Frequently Asked Questions -
Q: Is the goal of making a home healthy at odds with making a home efficient?
No, this is not at all true. This is a myth. In fact, a sustainable home by definition has all of the following performance attributes:
- Durable/Low maintenance
What we are describing is a home that performs properly. We should not and do not have to make choices between these desirable attributes in our homes and buildings. These goals can only be met by understanding the relationships that comprise the "system" that is the whole the structure. The climate in which you are building forms a part of the "system." The impacts of the occupants (also part of the "system") must be understood as they can have very significant impacts on how the building functions and what it is asked to provide.
Q: What does "the house is a system" mean? How is the principle used to improve the performance of homes and businesses?
First, let's look for a moment at the way homes and buildings have traditionally been viewed by the building industry. Each trade is seen as a stand alone entity. Their work and the sub system they install are viewed separately from the other subsystems and the structure as a whole. No one is charged with integrating the parts into a correctly functioning whole.
When the first real scientific research into how structures function began, the researchers quickly noticed that everything seemed to influence or impact the performance of everything else.
Air ducts that leak in the attic caused the water heater in the basement to backdraft CO into the house. Too many recessed ceiling can fixtures caused the fireplace to not draft properly. Closing bedroom doors increased the infiltration of outside air into the home by hundreds of percent making rooms drafty and uncomfortably cold or warm.
The scientist soon realized that the whole structure interacts and that all of the so called "sub systems and parts" function in one interactive whole. They coined the phrase, "The house is a system." to describe this new understanding of the physics of homes and buildings.
Even the climate and the occupants are considered part of the system. We have learned that what are "best building practices" in Minneapolis will cause a home in Houston to rot. The building interacts with the specific local climate and to perform well it must address these climatic demands. The occupants "operate" and interact with the building system. Their needs and the way that they intend to use the home or building must be considered to ensure that the performance they want can be delivered.
Q: We have family members or staff who have allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivity and that demands that our home or business have excellent indoor air quality. How can that be efficiently done in an environment like a major American city?
The key to providing the indoor air quality that you are looking for is to control the quantity, quality, and source of the air in the facility. In new construction, we should also address source control by selecting the best materials to contribute to a healthy indoor environment. Our homes and buildings today often depend on infiltration to provide our "fresh" air and produce good indoor air quality. This is much like depending on the tooth fairy to provide for your retirement savings.
By definition, infiltration is the unplanned entry of an unknown quantity of air, of uncertain qualities, in varying amounts, from an unknown source and at irregular times. Ventilation is the planned introduction of a known amount of air, of controlled qualities, at pre determined times, from a known source.
Q:Are my windows really important to comfort and efficiency? What windows are the best?
Yes, the windows you select are one of the two most important components in your overall energy efficiency and comfort package! One thing that stays consistent is that the windows contribute about one half of all the heat that enters or leaves a home.
That's right. The windows normally let in or out as much heat as the walls, ceilings, doors and air leaks combined! Before the mid 1990's we had storm and double pane windows, but they did little to stop heat gain in a home. Solar window films and solar shade screens could stop about one half of the heat gain but they also made the rooms dark. They worked by blocking half or more of the light along with the heat they blocked.
We now have a new type of window product called Low-E and Low-E Squared. Both products are double pane construction and use the principle of emissivity to control the flow of heat into and out of a home. The process can be "tuned" to maximize the benefits for either heating dominated or a cooling dominated climate.
Southern Low-E or Low-E Squared as it is sometimes called, blocks the heat from the sun, but allows the light to enter the home. This allows us to have brightly-lit rooms that remain cool and comfortable. The Northern Low-E products are "tuned" to allow the sun's heat to enter the home, then stop the heat from radiating back to the outside, trapping it inside.
These glazing products have really dropped in price in the last two years as demand and production has risen. They are only a little (5%-10%) more than standard double pane windows. They can be purchased in aluminum, fiberglass, vinyl or wood frames from all major manufacturers of windows.
Contact us today at (503) 239-6520 for more
information regarding our energy conservation company.