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How to Look at a House like a Building Scientist (Part 2: Heat)

This article is the second in a series on various building diagnostic tools used to sleuth out problems in buildings. If you missed it, you may want to read Part 1: Air before diving in here. I’m back to share more tools of the trade that I use for forensic examinations and to diagnose problems in buildings. The rough breakdown of these columns will cover the topics of air, heat, and moisture and the tools I use to identify how they are acting in a building. This time, we’re looking at heat, or more specifically temperature. One of my go-to…

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Phoenix Gives Net-Zero House Plans to Anyone Who Wants Them

Building a net-zero house in Phoenix, Arizona? The city will be happy to provide you with a full set of plans at no cost. The offer is part of the city’s plan to see all new buildings net positive by 2050, according to an article posted at Architectural Record, and follows a design competition in 2017 challenging architects to develop plans for a near net-zero house suited to the city’s hot, dry climate. The winner was Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects, which developed plans for a 2,185-square-foot, three-bedroom home. Home NZ, as it’s called, has a HERS score of 30,…

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Energy Department Reverses Light Bulb Standards

Widely used but relatively inefficient light bulbs that were headed for extinction next year have won a reprieve from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). First, the department issued a final rule earlier this month that reverses efficiency standards for an estimated 3 billion light bulbs used in U.S. homes. The rule scuttles attempts to expand the definition of “general service” bulbs to include candle- and globe-shaped bulbs, candelabra bulbs, and reflector bulbs used in ceiling fixtures and track lighting, according to a summary posted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Now, those bulbs will not be…

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Frugal Happy: Epic House Update

Sealing and insulating the crawlspace proved to be a difficult process, certainly not suited for claustrophobic people. Editor’s Note: This post is one of a series by Chris Stratton and Wen Lee, a husband-and-wife team living in the Los Angeles area who are turning their 1963 suburban house into an all-electric, zero-net-energy home. They chronicle their attempts at a low-carbon, low-cost, and joyful lifestyle on their blog Frugal Happy. This post was written by Wen. All photos courtesy of the authors. Okay everyone, it’s been seven months since our last post, and we were already months behind then. Now our…

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Billions Available from HUD for Climate Resilience

Mexico Beach, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in 2018. Florida is among nine states and five local communities that will be eligible to share nearly $7 billion in federal funds to reduce the risk of damage from natural disasters. Photo: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk / CC BY-NC-ND / Flickr Billions of dollars in much-needed federal funding are finally being made available to nine states and five local communities. These dollars are to be used for activities and projects that reduce vulnerability to future disasters, including consideration of how such disasters could become more dangerous due to climate change. The…

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Does This Footing Need a Capillary Break?

As he works out the details for a new house, Jason Huffine has become concerned about the potential for trouble in applying a capillary break between the concrete footing and the foundation walls. A capillary break would prevent the foundation—in this case steel-reinforced, concrete-filled block —from wicking up moisture. Huffine’s general contractor isn’t familiar with this technique, and the two of them wonder whether the capillary break would weaken the connection between foundation and footing. “Though I’m as green around the gills as one could be and learning as I go, that sounds like a good question to me,” Huffine…

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