Monday, December 4, 2017

A Yet-Better Replacement Of A Drywall-Plunker Attic Access Hatch

This is a high-end new home. Yet, the access to the attic is standard cheapness and thoughtlessness. The plunker and tied-on R38 batt lift with difficulty and with handling dangers. Slight handling errors break the brittle drywall. Allowing for bare areas, the effective value of the burdensome insulation is only R7.

75% R38. 25% uninsulated.

1/(Reff + 3) = .25/3 + .75/41

Reff = 7

Or, is it even that good? The number 3 in math so far, represents the sum of convection and conduction resistances in a complex wall with at least two convection interfaces, aiming for a highest number, so as to not over-estimate savings with correction. What if the real sum here is only 1.3?
0.17 + 0.45 + 0.68 = 1.3 (Colorado Energy numbers)
1/(Reff + 1.3) = .25/1.3 + .75/(38 + 1.3)

Reff = 3.4, doubling the heat cost as-found. Ueff = Reff = 1/3.4 = 0.29

My insulation math at 95% furnace efficiency and natural gas cost of $2 per therm, says heat cost per year is: $2.4*Area*.88/.95*Ueff.
Area = 3.6 sq ft.
Cost per year: $2.30. Compare to cost of $0.20 per year at 3.6 sq ft of R38 ceiling, U = 1/39.3.

With my usual analysis with that number 3, Reff = 7, cost per year is:
$2.4*3.6*.88/.95/(7 + 3) = $0.80. 

Save $2.10 per year or $1.50 per year with the better hatch cover. Motivation is the same whatever the math. The gob is even more a nuisance and safety hazard, than a false economy. Avoid spending more for the better hatch.

Here is the replacement hatch cover, ready for application of facing drywall. An R19 unfaced  batt was at hand, costs less than R15 and is acceptable where it overfills the space.

Here is the completed useful attic with the new hatch cover stowed upon a tray.

I intended to use the 1x4 wood frame in the ceiling as-found. Finding that frame unacceptably out-of-square, a repair was instructive The RHS member of the frame was long by 7/16". In the correction by steel-cutting Sawzall, a steel edge frame for drywall was confirmed. The drywall and steel edging formed into the hole reduced possible opening size by more than an inch.

I think this is a much better arrangement of a generally-useful hatch, allowing maximum hole size with 24" framing on-center tolerance of plus or minus  1/2". It will be better that the hatch and its frame are built with precision as a matched set. I think of ways to increase durability while reducing cost.

Show a larger opening where the hatch assembly is installed with least effort, into a simple drywall cut. Show wood veneer banding of the cover drywall edges as thought to reduce cost and improve ruggedness. A high-end cabinet shop finding fill-in work and uses of scrap material, making thousands per year, will find many opportunities of improvement and lowered cost. Energy Trust Of Oregon, and Oregon HBA: Please support this, including better content of IECC Residential Chapter 4, paragraph R402.2.4 at 2019 cycle, timely with showing at 2019 International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Showing would enlist cabinet makers anywhere, at minor cost for the advocacy. Any shop could make improvements, to be shared.

Flexible grout completes the ceiling drywall edge over the hatch frame, with texture match. Think to offer a white melamine plywood facing instead of heavy drywall. In practice, a manufactured hatch of standard size will cost less than drywaller steel-edging of a plunker hole while complying with raised energy-efficiency code requirements.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Repair A New-Home Skylight, Found Fully Wrapped, But Only R2

Here is an as-found view of a new-home attic in Portland, Oregon. Standing atop the usual OSB rim about a hallway ceiling drywall-plunker-access, all is booby-trapped against usefulness. Pulled-up HVAC and fan ducts are in the way, obstructively kinked, everywhere. An adventure has begun, to make the huge attic useful. This post addresses repair of a ten-ft tall bathroom skylight with defective insulation, seen in this view. A full set of captioned photos of the process is consulted.

I imagine a City Of Portland building official inspected and approved the insulation in this home, relying upon 2009 International Energy Conservation Code in effect as the 2014 Oregon Energy Efficiency Specialty Code . See that such code is not accessible despite intentions; there is nothing at followed links. My 2015 IECC book at the Index, Skylights, calls out: R303.1.3 (U-values for glazing), R402.1.2 (skylight U-factor of 0.55, wood frame wall R20), R402.3 (words about fenestration, n/a walls),Table R405.5.2 (1)(standard reference design specifications, for skylights: None.). Defined: R202 (Glass or other transparent or translucent glazing material installed at a slope of less than 60 degrees from horizontal.)

