Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fighting The Lies Of Home Performance, In Public Forums

Upon opening, please know this post has a really good following. Readers: let us please talk to each other. This is important. What shall we do to restore sanity in a lively new campaign to work really hard on the low fruit in existing homes, absent any greed? Work certainly to include rental properties, residential and commercial, now generally neglected. We need real training in the needed hard work, done safely and including full treatment of safety matters as in old wiring. We need a many-fold quick increase in the number of workers employed. No moats to be crossed by throwing money to BPI. Acceptance that blower doors are rarely part of the solution, and most opportunities are in small bites of up-front financing. Tilt the pendulum away from grand and wasteful projects for a very few.

One public forum engaged is that of Saturn Resource Management, SRMI, in Helena, Montana. SRMI is an honest and affordable source of training for those who submit to BPI Certification, under the intense pressure of a mad national "industry."

SRMI maintains a Public Forum, where my entry is the last word on thread "air leakage."  
In summary:
A blower door can not guide or measure consequences of weatherization. It is never "home performance" testing.

Readers at SRMI might want to prove me wrong. They can't.

I was introduced to SRMI about four years ago, and own and have studied, their textbooks. Chris Dorsi, then a principal of SRMI,  spoke at Earth Advantage Institute, in Portland. I admire his integrity, and wish we could talk again. He will be in Portland in the first week of December, 2012, throwing credibility to nemesis Energy Conservation Training Company, ECONTC. I can't attend the conference. Who can afford $1095 for the fruitless stew? Yes I know, there is much fat in the skimming of weatherization, for and by, a privileged few.

At 12/23/2012, I remember to report here that the Habitat X 2012 Portland Conference was cancelled without fanfare. That fact is not evident in my Google search now. I blame Portland sponsors for, among many other things, letting the cost be so great. I have asked Energy Trust of Oregon to explain the event failure, and get no response. My question is charged, where I infer sign of deserved collapse of HPwES.

I am grateful to site InspectionNews, for sharing on many topics that concern me, with contribution mainly by professional home inspectors. I have contributed to threads on attic areas, including this: 

The lies of home performance are addressed in this blog, a public forum offered through the kindness of Google.

Jul 21, 2012
HPwES is not accepted in all states. We CAN drive it away, by alternative development in resistive states. I think few nations will follow our bad example, in telling lies about what a jerk can do with a blower door, in a clean ...
Apr 28, 2012
But, never while lies persist, that they are needful. Trained eyes find every problem, where I have done the hard work of developing attic access. In every case where I have followed a HPwES tester, I find large savings ...
Oct 04, 2012
Tell lies, and then go on to commit fraud through conflicts of interest and the can of foam trick, evidently taught and sponsored by the HPwES program developers. The HBA News lie is expressed verbatim in a release by ...
Apr 27, 2012
Good contractors like me excluded from the delivery, where I declare a lie the notion that that weatherization can be guided by blower door testing, and must be aggregated under home performance contractors, HPwES.
Feb 14, 2012
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 ... To be continued. Posted by Phil Norman at 9:23 AM · Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook. Labels: BPA, HPwES, Policy Revision ...
Feb 17, 2012
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 ...
May 22, 2009
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 ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Sense Of Gas Usage History

My natural gas utility is able to provide customer gas usage histories going back six years. This can be requested in a phone call or in an online account query. I thought I would simply study annual totals, and they do have meaning, but learned I must work with each month's numbers. Just ask for the monthly list, and do all math yourself. I offer a detailed example for one customer, to follow results of substantial sealing and insulation improvements in the winter of 2010. About half of the history will precede improvements, and half will follow.

Please experience as much of the job as you wish, in job photo albums. Some elements of this job have been shared in older posts, for example, discussion of soffit baffles.

At 11/4/2014, look for further discussion of this job , with charts of gas usage for a 23 year span. 

Garage Attic Ladder  

Work actually began in 2008, with installation of a first  MidMade attic ladder in a newly-replaced garage drywall ceiling. 

House Attic Ladder   

Here I coped with replacement of a defective door limit arm. My enthusiasm for MidMade ladders was not reduced.

House Attic Prep 

Added top-layer insulation was crumpled kraft-faced. For intimate placement, I stripped all facing. All pink batts fit in a much-more-thorough base course overflowing the tops of 2x4 truss bottom elements.

