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This article explains how to make best use of a home energy audit to reduce home heating or cooling costs. We provide related insulation and heat loss or heat gain analysis procedures including how to measure or calculate heat loss in a building, defines thermal terms like BTU and calorie, provides measures of heat transmission in materials, gives desired building insulation design data, and shows how
to calculate the heat loss in a building with R values or U values.
Formula-R™ and Owens Corning™ which may be visible in our page top photograph of pink Styrofoam™ insulation boards are registered trademarks of Owens Corning® and were photographed at a Home Depot® building supply center.
Many people have heard of using "R" values to describe "how good" a building's insulation is. This article explains three
measures of the flow of heat out of or into a building: R-values, K-values, and U-values. Each of these is defined below.
But before moving on to these basic concepts of building heat loss (or gain) theory, it is essential that this still
more basic point be considered:
It doesn't matter much how wonderful the building insulation is, how thick it is, or what the insulating material's
"R" value is (see R defined below) if the building is leaky. If, for example, we're considering an older home with
leaky windows or doors, or if we're considering a tall building with poorly controlled heat in winter, such that
occupants of the upper floors are leaving windows open in winter then the heat flow out of these openings
will be so terrific that the amount of insulation won't matter much.
How to make use of a home energy audit or free home energy use survey
A less precise and less computerized method for calculating building heat loss (or gain) is used
by people who perform an "energy survey" or energy audit for a building. Home energy audit services may be free from your local utility company. The
energy survey technician uses a pre-printed form whereon s/he records the areas of the building's walls, top floor ceilings,
foundation walls, floors, and the number and type of windows and doors.
An "R" value is assigned to these and the sheet
is used to manually calculate the building's rate of heat loss. We had one of these "free" surveys performed on a home built
in 1900 when we were renovating it years ago. Regrettably the surveyor was either poorly trained or simply not very observant.
The free energy audit surveyor rated our building walls at a very high
rate of heat loss by assuming that they were not insulated whatsoever (and then proceeded to try to sell us
an insulation service).
What that particular home energy audit surveyor failed to notice was that the building walls had
been insulated (with blown-in foam) - a condition that was quite easy to see since we had removed the building's exterior
siding and wall sheathing. He just didn't look.
So while home energy audits are a great idea, make sure your auditor is awake
before you believe the results of the home energy survey.
And remember that some "home energy auditors" are really trying to
sell you replacement windows (very long payback time) or building insulation. (Remember the urban legend about the home energy
auditor who was using a camera light meter as an "energy loss" indicator to convince home owners that they needed new windows?)
Using infra-red or thermography to screen buildings for un-wanted heat loss, leaks, or heat gain points
Home energy loss surveys using thermography or simple infra-red thermometers are a great way to pinpoint individual points of
heat loss (or unwanted heat gain) in a building.
In the hands of a properly-trained expert (not a window salesman) this equipment
can help find unexpected building air leaks or heat loss points even when you think that the building has already been insulated.
Having a "high-R" insulated wall or ceiling is not going to be enough to make a building energy efficient if there are many
unidentified air leaks or insulation voids in the building's walls, ceilings, or floors.
What is the Typical Design Temperature for buildings and Building Insulation?
The "indoor design temperature" for a building refers to the assumed target indoor temperature that the building owner or occupants
want. Typically 70 deg.F. is used unless the owner specifies something different.
The "outdoor design temperature" for a building is (for heating purposes) assumed to be the average lowest recorded temperature
for each month between October and March (the heating season in most climates).
If we are specifying a "design temperature" for
cooling climates we'd use the average outdoor highest recorded temperature during the heating season, perhaps April through September.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
Brick Nogging, Historical Investigation and Contemporary Repair, Construction Specifier, April 2006. Historical use of brick in timber-framed buildings, drawing on the investigations of the Kent Tavern in Calais, VT.
"Brick nogging is a European method of construction which was brought to the new world in the early-nineteenth century. It was a common construction method that employed masonry as infill between the vertical uprights of wood framing." -- quoting the web article review.
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
Falls and Related Injuries: Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences, Lawyers & Judges Publishing, (June 2002), ISBN-10: 0913875430 ISBN-13: 978-0913875438 "Falls in the home and public places are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, but are overlooked in most literature. This book is unique in that it is entirely devoted to falls. Of use to primary care physicians, nurses, insurance adjusters, architects, writers of building codes, attorneys, or anyone who cares for the elderly, this book will tell you how, why, and when people will likely fall, what most likely will be injured, and how such injuries come about. "
Fiberglass: Indoor Air Quality Investigations: Health Concerns About Airborne Fiberglass: Fiberglass in Indoor Air from HVAC ducts, and Building Insulation
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Piquet Wall Construction: See this photo of
piquet wall construction - involving timber-framed wall construction with long top girts, diagonal timber bracing, and small diameter logs
placed vertically along with concrete chinking to fill in the wall plane.
Plank House Construction: weblog from plankhouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/plank-house-construction/ and where plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project.
Re-Bath, tub lining products is a bath tub relining manufacturer and distributor located in Tempe, Arizona - see rebath.com
Rubblestone Wall Filler: See this Lartigue House using exterior-exposed rubblestone filler between vertical timbers of a post and beam-framed Canadian building.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or
ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2,
available from the publisher, Lawyers ^ Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com email@example.com and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20Stair%20IRC%20SCREEN.pdf ] -
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Mold-Resistant Building Practices, advice from an expert on how to prevent mold after a building flood and how to prevent mold growth in buildings by selection of building materials and by anti-mold construction details.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2, available from the publisher, Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com firstname.lastname@example.org and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
Steps and Stairways, Cleo Baldon & Ib Melchior, Rizzoli, 1989.