Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Trial Of Home Energy Auditing

I hope to report here, my experience with home energy auditing, using US DOE Home Energy Scoring, as a challenge to continued do-nothing weatherization in my community. I will do this at no cost to my customers, for a limited time only.

The contribution of one more capable contractor must matter, where about 27,000 existing homes are sold in the Portland market, each year. Compare this to HES audit accomplishments reported by US DOE , a nationwide total of 37,000 existing home audits in a three or four year period since 2012, by 350 auditors. Among foolishness of the Portland mandate, is inability of a pool of competent contractors, to perform even a small fraction of the required audits.

To become licensed to perform Home Energy Score audits to a new City Of Portland mandate, I may choose among paths spelled out in an application form from Oregon Department of Energy, dated 4/25/2016.

Where all paths must follow the US DOE instructions, How To Offer Score , step through them here.

1. Work with a Home Energy Score Partner.
To offer the Home Energy Score, Assessors work directly with Home Energy Score Partners. Interested Assessors should contact a local Partner  for information about joining their program. Or, you can reach out to another organization that is not yet a Partner and ask they become one.

In Oregon, I may choose as local PartnerOregon Department of Energy , then following their rules cited above.

2. Hold a relevant credential.

If you hold a certification as a home inspector, HVAC contractor, or other residential professional, then you meet our minimum qualifications to become a Home Energy Score Assessor. The table below gives some examples of relevant credentials, however this is not an exhaustive list. Contact your local Home Energy Score Partner  to find out more about the minimum qualifications they require. 

In Oregon, this partner is again Oregon Department of Energy . Confusion arises here, where Oregon Department Of Energy fails to list quite a few allowed paths. These additional paths include:

U.S. Green Building Council LEED: Green Rater or Green Associate, a path costing just $250. I find this uninteresting, where LEED has no interest in existing homes.

North American Board of Certifed Energy Practioners: PV Installation Professional, again irrelevant to me.

I infer that US DOE requires acceptance of any interested professional.  As a superior weatherization professional, with more than 20,000 hours of proficient practice I am a qualified professional, and need not be burdened with further investment of my valuable time and small cash reserve.

By the fewer Oregon Department of Energy paths, professionals exempted from further cost burden include home remodelers of no proven skill in weatherization, The free path of the National Association for the Remodeling Industry, NARI, is open to any worker of a dues-paid business. Find only two such doing insulation, Gale Contractor Services and USI JB Insulation, listed as NARI members through Oregon Remodelers Association. Gale, the more likely to join a rater game, was caught and reported by me , for blatant fraud and has remarkably bad grades at Angie's List. At Angie's List I am very-visibly superior to JB Insulation for both quantity and quality of service.

If I found reason to join ORA/ NARI, I would be out $945 for dues and for irrelevant training. Again, any Gale or JB Insulation employee would pay nothing in this path to becoming a licensed rater, and would do so with inferior motivation to serve the public interest.

Look at  BPI Paths

To become BPI certified is not honorable, and costs much more, if with traditional purchase of a rating as a Building Analyst, Envelope Professional. 

It seems the little-knowledge BPI certification to only do home energy scores is simply a no-fee passing of US DOE rater examination. Then pay to BPI $200 one time and $25 for each audit billed. This is nothing but theft from home owners. BPI cares not whether one behaves honestly, or knows much of anything. I will never submit a penny in such thievery. I believe BPI is a criminal organization.

Become BPI Certified Building Analyst:

Oregon Training Institute Office
27501 SW 95th Ave., Suite 980 (Building C9)
Wilsonville, OR

BPI Building Analyst; Envelope Professional - Wilsonville
Five days, 9 am to 5 pm, guaranteed pass as a Building Scientist.
(1/30/17 – 2/3/17)

Available Seats: 8
Price: $3790.00

This expensive path has been chosen by most of the rating advocates who showed up at Portland's City Hall. They have paid up, mostly as unearned income to BPI, to be privileged weatherization Generals under HPwES. And, there may be too few of them to fulfill the new Portland audit mandate.

However I might end up serving the public interest as a rater and critic, I must offer my choice of how to rate, from among those allowed by Portland's mandate.  Look at the ordinance words at pages two to three:
K. “Home Energy Performance Score System” means a system that incorporates building energy assessment software to generate a home energy performance score and home energy performance report. Examples of home energy performance score systems include, but may not be limited to, the U.S. Department of Energy Home Energy Score, the Energy Performance Score (EPS) or the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). 

