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How to Look at a House like a Building Scientist (Part 1: Air)

This article is the first in a three-part series on how to use various diagnostic tools to sleuth out problems in buildings. The work I do for Building Science Corporation (Joe Lstiburek’s company, for those who don’t know) involves forensic investigations of moisture-related (or similar) building failures—in other words, sleuthing out problems in buildings. Despite the fancy name, this typically involves crawling around the bowels of commercial and residential buildings to look at the problem areas and determine the causes. These problems may include strange odors that seem to emanate out of nowhere, windows that leak water during rainstorms, indoor…


The Third Worst Place to Put a Duct

An older house with ducts located in the third worst place you can put them. All photos courtesy of Energy Vanguard. If you want to design and install a duct system to create problems, the possibilities are endless. I’ve certainly written about a lot of them (as well as how to do it properly). Today, though, let’s focus on one particularly bad place to put a duct. In fact, I think it’s the third worst place to put one. The problem What spurred this article is that I recently moved from a condo to 1961 ranch house in Atlanta, and…


Survey Finds Growth in Zero-Energy Housing

Sifton's West 5 development in London, Ontario will include roughly 2000 net-zero units when fully built out. It's now in the fourth year of a planned 15-year development. Photo courtesy of Sifton. Net-zero housing is still a very minor player in overall construction starts, but the numbers are rising steadily, according to an annual survey now in its fourth year. The total number of housing units grew by 59% in the U.S. and Canada last year, from just under 14,000 in 2017 to a total of 22,146 last year. The annual accounting is conducted by Team Zero (formerly the Net…


In Los Angeles, Green Technology Gets a Helping Hand

Angel City Lumber, which diverts downed trees from the waste stream and turns them into usable lumber, is one of 13 organizations included in the new initiative. Photo courtesy of Angel City Lumber. More than a dozen green technology firms will be getting a boost over the coming months as they show a broader audience how they can help the Los Angeles region meet its net-zero energy goals. The U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles Chapter (USGBC-LA) calls the initiative the Net Zero Accelerator. The idea is to pair companies that have shown promise in such areas as energy efficiency, waste…


Urban Rustic: Exterior Insulation and a Rainscreen

Editor’s note: This post is one of a series by Eric Whetzel about the design and construction of his house in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The first blog in his series was called An Introduction to a New Passive House Project; a list of Eric’s previous posts appears below. For more details, see Eric’s blog, Kimchi & Kraut. Continuous insulation and double-stud walls both are options for high-performance walls, but we decided continuous insulation (CI, for short) made the most sense to us. Continuous insulation has its own challenges, especially in terms of air and water sealing details…


How Electricity Prices Vary Across the U.S.

The cost of electricity varies widely across the U.S., with average residential bills ranging from a high of $149 a month in Hawaii to a low of $79 in New Mexico. Photo: Massmatt / CC / Flickr You might consider moving to Hawaii for its balmy weather and postcard-perfect beaches, but it won’t be for cheap power. A state-by-state listing of electricity costs finds Hawaii at the top of the rankings with a retail price of 29.5 cents per kilowatt hour and average residential bills of $149 a month. At the opposite end of the spectrum, residents of Washington state…

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