roof, for more living space, in a home where rent-out of portions is in great demand? That would be beyond my skills and interest. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Motion-Sensing Outside Lights

I have had this very satisfactory lighting arrangement at the front of my house, since May, 2014. Above the house number see a Atlas Guardian Pro MLGS180 light and motion sensor that controls lights along with a SPDT wall switch inside, just below in my living room. I call single pole double throw for the switch, and bought one, wrong color and odd. An ordinary 2-way switch is what you want; same thing. The 2-way switch with the Guardian sensor, allows forced-on operation, whether or not motion is sensed, in darkness. Want a sensor with options. 

Here is my Atlas Guardian Pro MLGS180W with effective simple mounting upon a luminaire ceiling mount selected from a bin of  Portland reclaimed parts store Hippo Hardware. I had to enlarge the post hole with a file. The still photo missed the periodic, pretty red blink warning of motion sensed. The black slider switch on sensor bottom face has on-hold choices of 10 minutes, 5 minutes 1 minute and TEST. A  sensitivity control RANGE, matters, and a medium setting works best for me.

Please know, Atlas has discontinued this product. Why, I want to know. And, I must now find an equivalent product for mention here.

I am served by Pacific Northwest electrical wholesaler, Platt . Find that my Atlas MLGS180W is still available at Platt, for hefty $50.83. A competing product with same features or better is this:
Desa SL-5316-WH 500W DualBrite Sensor , $21.78.
What has happened? The Atlas product was imported from China, not somehow made more expensively or better. Was it killed by too-aggressive mark-up?

At the Platt website, I am surprised to find this statement of very excellent Customer Service hours:
Call For Availability
4a-midnight (pst) 7 Days
Platt has excellent brick and mortar service of the USA western states, and aspires by excellence, to online sales and service, nationwide. A knowledgeable, nice, real person in Beaverton, Oregon headquarters answers, quickly.

Enlarge my May 2014 notes to self,  for clues how wiring might serve your particular needs.

Know that anyone may choose motion sensor control of outdoor luminaires of any kind. Do math now to gauge the involved savings. Say an old bullhorn fixture has two 12-watt BR40 bulbs operating 24/7, at 11 cents per KWH. Operating cost is 24*365*24*$0.11/1000 = $23 per year. Left on always, the operating cost of a light is about $1 per watt, per year. My two separated LED lights add up to the same wattage and small unit operating cost. My lights operate less than a half hour each day, with daily cost then reduced to nil, by a factor of fifty. Being the cause of lights coming on, greatly adds to deterrence of an intruder, and that is more important than my savings.

Controlling a security light to come on only when needed is a painless way to add an increment of energy responsibility and independence. Say an electrician buys this business opportunity with an efficient package costing $100. Accepting, you will achieve simple payback in four or five years. The savings really are much more than this. Consider the present value of savings well beyond repayment, vs. installed cost. Say you value $20 per year savings  now, out ten or twenty years. Correctly compute the present value of those savings using Perpetuity Math . Out five years the savings have a present value near the $100 installed cost. Out ten years, present value of savings is $280. Out twenty years, present value of savings is $880. Where but with energy conservation can secure investments get such large returns?

Please don't diss a $20 per year savings opportunity as too little to matter. Control many of your indoor and outdoor lights, as painless means of adding to your savings Present Value in a pot of gold stashed somewhere.

I have never tolerated this foolishness. Bug-eyes. Illuminating - - what?

So, I'm not saving money. I just have a better life. I don't have to find entry in darkness, to then maybe turn on porch and driveway silly sconce decorations.

Overhead lights are ideal upon a porch, where the need is handling of keys and objects, foot-fall safety and more, within and about a door. Any sconce light is wasteful decor wrongly aimed for your task. I believe my want of wall mounting only of sensing controls is shared by others. I will fill out this post with further learning about this mounting challenge.

mount plate for lighting control motion sensor 
WattStopper CX-100 Occupancy Sensor, Ceiling/Wall, 2000 Sq. Ft., 24V i

WattStopper CX-100 Occupancy Sensor

Nice, but $82.99 at Westside Wholesale. Perhaps not including a mounting plate, in less-expensive offerings.

At the 19th page of tabbing through Google images, I find this:
Motion Sensor LED Light for Door Lock - No More Fumbling in the Dark!

At page 21, for $29.99:
Aityvert Solar Motion Sensor Light Outdoor, 12 LED 150Lumen Super Bright Wireless Waterproof Security Wall Light with Sensor Actived Auto On/Off for

End of results at page 22. Nothing better found.

Persist in a search for commercially-available mounting plates for lighting control motion sensors.
lighting motion sensor mounting plate 
Find writeups in parallel with this blog post:
Family Handyman: Installing a Remote Motion Detector for Lighting 
Motion sensor
This RAB sensor is available at about $50, and is not loved in reviews. It is not waterproof and floods. Aiming is not evident. There is no sensitivity or time-on control. It does prettily cover an octagon box.

WikiHow: How To Install an Outdoor Motion Sensor Light 
Find no wiring and product detail, and suggestion only, of a sensor that looks like this.
Image titled Install an Outdoor Motion Sensor Light Step 14

Here at last are two commercially available mounting plates for an octagon lighting junction box, on trial purchase from Platt, for exhibition in this post. A motion sensor obviously could engage the threaded center of either. I find them too ugly for prominence on my front porch, and would not push them on customers. I will return them in their unopened packaging. 
Hubbell-Raco 5193-6 1/2" Outlet, 4" Diameter, Weatherproof Cover , $8.95
Mulberry Metal 30367 Weatherproof Cover, 4" Round, (1) 1/2" Hub, Aluminum , $3.57

See here the nature of wires to be connected. This assembly was taken down from a closet ceiling, sandwiched between a RACO 175 junction box, and an LED Disk downlight. Operation by sensed motion was unavoidably freaky, and I packed this away with vengeance. For closet light control, use a door switch, Functional Devices Inc., CLC-106 . The FDI switch is better than Betterswitch BS 210 .

Three 14 ga stranded wires with twist connectors, can not be contained in a pan junction box.