Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘Home Performance’ Category

The Right Ventillation Keeps the Home (and you!) Healthy

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

A Heat Recovery Ventilator efficiently sends fresh, healthy air into a tightly sealed home, while removing stale air that can cause a slew of health problems. And it does all this while capturing the heat of the discharged air and warming the fresh clean air at the same time. This article from 360Chestnut accurately describes the importance of this device and how ventilation is crucial in the overall health of a home.

Energy Efficient buildings are not making you ill, it’s bad ventilation

There has been coverage in the press recently about how Energy Efficient buildings may be making us ill. Is ‘sick building syndrome‘ is rampant in energy efficient buildings? Here at 360Chestnut we are as passionate about healthy homes as we are about energy efficiency. We would like to inform you, our readers, about what you may have been hearing on the news.

Mold growth and dampness in buildings are indeed major concerns, but this is nothing new in the building industry and it is certainly not isolated to ‘energy efficient’ buildings. Let’s start by what can cause mold in any building; warm, moist air, from people showering, cooking or just occupying a room, coming in contact with a cooler surface.

The warm, moist air condenses, the dampness soaks into your porous surfaces (such as your drywall), and creates a condition where mold will grow. Regardless of whether this happens in a poorly insulated building or a highly energy efficient building there will typically be one factor in common, poor ventilation. In a building with poor insulation the chances that this warm air will hit a cold surface is considerably higher though, so chances of mold growth are higher (insulation is very important)…. Continue reading

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The Real Deal on Energy Saving Gadgets

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

This is probably the best article I’ve read for an overview on all those heavily pushed gadgets and doodads that get sold as “home energy solutions.”

From ACHR News

Do Energy-saving Products Actually Save Customers Energy?

HVAC Contractors Need to Educate Consumers

By Joanna R. Turpin

August 18, 2014

All homeowners want to save money on their energy bills, which is why they are often intrigued by gadgets, additives, and one-off products that claim to offer significant methods to cutting energy usage. These products are appealing because they usually cost significantly less than taking the whole-house approach to saving energy, which may involve adding insulation, sealing ductwork, and upgrading heating and cooling equipment.
But HVAC professionals warn that, in many cases, these products do nothing more than separate homeowners from their hard-earned money. As Jordan Goldman, LEED AP/CPHC, engineering principal, ZeroEnergy Design, Boston, noted, “The focus needs to be on upgrading the building envelope — that’s where the biggest benefits are going to be. There is no singular fix. Homeowners shouldn’t fall for magic bullets and anything that seems too good to be true…
CONTINUE Reading Here

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BPI CEO: Kids Suffering in Our Unhealthy Homes

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Our Homes Suck – And That’s Why Our Kids Have Sinus Problems

By: Larry Zucker (CEO of the Building Performance Institute) 

We all know about how stack effect works in homes, but during presentations, I’m always surprised by how many hands are raised in response to the question: “How many of you think you can make a house too tight and cause problems with indoor air quality?” Generally, at least three-quarters of the room raises their hands. Really? My colleague Joe Kuonen says that getting a house so tight that you need to ventilate is a feat worth celebrating. “Now, we can get fresh air from a place we can trust,” he says. Where do most of our homes get their fresh air? From places we cannot trust, like crawl spaces.

What do we know about crawl spaces? Generally, they are dark and wet. This is a perfect habitat for mold, rodents and insects to thrive – and gain access to the house. Those of you who have spent a lot of time in crawl spaces have horror stories about close encounters with both living and dead creatures. Allison Bailes once published a photo of a dead opossum in a crawl space next to a disconnected return duct!

On the other side of the band joist is the basement where the air handling unit often resides. If there is insulation on the band joist, it is generally discolored by filtering air that passes through the crawl space. Thankfully there is a furnace filter, you might say. If you look at most furnace filters in people’s homes, you’ll generally find them clogged and gross. And with the furnace filter slot at the end of the return duct, the furnace filter is protecting the blower motor from the air that everyone in the house has been breathing. This can’t be good for your health.

Why should we care about the quality of indoor air?

READ MORE HERE…

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Home Performance: More Than an Energy Audit

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Forward thinkers understand Energy Auditing.  An energy auditor looks at your energy useage, your house and prescribes behaviors and equipment that will help bring down your total energy consumption.  What most people are confused on is what makes Home Performance different. A recent video by Corbett Lunsford of the Chicago Green Dream Group spells it out beautifully.