An inspector might have looked for and found R20 at the skylight walls, but I will show that that is only wishful thinking. Find better requirements a Portland, Oregon insulation installer would have been required to follow, under better supervision of Specifications of Energy Trust of Oregon. These say:

skylight—Any window unit in an opening in the roof assembly, including one that is installed at a slope of 15 degrees from vertical or greater.

AT 1.13—Vertical Walls in Attic Spaces
Any vertical wall in an attic that separates conditioned space from unconditioned space shall be sealed for air leaks and  shall be insulated to fill the cavity. Insulation shall be secured and covered with a vapor-permeable air barrier. Vertical walls may include side walls of vaults, skylights, transitions in ceiling height or other surfaces. See AT 2.6 for program requirements for knee wall insulation.

AT 2.6:
Knee walls shall be sealed for air leaks and shall be insulated and covered with a vapor-permeable air barrier.
Rebate Rules:
R-15 for 2x4 cavities; R21 for 2x6 cavities; cover attic side with vapor permeable air barrier.

Where this skylight has some 2x6 boards, R21 might be commanded. It isn't clear.

I persist in challenging that attic walls may be as thick as one wishes, unlike exterior walls. Better rules will deal with confusions including so much on-flat framing at a skylight. Where attic walls are extremely challenged by Summer heat, they should be insulated much better than exterior walls. I insulate attic walls to modest R25 (with R30 batts 7.5" thickness and with lessened framing thermal shorts). The vapor-permeable air barrier specified, can't be simpler than a thorough covering of good 3/8" plywood. I offer well-practiced means of attaching the plywood covering.

R21 was not achieved here.
Here is  my math for the skylight with insulation merely draped over on-flat 2x4s of the trusses:
Say total inside area of skylight drywall is 100 sq ft. Skylight insulation is in contact with drywall only at end walls, 25 sq ft called R21. On side walls insulation has full effect only where draped over on-flat 2x4s, effectively R21 over 11 sq ft. Remaining area, 64 sq ft, has no insulation filling cavities, and at worst has no value.

100/(Reff + 3) = 25/24 + 11/24 + 64/3; Reff = 1.4 for the entire 100 sq ft area. 

My insulation math at 95% furnace efficiency and natural gas cost of $2 per therm, says heat cost per year is: $2.4*100*.88/.95*(1/(Reff + 3)).

The penalty with loose draping, or any draping, is large. Draped insulation must not be allowed.

Accepting that draped batts do resist heat convection, allow Reff = 7, for payback math, vs. better insulation to be demanded and to be achieved. I believe that is a sufficiently large number to avoid over-estimate of weatherization savings. As in the title of this post, accuse that better than Reff = 1.4, can not be demonstrated.  Energy savings at skylights is relatively easy, and comes with better safety too. An outside air barrier is required and is nicely provided in 3/8” plywood hard covering. 7/16" OSB saves some money, but scrap must be disposed as trash. In some homes the hard covering of a skylight prevents a deadly fall in an attic tumble against shaft drywall. Where one wants a useful attic and may not use a respirator, a nearly-complete covering of insulation is appreciated. Where my allocated cost of the skylight covered insulation is between $300 and $500, and savings are $15 or more, estimate an acceptable less-than-twenty years recovery of cost.

Mostly, be grateful for better summertime comfort, perhaps continuing to avoid the need and cost of air conditioning.

Pull the nice but useless Certainteed R21 kraft-faced batts from the skylight side walls. Build simple wall extensions of 3/8" plywood cuts 7 1/4" wide that efficiently consume 96" panel length, and stitch them to the 1 1/2" truss depth wherever they fit and align with 2x2 nailer positions, that will support hard siding of 3/8" plywood. In the truss rows, add 2x4's to increase depth for added end wall insulation. Ensure that the plywood cuts forming top and side constraints of the side wall insulation, are very nearly air tight.

Use new Certainteed R13 unfaced batts 15"x96", accurately cut, to cover skylight drywall. Stuff through the floor  gaps,  completing R60 insulation about the skylight below the floor that is up 21.6" from the attic drywall floor. Where the skylight peak is nearly 10 ft tall, be grateful for the elevation boost of the higher attic floor of 5/8" plywood. A stool for added reach is safely used upon a flat and complete attic floor.

The found R21 batts are stripped of their ripped and crumpled kraft facing, and nearly complete the R30 insulation fill, now easily cut to fit.