Please know this was not a best effort with flooring of a truss attic. Please find many better examples at this blog.

House Attic Baffles & Insulation 

This attic is now well-ventilated, over thorough R40 insulation. Found batts generally blocked soffit vents.

This is at February 23, 2010.

Middle Attic Insulation & Decking  

Here is a small attic accessible through the garage. 

Crossing layers of R15 will slow large heat losses through bedroom walls. 

Why would one stop at R15?

This is at March 15, 2010.

Here is an Excel chart of the natural gas usage in this home:

Do you see change starting in February, 2010? Here are monthly numbers, and annual totals July through June. I see annual savings of up to $600 per year. Maybe as little as $200. It is hard to work past variables of weather and lifestyle. We all should have the privilege of such after-job monitoring. It is a bit of work requiring ownership and modest skill, in Excel. A gas utility might  send charts and tables annually in July, and/ or at the time a rebate is paid. Twelve-month average therms per day, as charted in paper bills, are not useful in seeking a bigger picture. I wish I had known to seek a six years history in 2010, to add to this time line. Many of us keep a long history of bills. This customer could readily help me look further back, with retained or logged monthly statements.

I have bothered to predict savings, and results are presented with analysis, here
In summary:

Main Attic Insulation: $61/yr.
Main Attic Floor Sealing: $200/yr
Middle Attic Insulation: $30/ yr

Total: $291 per year, at $2 per therm gas cost. More than two thirds is from sealing that has no impact on readings of a blower door. A blower door is never the measure of effective floor sealing.

Savings from weatherization investments are reduced  at subsidized, not real fuel cost, $1.15 per therm for natural gas in this home, in 2012. 

There is a corresponding saving of air handling electricity cost. My own gas and electricity usage numbers suggest about $20 per month additional electricity average in the heating season, vs $35 per month for natural gas. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Steel Ducts Heat Capacity, Forced Hot Air Heat

I am enjoying steadier, quieter heat, where I replaced the leaky old steel warm air ducts in my crawl space.

I don't want to remember found conditions in my crawl space, where an impassable 14" diameter trunk fed variously-wyed 6" ducts at mid height. Here is a less-traumatic view, ducts down this past Summer:

Here is the new trunk 10" by 20" by 10 ft, lined.

Here are views, with flex ducts attached.

The crawl space will be conditioned and warmer. I won't need precarious duct wrap, except at the floor boots. There is ruggedness, simplicity, and very assured sealing of ducts. All good, but I wonder, have I done even more good by taking away waste of heat in warming the old ducts in each furnace heat cycle?

Surely the internet will tell me. Google-search ""heat capacity of steel" steel heat ducts", and get;

  1. PDF] 

    Fourier-based Calculations of Temperatures of Structural Steel
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
    Structural steel, when exposed to a uniform heat source at temperature T, will, in the absence of .... specific heat capacity of steel ..... AC and heating ducts, 4.

Modern Hydronic Heating: For Residential and Light Commercial ... - Page 127 - Google Books Result
John Siegenthaler - 2011 - Technology & Engineering
by 1°F. The heat capacity of a material can be found by multiplying the specific ... theheat capacity of steel, which reflects both its specific heat and density, ... water can convey the same amount of heat as a 14- by 8-inch duct conveying air, ...

No, it is not a well-expressed topic. Nothing more relevant further down, within my limits of patience. The second hit is interesting in questioning acceptance of forced air heat and consequent badly-placed ducts, but not on-topic.

Here are my assumptions doing this afresh, by myself:
  • Crawl space at 200-day heating season average of 50°F.
  • Average air temperature within ducts in a cycle is 90°F.
  • Wrapped ducts heat inertia is such that temperatures are followed 50%.
  • The furnace cycles every half hour, 48 times per day.
  • The total mass of ducts is 120 pounds.
The temperature change of the total mass of heat ducts is 10°F in each cycle.
The heat consumed in each furnace cycle is:
m * Cp * delta T
where m = 120 pounds mass
Specific Heat Capacity, Cp = 0.12 BTU/pound/°F
delta T = 10°F

BTU wasted in each cycle: 120 * 0.12 * 10 = 144 BTU
Times 48 cycles
Times 200 days
Result: 1,380,000 BTU per year

Times 0.00001 to convert to therms, is 13.8 therms.