He gives his 4-3-2-1 of Home Performance.  He says there are 4 Elements to Home Performance:

  1. Heat Flow: What can I use to make my building more energy efficient or higher performing?
  2. Airflow & Pressure: Both can cause a myriad of problems in the house including indoor air quality, comfort and energy efficiency.
  3. Moisture: This will damage a building’s durability faster than anything else, is a major component in poor indoor air quality and can greatly affect comfort as well.
  4. Indoor Air Quality: If you have respiratory problems caused by poor indoor air, we need to take a step back from energy efficiency until we’ve ensured that the air in your home is safe to breathe.

3 Recommendations:

  1. Air Sealing (Air Ducts and Home): It is cheap, effective, doesn’t need to be maintained or replaced and uses no energy (zero operating cost!)
  2. Insulation: Largely ineffective without air sealing first!
  3. HVAC: Without the first two, replacing a furnace with a more efficient model is akin to driving a Prius on flat tires!

2 Systems in Home:

  1. Envelope: The Envelope is comprised of the Air Barrier (made complete by Air Sealing any holes), which is the windbreaker for your home and the Insulation, the sweater.
  2. HVAC: This stands for the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems in your home.  Water heating is included.

1 Goal: CONTROL. Energy Efficiency is a result of control.

The kicker here is that the only way to properly demonstrate control of a building is Home Performance Testing.  Things you can expect to gain from taking these 3 recommendations (as tailored to your house, concerns and budget) are increased comfort, lower utility bills, better indoor air quality, and a more durable home.  You also get confidence in your home performance contractor because they are the only ones that can PROVE the results they promise.

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The Most Stringent Building Energy Standard in the World

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Passive House (Passivhaus in German) is the most stringent building energy efficiency standard in the world.  It is not just an energy code or energy design but is integrated with the architectural design of the building to create a wholistic approach to reducing the building’s heating losses and thus decrease the need for expensive mechanical heating equipment.  The end result is a house that has a drastically reduced ecological footprint (low carbon emissions), along with superior comfort and indoor air quality.

According to Passive House Alliance United States, buildings that meet this standard use 80 percent less energy than conventional buildings.  Specifically this is achieved through maximizing your gains and minimizing your losses.  The process begins with strategic design and planning to test “what if” scenarios using certified passive house software.  During this process specific climate, siting and sizing is performed to ensure things like windows being positioned to maximize solar gain.  Passive house construction uses roughly twice the insulation value of modern code and great care to ensure that the building has no breaks in the thermal envelope.  Blower-door air leakage testing is an important component of passive house construction as the standard requires very low leakage to the exterior (0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals).  Advanced windows and doors are also used to minimize air leakage.

Now that the house is nice and air tight an Energy Recovery Ventilator is used to provide adequate, filtered fresh air for the home.  An ERV has the advantage of recycling indoor energy by passing that energy to incoming air further decreasing the heating load on the house.  The decreased heating load on the house makes the use of alternative energy to power your building much more attainable and cost effective.

Content from: http://www.phaus.org/learn/passive-house-education/what-is-passive-house-

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The Importance of Air Sealing Attic Penetrations

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Can light sealing by CAZ Energy Services. Photo: Hunter Hassig

Many times when homeowners are looking at home improvement solutions for cold spots or high energy bills they think insulation. While insulating your attic and crawl space sub-floor up to code standards is very important for whole home comfort and energy efficiency it is insufficient on its own. This is because in almost every home there are numerous holes in the ceilings that allow air to move freely between your attic space and the conditioned living space of your home. Insulation is a thermal barrier NOT an air barrier. To further illustrate this think of insulation as a sweatshirt. It will keep you warm on a calm day but on a windy one you will need a wind breaker or rain jacket to stay comfortable. Air sealing those holes in your ceiling that lead to the attic creates a consistent, level air barrier that acts as a wind breaker for your home.

Where exactly are these holes? According to The Homeowners’ and Trades Resource Center the three most common areas are wiring penetrations, plumbing penetrations and where your drywall meets up with the framing. Some other trouble areas include soffits, dropped ceilings, chases, vents, exhausts, bath fans, recessed lighting (ie. can lights), and ductwork in your attic. In order to seal small holes like those around bath fans, use silicone caulk or expandable foam. To seal bigger gaps like those found in dropped ceilings and soffits, use rigid foam or drywall (depending on local code) to bring that area to the same level as the rest of the attic and then seal around it with foam or caulk. Sealing these holes will not only save you money on your utility bills but will lead to a more even temperature in the house and many times improve indoor air quality as well.

