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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sealing With Three Times The Value Of Added Insulation

For the job in the previous post, the diligence in floor sealing is worth three times that of added insulation. Here is the presentation of math and more, in anonymous form of a "Paid Invoice." The Paid Invoice is my vehicle for presenting diligence reports to Energy Trust Of Oregon, ETO, in my campaign that they should respect the dignity and needs of their served public. ETO must not coddle a blow and-go cheapening of weatherization, driving out diligent workers. The cheapening phenomenon is an expression of Gresham's Law

Gresham's Law:
In economicsGresham's law is a monetary principle stating that "bad money drives out good". For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will disappear from circulation.

Adding Label Gresham's Law , will help me to remember this explanation of my struggle against inferior work, promoted as better because someone will abuse customers with a phony blower door show.  Advantaged competitors charge more, and do less, calling this Home Performance . Having advantage is corruptive. Telling lies is corruptive. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blessing Dishonesty, In Oregon

As a Trade Ally of Energy Trust of Oregon, banished for protest, I yet attend Trade Ally Meetings, most recently that on February 21, 2012. At this meeting, I mostly just listened in. At the end, I spoke up against ridiculous coping with can lights.


Listening in, I was surprised to hear that air sealing of an attic floor is not required if joists are not visible above insulation. This was expressed as if it were long-standing established policy. Back home, I looked up the words in a draft revision of Specifications for 2012. The changed text in each year's revisions is highlighted.



The new blessing of crime is at page 17, AT 1.1 - Attic Air Sealing



*Top plates may be considered inaccessible when covered by more than five inches of loose-fill insulation or covered by a combination of batt-type and loose-fill insulation. Exterior top plates may be considered inaccessible if adjacent to eaves with a 8/12 or lower roof pitch. Batt-type insulation alone shall not be considered a barrier to access. (highlighted)
This is a specific give-away that allows loose-fill blow-and-go jerks, to stay in the business of just blowing and going. In the typical attic floor with 2x6@16 framing, with found R19 loose-fill to be supplemented, the settled insulation will be nearly 5" deep, with 1/4" covering of joist tops. The exclusion will be claimed and defended. There will be no diligence. No uncovering of savings opportunities to likely have five times the value of added insulation. Those savings then hopelessly lost in the deep sea of loose-fill, that will fall from an attic in any traffic, tracked by any tread in shoes, value damaged irreversibly by the traffic.


Cellulose, and even mineral wool, are fine as base insulation, below joist level, covered then in upgrade, by batts and decking. Here is an example of what is possible, if we stop encouraging the slackers.

At September 2012, I see that the offending exemption of sealing has been deleted in the issued Specifications:

AT 1.1—Attic Air Sealing
To prevent transmission of water vapor and to support the effective R-value of the attic insulation, Existing Homes recommends that all accessible attic penetrations are sealed. Attic air sealing opportunities include plumbing, wiring and duct penetrations, top plates, mechanical chases, soffits and similar openings in the air barrier of the attic. If air sealing, appropriate backing materials shall be used to bridge openings that cannot be effectively closed by a sealant. Caulk, foam or other compatible sealants shall be used. Target areas are listed below in Tables AT 1.1a and AT 1.1b. See the Air Sealing section in this manual for specifications.

Sealing is merely recommended. That is not any better than forgiving it, to those lacking conscience to do right. Dishonest conduct, obstructing the most important work of weatherization, will go on, approved.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

How Big Is A Hole, That Matters?

I have reported that the most-reputable weatherization contractor in metro Portland claimed air sealing of 1100 CFM50 from its two hours of squirting foam, to steal an air sealing rebate. It was an audacious claim. A mere and almost-believable 300 CFM50, would have been enough. Rebate given. No questions asked. No proof required. No explanation for a learning curve in attempted justification of useless Home Performance test-in and test-out. Several blog posts, including this, ask for that justification of HPwES.


