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Uber Insulated Home


hausdok
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Yesterdays inspection up on the Issaquah Highlands plateau.

This isn't my photo; I got this from the builder's website. It was raining cats and dogs and blowing like a banshee. Dark as dusk at midday. Getting up on that roof kicked my ass three ways from Sunday.

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This is an ultra-tight house. The used closed-cell foam in the walls. In the attic there's 3-4 inches of closed cell shot on the ceilings and then there's another 15-inches of blown-in fiberglass on top of that. The foam made it hard as hell to find the lower chords of the trusses with my feet so that I didn't end up punching a hole through the ceiling. There is a whole house air change intake at the ceiling of every bedroom, plus two in the hallway, on the second floor. The primary heat is a heat pump. When it gets so cold that the emergency heat has to come on, the gas furnace below the evaporator - the coil of which supplies air movement for the heat pump system - kicks on as a backup.

The completely sealed crawlspace has a concrete floor with a drain, two three inch thick layers of foam board against the concrete walls, way too much closed cell blown against the cripple walls and is a comfortable quiet 55°F. There's as much room in the crawl as in some small condos downtown. Talk about bonus storage space.

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Here's the kicker; no timer for the whole house air change system. I asked the client where the timer was. He had no idea. I explained what the system was supposed to do and asked if the builder had described anything like that to him and told him what to do about it. He said the HVAC guys had told him to keep the system on 24/7/365. ???!!!

I asked him how he is supposed to turn it off without a timer. He walked me over to the furnace and showed me a little toggle switch sloppily installed at the side of the furnace cabinet. It actually looked like the HVAC guy punched the hole with a hammer and screwdriver.

He said, "I kind of noticed that the heating bill went up after the last time the HVAC guys were here to work on the heat pump but I didn't know it had anything to do with that system."

House was comfortable inside despite the howling going on outside. Can't imagine that pumping your heated interior air outside 24/7/365 makes any sense at all. Told him he'd better call up the horse's ass with teeth that told him to run that system 24/7/365 and tell him to get back there and install a timer on the system so he can throttle down conditioned air loss to what's reasonable.

Your thoughts?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Hi,

No, no HRV on the system; it's one of the things I suggested to the client that should have been installed in a house this tight.

Jim, that crawl is essentially like a storage closet within the insulated envelope of a basement; like having a storage closet under stairs on the perimeter of the basement but with the exterior wall insulated instead of left cold like one would normally see. There was no sign that the temperature differential between there and the mudroom between this crawlspace and the garage has caused any issues. No condensation, no odors, no funk at all.

Gotta jet to my 1:00 pm. Talk later.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike, there are some fairly easy-to-find numbers on the cost of running a HRV--both electrical usage AND the loss of indoor heat--vs. the cost of having an average leaky house and losing heat that way. Martin Holladay is the first guy to ask about that, I'm sure you know where to find him. The better HRV systems cost very little to operate and they recover a surprising amount of heat.

As far as having an always-on balanced ventilation system with NO heat recovery... that's ridiculous. Once you have all the ductwork and fans and whatever else installed, why wouldn't you install the HRV? I don't get it.

Sounds like someone had part of the "tight house" concept down, but was missing another equally important part.

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I've heard about a development in Issaquah full of these houses. I believe the goal was to work toward net-zero energy usage or thereabouts.

Is this part of that development?

No HRV? Dumb. Somebody really forgot something.

No, it's a Bennett home. On the crest.

Further up near 10th they are putting up a bunch of Japanese built zero-energy homes that were supposed to have been built in Japan, broken down, shipped over here and are being reerected.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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