Times $2 per therm is $28 per year.

I think this is low by a factor of two or more. The average cycle is perhaps by more than 10°F. I would believe 30°F is common for a well-ventilated crawl space in moderately cold climates.

I think the heat capacity issue outweighs savings in stopped leakage. Heated air doesn't cost much, with its tiny heat capacity.

Surely there are savings to justify the new ducts, beyond making them airtight and assuredly wrapped. I like the near-instant response, warm air out of ducts.

Google now finds this post, top of list. Bing is out to lunch.

At 10/1/2013, insert a test phrase, to see when it becomes detectable:

"heat up cool down HVAC steel duct mass energy used"

Please find more posts on this subject: 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Better Knife For Cutting Fiberglass Batts?

Amazon knows I am interested in Victorinox knives. This knife was offered  today:

Victorinox 12-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife with Fibrox Handle

I doubt it is better than my current tool for cutting fiberglass batts, having a "Wavy Edge."

The fibrox handle appears to be more suitable for my purpose. The wider blade may cut straighter.

I'll accept that blogging brings responsibility. I just bought the "granton edge" knife, and will report a comparison in cutting fiberglass batts. 

And, here is the result:
The wavy edge blade is the winner. The new granton edge knife is sharper, but is not a tenth as good at making progress in a fiberglass batt. Very frustrating. 

Teeth are essential, but if blunt, as with a wood saw, leave messy fragments. The wavy edge blade just cuts, cleanly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Insulation Math

I have been hoping for comments on this dissertation at my web site. Web site tab "Insulation Math" has general application, with focus on attic access issues. I get down to real dollar numbers, for my home in Portland, Oregon. Variables to adjust for your location and form of heat, are evident.

Perhaps the reply options with a blog will make conversation easier. I welcome comments and corrections

Further Conversation With Sam

In the previous post, there is only  text and hyperlink  reporting of an email conversation. An attachment shared with Sam on September 4th, was important in expressing an alternative to false and often-fraudulent  leadership by showmen with blower doors.

The first need in fixing attic energy bleeds, is access. Access includes a finished result for the home owner, the following photo specifically that of the attachment shared with Sam. 

More than a year after the attic weatherization, planned knee wall braces were added. The braces are novel in that loads of the roof are borne to exterior walls by strong composite beams. There are no load-bearing interior walls. Several found dried-out 24-foot 2 x 6 joists had split in this warehouse structure, a home now, remnant of Portland's 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition.

Here is the attachment, called "Paid Invoice" and summarizing actions and savings, in a job. 

Planned roof braces were sketched in the attachment. Here are details of the actual braces. For further description, please consult the parent Picasa web album .

The well-finished result is not for storage, but is an artifact of all the work done to seal a very-leaky attic floor. More needs to be done. The home owner has his own ideas of how to ventilate the attic, and will do his experiments. I must return to install knee wall braces and steel peak ties against unzipping of the roof in a wind event. The bath fan duct should be solid steel, much shorter, up through the roof at the new knee wall.

The alternative to all this work and real energy savings, was the bid of a HPwES contractor. He would have crawled under chest bangers of the found attic

to just bury all savings opportunities. 

(Includes Foaming all Mechanical and Electrical Penetrations):
Upgrade Attic Insulation to R38: Blow-in Loose Fill Fiberglass and R38 Unfaced
Fiberglass Batts
Fix Bath Fan Connection
Baffles at Eave Vents
FOR THE SUM OF: $555.00
OPTION: Add 2 Lower Soffit Vents for Attic Ventilation - $60.00
Add 2 Roof Vents for Attic Ventilation - $100.00

Pretty darn cheap, but there was little to be saved by just adding insulation. I think this attic was seen as too difficult and dangerous. Just get in and get out. No sealing. No blower door test-in and test-out. Forget the HPwES baloney.

The alternative to HPwES, then, is the hard work of access: 
Please study this 120 page photo album. There is disclosure of clever methods, and opportunity for anyone to comment, perhaps sharing yet-better methods. Blower door actors have nothing like this to share, justifying their mode of leadership. Their "marketing" to snag customers, is shrouded in encouraged secrecy.