On then, with the math for air sealing. It must be math, for small changes are not measurable outside reading uncertainty in test results. Please accept my development of the math, which has been posted to the public for several years, with appeal for comment, and with never a report of error:
https://sites.google.com/site/phillipnormanatticaccess/Home/insulation-math
The math is specific to my gas-heated home in Portland, Oregon, which I think of as average for the nation.

Excerpts applicable to a single-story home:

(Portland, Oregon variables, 4400 HDD, 90% efficient gas furnace, fuel cost boosted to fairer $2 per therm)
Annual Heating Cost Due To Drafts = 0.074 * CFM50
CFM50 = 7.5 * (Path Area, sq in)
Annual Heating Cost = $.555 * (Path Area, sq in)

A required reduction of 300 CFM50 by sealing measures, corresponds to a hole of area 40 sq in, as in a circle 7" diameter.

Reduction of 1100 CFM50 corresponds to path area 1100/7.5 = 147 sq in, as in a rectangle 36" by 4", roughly the area of a ventilation chase I actually did seal. The HPwES contractor cheated, getting the reduction by closing and newly gasketing a closet door.

The reduction of annual heating cost for closure of 40 sq in, is $22.

The reduction of annual heating cost for closure of 147 sq in, is $82. But, leaving the closet as a fully-involved floor pit, walls 180 sf, has heat loss of 2.4*180/3 = $144 per year. Surely, with some throttling by insulation batts, the pit costs more than the infiltration. With the closet door commonly left open, not warned against, there was still the infiltration loss too.

I think these numbers are believable, and disgrace the notion that weatherization is related to achievable small increments of "air sealing." I submit a Diligence Report for each weatherization job, to my rebates organization, Energy Trust of Oregon. Here is an anonymous form of the report related to the 1100 CFM50 claim. I claim that savings to be achieved from sealing are more importantly of closing attic floor pits. Such savings in this job might be larger than $500 per year. They are achieved with much work. Work that is possible only with lighting and safe work surfaces. Work that can not be done by a clown dancing on joists in the dark. 

Back now to the Subject question. How big is an ordinary hole in a house, that matters, costing, say $300 per year?  300/82*147 sq in = 538 sq in. A hole 21 inches diameter. Who will not agree that a hole that size matters?

Now, what does the math say for a door left ajar all year? Say, size 36" x 84", 3024 sq in. CFM50 = 22,680. Annual Heating Cost = $1678. Isn't this math believable? At some point, it is just what your furnace costs, running full-time.




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Honest Work Of Weatherization Prep

Most diligent work in an existing home involves more time in preparation, than in execution. Painting? Certainly. Lead abatement is more than 90% prep. The ratio is rarely less than half. The work of plumbers? Access and tear-out involve knowledge, experience and a lot of knuckle busting. Electricians? Again access and tear-out dwarf the pulling of new wires. When adding insulation, prep including usually some major work by electricians, is far more than half of the job. Goons with nothing but BPI certification start out as liars as brains and executors of the prep, upon which new insulation  may be dumped. Such weatherization is criminal, and persists only because powerful forces permit it, as clean-shirt, green collar work for auditors, staffers and work accomplices, who move public-benefit authorized money. I uncover crimes in 100% of my rare opportunities to observe.


Two of my current, rare work opportunities, where fearful home owners are hoarding their cash, are thwarted by prep not afforded. I won't place insulation without the prep. In one, there is a dangerous structural condition, where a stupid contractor tore out one wall supporting the attic floor. This was blessed by permits and recent, complicit, paid inspection. I am well capable of resetting the attic floor, where the floor insulation needed would then be well under 10% of the work. I would undo further crime by the stupid contractor, where R50 batts were so randomly tossed, as to have value less than R10, and ended up in a dumpster against my wishes. These are signatures of a house flipper, and lax regulation. In the other thwarted job, there is extremely crude knob and tube wiring, where bid electrician cost is more than three times what I require for other diligence, and superior, decked insulation on a carefully sealed attic floor. The home owner thinks the wiring a bad business decision. He is the usual owner of rental property.


