Here's an excerpt of an email I wrote in support of adding large central returns…

Here's an excerpt of an email I wrote in support of adding large central returns in a finished basement directly adjacent the unit, with transfer grilles at the top of the basement stairs. The overwhelming majority of HVAC technicians reject this as something that can never work. One of the amazing things about trying this is that the effects are […]

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Here's a quick update on our pursuit of a more fuel efficient fleet

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One option we're considering is outfitting a vehicle to perform smaller energy retrofits – typically air sealing, duct sealing and small-scale spray foam jobs. Very preliminary, but a couple of vehicle options spring to mind:  1) A fuel efficient tow vehicle with a small trailer. The VW Golf SportWagen TDI is EPA rated for >40 mpg hwy, and can tow […]

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Something I'm very uncomfortable with is the impact of all the fossil fuels Tay…

Something I'm very uncomfortable with is the impact of all the fossil fuels Tay River consumes. We'll travel up to an hour for building shell work, which means that we'll cover much of the Philadelphia suburbs, and as far north as Edison NJ. My guess is that our vehicles cumulatively travel about 600-1000 miles/week for shell work alone.  Our current […]

Here's a video we made of our amazing team air sealing and insulating homes!…

Here's a video we made of our amazing team air sealing and insulating homes! View this post on Google+ Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.

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Tay River built-ins

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Abel is a good carpenter.  View this post on Google+ Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.

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SIPS failure

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Pretty gross. #buildingperformance View this post on Google+ Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.

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Now who's your Daddy? Steve, June and Aaron show how to airseal houses

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#NJHPwES   #homeperformance   This post has been reshared 2 times on Google+ View this post on Google+ Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.

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A lot of dead guys came up with some pretty neat ideas

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Some pics Abe took showing how effective these little suckers are.  This post has been reshared 1 times on Google+ View this post on Google+ Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.

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So this is pretty weird

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The owner of this house has suffered 3 years of pretty serious condensation problems in summer just beneath the photo. Multiple contractor visits, pans everywhere to catch dripping water. Warm, moist air leaks through gigantic holes shown in these pictures and condenses on the cold duct surfaces. How is it possible for one person to misdiagnose this, let alone several? […]

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Testimonials!

Just finished a door installation for a Princeton client and received this unsolicited email: “We love our door! Makes a big difference down there. June got it hanging just right. Thanks guys.”

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More Hot Water

Just found a whole bunch of UK studies of hot water – Yay! Here’s one on the cost-benefit of installing thermostatic mixing valves: “It is very likely that installing TMVs as standard in social housing in new buildings and major refurbishments accompanied by educational information represents value for money.”  Here’s a powerpoint from the American Burn Association discussing scald prevention: […]

All of the Cost and Half of the Performance

We have the capacity to build much better buildings. Buildings withdrew a fraction of the energy consumption. Buildings that require painting less than every 20 years. Buildings that don’t leak water, even in extreme conditions.But we don’t build many buildings like this. Instead we use a hodge-podge of glitzy new technologies and really poor techniques that result in not very […]

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Testimonial with an Evidence-based Twist

I love working for people who test things! Here’s a testimonial from last week’s NJ Home Performance with Energy Star job: “Jesse and his crew had the daunting job of air sealing and insulating the attic of our ranch home.  They did great work even though it was in the July heat.  The on again off again heat waves we […]

Duct Performance

Part of the problem with ducts is related to language. In English, the word ‘always’ and the word ‘never’ sound very similar. Pictured here is the attic duct system on a very inefficient and uncomfortable house. How often should you tap multiple supply ducts into the very end of a supply trunk? Probably nalways.

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Before and After Photos are Weird

Have you ever noticed how popular ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos are in design and building magazines? Maybe there’s some psychological affect where things seem more beautiful when placed next to ugly things. I’m definitely guilty of taking more than my share of before photos (ugly stuff just begs to be photographed), but I always feel a little weird about showing […]

Custom Shelving

These shelves were designed to house books and items while maintaining the apartment’s contemporary feel.  The client wanted the shelves to appear as though they traveled throughout the apartment, rather than featuring themselves neatly in one plane.  The added third dimension provided by having the cabinets turn against the right-hand wall and sweep away up high presented interesting detail challenges, […]

Replacing Windows while Insulating the Wall Assembly

This video shows our method of installing replacement windows in the new-construction style while increasing the insulation levels in the wall and taking care of a few other technical problems. One benefit of the system is that you can pause for as long as you like between installing the window and insulating/re-siding the walls. This opportunity arises through the installation of […]

Improving buildings in the real world

There is an incredible wealth of information on how to construct energy efficient, durable, and comfortable buildings. Sure, most of that information is totally disregarded when buildings are constructed. But it would be difficult to argue that houses in the US are constructed poorly because technicians don’t have access to good information. This wealth of information should be directly applied […]

Changing heating costs

One of the most complicated issues for homeowners is determining whether or not to make a change to their 1) heating system efficiency, or 2) heating fuel type. There are a multitude of factors that could go into making this decision, including: Current system efficiency, Proposed system efficiency, Current cost of heating fuel, Future cost of fuel, Cost of change […]

Look Ma, No Replacement Windows!