The worker who will create access for his own good diligence, and that of others, should lead the weatherization quest. And let that leadership not be as a General. With initial access, send in a licensed electrician. There nearly always are hazards that, like energy bleeds, must not be buried. Each trade should have full responsibility, in independent relationships with the home owner. Good tradesmen do not want to be subs. Substandard tradesmen find cover behind a General, who may seek them out to cut cost.

Get rid of the BPI General, and a BPI tax upon investments to save energy. Fierce marketing for BPI now includes home builders. This in the  October 2012 issue of HBA News in Portland, Oregon:

If you aren’t a BPI certified Home Performance with Energy Star contractor or an Energy Trust of Oregon trade Ally then your upsell will include bringing in one of these certified professionals - - - 

We have had enough of the greed of BPI in trying to promote HPwES through advantage promised to the players. Aggregating rebates to HPwES Generals was one of the schemes that killed Home Star weatherization funding in 2010.

I was waiting, as the foregoing was posted, to find out whether my NW Portland customer will receive a requested sealing rebate. The rebates sponsor admits test-in with a blower door is needless, but has honor invested in advocating HPwES. It is hard to admit when you have done people wrong. More to the point, blower door test-in, admitted as not needed, also admits that a blower door is not a diagnostic tool; it is only a marketing novelty.

Of course, the sealing rebate is denied. Energy Trust of Oregon is loathe to lead in the ruin of HPwES. 

My message of October 19, 2012:

Hello Tom,

I was so ready to read refusal in this:

We are unable to accept incentive applications for air sealing unless they are supported by a blower door test performed by a certified technician. You may subcontract the tests to another trade ally, or obtain the training and certification yourself. Given the consistently high quality of your work, I suggest the latter. You will be able to offer incentives, provide input to shape our programs and participate in pilots to help the industry move in new directions.

that I did not see your simple offer of rebate with a blower door test-out. 

This is as I offered in the Paid Invoice:
The indulgence of Energy Trust is asked in a test-out blower door report, if needed for the air sealing rebate. Society, not the customer, should pay for any contribution to publicly-disclosed blower door lore. 

Neither a test in or a test out has any value except as the public lore. Very little of my valuable sealing would affect a blower door, and it would have been nice to show that, not a number as discredited measure of energy savings.

Please suggest a public resource for the test. Can CSG do this for me?

Phil Norman

Response received  October 19, 2012:

Hello, Phil:

I am sorry if I caused any misunderstanding in the last email. There is no public resource for a blower door test, and we are unable to pay an air sealing incentive without a pre and post-test to demonstrate actual reductions in air leakage.

As soon as I know about an exception for insulation, I’ll follow up with you.

This is NOT acceptable adherence to rules. Rules may not be enforced, where they act against the public interest. A change in blower door readings is not a measure of closing attic floor pits, so abundant in this attic, needful of repair, and never offered as repair by the irresponsible HPwES competitor.

I estimate $770 per year savings due to new weatherization. Only $110 of this is from added insulation. 86% of savings are from diligence that was not offered by the HPwES contractor. My full sealing of the attic floor would have negligible impact on a blower door test. This job is an excellent but not unusual display of the uselessness of HPwES.

Shame, shame on Energy Trust of Oregon, for preference of harm to this customer, in defense of rotten programs.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Admission Of Snake Oil

I try hard to bring the primary weatherization sponsor for Oregon, into my camp of Home Performance dissidence.

In a hopeful rebuttal of my views, I was alerted to this news article, on August 31st:
(Daily Blog for Portland, Oregon, of the Northwest's Daily Journal of Commerce, August 27, 2012) 

The taunt said, "Break out your blower door, Phil."

On September 1st, I sent this message to the author of the article:

Hello Sam,

Will you please offer one example of attic weatherization (the most-important, to be done first and best), that required "science," in discovery by a blower door?

I offer many examples of jobs done correctly, where repairs could not be discovered by a blower door.

On September 4th, Sam said:

I didn't title that editorial, the DJC did.  I invite you read more closely, again.  I certainly didn't imply we should "stop offering incentives for the smaller jobs."  if you can provide an interpretation of my piece that does I will ask the DLC for a retraction!