A recent binge of re-expressing my complaints is in promise to the renter with the bad wiring. The home owner agreed that I could use his situation as example for the reform of work and regulation in protection of renters whose utility bills and daily danger can be escaped only, by perhaps finding a better deal somewhere else. Perhaps? Not likely. The solution is simply in finding the up-front financing that social interest has demanded, as in Oregon State Rep. Jules Bailey's HB2626 of 2009, and presented for the nation in Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley's S1574 of 2010


The social interest in up-front financing is thwarted everywhere in the USA. In Oregon it is ruined by entanglement with the Home Performance scammers and labor interests. Up-front administration fees of nearly $1000 per project are justified only in grandiose and wasteful packages that leave out my prized would-be customer, who has given up on societal interest, and just stays cold in winter. Here is an anonymous form of her aborted contract, not affordableShe followed my advice to replace her least-favorite window, rather than let in blower-door fanatics pushed by Oregon's Energy Trust. Sharing of my advice to her, with Energy Trust, was a last straw, upon which I was disbarred as an Energy Trust Trade Ally. I am advised that I am required to praise Energy Trust's policies, that are part of the thwarting of Jules Bailey's intentions. Criticism is prohibited.


Will some powerful person in the USA please stand up for my renter-to-be-served, and for the nice lady in her cold house? Let's employ some electricians in the up-front financing. And, none of the BPI frauds.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Training The Green Workforce, Whole House Air Leakage Control

Follow links on training of the green work force, and end up at this document:


Residential Building Envelope Whole House Air Leakage Control Installer Certification Scheme Handbook (RBE-WH-ALC)


Training aims are based on the lie that weatherization boils down to "Performance,"  measurable in reduced readings in blower door tests. Beware of any program described with this  P-word.



The installer(s) will demonstrate their abilities to reduce uncontrolled air movement by creating
continuous durable air pressure boundaries in attics, side attics, crawl spaces and other accessible buffer zones by installing and connecting appropriate materials in a durable fashion.
This work includes:

  • preparation of attic spaces and crawlspaces including confirmation of air sealing completeness before the installation of loose fill, blanket, or rigid board insulation

The scope of this certification scheme is limited to existing buildings, which are not greater than three stories and does not include:

  • sealed flexible mechanically attached membranes, such as the belly wrap under mobile homes or water resistive barriers behind siding
  • interior and exterior finish details and more complex housing types
  • work scope development or alteration, health and safety analysis, including mechanical ventilation, combustion system analysis or alteration
  • installation of loose fill insulation (mineral fiber, fiber glass, cellulose)
  • installation of batt or blanket insulation in open walls, attics, or floors
  • installation of rigid board insulation
  • installation of spray polyurethane foam insulation
  • installation of damp spray, wet spray, or insulation blown behind net
  • installation of membranes, such as belly wrap under mobile homes or water resistive barriers behind siding in mobile home cavities
  • interior and exterior finish details and more complex housing types
  • roof vent and gable vent installation or replacement
  • access techniques to key framing junctures and limited clearance areas
  • skills required to complete all types of insulation in all types of residential construction.
  • commercial construction air sealing skills or certification requirements including carpentry, roofing, siding, plastering and drywall, and standard insulation; nor requirements of licensed specialty trades or advanced installation techniques requiring instrumented diagnostic testing or analysis
This certification scheme is not an installation standard, an application standard or standard work specification.


Nothing of any value to a home owner is included. This is not a typo. The "not include" list items are of course not taught in a classroom or in lab-time play with a blower door. BPI and its followers shall not be sued for misrepresenting the shabby instruction of their Certified Professionals. Certified Professionals may at times be desperate persons with real skill, just buying work with a large and wasteful investment. The only value is in hoarding of work against anyone foolish enough to let honesty limit his income.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Playing The Game: For Shame

All who participate in "performance-based" weatherization, the game in question, tell a lie. The lie is that the prep work for upgrade of residential insulation must be guided "scientifically," with a blower door



The participant player sets this nylon garment into your front door, with a clever aluminum framework that seals it all around. A strong fan blows to the outdoors, pulling air in everywhere else. A "minus 50 pascal" pressure differential is established by winding up the fan, and the calibrated flow rate of the fan is recorded. It's as if a twenty MPH wind is driving against your home from all directions, simultaneously, they say.


