Thursday, February 4, 2010

Musings on Assumed Powers in Weatherization

I find little comfort in my authorization to anticipate revised Energy Trust rules, that do not conform to rules expressed in the International Energy Conservation Code, IECC, published by the International Code Council. 

Will a State Parks person believe me? If a policeman told me to ignore an absurd no-parking sign, would I? Energy Trust and Oregon Department of Energy are free to write their own rules, adopting or not and modifying the IECC-of-the-day (current 2009). If they will not influence ICC in the matter of service door sealing and insulation, I must try on-my-own. I have missed a June 2009 closure for changes in 2012. I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Portal Rules Considered By Energy Trust

I invested today in a meeting with rule experts at Energy Trust of Oregon. With promise of pending rules revision, I am told to go ahead and make/ sell >R5 portals. I will take this to mean use of maximum insulation within a structure thickness of about 2", where there is available hinge and latch hardware. I will aim for R7, with 1 1/2" EPS foam panels, 1/8" MDF facings, about 1 7/8" thickness, and a minimum of wood spacers and supports. Where I employ found manufactured attic ladders with a common 1" insulated door thickness, the claimed R5 will be sufficient. 

Rules are not revised for makeshift weatherization. A crummy uninsulated ladder will have to be covered with an R10 tarp, hoping for floor sealing. There will be no interest in disparaging the "American" products.  If a found kneewall closet door is weatherized, it must be gasketed, and somehow dressed with about 3 1/2" EPS foam, or fiberglass batting, to R15, but I can install my door that is ample R7. I can offer a sleek R7 two-inch thickness factory-built ceiling portal cover, but a coper with found wood or drywall covers, will need to stick on R30 insulation, somehow. If the builder of Oregon State Park cabins is called to fix floor hatches, he will be obliged to get that 4" block of urethane foam to stay on this time, somehow, and this time somehow intimate with the wood. 

An aspect of this decision is doing nothing to restrict sale of junky products at lowest-possible price, the American way. Reformed quality requirements for outside doors will not apply to attic ladders. Builders may continue to throw up a piece of drywall in a ceiling-access hole, leaving a problem to be coped-with by an insulation installer, who MUST invent something. In a parallel non-correction, a handyman may continue to pocket another dollar, installing a non-IC can light, sold with no restrictions, no store-shelf warnings. I must twist the customer's arm to replace that can light at the full dollar-more cost, when I insulate that attic and refuse to use the insulation barrier suggested by Energy Trust as a preferred method.

I should be happy that I can shame the coper competition, which does not show up, at the Better Living Show. Somehow, I am not. I dearly wanted a simple R5 rule for all home service penetrations, with no special mention of attic, closet and crawl space doors.

I will take non-contradiction of this post as my rule authority.

Utility Liens

In a new world of utility-supported weatherization, there will be no rebates as incentives. There will be offer of up-front financing of qualified projects, for anyone. What then is fair for those who have the means and desire, to invest their own money? By joining the program, their measures are tracked for detectable savings. There is some hassle, but it is worth it. Tracking involves some fund debit from their utility payments. Those who need the money can get up to 100%, with corresponding draw from utility bills, and they do not see the immediate benefit of the measure in monthly cash flow. Those who can do the investment themselves might choose a "Utility Lien" in up-front cash, of an amount as little as 10% of the measure cost. For all, the distribution of energy-saving investment funds, is described as a "Utility Lien." No consumer gets to keep these funds. Whatever amount they need is interest-free.

Where a project is self-funded, the money is a tax-advantaged investment. There will be advantage in self-funding as much as possible, up to 90%. The monitored investment program shields against claiming weatherization tax credits for unqualified projects. We move on from an unfair world where tax credits are the only federal offer, for people who earn too little to be taxed. We also stop abuse of tax credits, for things like pie in the sky, and tarps. For all, it is a fresh, new program. The current program has been around for years, and for some has been exhausted without completion of all now-qualifying programs.

Senator Merkley: What can we do to help?

A Cure for Tarp Madness

The issue with house service and convenience features, other than outside-wall windows and doors, is to not miss opportunity to save some energy, and to not allow conditions that rot. Think of a circuit breaker panel set into an outside wall. It is a blind penetration that won't let in any life-giving light. Therefore the minimum associated weatherization is air-tightness, and total R5 for that area of the wall, to be achieved outside the panel. It stays clean and dry, at near the temperature of the conditioned space. There is a vapor barrier, that is beneficial wherever you live. In Louisiana, or Port Aransas, Texas, humid outside air is not condensing under influence of your AC. In Barrow, Alaska, the space is not below the dew point in coldest winter, and sucking down the consequences of a little household health-giving humidity.

In keeping with this intelligent diligence, I am allowed, even openly encouraged, to stop at R5 as I construct and sell attic and crawl space portals. Yes, they are air-tight. They further stop passage of humidity. No plop-batt sops. Not the site-build failure I found in a wonderful state-park cabin floor. (Please see A Failed Floor Portal, among pdf Offerings, at my web page

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tarp Madness

A world of window and door tarps!

Can you imagine the wonderful opportunities for businesses like ESS and Battic, if rule-makers would herd the innocent to them, with R10, R15 or even R49 rules for all house openings. Think of all the energy to be saved!