Friday, May 22, 2009

PTCS Air Sealing? I Sold My Blower Door.

The meaning of the acronym PTCS, is Performance Tested Comfort Systems. This resides at, which is maintained in Portland, Oregon, by Ecos Consulting. PTCS has been a bugaboo to me. Oregon Department of Energy has delegated its training responsibility for weatherization contractors, to ptcsnw/ ECOS. That responsibility currently is carried out by instruction through Energy Trust, in sealing HVAC ducts, and installing heat pumps. These classes are motivated for a large number of weatherization contractors, by Energy Trust of Oregon rebate requirements (see end of this post). Useful skills will be taught in the classes, but they should not qualify anyone and everyone, to work as HVAC specialists. I would not ever compete for that work, but would refer a real specialist that I trust. I don't want to invest in the HVAC instruction, for a couple of reasons:

First, there is substantial cost of about $1000, my time of two full days in class, and a $400 tuition. If the instruction really is important to people I serve, the tuition should be rebated somehow as reward for my unpaid dedication to my community. My costs are in the thousands of dollars, for unrewarded bid visits and telephone advice, often surpassing what a paid auditor offers a homeowner. I think the knowledge of PTCS that should matter to me as I make attics useful, whatever it is, is in the public domain, and should be accessible online. All paid people are ultimately funded by taxes, here a 3% addition to natural gas and electricity bills. Anyone, not just paying contractors, should get back more than one-time rebates for conservation measures. There should be no obstacles between public-domain knowledge, and the public, anyone, who might have use of that knowledge. The gripe is similar to what I feel about codes turned over to publishers, to make a profit. I will pay for nicely-bound code documents, but expect to find them in online pdf form, for free download. There should be no barrier of access, to things in the public domain, that I need to know.

Second, I know that the instructor of Ecos/ ptcsnw duct sealing classes, has stated in a Home Energy Magazine article here, that duct sealing with wrap-and-goop is objectionable to many workers, and that foil-faced double-backed butyl tape I have reported finding useful, is good. 2009 Energy Trust Specifications, at DS 1.5, ban the foil tape except on air handlers. I can not accept that I have done wrong in my employment of Polyken Foilmastic 367-17. I have protested the Energy Trust rule. One application I am absolutely proud of, is the joining of flexible heating ducts to a steel collar insufficiently smaller than the duct ID. I have achieved secure coupling in several homes, where ducts were detached, by slitting the duct in 120 degree sectors, applying 367-17 to the ID tightly-smoothly-generously, to form a bell. I then wrapped the improved duct and collar in OD application of 367-17. I challenge anyone to do this repair with wrap-and-goop. If I am in rebellion, I can not attend the class.

I have not invested in the tools of real HVAC professionals, including a duct blaster and other more-complex equipment. I bought a blower door last August, but just sold it. I only bought the blower door, to support customers with air-sealing-achievement rebates. Thankfully, such rebates have been eliminated in Oregon. I do not wish to compete dishonestly with the real HVAC professionals, or with professionals engaged daily as Home Performance testers. Home Performance testing demands daily practice, and investment in all tools, including all elements of Energy Conservatory products, and infrared thermography equipment. I am sad that my buyer, a general contractor like me, intends to delegate testing work to an employee, also not a dedicated professional, and to snag general contracts through the aura of holistic treatment of a home. General takes cuts on Subs. I don't do that. I want the homeowner to independently choose best contractors for all work. No cuts out of the homeowner's pocket. Home Performance testing is a summary task, after obvious things have been fixed. Get a greenness score for real estate purposes, and be sure a home is not too tight. One need not do testing, to imagine big measures of weatherization, HVAC upgrades, thorough crawl space ground barrier sealing and radon mitigation including heat-recovery ventilation.

There are strong emotions, perhaps mostly relief, in selling the blower door, though it had been sitting idle in my living room, tying up capital. I had been refused an air-sealing rebate in an oil-heated home subject to Oregon Department of Energy rebates, for want of PTCS certification. In the job, I patched visible, large holes, including a car-bashed garage wall, not found through another contractor's blower door test. That was not work for an HVAC professional. I promised to sell the blower door, if ODOE would not deal with this irrationality. Another bump to emotions over blower-door irrationality is in performance testing as a BASIS for duct sealing. (The PT in PTCS, taken to excess.) Energy Trust allows a rebate for duct wrapping, only if the ducts have been tested (with a duct blaster). Duct sealing and duct wrapping rebates hereafter apply only to work done by PTCS-trained HVAC technicians. In many homes, the entirety of a home's HVAC ducting is visible in a crawl space or attic. An insulation installer can know that ducts are intact, and could wrap them with opportune timing, but that is banned.

HVAC ducts should not be allowed to leak, but Energy Trust allows leaks to be deliberately maintained, if needed to achieve minimum fresh-air exchange, 7 ACH or greater at 50pa. See the requirement here, at AS 1.62. If one wants more fresh air, do it intelligently, with an HRV installation! Other absurdities are brought in, with the campaign to sell PTCS training. I will be out of this business, until it is fixed. If I find a detached duct, I will assuredly re-connect it, and might foil-tape it. Shame on me. No rebate. None deserved. Failed to test? Punish me.


amorrison1978 said...

Phil - it is highly recommended that you take the time to research the topics you comment on, lest you continue to post erroneous information.
PTCS is not the same as ETO; PTCS is a standard (like the building code is a standard) developed by the Regional Technical Forum, an advisory board that informs the Northwest Power & Conservation Council (NWPCC).
PTCS is not part of the ETO. PTCS & PTCS trainings are not funded by the 3% surcharge exacted by the ETO from NWN, PGE, & PacifiCorp customers; that money goes to fund ETO-only programs in ETO territory.
PTCS is funded by BPA, and qualifies work done in BPA utility-territory (OR, WA, ID, & MT)
The specifications for PTCS are in public domain, both at the RTF website & at the PTCS site.
Please refrain from posting any further false information until you have a clear understanding of the subject.

Thank you

Phil Norman said...

As author of the post, I have been troubled by the accusation of lying, deliberately giving false information. With knowledge that my service of ducts for consumers is quite mature, as demonstrated in an especially thorough and innovative project, I have placed my response here mainly as a new post. A half-day after the wee-hours post, I met with Mr. Morrison here, and his supervisor, in an Ecos Consulting conference room, for a nice half-hour getting-to-know-each other. They will now know that I am sincere, more than capable, and a worthy critic.

Nothing has changed to make me accepting of PTCS and its parentage at BPA and RTF. Now, what merit do BPA and RTF have to be the imposers of the careless tax, barrier to entry, willful failure to know that listed technicians are honest and worthy. I'm sure most are, but that will not be any credit to BPA, which knows nothing, has nothing to teach, and heartlessly gives nothing back to consumers from its taking of many thousands of tax dollars and living upon murder of billions of salmon.

After many months of asking and absolute silence in response, I have a report on distribution of the registry tax, typically $400.

"The money goes to the contract trainers, the people/companies who provide training space, to our program management for arranging everything, and to whomever provides the training materials."

It doesn't add up to $400 per student in a large class. I still believe the involved knowledge is so important that it must be given free - to everyone. Whatever a trainer knows has already been paid-for by us. Instead, the only training for the public, noted at bottom of my new post, is evil advice to use duct tape. I think BPA has enough debt to us that it might be key to a renaming of cheap tapes.

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