I was recently sent this excellent set of references on mold. The very mention of mold sends shivers up people’s spines and makes them start sniffling, worrying about adverse effects. These references help to answer your questions and learn how to deal with your mold problems.
In an effort to make Ted’s Energy Tips even more useful, I’ve changed to an ultra-minimal layout to keep the site focused on what’s important – the content.
Gone are the distracting sidebars and hopefully many of the ads that get inserted automatically into my content. What remains is just the list of articles and a simple menu at the top right of the page.
Click on the menu to search or find other site content.
And, as always, keep submitting your great questions!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
They used Typar house wrap which is generally a better product than Tyvek. But installed correctly, each can do a fine job
They installed the house wrap horizontally in long, continuous segments. This reduces the number of seams, which are potential failure points.
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.
*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!
*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!