Use insulation scraps to fill in low spots of the R30 insulation.

The 3/8" plywood side panels were cut to fit, before the insulation was placed. See that R30 insulation is complete and pillows to greater than the 7.5" thickness defined by 2x2 nailers. See thorough already-completed R30 end wall insulation.

See progress cutting the next skylight face plywood. This end of the now-floored attic is a quite nice, brightly-lit wood shop, for now. I love my Milwaukee saw with laser light well  suited to my right-handedness. All sawdust and wood scrap will be recycled as bark mulch. Then don't use less-expensive OSB that must be disposed as trash.

Pre-fit the second skylight face, set with screws.

See 2x6 uprights tied into the truss planes at this end of the skylight. With 2x4 nailers now secured to the side walls, I may release end wall plywood facing to trim the 2x6.

Skylight finished now. The brightly-lighted attic is the best place to do brush-on paint coats of the R15 access cover.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Best World LED 1100 Lumens, 3000°K, 15 Watts, Amazon Purchase, Reviewed

Price $39.99 and free shipping Amazon Prime. $10 each for a pretty light that may be installed most anywhere, by anyone. It is the promise of LEDs that can reduce operating cost more than 90% vs. incandescent bulbs, delivered, if perhaps too cheaply. Dimming is imperfect, and this has only a three-year limited warranty, with no claim of expected operating hours. Do buy it if you want real, efficient light, getting rid of silly point-source incandescent and under-performing CFL and LED lightbulbs that might reduce operating cost only 75%. The added conservation is important. Get used then, to downlighting everywhere. Don't want recessed lighting. We know not to stare at brightness that lights our homes.

Find photos at the Amazon link, including this:

This is really-efficient packaging. Not even tape to slice.  I've wondered about cost in shipping volume and some added weight, of container boxes. I have supported the efficiency, accepting delivery to Amazon Locker. If I wanted a return, I could print covering shipping labels. I do not want to return this.

Four attachment kits, together, protected against scratching luminaires.

And the luminaires and instructions. The instructions are printed 8 1/2" x 11" USA dimensions and are legible.

There are discreet OPEN -CLOSE arrows at edge of the lens. You will only be glad, to have them.

This is the entirety of the electronics. Is there something fragile here, that reduces this light to a limited three-year warranty, stated on the box?

At stage left on my comparison stand, a Best World LED, claimed 1100 lumens. At stage right, 1022 lumens Nicor DLS56. Both are claimed 3000°K. I attribute the less-pretty Nicor illumination to actual color temperature of under 2900°K.

Both lights work fairly well on an inexpensive Cooper DAL06P dimmer from Lowe's. The Best World light drops off quicker, and both are nearly dead at about 10% power. Choose a dimmer with range setting to avoid the shutoff.

There are many provisional openings through the luminaire. All but the usually-employed keyways at 3.5" screw pitch are covered with metalized-plastic tape that lets through quite a bit of light. Bugs able to pass through or around the junction box will be crazed by the keyway light leakage, then littering the lens. Know to tape over the keyways and mated screws before resetting the lens. Use white or reflective tape, hoping to not contribute to light-off lens darkness. But, instructions don't warn this. For this instructions deceit, I will knock off one star in my review at Amazon. I believe the manufacturer knows better.

I have really missed low-glare Cost Less 6" LED, discontinued in the interest of offering something cheaper with another nickel in retailer profit margin intended. The Best World LED gives again, decent low glare, but it might be less durable, and it IS worse in dimming. Was cheapening worth it, for customers with can lights, or boxes not overloaded, who did not mind AC/DC converter blocks perhaps more durable?

At 11/20/2017, this post has edit of the luminance table above, to include yet another China offering via Amazon, Jullison LED, Hong Kong . This time there is no pretense the push to USA of products conceived in China with susceptibility to bug littering of lenses, has any USA sponsorship. Jullison packaging and the Amazon listing are silent on durability of the AC LED circuitry. If these last only three years, they are not good value.

The clear acrylic over diodes is on legs, and itself can collect determined bugs.

The Jullison offering does not deserve separate review. The world does not need this light, with larger diode glare and impossible of blocking bugs at the lens attachment keyways. I will return the light as defective and will offer a negative review at Amazon. The review is largely a criticism of Amazon, who takes full responsibility for the offering. I think Amazon should somehow warn shoppers. My review if accepted, is one-star. I would agree that is harsh for a decent light that saves energy, but I hope to get the attention of shoppers and of Amazon to design against bugs, in lights that should otherwise never need service with attendant dangers. One danger here is in the random stiffness of lens attachment keys. Palm friction sometimes is inadequate, and turning direction marks on the lens are barely visible. Will one clean out bugs with a hammer or a chisel? 

