Posts Tagged ‘air-sealing’

The Power of Infrared: In the Study of Reindeer Seeing is Believing!

December 24, 2012

 rudolf 2

Thanks to the hard work of a team of researchers in Norway (near the North Pole) and the Netherlands, Rudolph’s red nose has been explained.  The recently published, observational study: Why Rudolph’s Nose is Red, involved both human subjects as well as two reindeer. The study shed light on Reindeer’s nasal structure, and how it is ideal for sleigh pulling while flying and facing extreme temperatures.

rodolf red nose 

These sure are great images!  I can’t help but think of the insight we get when looking at homes under infrared.  Missing insulation, uncontrolled air flow patterns, moisture issues, and electrical concerns are all problems identified by a skilled technician.  Maybe our advisors at GreenHomes America don’t understand the microvasculature of the nasal septal mucosa of reindeer, but they do know homes!   

May you all have a safe, warm, healthy and happy holiday.  

From each and every one of us, Merry Christmas!


Images from:

In home electric monitoring, Real Time Data and Age Old Adages

May 24, 2012

By U.S. Air Force photo by Edward Aspera Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

NYT reported last month that although there are some early adopters of monitors of electric use in our homes, it is predicted that more than half will have them in the next ten years.    Notable in the Times article is a quote from Dan Yates, CEO of Opower: “Simply making energy usage visible can have an impact”.   I can believe that; after all, “knowledge is power”, right?

Blending physics, and metaphor, with this age old adage (I can’t resist throwing in some physics), power implies transformation.  It is a function of using energy to do work.  My point is that energy monitors aren’t worth squat unless we change our behavior based on what they tell us.  In fact, since you plug them in, they use electricity, they don’t save it.

Local utilities are offering energy data with things like the green button which we’ve written about in the past. Changing light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs can make a big impact with electric loads.  When you use electricity—for A/C or to heat water for example—more efficient systems can make a difference; and so can improving the home in other ways.   The gains in insulating and air sealing, proper shading, and good windows can really make an impact on your energy usage as well as your comfort.

I wonder if the adage “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is relevant?  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to keep an eye on your electrical usage, but don’t get caught watching and not acting. Or maybe, “a fool and his money will soon part” fits too.



Cooking up Some Ideas About Air Sealing

April 20, 2012

This video helps to demonstrate the importance we place on air sealing.  Before insulating, we tighten up the attic.  Of course we also air seal elsewhere, and it’s part of many of the common household problems we can address.  Basements and crawlspaces help a lot too.  Windows and doors matter, but really focusing on the top—and the bottom— first, creates the greatest impact.

Drafty homes can be fixed, and not just for heating season!  Air leakage happens year round and affects our comfort daily!



Fixes for Hidden Costs Reveal Hidden Benefits!

April 12, 2012

The offender in many folks’ minds when it comes to pollution is the automobile, not our homes.  It seems to be ingrained in our heads that automobiles are the worst offenders; I won’t discourage alternatives.   But, in fact, we generate twice as much carbon dioxide emissions as we consume coal, oil, and natural gas—directly or indirectly—in our homes.

Hidden CostImagine what happens if we cut the energy use in our homes by half?  The scale might balance out for sure, but there are definitely more benefits, saving money for one.  We do this on a daily basis.  Improving their home’s insulation and air tightness, heating and cooling systems, and more, will typically save our customers at least 25%, but often much more.

It all starts with a comprehensive home assessment which helps drive pollution and energy cost reduction in the home.  But the biggest impact we hear about from our customers is how comfortable that drive can be!  The end result we sometimes forget about is the level of comfort revealed after the job is done.



Image from the DOE’s home energy saver website

Leaving the Door Open – I Cry Fowl!

April 6, 2012

GHAOne of our top advisors a few years back had a unique experience on an assessment visit.  Leaving the doors open to his vehicle, he unknowingly acquired some unwanted guests.  It made me think about our homes and another unwanted “guest”: uncontrolled airflow via attics and elsewhere in the home.  (A great resource if you haven’t seen it already can be found in our learning center)

When we test airflow in homes we use cubic feet per minute as a unit of measurement.  Ideally this can help people visualize how much air moves through your walls ceilings and floors.  The large fan we place in the doorway of the home measures this flow and allows us to compare the amount of leakage in your home to others of similar size. Many of us don’t often think in terms of cubic feet, but you know, I’d guess it’s about the same as a good sized chicken.

You would be surprised by the amount of leakage in the average home when you can’t see the holes.  They are hidden behind walls and floors, connections in the ceiling.  In places we don’t really think about.  Every chicken’s worth of air that moves uncontrolled in or out of your home costs, not only in terms of money, but also comfort.  There could be GHAhundreds of them entering or leaving your house every hour.  Not sealing those leaks is like leaving the door open all year long.