I choose US DOE Home Energy Score, for reasons including absence of a tax upon my customers.

 Here is an example HES graphic:

HES scores rise with efficiency improvement to a maximum of 10.

I reject EPS:
Energy Trust of Oregon/ Earth Advantage Institute/ Cake Systems wants auditors to use EPS, not the US DOE Home Energy Scoring. Cake Systems has a fee schedule very similar to that of BPI, and also does nothing to earn this tax upon home owners.

What does an EPS report look like?

EPS scores fall with efficiency improvement to a minimum of zero, and have no high limit, though a maximum of 200 is depicted. A home owner under the City of Portland mandate is as likely to receive an EPS report as a HES report, and will not attempt to understand the numbers, or do anything good as a result of the tax upon the buyer.

I reject HERS Scores:
There is a HERS score possibility too. What does that look like?
A HERS score looks something like an EPS score. See that a home may have a negative number with site power generation. Such scoring is criticized for perhaps not doing diligence with efficiency, before crediting the perhaps-temporary privilege of some odd power generator.

I don't care about HERS scores as Energy Rating Index, ERI, for new homes only:
Here is another example graphic where HERS for a new home is identified as the Energy Rating Index, ERI, prescribed by International Code Council, ICC, for 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, IECC:

The energy-efficiency improvement of any existing home is not definable by HERS/ ERI.
In energy matters, ICC is not at all concerned with a home that is no longer subject to approval or not, by some Jurisdictional Authority. Except for meaningful snares of plumbing and electrical codes, a remodeler is not at all required to improve a home. A flipper may cash out a house without any efficiency improvements. Those who permit this may be more guilty of hurting buyers, than one flipper.

Comment at August, 2018:
I performed math studies of US Department Of Energy Home Energy Scores, and recorded observations here: 

Where none of my infrequent-now existing home customers have had an interest in silly HES numbers, and I found no means to conduct supervised scoring, I am done with scoring. I do exemplary opportunity assessment and real work in weatherization.

I support, with reporting of actual energy costs as the information to be shared by realtors, for all homes, not just those for sale. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Observed ACH50 Numbers in Pre-1990 Existing Home Weatherization

This review of my blower door experience is in challenge of numbers near 30 ACH50, found in example Home Energy Score Reports, issued by US Department Of Energy, Better Buildings Program in years 2015 and 2016.  The reports are both for fictitious homes in Arkansas, built 1970, perhaps with little consciousness of energy efficiency.

 2015 Example:
v2015_HEScore_BB_example_12-15-15.pdf ,  a two-story home 1800 sf with 8-ft ceilings, testing in at 4200 CFM50, 17.5 ACH50. I did not remember confronting so large a number, before.

2016 Example:
Home Energy Score Report Example.pdf , of about November 2016, a single story home with ten-ft ceilings, 1500 sf, testing in at 6500 CFM50, 26 ACH50.

If such large numbers are not fictional in lax construction for milder-weather Arkansas, it does not suggest that huge savings from air sealing justify blower door madness, in Portland, Oregon. Few weatherization contractors in this area will accomplish real tightening of more than 3 ACH50, and some with their building scientist pedigree as blower door believers, will charge more than $2000 for the deed. Yes, at such unjustified cost, it is not worth doing. For a 1000 sf Portland home with an inefficient gas furnace, even with $2 per therm applied cost of natural gas heat, the savings per ACH50 reduction, in preheat cost of fresh air, are only $10 per year. Please see my Insulation Math . Annual savings of 3*$10 = $30 per year at cost of $2000 are a poor investment. At best, the present value of savings through a twenty year horizon are 44*$30 = $1320.  Please find that *44 payback multiplier (vs. *20) in this blog post .

At fair sealing cost of $300, the return is excellent. Abhor a blower door and test-in, test-out , with this. A blower door is almost never employed as the guide of important sealing measures. The value in tightening a home is in just acting in a permanent way, upon every sealing opportunity one sees, in dealing with evident drafts, and in the course of preparation to add insulation. Preparation must include all treatment of home integrity including plumbing, wiring and roofing deficiencies, that would be obstructed by the added insulation. Wiring includes anticipated communications wires and upgrades to permit most-efficient LED lighting.