Some content from: http://blog.sls-construction.com/2011/air-sealing-attic-penetrations

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Are Windows a Priority?

Friday, December 27th, 2013

One of the first industries to jump onto the energy efficiency bandwagon was the window industry.  Claims of huge energy savings and increased comfort are touted by the industry as advantages to replacing old windows.  While these claims definitely have merit, according to a study done by Michael Blasnik & Associates window replacements fall low on the list of home improvements that will get you the most bang for your buck when it comes to energy savings.

I often hear customers protest, “But I know my windows are leaky.  I can literally feel the cold draft when I am near them!”  I usually reply, “I absolutely agree. But take a deep breath because that’s fresh, clean air!”

Homes need to breathe.  In the average home we like to see the all the air in the home change about 8 times per day (depending on occupancy and cubic footage of the conditioned space).  This air ideally comes from clean, outdoor air as opposed to polluted air that comes into the home after passing through musty crawl spaces, dusty attics and dirty garages.

So, what’s the verdict on replacing windows?  In some cases, such as extremely old, single pane or damaged windows, the expensive replacement may pay off in energy savings over their life time HOWEVER generally our customers find more bang for their buck in terms of CHEE (comfort, health, and energy efficiency) in sealing up leaky ductwork and sealing off air access to crawl spaces and attics.

Want to know more about where your home gets its air and opportunities for improvements to the CHEE of your home?  Read our blog entries on indoor air quality (IAQ), dust, and air sealing or call Barron to schedule a Whole Home Performance Test on your home.

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IAQ 101 (AKA Indoor Air Quality Basics)

Monday, December 16th, 2013

The heat is blowing, the furnace is purring like a kitten, the family is warm wherever they are lounging in the house. Everything seems to be good, as far as the heating system is concerned… or is it?

It seems like whenever that furnace blower comes on, Jim starts sneezing. All winter long you’re dusting every week. Sometimes its hard to sleep at night with the dry throats and all the coughing and refilling glasses of water.

Here’s the kicker: you are not alone.

For decades homeowners have been settling for this relationship with their house, but it doesn’t have to be this way.Thankfully, after decades of research and testing, we now understand the important link between your home’s contents, heating system, construction materials and you. This is an exciting industry to be in when we can honestly say there are new affordable answers to problems that have been plaguing our every day health for as long as we can remember. Indoor air quality is totally within our control.

What is Indoor Air Quality?

Well, its the the contents of the air inside your home.

  • Its the humidity (moisture content) of that air.
  • Its the visible and invisible particles floating on the drafts.
  • Its the specks settling on your DVR and china hutch.
  • Its all the little living critters that inhabit your home
  • Its one of the primary causes and exacerbating factors of sinus and respiratory issues.

Some Myths about dust and air contaminants:

  • “We bring it inside with us.” – Not usually the case. Most houses generate the majority of their air contaminants by their very construction. Depending on design and the state of your duct system, different parts of a house exist in state of negative or positive pressure. These pressures can drive air out and suck air in to the living space. Whatever this air passes through comes with it: fiberglass insulation, dirt, pest droppings, molds and more.
  • “My house is leaky, mostly the doors and windows.” – Doors and windows make up about 20% of the air leakage in the average home according to energy experts with the Department of Energy. The majority of the air the house “breathes” is from the crawlspace and attic through mechanical, plumbing and electrical penetrations often hidden from direct view. Furthermore, those leaky doors and windows are generally sources of GOOD fresh air, directly from outside.
  • “All houses have to be dusted a couple times a month.”- Well, this is a touchy subject because how often someone dusts is related to how much they are bothered by the stuff. If you find you are dusting more often than you would like, you likely have opportunities to improve this situation. A house that’s been sealed up tight and ventilated right should be able to go a month or more without significant dust build up.

Whats the answer?

Our motto at Barron Heating is “Test, don’t guess”, so the first step is to have a Home and Duct Performance Assessment completed on your home. This test will identify where the air, heat and contaminants are moving and what the best methods of controlling them might be.

