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How to Look at a House like a Building Scientist (Part 3: Temperature, Humidity, and HVAC Systems)

Editor’s Note: This post is part 3 in a series of articles on how to use diagnostic tools to uncover problems with buildings. You can read part 1, on air, here and part 2, on heat, here.  I’m back, with more tools of the trade that I use for forensic examinations and to diagnose problems in buildings. I’m roughly breaking this series of articles into the topics of air, heat, and moisture: this time, we’re looking at temperature and humidity meters, how I use them for investigations and—more specifically—to take HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) measurements. Temperature and humidity meters In the…


Electric Vehicle Boom Will Bring Solid Waste Challenges

A surge in electric vehicle ownership will help lower carbon emissions in the decades ahead. But it also will create challenges for reusing and recycling millions of lithium ion batteries when the vehicles have reached the end of the line. A new study published in the journal Nature says the batteries “present a serious waste-management challenge” for recyclers, but also represent an opportunity to recover the valuable raw materials that are used to manufacture them. Batteries that are no longer capable of powering a vehicle may still have enough juice for streetlights and other less-demanding uses. For backyard tinkerers, batteries…


How to Fix a Dangerous Deck

Mikeysp has just visited a friend’s lakeside cabin and come away with serious reservations about an attached deck built over a steep embankment. Scenic, possibly, but in Mikeysp’s view, a disaster waiting to happen. The design includes a 4-foot cantilever of the 2×8 framing, structural posts that seem inadequately anchored at the ground, and a lack of lateral support. “I warned him that it is unsafe,” Mikeysp says in a recent Q&A post. “If that were to fail, it could go down, into the water, and really harm someone, whether elderly, young, or rendered incapacitated from the impact with debris…


A Look at Low Carbon Homes

“If you are building a house in 2019, all of the embodied energy gets burned this year, which means that all of the carbon associated with that embodied energy is going into the atmosphere this year.”—Martin Holladay Still abuzz after our recent Building Science Summit, I’ve recommitted to a rallying cry I haven’t sounded loud enough. I’m not alone in that department. Though the dialogue around embodied carbon is starting to attract more attention, the green building community is still primarily focused on the operations-related environmental impacts of our houses, so efforts are centered around energy efficiency over the carbon…


How Households Drive Up Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As the public conversation about climate change gets increasingly serious, many Americans may be wondering: How do my individual choices affect climate change? Household consumption—food, housing, transportation, apparel, and other personal services—is an important contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Everything you eat or wear, every time you drive, contributes to total global emissions. The typical American’s annual per capita carbon footprint is more than five times the world per capita average. A study by our research team, including Kaihui Song, Shen Qu and Sai Liang, published on September 10, sheds light on the global carbon footprint of U.S. households. Some…


Deep Dive into Blower Door Testing

Over the last several years I have accumulated a range of questions about how blower doors and blower door testing work. So when another new query popped up in my head, a question about AeroBarrier and how it uses the blower door to both air seal and test for airtightness, I figured it was time to check in with an expert. Collin Olson is Staff Physicist for The Energy Conservatory (TEC). He holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where he initially specializing in high energy particle physics. Collin starts our conversation by explaining why he is…

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