Condensation on wooden windows is more problematic

Humidity. Moisture. Water vapor. Evaporation. Condensation. Mold. Rot.

These are all words that go together in people’s minds when the topic of humidity comes up. But what is it and why is it so important?

I’m going to try to explain this as simply as possible, so for the scientists and engineers reading – please cut me a little slack. I’m going for clarity over precision. However, if you catch the inevitable factual errors, please point them out so I can correct them.

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I recently had an interesting question – a reader asked what could cause a Fujitsu mini-split air conditioner to cause the air to become *more* humid. In fact, they noted that the air became highly moisture laden and the house was just yucky humid.

I really scratched my head on this one because, from a physics standpoint, under “normal” conditions, this is impossible with a mini-split. Why? Because a mini-split system has an air handler unit in the house with the only connection to the outside (and outdoor humidity) is through a small hole in the wall where the electrical and refrigerant lines run. And yet it happened.

The questioner noted that multiple units were involved and that various parts of the electronics had been changed, and yet the problem persisted. He noted that he’d heard of a number of other people with the same problem. I admit, I was baffled!

Then it came to me. In fact, I had worked with an associate, helping them to track down this exact problem. While I can’t state with 100% certainty that the problems were the same, the symptoms are the same. In addition, I realized that my own home’s systems exhibited the same issues, but I automatically made the adjustments to make the systems work properly!

Here’s what’s going on…

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StinkyFace

Yes, that’s your illustrious author making the “stink face”

People often ask: “why does my house smell?” Often, this is during the winter because your house is sealed up for months, with little fresh air. In fact, with tight, energy efficient homes, this has become even more of an issue. It’s one of the reasons that there’s been a backlash against tight houses.

#1 – your house might not be adequately ventilated

First, let me address the energy efficient house issue. The problem is, many builders and architects don’t understand that a house is a complex system. You can’t just air-seal the house and have a healthy house. That’s why building best-practices call for a certain amount of fresh air circulation. So if you live in a tight house, you want to ensure you have adequate fresh air or your house will get stale and smell. If you don’t know about HRV’s and ERV’s (heat recovery ventilators and energy recovery ventilators) read this short post. Every modern home should have one of these. Once you’ve lived with one, you’ll wonder how you managed without it.

#2 – there might be a dead mouse/animal somewhere Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s about time.

Well, actually, it’s about energy conservation, saving money and light quality.

For years, I’ve been looking for a frosted, round candelabra base (G16) dimmable LED bulb that I can use in my high-use fixtures. And yesterday, I found what I’ve been looking for in my local hardware store.

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She Blinded Me With Science!

One of the toughest things about researching a new heating system is learning the tech talk. Your HVAC company will throw out all sorts of terminology assuming that you understand what they’re talking about. Some might even be happy that you *don’t* understand so they can confuse you and sound like experts. Well, no more!

This post covers the most common terms that you’re likely to run across. I’m sure I’ll miss some or confuse you, so please post questions if there’s anything you’d like clarified.

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I got a great question from a reader asking about replacing a boiler and water heater system. After writing a reply, I realized the information might be useful to others, so here goes!

If you’ve got an old boiler that you’re thinking about replacing, you might find all the terminology and technology a bit intimidating. Fortunately, these days, there are a quite a few safe, high efficiency, hot-water generating systems that can provide plenty of hot water for baths and showers as well as heating your home.

I’ve been using this type of system in my home for years, both oil and gas (actually propane, but for this discussion, they’re the same). They can be excellent and cost effective IF configured and controlled correctly.

Let me get something out of the way right away – I would *not* recommend an oil burning system. Even though oil has come way down in price, it’s simply not a great fuel for home heating systems for a number of reasons

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Dam ice Dams

Posted: February 21, 2015 in Conservation

T.D. Inoue:

 

A particularly timely repeat posting given the horrible conditions in the Northeast United States. If you’ve got icicles and lots of snow on your roof, you definitely want to check this out.

Then, once you have learned about the causes and dangers of ice dams, do something about it and build yourself a snow-rake.

Originally posted on Ted's Energy Tips:

Link: Dam ice Dams

Want to learn the ?building science? of ice dams? Building Science corp has an amazing set of notes on building problems and precautions. I consider them the source for building information relating to tricky issues that tend to foil most contractors.

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Proper flashing detail around a window

Proper flashing detail around a window

When I head out around the countryside, I am frequently dismayed by all the examples of improper construction techniques. “There’s another house that’s going to rot out in a few years” I think to myself.

So, when I saw this new construction, I did a double-take. Did the contractor actually properly install the house-wrap (Typar or Tyvek) around the window? Amazing!

Let’s look at what they did right:

  1. They used Typar house wrap which is generally a better product than Tyvek. But installed correctly, each can do a fine job
  2. They installed the house wrap horizontally in long, continuous segments. This reduces the number of seams, which are potential failure points.
  3. They used the Typar tape for the seams. This is a little detail that is often missed. The house wrap is slippery material and using the wrong tape on the seams can lead to failure. Only the factory approved brand should be used whether it be Tyvek or Typar.
  4. *IMPORTANT* They sliced the wrap above the window and installed the top piece over the window’s nailing flange. This directs water properly. 90% of the installations are done without this detail which leads to water getting under the nailing flange!
  5. *IMPORTANT* They taped the wrap under the nailing flange and over the bottom sill. Again, this is critical for proper drainage. If water gets behind the window, it drips onto water-impervious Grace Vycor then drains out at the bottom flange. Most installers tape the bottom flange to the house wrap which traps water inside the wall.

So kudos to the builder. This home is much less likely to rot out than 90% of the other new constructions!

Image  —  Posted: October 21, 2014 in Building Science, Construction techniques, Mold & Moisture, Windows
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CREE LED bulbs on sale

For some time, PECO (our local electric company) has been subsidizing high-efficiency bulbs. The current special is the best I’ve seen. For about $5, you can now get industry leading CREE LED bulbs, as well as the highly rated Philips bulbs at your local Home Depot.

If you’ve been considering trying LED bulbs but have found the price to be prohibitive, now’s the time to try a few. The energy savings can easily pay for the bulbs in under a year and they’re so long lasting that you’ll likely never have to change them.

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GEH50DEEDSR _ GeoSpring™ hybrid electric water heater _ GE Appliances

Intro

In July 2014, I purchased this GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater to replace my existing all-electric water that had sprung a leak. Admittdely, it was an impulse buy because Lowes was having a sale on them – probably to get rid of unwanted inventory because these have horrible reviews!

So why did I buy it? Because it was only a few hundred dollars more than a conventional electric water heater and I’d been wanting to get an integrated HPWH after my previous add-on HPWH died after just a year. Plus, based on the negative reviews, I felt that the people having problems were using earlier versions of the heater. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it has a long, happy life.

Almost everything written in this article applies to all heat-pump water heaters. I’ll put the GE specific notes at the end.

What is a heat-pump water heater?

You may not know it but your refrigerator and air conditioner are examples of heat pumps. Through a process of compression, condensation and evaporation, they move heat from one place to another. In your refrigerator, that humming you hear when it runs is the compressor. The inside of the fridge is cold because the “heat” in the fridge is moved to the outside of the insulated box and blown into your kitchen. An air conditioner works exactly the same way – it cools the air inside the house and expels the heat outside.

The HPWH does the same thing except it uses the heat to warm the water in the tank. And the cold? If you feel the output behind the heater, you’ll see that the cold gets blown into the room. Heat the water, chill the room. Keep this in mind, we’ll come back to that later.

Why does a heat-pump water heater save energy?

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