Where I have spoken out as an Energy Trust Trade Ally, I have asserted that blower door testing with public support should be done rarely, for a stated purpose. Results should then be freely shared, so that we can accelerate consensus on further testing investments. This narrowing of test practice and sharing of paid-for results, never happened. My own sharing here, from my own investment, is a start.
My Test Results
I owned a Minneapolis blower door from 8/15/2008 to 5/16/2009, to dutifully employ it for air sealing test-in and test out in qualification of customer rebates. Finding no other resource, I trained myself with measurements in my 1955 single-story ranch home, 986 sf. I quickly found a stable, repeatable 1330 CFM50 Baseline result. This is 10.1 ACH50, a bit more drafty than the 7 ACH50 target for a healthy home. Tightening my home would take more than three years of staged effort, never to need or to again employ a blower door.

Higashi, October 2008:
The first test in a customer home was done 10/17/2008, a larger single story home, testing in at 1625 CFM50, 14.4 ACH50. The home tested out 11/10/2008 at 1410 CFM50, 12.5 ACH50,  with $27 per year saving of cost to heat makeup air. This was in sealing and insulating of poor solid-steel HVAC ducts of both attic (return) and crawl space (heated), with no other evident opportunities. An air sealing rebate of $215 was paid at a foolishly-offered $1 per CFM50 reduction. The work did not include any discovery under blower door conditions. The crazy ducts block crawl space access and are likely to be detached and again to leak, soon. I did not feel good about this, but always seek the maximum offered rebate for a customer.

Bronner, November 2008:
The second test was done 11/24/2008, testing in to check work of one notorious HPwES crew. who failed to do any apparent sealing, missing quite-large opportunities including a garage wall holed by long-ago car impact of a wood pile. The test-in was 3740 CFM50 in a complex 1937 two-story home, 11.8 ACH50. The test out 1/19/2009 was 3050 CFM50, 9.6 ACH50, but this large improvement, not earned, is thought to be due to closing the door to a conditioned basement, not likely the condition in other tests. I became fatally disenchanted with my blower door here. A blower door show would never be of any use to me in finding anything, and only wasted a half day of progress. I immediately sensed that prior testers in a home always used their blower door only as a marketing scam, not understanding readings at all and doing nothing useful by the testing; always spending more time in testing than in crude and unguided “sealing.”

Costello, December 2008:
The third test in a customer home was done 12/12/2008, testing in at 760 CFM50 in a small single story ranch home, a tight 7.0 ACH50. There were no sealing opportunities and no test-out, where the attic was insulated and the crawl space was sealed and conditioned.

Levine, February 2009:
This is a typical bungalow home with top half-story weirdness, with result 2300 CFM50, 12.0 ACH50. There were no sealing opportunities in my attic access and insulation work, and no test-out.

Three jobs have shed light on other contractor’s misuse of a blower door, and the magnitude of home leakage that might be found in the majority of existing homes, which were built before 1990.

Wheeler: (January 2010)
This is a 914 sf single-story home built in 1951. It was evaluated as one of 200 homes in a 2008 pilot program of assigning Energy Performance Scores, EPS, in existing homes. The assigned EPS score of 80, was done with PTCS duct sealing  and with R30 insulation of the crawl space by an independent contractor. A blower door test-in of 3670 CFM50 was reported. Extremely large 30 ACH50 was not computed, and was not attributed to a fallen-down duct in the crawl space. That duct was simply reattached by the CS insulation contractor, who may have needed to remove and then reset, all ducts. At May, 2010 and no longer owning  a blower door, I just thoroughly fixed things in the attic of this home. Fixes included replacing broken HVAC solid steel ducts much in the way and frequently stepped-upon, that had been gauze-wrapped and gooped as evident teaching of PTCS that goop fixes anything; the goal is cheapness independent of durability and safety against traffic hazards. I would hereafter have complete disdain for PTCS and EPS.

Weigand: (May, 2010)
This is a 1400 sf single-story home built about 1970. It was  my second confrontation with one notorious HPwES crew, which reported 4220 CFM50, 22.6 ACH50. This extremely large infiltration, not flagged for concern, is in part the result of construction with exterior walls open to the attic. I thoroughly insulated the attic of this home, with preparation including replacement of many poor solid-steel HVAC ducts, sealed air tight. I was not allowed to cap the exterior walls.