Keep the chickens where they belong.  Close the doors.



Photos courtesy of John Scipione Branch Manager, Syracuse NY.

The Sweetness of Home Performance

January 24, 2012

 Coming from New England, I find winter on the West Coast is a different beast.  The lack of snow is not really it.  I think it’s the fact that there are citrus trees in many back yards.  My recent visit to one of our fine GreenHomes America partners, Residential Energy Pros  in San Jose, California, reminded me that no matter where you go, remodeling changes our homes in ways we are never sure of, often not for the best and often in a way that sacrifices our comfort or costs us money we shouldn’t be throwing away.

I constantly preach the importance of air sealing (watch some videos here), and on a home assessment during my visit, we were pleasantly surprised that the home was not as leaky as many we see.  This home originally had a flat roof and at some point a new one was built over it.  This old roof created a fairly good air barrier but there were still leaks as well as a lack of good insulation, creating rooms that can get very hot and uncomfortable in the summer, and too cold and uncomfortable in the winter. And blindly tightening a home without paying attention to important details and considerations like moisture and combustion safety isn’t smart either.  Despite its relative tightness there were still some issues with this home.

Like many homes out West, this house had a crawlspace.  And with crawlspaces, we often see a lot of indoor air quality issues (homes with basements or slabs are NOT immune!).  For this home, air from the crawlspace was constantly being drawn into the home and filtered through the carpet at the hatch! This doesn’t just dirty the carpet—it means the homeowners were breathing in crawlspace air all day, but since the hatch was right in the bedroom, more concentrated air where they spend 8 hours a day.   

Something else we noted was that the home also had a lot of condensation on the windows.  Too much moisture was sticking around in the home in the form of high humidity.  This is a problem because, the condensation pools at the sill, starts to rot the trim, and even the underlying framing.  High humidity can also promote mold and mildew growth elsewhere.

Some of that moisture could be dealt with by installing good spot ventilation, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Even when you are opening the windows during large parts of the year it is good to control indoor air and moisture.

All of these things are problems we look to address with home performance, no matter where the home is located.   Maybe some suffer through some discomfort and high energy bills in the short term in California since they have the luxury of plucking lemons from the back yard.   But why settle for lemons when with a little bit of work you can have lemonade?

Connecticut “House of the Year”–More Energy Efficient

November 28, 2011

One of the reasons GreenHomes has been staying so busy is that so many homes weren’t built well to begin with.  A splash of granite here, a whirlpool tub (that never gets used) there.  But no attention to the pesky details that really make a home comfortable and efficient in the long-term.  You know, those boring things we keep talking about like insulation & air-sealing, efficient heating & cooling, high performance windows, LED lighting, and so on.

From the NY Times, the Connecticut "House of the Year" is Greener

Eventually, a lot of people get frustrated with drafts, rooms that are too hot or too cold, mildew smells, ice-dams in the Northeast, stinky crawlspaces in the South, $800 air-conditioning bills in California, and so on.  So they call us to fix the problems.  And we can.  That’s good business for us, but it’s unfortunate for homeowners, especially in newer homes.  Forget the bamboo floors or the fiber cement siding.  If the house doesn’t work, it’s not green.  And you aren’t as likely to be as comfortable as you should be.

It’s much easier to make a home perform well by building it right the first time.  And less expensive, too!  It’s encouraging to see builders moving to more efficient practices, as mentioned in this story from Connecticut about the “House of the Year”.  Meanwhile, though, we’ve got a lot of houses to fix.  Most homes could use performance improvements.  And 70% of the homes that will be standing in 2050 are already built today.  Let’s change and start building all new homes the right way—and let’s fix the homes that we’re living in already.


Keep your eye on the ball…at home!

October 17, 2011

Baseball fans, great technology comes to the World Series.  In fact it’s the same technology we bring to your home.  The AP recently reported That a number of Infrared cameras will be trained on batters in the upcoming World Series games.  The cameras will be used to pick up the heat generated from friction, say when a fast ball skims off a bat or a glove.  The Fox network is trying them out this year so they won’t be used in making calls, but they could be.  Hey at least maybe we will get a glimpse of this great technology just watching the games.

At your home base, we don’t need to see the heat patterns of a knuckle ball off a bat to cry foul, but the cameras our advisors bring along in assessing your home do help you avoid the curve balls of missing insulation, moisture problems, dangerous wiring, and un-controlled airflow.  Rest assured with the right technology and skills, troubleshooting your comfort problems with GreenHomes America will help you knock it out of the park!   