Under these conditions, some interesting things happen. Mildly interesting in that few discoveries are actionable. Irksome conditions in that windows and outside doors are shut. Stupid fireplace damper closed, don't forget it. All interior doors are open and subject to some room-to-room differentials. Cool breezes around old doors. Unrealistic inflow at unloaded window gaskets. A failed backdraft stop on a fan might be detected. Stop it, says the home occupant. And the crew goes to work for a couple of hours of "fixing" your home. I'm concerned about what happens in the attic. Can't fix a fan, so forget that.


Untrained people go around with cans of insulating foam, looking for things to squirt. The least-professional will toss the couple of expended cans, still with some flammable propellant, wherever. A pro who has invested a few dollars will dispense via a "gun," not deigning ever to do the messy and stinky change of a cartridge on a job. Perhaps he has invested in  two guns. What he can't see, he doesn't need to know. Two cans expended. Good job done?




No way!


I believe this is a known, taught, scam, that teaches home owners to not trust weatherization contractors, and to question all recommendations from program sponsors.




Here is my first public complaint against the fraud, where the contractor is named. My knowledge is from the rare privilege of being allowed to see another contractor's work. Such work is a secret between the contractor and a rebates organization such as Energy Trust/ Conservation Services Group, in Oregon. My complaint was sniffed-at, by these groups. The contractor was soon elevated to Energy Trust's highest "Three Star" honors. 


All who help deliver Home Performance With Energy Star, "qualified" through crummy  training blessed and taxed by Building Performance Institute, BPI, or through Bonneville Power Administration's Performance Tested Comfort Systems (PTCS), are coddled and rewardedThe advantage given to a playing "three star" contractor can be payout to the contractor of Public Purpose funds, in excess of $10,000 per year. A contractor not playing the game, for whatever its stupid goal, never gets a penny of public money. None ever should. We work for the public, who get to do right and hire smart, if they are not misled. Contractors should be recommended only for their honesty and diligence, demonstrated in years of complaint-free service.


Hiring smart can yield a better result, like this.


To be continued.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tax-Time Courtesy

Where I predict payback from weatherization measures, I take credit for federal tax credits that may apply. It is only ever, a percentage of the retail cost of Energy Star-rated insulation materials. It was effortless for me to produce nine notices this year. I see the communication as a nice new-year greeting.
 The brief content of an email message this year is:



Hello <    >,

If you can use this, just place numbers in your IRS Form 5695.

Phillip Norman
Attic Access
& rest of signature with my links,

I attach a printable pdf document like this.

This is offered in kindness to fellow weatherization contractors, and for show of smallest-business professionalism.

Math of A Furnace-Efficiency Upgrade

I offer a variety of simplified math that relates to the work of attic efficiency and safety, at this web page tab. Facing the need to close a ventilation chase to the attic in a pending job, I wondered whether the home owner should first replace an old gas furnace, that I thought might be 80% efficient. Here is the math I developed:


Payback Study:
Your furnace:
The existing furnace should be professionally evaluated for safety, at minimum.
Furnace replacement with efficiency increase from 80% to 95% efficiency, $1000 per year present operation:
Power consumed is proportional to demand times efficiency, if weather and comfort demanded are constant. In fact, cost is maintained to some extent, affording greater comfort.


$1000*0.8 = X*0.95
X = .8/.95 * $1000 = $842.
Savings per $1000 present cost are $158 per year.
A $4000 replacement furnace cost is repaid in 25 years, if present fuel cost is $1000 per year.