Chamberlain: (October 2011)
This is a 1590 sf single-story home built in 1973. This was  my third confrontation with one notorious HPwES crew. The home tested in at 3392 CFM50 (20 ACH50), and tested out at 2248 CFM50 (13.2 ACH50). The very large CFM50 change, 1144 CFM50, at paid cost $450, might have qualified an air sealing rebate of more than $1000, but in the end this home owner did not get any air sealing rebate. The achievement not rewarded, was fraudulent, with perhaps-deliberate misuse of a door to generate most of the reduction. Negligible sealing was achieved in the attic, leaving test-in of about 20 ACH50. My very thorough and imaginative sealing surely reduced leakage by more than half, less than 10 ACH50, but in this Energy Trust did not care. I could not engage a volunteer to do the test out as a learning exercise.

More than 30 ACH50  is possible then in pre-1990 existing homes, where testing is with detached HVAC ducts. Absent detached ducts, numbers much more than 12 ACH50, are not in my experience. I did try to employ my blower door just before it was sold, in a 3500 sf three-story home in Northeast Portland, and found I would have needed several blowers to generate minus fifty pascals test conditions. The evident problem was balloon frame construction, and my interest in testing was over. I can ony suggest that this home with hydronic heat, no heat ducts, was well under 30 ACH50 test-in.

In the course of this exercise I discovered writing by Allison Bailes III PhD, Energy Vanguard, upon discoveries in his Atlanta condominium, built around 1970. Higher infiltration numbers are to be expected in multi-family homes, but his blower door numbers surprise me. 
(At July 18, 2016)
Here find test-in at 29.6 ACH50, where part of a bathroom ceiling is missing. Ceiling patched, and with some air tight sealing of exterior walls, the number is down to still-large 20.8 ACH50. Despite advocacy for and practice of blower door testing, Mr. Bailes seems to despair of further reducing his condo fresh air supply.

He had previously found that Celotex exterior sheathing under a brick exterior of the complex was severely buckled. 
(At April 26, 2016) 

Here is the report of fixing the exterior sheathing leakage, at a bathroom wall only.
(At May 23, 2016) 

Also in the course of this exercise I found that homes built from 1994 to 2004 are notoriously leaky, due to cheapening of exterior sheathing, at least in New Zealand . The leakiness refers first to rot problems. We in USA too have cheapened exterior sheathing in reliance upon house wrap, and have had lapses in provisions to screen and drain falling water. Where this is thought the concern of building science, a blower door operator will not be depended upon for solutions.

Friday, November 25, 2016

We Don't Need Home Energy Auditors

Bad news: A broken feather in Mayor Hales' cap:
Find City Council action at the link. 

Press Release: Home Energy Score Policy Adopted by Portland City Council  
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016

Thanks to Lore Wintergreen, I can report the following:
The 12/14/2016 City Council action is subject to amendment upon public comments submitted before August 24, 2017. Send by email to: using subject line: “Home Energy Score comments” or similar, or by mail to: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Home Energy Score comments, 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201. Comments received after 6:00 p.m. on August 24 will not be considered part of the record.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) will hold a Public Hearing on August 24, 2017 from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. at 1900 SW 4th Ave., Room 7A (seventh floor), Portland, OR 97201. These rules clarify requirements for home sellers, home builders, and home energy assessors.

Where Kyle Diesner received my criticism of the intended Mayor Hales action, and we talked at length about my disappointment, I was not invited to the further commenting.

I have no use for programs that elevate do-nothing green jobs, in defiance of the public interest. These flow from the US Department of Energy as Home Performance with Energy Star, HPwES , and Home Energy Score, HES . These programs do create employment for those who would have  a green job, but need the respectability of "working" with clean hands, in a clean shirt, and that is not an accomplishment. The programs are very inefficient in accomplishing actual home improvements, and must not be justified by any other goal. A Maryland study for all of USA reported an average sponsor cost for each HPwES job with some completion, of $3100. Find reported benefit to cost ratio of less than 0.1. That is a utility benefit vs. cost. Where a home owner may have more to gain, it is with the further cost of labor and materials, similar to the sponsor cost. Worse of the sponsor cost, accused programs have not made significant progress toward our possible energy independence and USA responsibility in slowing global warming. reports only 313,633 project completions from 2002 to 2013, and a trend of declining success. This total does not imply much completion in any home, and does not acknowledge poor return where blow and go interferes "forever" with best possible achievements.