Common Prescriptive Solutions Include:

  • Air Sealing the duct system
  • Insulating the duct system
  • Air sealing attic floor and crawl space ceiling
  • Air sealing leaks from inside the home
  • Adding a fresh air duct to the heating system
  • Installing whole house ventilation (timer driven exhaust fans)
  • Installing an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
  • Crawl space renovation and clean up
  • Insulating floors, walls and ceilings
  • And more… the answer is unique to your home!

Good luck and feel free to ASK AN EXPERT if you have any questions.

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What You Gain From An Energy Audit

Friday, October 4th, 2013


With qualified and experienced inspectors an energy audit will pinpoint the cause of many problems that lead to an uncomfortable home. Whether its uneven temperatures, bad air quality, or dust problems it is important to look at the home as a system to find the appropriate solution.

There are many important areas to test and analyze for an effective audit on home performance.

  • First is an informative meeting with you, the home owner. There is nobody who knows the experience of living in your home better than you. The inspector should know when and where you experience discomfort throughout your home. Take note of the air quality, consistency of heating, odors, and anything else that you would like to change.
  • Next comes an analysis of your utility bill. Seeing where you have been spending money on energy in the past and present gives you a basis of comparison for future savings and the return on your HVAC investments.
  • The testing begins with a Blower door test. This will help to locate air leakage pathways. Included in this is duct leakage (and repair if necessary). Studies indicate that duct leakage can account for as much as 25% of total house energy loss.
  • By using Infrared Thermography, the most sophisticated analytic tool in energy auditing, wall cavity and ceiling insulation and moisture related issues in your walls can be seen.
  • Moisture Analysis is an often overlooked, but very important step in monitoring the health and durability of you and your home.
  • Its important to analyze flue gas at the hot water heater and other fossil fuel appliances. Combustion Analysis and combustion safety are one of the main focal points in the energy audit and homeowners are often unaware that they have problems with their combustion equipment.
  • The last thing is to look into Weatherization Services. Your energy audit should offer a comprehensive report that will outline the most cost effective path for weatherization work.

Energy audits range in price from $100 up to over $1000. When finding the right provider for this service make sure they offer all of the necessary tests and have the experience and expertise to get you the answers you need.

If you’re interested in an energy audit learn about Barron Heating’s $195 Home & Duct Performance Assessment.

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READY FOR THE TEST?

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

To make the process of having a Home and Duct Performance test as smooth as possible, you can follow the steps below.  Many of the steps can be done in the days leading up to your test while ‘for safety reasons’, you might want to wait unit we arrive (or just before) to handle others.  Hopefully you’re as excited as we are about learning what your house has to tell us about its Health, Comfort & Efficiency.

Watch the video.

  • Visit BarronHeating.com/service to see the 6 minute video that explains the whole home and duct performance test process. Doing this will save us valuable testing time when we are at your home and may answer questions you have.

Take the Comfort Check-up Survey.

  • Also at BarronHeating.com/homeperformancesurvey is a quick 3 minute survey regarding how you experience comfort and air quality at home. The answers you give will allow me to dial in to the opportunities that are most valuable to you as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Locate your electric and natural gas utility account numbers.

  • Your account number may in some cases give us the ability to pre-approve you for certain utility rebates.

Open up all the interior doors.

  • This allows for the natural air flow of all zones of your home during testing.

Clear access to all the registers (aka grilles).

  • In order to measure duct leakage I will need to access all the heat and return registers with a piece of equipment that needs about 2.5 feet of vertical clearance. Any that we can’t get to will be masked off and not used for the test. This will not affect the accuracy of the results.

Check to make sure the filters in your return ducts are relatively clean.

  • These will be located either at the grills in the home or in a box attached to your furnace.

Make sure all windows are closed.

  • We don’t want to measure your house leakage with a hole like that in your wall.

Make sure any wood fireplaces are cleaned out and closed as much as possible.

  • This includes closing the flue.
  • Do not build a fire in the fireplace in the 24 hours before the test.
  • When the house is under pressure, it is possible to pull a small amount of ash or chimney debris into the home if we haven’t properly sealed its path.

Turn all gas appliances, such as fireplaces and wall heaters, to “OFF”.

  • I will take care of the furnace and the water heater if necessary, but you know how to operate the appliances in your home better than I do.

We will be double checking that all these conditions have been met before we begin the testing process, but anything that can be done before we arrive will allow for more time sleuthing and discussing solutions.

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