Monday, October 2, 2017

2x4 Framing Build-Out To 2x6

Please consider virtue in the accurate and strong build-out of 2x4 to 2x6 thickness in this exterior wall section of my 1955 home in Portland, Oregon. Here is that build-out immediately upon demolition of an outside wall.

I had despised drop-ceiling headers over kitchen cabinets. Such headers are awful heat bleeds in most homes, where at exterior walls they are not accessible for insulation. Too often, none of the headers are filled with insulation. I have the opportunity to expand my kitchen 40% with modest effort where the little kitchen exited to the back yard via a concrete porch fully on-foundation. 

It was a crummy little kitchen, and held down the usefulness of the house, beyond being the last room in my house where I had not demolished interior drywall to accomplish data and power wiring improvements, plumbing replacements and tight R15 insulation.

In this one room I would accomplish R22 wall insulation in 2x6 framing.

The improvements are a lot for an individual to accomplish, and are still in progress. For now, share just the details of a 2x4 wall built out to 2x6 with innovation important to progress in existing home energy efficiency and in preservation of well-built homes of the 1950s, defending against demolition.

See my build-out to 2x6 thickness of an existing 2x4 wall. At top place an on-flat 2x4 and 1/2” plywood rip. Stitch on lengths of 5” rips of 1/2” plywood as composite beam webs. Place 2x2s true vertical and flat, leaving 1/2” thermal breaks of both the 2x framing and the webs. The 1/2” gaps behind 2x2s enable simple running of wires, without steel plates to mess up drywall flatness.
Fit 2x6 extensions of the wall bottom plate, and set screws to align the 2x2s flat and vertical. The 1 1/2" raising of nailers for drywall and baseboards, is very useful.

No! There is a better way.
Serious about this in late Summer 2017, I have reset the wall build-out to employ an upright 2x4 at the floor, for better baseboard attachment opportunity, and insulation a bit better.

I will have a much better kitchen, in a home that inspires possibilities with solidly-built homes of the 1950s. Details here are near-final. I do all work except cabinetry fabrication. Completion is expected in Winter 2018. Floor tile will follow some more plumbing and wiring, perhaps insulation. Tile will go even under cabinets and bathroom walls. Watch it all happen, here. Hold our heads up high. Do all we can as individuals to save energy and life for all upon Earth. Stop fracking madness. Stop the oil trains too, now that coal export is dead. Get rid of Trump. Listen to Michael Moore.

While exposed, the built-out framing has been a laboratory of insulation methods, sharing photos in conversation with Insulation Institute .  I start out with an exceptional exterior wall judged to be R_total = 5, U = 0.2 not counting added value of wall joists and to-be-added insulation batts. That is with less than half the conductivity and heating cost of common, cheap, non air-tight construction. 

Walls built this way are to be treasured and preserved. I'm not sure what should be done with more-ancient walls, hopelessly leaky, hollow, cobweb strewn, with structural defects and dangerous wiring, ruined of insulation value. I suspect though that salvageable homes are determinant not by age, but by investment at time of construction.

Where is the pride of any employee or contractor of the US Department Of Energy paid to support residential energy efficiency, when USDOE Home Energy Scores treat all exterior walls without some insulation stuffing, as of paper, R_total = 0.4, U = 2.5 ? This is insanity that perhaps-deliberately fuels older-home demolition regardless of solid construction. It insanely allows claim that very-huge energy savings can be achieved by a blow-and-go scammer foolishly just adding some partial insulation atop wiring, plumbing and structural messes,
 if the home is not demolished.

The subjects with Insulation Institute  have been layering of batts to kill framing thermal shorts, full batt containment to avoid air circulation, and lack of value where insulation does not fully fill available space. Where are you, NAIMA friend Charles Cottrell, still defending "R13" as the code-call for 2x4 walls?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review, Utilitech #0831957 LED Disk Downlight, at Lowe's Stores

Look for the red and white box, seemingly to replace discontinued Utilitech # 0752125. Find basis for this post in a captioned Google Photos album .

780 lumens, up from the 700 lumens of Utilitech #0752125, and still down from good (and missed) long-discontinued Sylvania 70732 at 900 lumens.

Here are the package contents, a pretty flat-faced light with lighting can attachment options, and with misunderstanding that it might be usable upon a ceiling junction box.