The situation is worse in Oregon and other states diverted in the wasteful HPwES implementation, by a bad investment in a rival energy scoring program, Energy Performance Score, EPS . I have opposed EPS from the beginning, where I found it only confused home owners to inaction. Expensive and useless EPS is still offered , even as its buyers surrender to HES as an only and better scoring system. I believe Energy Trust of Oregon has wasted about twenty million dollars developing and pushing its EPS invention, about a factor of five more than it has doled out to ratepayers as incentives in job-completion rebates, over the matching time interval. Oregon's Public Utility Commission has been derelict in ensuring Public Purpose Funds are spent wisely. There is no admission of this criminal waste, as Energy Trust pushes its crew of HPwES/ raters to trick the people of Portland, Oregon:

Here is recent local news: (Click this headline to read one Oregon newspaper account.)

Mandate to require Home Energy Score for houses on market goes to City Council

This news is of a Portland City Council hearing held November 23, 2016. I attended, and spoke in opposition of the proposal. My comments were as stated in advance to our Citizens Utility Board .

Here are those remarks:
At 10/28/2016
I don’t support scoring and the employment of auditors as superior or necessary, in the achievement of ever-better home energy efficiency. For every home, we need a completion list for savings opportunities. Each completion is subject to three-party review and in many cases is eligible for 100% up-front financing, mainly to be repaid when a home is sold. No home may be sold without the competitive measure of its completion list. We eliminate incentive to pass problems on to the next guy, unaware if possible.

At 11/21/2016
I will be at the crucial City Hall hearing, this Wednesday, November 23rd at 9:45 AM. I hope I will have informed supporters, starting on a path to a better plan to achieve our promised residential energy conservation. We must stop our horribly-wasteful dissipation of Public Purpose funds in Energy Trust’s failed program that serves fewer than 1500 homes per year, while few contractors remain in the unprofitable business, and many cheat, ruining public confidence.
The HES plan would only further erode public confidence in their weatherization investments. The return upon investment in audits is near-zero, where real action is fumbled, trust is further eroded, and public support in financing is not offered.

I wish I had taken photos as a reporter, but will make do with publicly shared images.

I had only been to City Hall once before, outside like this and with no police presence. I was one of a usual half dozen who cared enough, with signs appealing for the City to expand, not reduce, enrollment at my high shool, Benson Polytechnic .

This time it was a public hearing in the second-floor council chamber.
Ninth up of the general participants and in that near seat, I spoke for a polite minute.
I stated only what I had already shared in this matter, input as comments to our Citizens Utility Board.

I want better. Let each home owner have a checklist he maintains, and can amend with his own verified work, not obliged to entanglements with an interests-conflicted auditor. Materials and supervised contracted work will be fully paid-for in up-front loans for all, mainly repaid in new beneficial mortgage, when a house is sold. As a new or newly-engaged homeowner picks up the task of completions or simply recording past completions of critical home maintenance, third party verification will involve competing Diligence Reporters . These reporters with sometimes-new skill as technical writers, will generally be self-employed individuals working in the cloud, making understood reports of completion of checklist steps with photos and notes. It will be well-rewarded and satisfying work, of superior value to all. Disinterested inspectors of a jurisdictional authority, will happily supervise things that matter to the jurisdiction. Reports will have many uses that reward the responsible home owner, and will be gladly paid-for by the home owner. A reporter may have continuing relationships with specific builders, but payment and loyalty are from each home owner. This goes a long way to preventing worker/ employer fraud and wrongful credit not related to depth and quality of work done. We will throw a big monkey wrench in the action of Gresham's Law to devalue good. Homes without a properly interested owner-occupant, will have solutions, somehow.

I was among a small minority asking disapproval, mainly realtors, who do not place the new buyer interests first. Speaking with that realtor leadership, I reported that as an exceptional weatherization contractor, I rarely succeed in offered work to a newly-impoverished buyer of a too-expensive  home soon to be underwater, passed-along with badly-missing insulation, decrepit HVAC, plumbing, and wiring, with maybe a fence edged in-the-dirt for prettiness, soon to rot. OK, they didn't want to hear all of that, and some is added here.

