927 Lee Road 268, Valley, AL (706) 773-9274

The 2019 HIVE Conference

In December I attended the 2019 HIVE Conference in Austin, Texas. This was my second time to this conference and found it again to be an interesting experience, different from the typical building industry event. HIVE is an acronym for Housing, Innovation, Vision, and Economics, and the event strives to address each of those priorities over two days and through the Hive for Housing website, which features regular articles on the same topics throughout the year. This is not your typical building industry conference. It is light on the nuts and bolts of construction, and instead it focuses on climate…

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Minnesota Homestead: It’s Not All Sunny in Net-Zero Land

A meeting with our electricity provider, People’s Energy Cooperative (PEC), shed a new light on the difficulty of incorporating solar or wind distributed generation systems (DG) into the energy mix of electricity providers. PEC provides electricity to rural customers in our area and previously had two modes of recouping fees for obtaining and distributing electricity to its customers. These were a base monthly fee ($37) and a fee per kWh used (~$0.11 per kWH). However, the base fee did not cover the entire cost of distribution (~60% of cost) with the remaining embedded within the per kWh used (~40%). The…

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Multipoint Locking Hardware

We have three entry doors in our home: the front door, the back door, and the side door that opens to the basement. Oh, and since the back door leads to a mudroom, our other back door is a wood door. All are pictured below. Front door: Therma-Tru insulated-core metal door swings into small office converted from a front porch. Back door: Therma-Tru fiberglass door swings into a 6-ft. by 6-ft. mudroom. Side door: Custom-size Therma-Tru composite door opens to the basement (I”ll explain the suspended bath scale in just a bit). Other back door: Panelized wood door also swings…

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Makeup Air for Kitchen Exhaust

In homes with naturally drafted fuel-fired appliances like a boiler inside the envelope, kitchen range hoods that exhaust more than 400 cu. ft. of air per minute require makeup air so they don’t depressurize the home and draw combustion gases from the appliance into the living space. Building codes are chock full of instances in which requirements for a certain assembly or feature are laid out in great detail, but the thing itself isn’t actually required. It’s usually not explicitly stated that the feature isn’t mandatory, just noted that it has to be done a certain way when it’s included.…

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A Better Path to a Low-Carbon Future?

Building super-insulated houses with low energy needs and highly efficient mechanical systems is the best way for builders to lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change, right? Maybe not. A group of builders and designers led by the director of a sustainable building school in Canada has concluded that energy efficiency is only part of the answer, and that accounting for embodied carbon in the materials used to construct houses is much more important than previously believed. The group, Builders for Climate Action, has published a report stressing the importance of accounting for carbon emissions in the…

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Is Air Sealing “Mostly BS?”

Like many other owner/builders planning an energy-efficient home, RedFalcon6 is well aware that careful air sealing is considered a cornerstone of high-performance building. But do the numbers really add up? “I have to confess,” RedFalcon writes in a recent Q&A post, “I’ve never sat down and done ‘the math’ on the payback for increasing air-tightness from ‘Ok’ to ‘Pretty Good’ to ‘Awesome.'” All else being equal, RedFalcon asks, what’s the financial value of reducing air leakage by two thirds—from 3 air changes per hour at 50 pascals of pressure (3ACH50) to 1ACH50? RedFalcon points to a 2013 California study by…

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