Photo by Tyrone Turner, in this National Geographic 2009 article

Report from the frontlines: Know Air Flow (or Seal for the Real Deal)

October 10, 2011

Riding along on a few comprehensive home assessments with some of the team in our Syracuse office, I was once again reminded of the importance of air sealing and how it can still be a mystery even for folks who are savvy to the inner-workings of a home.

The fist home was older and although solidly built, suffered over the years a lack of insulation as well as a great deal of air-leakage.  The homeowner, a retired fireman who was remodeling the place, called us because he wanted insulation and a new heating system.  

Attic airleaks filtered through insulation

Firemen know about homes, and they know about the importance of airflow.  It’s a key component in combustion after all.  So it was easy to explain why it was necessary to tackle air leaks before adding insulation.  But really the evidence was laid out before us.

The turned over fiberglass lying on top of loose blown in insulation was blackened from airflow all over the attic.  Essentially, lot’s of air was moving through the ceiling and into the attic.  From the chimney, from open walls from wires and pipes, everywhere this attic could leak it did.   And the fiberglass didn’t stop the air—that’s not what it was designed to do.  It did clean the air a bit as the air raced through.  So, this home really didn’t have effective insulation, but rather a big air filter up in the attic.  How nice to clean the air that you’re throwing away to the outside right along with the heat that it carries!

Being a fairly old leaky home with no insulation in the walls it had more heating than necessary. Baseboard and radiators were laid out everywhere! The homeowner joked he was going to turn the boiler downstairs into a camper it was so big!  After we properly air seal and insulate, and then size a new boiler appropriately, he won’t be burning through heating fuel so quickly this coming year.

The second home was a modern one built more recently.  This tri level home was well taken care of and the homeowner, being quite handy had recently spent a great deal of time adding some nice finishing touches here and there. 

Their son was off at college but came home for his final year and they offered to turn the heat up since they were keeping it low to save money.   For him the rental home on campus was leaky and un-insulated, anything was better!  Certainly this new home should be a comfortable home for the most part but they were sacrificing comfort to save money, they knew there was room to improve.   

Again the request was for more insulation and here’s another savvy homeowner asking.    Their concern was comfort and high energy bills, and since he’d crawled around in the attic a few times, he knew more insulation wouldn’t hurt.   And he’s right, kind of.  More insulation would be good, especially covering the bare spots like the one below.  But, again, only AFTER air-sealing.   

Big opening in an attic that leaks inside air

He had put gaskets over the light switch plates and had new windows installed.  What he was missing were sealing the big holes in the attic, and these are the ones that cause a great deal of heat loss, not just in this home, but in most.  With the various levels of the home all connected in the attic, we find the worst offenders, the stuff that needs sealing shut before more insulation is added.   Even for such a modern home our testing revealed that that home was twice as leaky as it should have been even though it looked like it was in good shape.

In these homes, and in the majority that we see, comfort is a big sacrifice on top of too-high heating bills. The good news is they’re we’re able to find the problems.  And we’ll be sending out crew to make the fixes in the next couple of weeks.     And new or old, most homes  need some buttoning up.  Does yours?  For both of these savvy homeowners, this winter should feel a whole lot better with no air flow…now they know.

Visit our video library to learn more about the importance of attic air sealing and other topics that will help you save money and be more comfortable.

Power outages: preparing you and your home

September 12, 2011

The massive power outages last week provide us with a good example of the importance of being prepared.  Living in the Northeast it is always in the back of my mind to be ready for a storm as winter sets in (all to soon), I didn’t really think about the opposite corner of our nation in the same way until now.  

A place like San Diego doesn’t need to be concerned with two feet of snow, but they can lose power and during the hottest parts of the year keeping cool can be an issue.  Losing power anywhere can be a problem.  The summertime can be troublesome especially for those who are more susceptible to health problems.   It really brings home how much we rely on being able to cool our homes not only for comfort but also for our health.  

The latest power outage affected 6 million people on both side of the U.S. Mexican border.   Thankfully no one was hurt, but it did cause some to rethink their plans or lack of them.  This wasn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened.    

The country’s largest blackout of August 22, 2003, affected some 50 million people in Canada, and the U.S.  New York City Comptroller William Thompson estimated the economic impact of the blackout at $800 million to $1 billion in the city.

Some things worth keeping on hand no matter what time of year or where you are:

The American Red Cross recommends putting together a disaster preparedness kit some of it is below:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Food—non­perishable, easy ­to ­prepare items (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery ­powered or hand­ crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7­day supply) and medical items
  • Multi­purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket

There is more to this that can be added depending on where you live.   Even with all the great technology we have, now and then it fails us.  Having your home it in tip top shape can help with more than just comfort.  When it is properly air sealed and insulated it stays warm or cool, depending on the season, on its own for longer when the power fails.  Be prepared with a kit, and with your home. 

 FEMA image from Wikimedia commons


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