The really big presence was of the Home Performance crew, in red shirts with white 5" round stickers saying RIGHT TO KNOW.

Right to know, what? Here is a 2015 sample Home Energy Report , a 1970 two-story home of 1800 sf in Arkansas, with numbers to be studied. Boost score from a 2 to a 6 at unstated cost, for actions mainly an indeterminate amount of attic insulation and tuneup of HVAC ducts. Auditor knowledge of your home will have evaporated next day. You can't read what is wrong now, and know detail of what needs fixing. Reports can't be verified and will have bias favoring the seller who grudgingly bought the report instead of obviously-needed repairs.

Want better than a crummy 6, and you did all that was suggested? No clues are imagined or offered. The report will not deal with matters that can be more important that energy waste, such as galvanized drain or water pipes that just burst in the similar house next door, the sure fire risk in an awful StabLoc circuit breaker panel, or the impending bad consequences of dried-out and fallen-off insulation of wires in overheated lighting junction boxes. We need very professional home inspection in direct service of the buyer. A little-trained auditor does not measure up up a certified home inspector, Energy auditors must not be elevated by ordnance with mandatory employment, superior to a home inspector. 

At end-November, 2016, another Sample Home Energy Report is posted, again a 1970 home in Arkansas, this time sprawling one level, 1500 sf. There is to-impress apparent use a of complex mix of construction and heat source details. Here is my math review of the report, filed at Google Docs. The example is very flawed. I have now done a similar math review of the 2015 example. These efforts are difficult, with a full day of my time invested. A report read only as a made-up score, has no value. The difficult review will always find report errors, with no means to challenge them.

Home Energy Score is a national continuance in the scandal of Home Performance with Energy Star, a program of the US Department Of Energy still teaching the lie that a blower door is the means and measure of residential weatherization, awfully failing to deliver served homes and delivering yet worse in involved honesty, after the lie. Read about the HES program here:  
and here:

HES offers hope of more rating business for involved HPwES contractors and their supporting organizations, without any promise of improved residential energy conservation. The goal is simply to produce numbers, and business.

At bottom of post here write on for the brave reader, about failings of rating systems. We find an ally in Martin Holladay, in a March 20, 2012 Green Building Advisor post titled Energy Modeling Isn't Very Accurate . Find a good summary of the origin and virtue of EPS. Find contradiction that simple EPS is called better than complex HES, for older existing homes. National Renewable Energy Lab found otherwise in a 2015 report, Assessment of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Scoring Tool . 

I don't think we can know what to believe, except that as Martin Holladay advises, quoting modeling creator and critic Michael Blasnik, Experienced energy retrofit workers rarely rely on models. “When we make retrofit decisions, other factors like experience are more important than modeling,” said Blasnik. “Even if you need modeling to make design decisions, you don’t have to model every house. Model something well just once, and then apply the lesson to lots of buildings. If a house isn’t unique, modeling is a waste of time.”

I have forwarded this post to members of Portland's City Council:

I oppose this action, as I presented in the 11/23 hearing, and as summarized in this post at my blog.

We need up-front financing for all crucial home improvements, that is best accomplished by a present home owner; with no incentive then to pass problems, unawares if possible, to a next home owner. Audits have nothing to do in this. 100% honesty in completions at fairest cost, is attainable. We have so much work to do in USA, to be better global citizens. We all will soon see the sobering energy poverty that is common in Europe, and will wish for energy independence, for our individual welfare. Energy independence must be distributed equally. Know there is great evil where public investment mainly promotes the independence of the already-affluent. Energy independence at modest cost and a massive commitment, offers affluence for all.

The failure of high-overhead-cost sponsor programs in HPwES and the various rating schemes, is dwarfed by failure of another program invented in Portland, Oregon. Read this of program Clean Energy Works Oregon, now a business named Enhabit :
But the high cost associated with this high-level of service has proved to be a non-sustainable business model. The organization also faced a significant decline in its sales from $7.6 million in 2012 to $3.1 million in 2013, which led to cuts in the workforce and a shift in the business model. During the past year, the program has changed its name to Enhabit and its focus to “home renewal” beyond the traditional home performance upgrades to include seismic upgrades, radon reduction systems, and solar energy installations (Portland Business Journal 2015). In addition, up to 49 percent of financing can also be used for non energy measures, creating an avenue for contractors to fund non-energy related improvements.

