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 […]

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 […]

Category Construction, News


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 […]


Here’s some more feedback we received on a job completed last year in the NJ Home Performance with Energy Star program: “Jesse and Abel Smith of Tay River completed the insulation of my 2500 sqft house according to the NJ energy saving program. We found their level of competence extremely high to give valuable advice while completing the work agreed […]

New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star

Just over a year ago, Tay River Homesmiths (that’s us) became one of the participating contractors with the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star (NJHPwES) program. There’s a program rebate page link on the right. A lot of people haven’t heard of the program, so the purpose of this post is to review the program and our role in […]

3D modelling an addition

The owner finds this room uncomfortably warm in the summer, uncomfortably cool in the winter, and generally uninspiring year round. It is an important room as it is open to the kitchen, the busiest place in their home. To get a real feel for the existing conditions, I import photos into Sketchup and create and ‘Existing Conditions’ model. Then I […]