It is hard to photograph a white object against a white ceiling. Here the light is over a dark table, standing on can-light mounting springs. The 7.5" rim OD is over-kill for most light cans. There is enough rim expanse that mold imperfections are troubling.

A bit of diligence at Utilitech/ Lowe's stores should have determined that this light is useful only upon light cans. This is about as snug as it can be with a ceiling junction box, not nearly able to clip itself in upon the box adapter assembly.

This is the appearance upon removal of the plastic rim. A needless obscuring lens 1.2 mm thickness sits on top of a three-piece stack.

At middle of the sandwich is the 2.8 mm thickness magic trick, acrylic machined identically on top and bottom faces, that effectively turns light.

A white paper circle 0.2 mm thickness  obscures any visibility of the diode assembly.

The diode assembly is hard-wired to a plastic backing and power converter housing. 

Observe the sandwich of lens pieces, and a seemingly pretty set of diodes taped to the heat sink.

Before moving on to testing-by-comparison, note foolish spring design in the useless junction box adapter. Spring engagement is possible in a very narrow band of adapter distance from the ceiling surface. Presence of the junction box adapter proves Utilitech/ Lowe's error in communication with marketers in China.

The product listing at  is only deceptive in not claiming usefulness on a ceiling junction box. The claim is still on the box, and inside upon instructions. Read the scanned instructions as a pdf, here . See instruction error in photos, for example, here:

Don't be deceived by the web site instruction:

Dual flush mount installation using recessed can or junction box

Customer support at Utilitech accused my misunderstanding. Don't I know how to do a dual flush mount? Do you understand what that might mean?

Look for 3000°K color and full-power brightness confirmation, on my comparison test stand. Utilitech #0831957 is at stage left. Sylvania 70732 v1 is at stage right. It does not look like the Utilitech is less bright by 780/900. I think the Utilitech has slightly lower color temperature.

Look again for 3000°K color and full-power brightness, in a second setup of my comparison test stand.  Utilitech #0831957 is at stage left. 850 lumens 6" Glimpse of 2016 is at stage right. Here I see confirmation of Utilitech 780  lumens.

Where this is a lineup of "85 watt" edge-powered LED downlights ,
bring in  observations of 6" Conturrent by Amerisus .

Amerisus lights are the best, but they are strung as direct current (with the very many advantages in that) and are not of interest to "consumers."

Glare numbers for Utilitech #0831957 are unimpressive, poorer than with Cooper, where I can see edge diodes, and don't like it. Yet, I don't see glare in this Utilitech light.

Now throw a really-big monkey wrench at Utilitech #0831957, even for the easy and possible can light retrofits.
Look at that not-cooled diode at the photo right side. This light will suffer early death. I will return it to Lowe's as defective. I will not trust any as having believable quality.

A 6" Conturrent has very obvious high quality in diode strip placement.
Cooper SLD4, year 2016.
More discussion follows, for the Cooper SLD6, year 2016.

Bragged-of Cooper "Rambus Technology," with nine diodes in clusters of three, is not better. Please see more of a 2016 survey of "Improved LED Downlights at Home Depot, " as a captioned photo album.

At 10/12/2017, look for customer reviews at . Find it not credible, that there are yet no customer reviews. Find typically an inventory of only seven of these lights in a store. Find evidently a clearance-to-suckers price of $19.98. Find that a similar 4" can version mentioned in-store, has never been on-offer. Believe Lowe's must have no heart in this, even if unaware of product design error.

My one-star review of the Utilitech #0831957 was put in the trash, as I expected. That's OK if I am too harsh. Maybe two stars, or three, with observations here if they would fit? Would that pass? I was not allowed to talk with any responsible person at Utilitech or Lowe's.

Find a Lowe's $11.98 clearance price on remaining crummy Utilitech #0752125 . I just bought a bunch for cheap attic lighting, not suitable elsewhere, with the cheap too-bright diodes.

Find a new Lowe's offering of Cooper SLD6 at hefty price $40.67. Where Amazon has a $34 price , Lowe's is now out of the service of good residential LED downlighting opportunity. No maiknstream marketer is in this business. Do you care? If you do, please join in making noise with US Department of Energy eggheads responsible for continued push of mercury pollution in CFL bulbs, and very poor efficiency of LED point-source bulbs for mindless continued use in light bulb fixtures. The LED opportunity is to save more than 90% of energy otherwise expended in incandescent lighting, while enjoying better safety and productivity in our lives.