I estimate that program costs of inefficient and unsuccessful Enhabit, are more than double the awful cost of HPwES, mentioned above. This is a sad end of an up-front financing vision, which we still need, in Oregon's legislature, offered by State Representative Jules Bailey, bill HB 2626 of 2009. We must not fail to learn lessons in this, as we seek a sustainable, low-program-cost, weatherization program, in rejection of Energy Trust's current programs. We must not let Energy Trust and poor-partner Enhabit wander on, playing games with rating schemes, serving fewer than 1500 households each year, with expenditure from residential contribution to our Public Purpose Fund, of about $100 million. I see that as overhead of $67,000 per home served.

At year-end 2016, add to this effort that failed to deter adoption of this 
City Of Portland Measure . 
Please read this, and see the blatant attempt to prolong waste in Energy Performance Score! This isn't about supporting a national HES experiment. Home Buyers will find further mayhem in a confusion of meaningless numbers for their unimproved homes.

Add here my appeals to the City, as Google Docs:
Proof of Conflicts of Interest 
Direct accusation against the most-serious conflict of interest 
I am very disappointed my region, and the nation, do not act now to mobilize weatherization of our homes in a way that will work, in up-front financing for all. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mandatory Attic Access Walkways

I submitted the following among proposals for 2018 revision of the International Energy Conservation Code:

Proposal submitted 1/4/2016:
R402.2.4 Access hatches and doors. Hinged doors and lift portals from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces (e.g. attics, unconditioned basements and crawl spaces) shall be insulated to the Energy Star standards of exterior opaque swinging doors, and shall be air sealed with well-fitting gaskets. The portal frame shall be sealed air tight in its rough opening. (The standard says: U-Factor ≤ 0.17)

The entry to an attic space at a portal shall have a surround of an ample raised floor that does not diminish insulation value. Flooring shall protect insulation against trampling while giving safe passage, to all attic electrical service points including fans, lights and junction boxes. Junction boxes not accessible from heated space shall be raised above insulation and flooring levels, or where this has failed, shall be flagged as a decked service point. Accessible service points shall include static vents that require periodic cleaning. Where a service point is buried in insulation, insulation over the service point shall be in batt form and tolerant of displacement for accessing the service point.

Existing code of 2015 says:

R402.2.4 Access hatches and doors. Access doors from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces such as attics and crawl spaces shall be weatherstripped and insulated to a level equivalent to the insulation on the surrounding surfaces. Access shall be provided to all equipment that prevents damaging or compressing the insulation. A wood- framed or equivalent baffle or retainer is required to be provided when loose-fill insulation is installed, the purpose of which is to prevent the loose-fill insulation from spilling into the living space when the attic access is opened, and to provide a permanent means of maintaining the installed R-value of the loose-fill insulation. 

All of this, and supporting statements offered to conference readers, is summarized in page Better Building Codes For Access Portals, at my web site r5portals.

I defended my proposal at 2016 Committee Action Hearings of the International Code Council in Louisville, KY, on April 18, 2016. There was expressed disdain in the matter of insulation value of a practical hatch, that I cited rival Energy Star standards, and no acknowledgement of my comprehensive math proof, that modest insulation is best; more on that elsewhere. Here, address the second-paragraph flooring requirement, forcefully opposed by one of the rotating intervenors of the National Association  of Home Builders. I took this opposition as formidable, in judges unanimously disapproving my proposal. Several participants privately encouraged me to persist in this and some of my other proposals, but no one came forward as an ally, to help if I would double my onerous personal investment, to offer and defend revised proposals, in Public Comment Hearings, Kansas City Those "final" hearings were concluded a week ago, and I was not there. To not feel defeated, I must believe that I am intent upon readiness to try again in the next of the three-year code cycles; then having time to enlist allies.