I am merely advocating for an increase in the incentives and the types of work that support for our entire industry.  Most importantly I suggest we should incentivize larger, deep energy retrofits that use  building physics and energy modeling, using criteria provided not only by 
payback times but also by factors such as comfort and indoor air quality.

As for the one example, I guess I just say that blower doors measure the air leakage of a structure at a given pressure difference between inside and out side.  A blower door is a tool, not the science.  I hope I didn't say  that blower doors are the be-all-end-all of our trade or building science.  That being said, I know that we use blower doors, along with arduous physical inspections (down and dirty indeed), all the time to help us air seal buildings.  Are we doing something wrong?

On September 4th, I said:

Here is the challenge again, in the last paragraph of a blog post:

If you do not have direct knowledge of an example, please ask others. I respect Hammer & Hand, from HBA exposure through the Urban Timberworks meeting. Repairs achieved, the diligence, should be noted in every job. I attach a recent example Diligence Report, with brief summary of repairs fully documented in photo albums. If lacking reports and associated billing, do you really believe diligence is achieved?

On September 27th, I said:
Hello Sam,

I now take your lack of response, as admission no one at Hammer & Hand can name an instance where a blower door was of service in any significant air sealing. Perhaps a window or door seal whistled in the odd inflow and was fixed, for negligible savings.

Am I wrong?

On September 27th, Sam said:


Honestly, we are so far apart on this that I don't know what to say. I am at a loss. 

On September 27th, I said:

Hello Sam,


Will you please offer one example of attic weatherization (the most-important, to be done first and best), that required "science," in discovery by a blower door? 

Aside from my option to post this, I must suffer an end to the conversation.

Will my tiny public please judge: Who is right here?

Fresh Air Is Free

Fresh air is free. Heating it and handling it is necessary and affordable where there is not ridiculous excess. The cost of heating in a forced hot air system is not the heating of a small amount of fresh air. It  is primarily the cost of heating surfaces of floors, ceilings, walls, windows and doors, with the circulated air. Here is the math for my house.

My natural gas usage averages 300 therms per year, for the past six years. I choose to apply a cost of $2 per therm, as expressed in my web page, Insulation Math. The $2 per therm gas cost is $600 per year.

Here, I assessed the quantity of fresh air I receive, 1330 CFM50 in a 1000 sf single-story home. I reckon ACHnat at the high end of the desirable range of from 0.25 to 0.5  changes of the house air volume, per hour. This is slightly more than I want.

The Insulation Math converts this blower door result, to a heating cost, as 0.074*CFM50, about $100 per year. One sixth of my annual heating cost is for the fresh air, and a lesser fraction is voluntary. I am in the midst of upgrades in my home that will at last tighten things, by perhaps 500 CFM50. I'll still have enough fresh air. I will save less than $40 per year by the tightening. I will save a LOT more by insulation measures, completing the insulation of outside walls by interior drywall tear-down, and sealing/ conditioning my crawl space. I have new, airtight heat ducts in the crawl space, and I don't need a jerk with a duct blaster to prove the air tightness. My new 95% efficiency gas furnace will become more effective where the steel header from the furnace is lined, and individual registers are served by flexible ducts. The savings include leakage elimination and, much more importantly, the elimination of the old steel ducts heat capacity sucked up in each cycle.

The picture of relative significance of fresh air cost and losses through windows and walls is very similar, for the very dissimilar Uphill House, in upstate New York. About $100 per year  to heat air, of a total of about $500 per year for all heating costs.

We call the lie then of this statement in the October 2012 issue of HBA News in Portland, Oregon:
Air leakage is the largest source of heat loss in most homes. Warm air leaks up and out openings high in the house, creating low pressure and sucking cold air through the openings low in the house.
The lie is necessary to the continuance of a Home Performance Industry, all those believers that all weatherization is in the numbers of blower door tests. Tell lies, and then go on to commit fraud through conflicts of interest and the can of foam trick, evidently taught and sponsored by the HPwES program developers.

The HBA News lie is expressed verbatim  in a release by Upper Valley Heat, in Lebanon New Hampshire. I don't think HBA News got their text from Upper Valley Heat.