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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Philips has been a leader in LED lighting for some time, and their new SlimStyle bulb securely places them at the front of the pack.
While there are other, sexier dimmable LED bulbs, the SlimStyle has the best price/performance that I’ve seen. If you run the numbers, for a high-usage fixture (I define that as 8-hours a day) then you’ll find that this bulb pays for itself in about half a year in saved electricity costs. In my book, that makes it a “no-brainer.” It’s inexpensive, durable, casts a lot of pleasing light and is the first LED bulb that I’d call *cute* 🙂 Really, just look at it. What’s not to like? Continue reading →
After the first article, Matt collected his utility bills and other background information we need to get started. Here it is:
“Colonial 3,300 square feet. 3 adults one child. 2 Electric Heat Pumps: Large one in basement is Payne, Model Number PF1MNB048; Smaller one in mud room for rooms above garage has no name. Just has large number SA11694 and Model Number BCS2M18C00NA1P-1. Thermostat at 72 now and 70 in summer. Consumption Feb 2013 through Jan 2014 – kWh 5800, 4530, 2815, 1684, 1533, 2346, 1334, 1568, 1719, 3023, 5833, 7349”
I don’t even have to make a spreadsheet for this one!
What this tells us
We have a small-medium family in an average sized development home – no red-flags there.
However, the next items contain the keys to solving this mystery.
People keep asking me how I can do this for free. They say I should sell my services (done that) or charge for website access (won’t do that!) But it got me thinking about how people could drop a quarter in my tip jar, so to speak.
For years, I’ve heard about various systems for doing this, and now I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and signed up at Patreon.com. Patreon is a cool site set up to let people support their favorite creators. Whether they’re musicians, journalists or energy Geeks like me, Patreon lets you say “thanks” to those that bring something to your life.
I’m not much of a self promoter, so I’m not going to do this often. If you think I’m doing something useful here and feel like contributing, just head over to Patreon.
p.s. Ted’s Tips will be free for the foreseeable future. Patreon is just a way for you to provide positive feedback any time I do another post. It helps pay for the coffee that fuels this site.