Here, add defense of the second paragraph of my proposal. I have a really-good example to share, of work done in Oregon City, Oregon June to July, 2016. A customer had discovered that large areas of the attics in his two-year-old home had no insulation. Hard to believe, but evidence showed in zonal early frost melt on the roof, unlike neighboring homes. 500 sq ft was bare, some seen in this view.  I suggest that a mandatory walkway here and an access cut further on, would have led to different and better construction choices. Impaired access is not good, for anyone.

In this photo see beginning of rapid and easy change. The scattered temporary plywood is important to my safety. I have cut down a horrible 16"  OSB skirt about the small access hole.

Move interfering HVAC ducts, and temporarily detach a bath fan duct. Separate HVAC flex ducts at a wye, and move them under the diagonal truss members.

Many trips are needed along a new smooth and level walkway, upon 32" bridges of truss elements. Cut batts to fit, in the garage, and carry pieces in a growing collection of empty insulation bags. A safe passageway should not be an afterthought. Many good things, not least worker safety, result from good access. Let access be lighted too. At least, let workers find power outlets to not rely on a flashlight.

In this access exercise, learn some lessons about HVAC duct installation, attic ventilation and a further thoughtless neglect of access. Preserving duct length is very important as ducts are disassembled and reset. Yet, I must sacrifice about 6" from each flex duct at this wye, because of remnant bad advice of PTCS trainers in the service area of Bonneville Power Administration. Goop, no longer required, should never be applied for liner attachment.

Goop applied blindly and in risk of clothing, missed this under-side zone of the main branch of the wye. There was duct leakage, out of sight. UL181 Nashua 557 tape easily achieves zero leakage here, and is the right choice for easiest damage-free separation of ducts for maintenance or replacement. Know that flexible ducts have claimed useful service life of not more than ten years . See example of Thermaflex ducts as fallen-apart rat paths after about 25 years .

I know that regardless of found condition, I must replace cardboard soffit vent baffles. They rarely survive more than thirty years and when used are with no manufacturer thought or guarantee of acceptable service life (sixty years!). Here I have more than conscience in play. Curl with detached flimsy staples is ugly. Looking down at vent bird block, see poor bird block design employed by most builders. Slot placement demands vent baffles 3 1/2" down from roof sheathing, a large sacrifice of potential insulation depth over exterior wall headers. This bird block is needed in every available roof joist bay, not in every fourth.

Lumber for proper soffit vent baffles is free, in good employment of job scrap. Use 25 cents of good deck screws, not nails. I assembled six baffles in thirty minutes. This is quicker than setting a $1 cardboard baffle, thus less expensive. Wood sleds are easily adapted for obstructions, then set much more securely.

Baffles just 32" tall are ample over R45 batts. I can push R30 top-layer batts tightly against a baffle, for fullest insulation value, and that is the controlling economy.

A hidden attic around this corner was uninsulated too. The triangular access is new. Opportunity was concealed behind redundant OSB sheathing.

While I am at this I will insulate over the garage too, to just R15. I can't bear to crawl there carrying insulation, through this jungle of beam and variable trusses.

Cut in a new access for the garage, "factory built" in my shop. Where truss bottom elements are 2x4, they must not carry loads unless strengthened as composite beams. Leave a couple of 9" rips of plywood that I needed for my safety, but not more flooring.

Here is the fully-dimensioned plan of my hatch, offered to anyone as noted here.

At June 18, 2021, I revisit this post upon reading the post of this date at Insulation Institute Blog: A Hot New Home and Missing Insulation. I see that this post should go further upon process of inspection, not just means of inspection. Process should be for information to the builder and ultimate home owner and not just a manager of building permits. Building permits delve in the short-term self-interest of a builder, to get a certificate of occupancy. They involve inspection requirements  often flouted. by disinterested and unmotivated municipal employees, who take an easy path where inspection is difficult or impossible.

Get better results where inspection is primarily in service of the self interest of the home occupants ever-after. Those citizens of the community  are the real employers of the inspectors. Let these employers then receive indelible proof of critical performance items in the form of pdf documents I call Diligence Reports. A diligence report is created by a professional technical writer rated for integrity and skill in taking photos and notes from the builder daily to generate each required Diligence Report. Report content is driven by task checklists. and comply with simple national standards. The involvement of three parties in the satisfaction of checklists ensures honesty. 

A recent customer was fascinated with the notion of Diligence Reporting, and made this hat for me! 

I wondered when I would first find cause to share the humor.