I have pressed HVAC contractors to offer payback studies several times, without success. They may have no more confidence than I, in stating efficiency of the found furnace. Present operation cost is subject to use variables. A new tenant or other change in living needs can cause a large shift, and more variables in a learning curve with fuel bills. Behavior after a replacement will be uncertain. Maybe the user will judge that he can afford to stay more comfortable with the same fuel budget. 


If you make a few assumptions, the math is not impossible.  I am so very happy with a comparable furnace upgrade in my home, but it wasn't over efficiency. Twenty-year old furnaces die shamefully sometimes.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Green Deal in the UK

Insulation up-front financing is happening in the United Kingdom. That's insulation. Not solar collectors, not wind turbines, not "double glazing." But, surely too, sealing against draughts.

How to get energy-efficient with the Green Deal


Loans are to be paid off in 5 to 25 years through utility bills, dependent on circumstances. All loans must abide by a Golden Rule, whereby heating cost savings must exceed the amount taken from bills as loan repayment. Involved interest rates, paid to third-party financiers, are not stated.


The worry is against honesty in the delivery. Why not employ Diligence Reporters? Sure, choose a better name for this competitive, rated, cloud network of housewives and under-employed technical writers. These writers displace our often-mean or absent weatherization monitors and building inspectors. All work is documented, in the interest of every home owner, in every home owners' redundantly-placed online record. The record would serve the interest of the home owner, in facilitating home sale, better financing, and tax-rate rewards.



Thursday, February 2, 2012

Real Air Sealing In An Oregon Attic

I offer a contrast between charged silliness of Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) air sealing, and real sealing, of an Oregon attic. Work complained against, is by the most-respected HPwES contractor in metro Portland, Oregon. The HPwES work was  completed Fall 2008, and left the home occupants feeling no improvement of comfort, helpless and had. I claim a friendship with the owner of the HPwES business, and invited him to confront my complaints, as they hatched. Instead, shielded by the power of a large national commitment to HPwES, he simply challenged me: "How long have you been in this business?" Pathetic me? Six years of energetic learning. He? 25 years. Of such work? I think not. Businesses become corrupted by stupid practices, and the decline likely is only in recent years. There is a basis for defense and pride, but it is not likely that work tied to HPwES, has improved since 2008.


Here is an album showing what I found, and how I fixed it.


There is a lot in the link, for an average reader. Let me summarize. The HPwES contractor accepted a job of improving the "performance" of an attic with dangerous and limited access, and badly-placed found insulation, intended R19. Work done was messy slathering of goop on the home's air handler return ducts and header boxes (air source heat pump electric heat already installed), a wrap of unfaced R11 batts on those ducts, and an aimless hour or two of whimsically dispensing a couple of cans of orange spray foam. That orange foam was abhorrent to the home owner, oozing in kitchen cabinets, and in other areas of the living space. I take it, this is the taught practice of HPwES. Nothing more brainy happens in the "holistic" approach to weatherization. The foam touched gaps of about 5% of the home's drywall wall headers on the attic floor, and was all for a very offending "show" elsewhere in unattached piles and gobs. I infer that a door on the air handler closet whistled under blower door influence, and was quieted with spray foam and new gaskets. The "after" blower door test result can only have been with not-allowed closure of that closet door, for result of more than 1100 CFM50, vs required 300 CFM50, minimum for rebate. Quite an achievement! The HPwES contractor might claim even now, that there was no error or wrong-doing. The rebate sponsor, Energy Trust of Oregon, will not respond to other complaint in the job, against ineffective crawl space insulationI think then that the only way to challenge arrogant HPwES, Energy Trust, and Bonneville Power Administration, is in this kind of public airing.


I have been waiting for HPwES contractors to defend themselves where I have accused them in several places on a public forum: Here, and  here. Responses are aw c'mon, or don't spoil the "game" of auditing. This isn't about taking a home owner's money to do an audit. It's about saving energy, and fixing things. We don't need auditors. We need people who fix things, and document their work for homeowner records. Anyone who does things or writes things that do not have honest value, is part of a problem.