Here are the blower door results from one of the NJ Home Performance with Energy Star jobs we did this week. In most houses we anticipate 30%-40% leakage reductions, which is generally considered pretty good. But 55% leakage reduction is pretty awesome! I’ll try to find time over the weekend to elaborate on our evolving techniques for sealing buildings. Here’s […]

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More Fun with a Blower Door

Great results on a job from last week! And here’s a fun, but slightly long webinar on zonal pressure diagnostics with a blower door. Zone Pressure Diagnostic Webinar  

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Testimonials

Just received this in an unsolicited (I swear) email from a customer: “Just wanted to let you know we got our rebate check today exactly 2 months as you promised. We see a big improvement in our home with it staying warmer and in warmer weather house seemed cooler. Thanks again.” Pre and post blower door #’s from the job […]

Hot Water

Here’s some stuff we probably should have been offering years ago in conjunction with hot water heater replacement. Thermostatic Mixing Valve These are installed at the hot water supply line as it leaves the tank. Good idea for a few reasons: We can greatly reduce the potential for scalding people in buildings. Sort of a big deal for making things […]

Net Zero Energy Houses

I recently enrolled in Marc Rosenbaum’s Zero Net Energy Homes class, which is starting on October 1st. Marc’s blog is here. I’m a fan. As part of the class, I’m designing a zero net energy tiny house on a trailer. Depending on cash flow, Abel and I are hoping to build the house in the fall. If you’d like a […]

Accuvents

Much of the traffic on this blog arrives here by searching for information about Accuvent ventilation baffles. We don’t have any commercial interest in Accuvents or the company who makes Accuvent, which is Berger. We use a fair number of Accuvents, but we never – yes never – install them to the manufacturer’s standard. In doing so we always – […]

FTC Smacks Down Replacement Window Hucksters!

According to the Federal Trade Commission, replacement window companies “must have scientific evidence before making marketing claims.” Apparently a lot of replacement window companies didn’t realize that lying is frowned upon. Here’s a link to the FTC press release. One interesting point, even claiming “up to” x percentage of energy savings incurred the wrath of the FTC. This could have […]

Insulated Attic Storage

Storing stuff in unconditioned attics isn’t a great idea. Typically attic storage requires access to the unconditioned space via a big hole – usually attic stairs – which are hard to make air-tight or insulate well. Things that are stored in unconditioned attics don’t fare very well. Attics have really big temperature and humidity swings, which is bad for almost […]

Frameworks for Improving Building Performance

I have two mental models for understanding and improving building performance. The first model I’ll call “Everything is Sort of Bad”. This model says that a building is pretty bad – but not horrible – pretty much everywhere and in most of the building systems (thermal boundary, pressure boundary, ducts, water-resistive barrier, etc). The second model I’ll call “Everything is […]

Blower Door Guided Air-sealing isn’t Real

I really like blower doors.There are a lot of building diagnostic tools that most people have probably never heard of that I like. Duct-blasters and flow plates to name a couple of more. For readers who are interested in conserving energy who haven’t heard of a blower door, check out Martin Holladay’s article on blower doors here. Blower doors are […]

Holiday Gift Ideas from Tay River

With the holiday season fast approaching, what better way to celebrate than by stringing your attic with flexible duct that’s sort of connected to your bathroom fan and then sort of pointing it to a gable vent! Make this year special! Give the gift of right-sized, properly ducted bathroom ventilation.

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Manhattan windows

Installing some windows on the Upper West Side this week. I call the building ‘The Roosevelt Building’ because FDR the third lives here. Right on Riverside, beautiful! It’s the 4th apartment we’ve installed windows in over an 8 year period. The jamb and trim work will be elaborate, I’ll post more pics later as I do it. We are stripping […]

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A Neat Hatch

This hatch is beautifully simple! It starts with a simple box and a rebated applied door stop. The weather stripping is fitted into the rebate to create a nice seal. Next I’ll nail through the rebate and weather strip in one shot. See! Nailing. Boo-yah!! Too easy. Finally I glue a piece of 1/2″ plywood to 4″ of thermax foam […]

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George Nakashima inspired bathroom cabinet

I just finished the drawers on my bathroom cabinet. The counter is a cherry flitch, I repaired a large split using two handmade maple butterfly splices. The drawers were complicated by the compound angle of the cabinet face. Next step is the cherry drawer faces! Abe.

Gerd Gigerenzer

A couple of years ago I read Gerd Gigerenzer’s book, Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You. I thought it was great, and am surprised it isn’t discussed more widely. Last night I started another of his books, Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. From the first page: “A Columbia University was struggling over whether to accept […]

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Home Performance and Hard Choices

I spend a lot of time reading about carpentry, building science, and construction. One of my hopes for this blog is to help others apply good building science under a multitude of real-world constraints. Common constraints include: Budget, Owner’s expectation that they won’t be in the house for long, Contradictory assertions from everyone and their brother who works on houses, […]

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Larry Haun RIP

Fine Homebuilding has this obituary for Larry Haun. An icon of carpentry, I was inspired to switch to gang-cutting rafters by watching his videos and reading his books. One of the building construction greats.

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Special

“You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”* I’ve attended dozens of building science training sessions. For the most part these are excellent. Usually hosted by folks with a lot of experience. However, one of the most irksome aspects to these sessions is the tendency of otherwise […]

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Why Vinyl Replacement Windows Aren’t For You

So your house is getting on in years, and you’re thinking it could use a face-lift. One of the projects you’re considering is replacing all the windows in your house. Where to start? The purpose of this article is to give you the tools you need to make an informed decision. Ask Yourself Why? What are you hoping to accomplish […]

Selection

Some readers may know of my passion for endurance sports. And while I don’t follow football religiously, I did catch some of this year’s awesome Super Bowl. Pretty incredible stuff! Post-game analysis often seems like so much hot air. Nevertheless, I found Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas’s article from the ‘Science of Sport’s’ website interesting. In it, they note the […]

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Best Practice

Selecting a builder is tough, particularly for a the quality conscious homeowner. Most builders know the right things to say, so initial meetings are about as awkward as slow dancing with your high school ex. If you’re interviewing builders, you’ll probably hear a lot of this classic, “we’re not cheap, but we do quality work.” Yeah thanks, I haven’t heard […]

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