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2019 and 2020: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Last year—2019—offered a mixture of good and bad news on the energy efficiency front, and 2020 (the 40th anniversary of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE) promises more of the same. Overall, there’s a lot to celebrate, but much more needs to be done to advance efficiency and address climate change. In this post we’ll look at the good, the bad, the ugly happenings of 2019, and the promise of the current year—2020. The good I’m an eternal optimist, so let me start with the good news. Public recognition of climate change has been gradually increasing (e.g.,…


A Perfect Example of Radiant Heat Transfer

Frost formed on the part of the author's car that was under the open sky but not the part under the roof. On Saturday morning as I was heading out for a run at the Chattahoochee River, I found my car in the condition you see in the photo above. Let’s ignore the reason I was parked half in and half out of the garage and focus on the frost instead. As you can see, the frost appeared only on the back part of the car. The part of the car that was under the roof had no frost at…


How to Boost Recycling

You finish that last sip of morning coffee and stare at the empty paper cup in your hand. Should it go into the recycling bin, compost, or be landfilled, or incinerated? You are not alone. Most Americans are confused about recycling, and the crisis driven by China’s decision to stop accepting most foreign scrap material is worsening the problem. At this point it’s hard to be sure that items put in the recycling bin are recycled. Research shows that more often than not, Americans give up trying to sort their recyclables. Or they engage in wishful recycling, tossing nonrecyclables into…


When It’s Better to Demolish an Old House than to Patch It Up

GBA readers get a steady diet of advice on how to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of old houses. The list almost always includes basics like air sealing and adding insulation, and may extend to upgraded mechanical systems and windows. BlueSolar isn’t so sure that makes sense. Writing in a recent Q&A post, BlueSolar says he’s not finding good building lots in convenient neighborhoods in the two areas he’s considering, Tucson and Las Vegas. So he’s thinking about buying a cheaper house, tearing it down, and building a new one. BlueSolar can see pros and cons. On the plus…


Pete’s Puzzle: Greater Air Leakage After Spray Foam

Here’s a funky, but cool little timber-frame house, built in 1987: A rural, southern Vermont timber-frame home with an air leakage problem that got worse when it should have gotten better. Let the investigation begin… Being a full cathedral timber frame, the roof deck provides both structure and interior finish with all the rigid roof insulation topside. The home’s interior, showing cathedral ceiling and the exterior wall’s interior finish of V-groove boards. The roof assembly, showing rigid insulation, furring strips, and corrugated metal roof panels. Image courtesy of the homeowner. Critters drove the roof retrofit Nesting mice and squirrels were…


Urban Rustic: Completing the Wall Assembly

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. A list of Eric’s previous posts appears below. For more details and more photos, see Eric’s blog, Kimchi & Kraut. Once Wojtek and Mark had installed continuous insulation on the exterior side of our ZIP sheathing (4 inches of Rockwool Comfortboard 80), I was able to move inside and begin installing Rockwool Batts (R-23) in our 2×6 wall framing. After reading up on the available options for insulation, we decided to invest in Rockwool…

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