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Solar Tek automatic foundation vents - any reviews

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In the available (south and west) foundation walls of the approx 2000 sq ft crawl space under our Bloomington, Indiana condo building, the maintenance crew has installed Solar Tek automatic foundation vents (bought at our local Menards or Lowes). What few reviews I can find online indicate that performance of this type of "automatic" vent is problematic. Anyone have a performance review to offer here?

Bloomington average temperatures http://pics2.city-data.com/w1q...7716.png

Bloomington average humidity http://pics2.city-data.com/w2q...7716.png

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Crawlspace venting is not desirable for multiple reasons. It's been debunked by every credible study.

Seal, insulate, condition. No vents.

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Crawlspace venting is not desirable for multiple reasons. It's been debunked by every credible study.

Seal, insulate, condition. No vents.

In our building there are 4 crawlspaces, but they are linked in pairs with no fire barrier door between them. In November 2010 the HOA Board wanted to condition the crawls, but after I got a County Buildings Dept inspector advising, he pointed out how expensive the code compliant options would be. They went back to the as-built state: vapor barrier on floor, fiberglass insulation in joists, foamboard on exterior walls and just now, these automatic vents. Our home inspector at time of sale advised leaving the vents closed all year.

BTW, I got much help from you folks here back in November. Thanks.

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In the available (south and west) foundation walls of the approx 2000 sq ft crawl space under our Bloomington, Indiana condo building, the maintenance crew has installed Solar Tek automatic foundation vents (bought at our local Menards or Lowes). What few reviews I can find online indicate that performance of this type of "automatic" vent is problematic. Anyone have a performance review to offer here?

Bloomington average temperatures http://pics2.city-data.com/w1q...7716.png

Bloomington average humidity http://pics2.city-data.com/w2q...7716.png

The links don't work.

Isn't your association the one that was about to create unvented, conditioned crawlspaces, but they were going to do it in a poor manner, with no attention to detail, and with a high probability that it would cause huge problems in the future? As I recall, they got the idea from a contractor's proposal, but they didn't hire that contractor, they hired someone much cheaper who didn't have any idea what he was doing.

After actually discovering what it would cost to do an unvented, conditioned crawlspace properly, they decided to just fix up the existing vented crawlspace. That's your association, right?

So now they've got a vented crawlspace and they want to make it into an unvented crawlspace *sometimes*, like when its cold outside, or, more likely, when the $20 plastic vent decides it's ok to block itself.

My advice: Either make a vented crawlspace or an unvented crawlspace. Don't build a crawlspace that decides for itself. Crawlspaces lack good decision making skills.

Jim Katen, Oregon

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Actually, the miracle vents sell for $16.30 at Menards.

Don't bother. They're garbage.

..........but they don't seem too interested in opinions or suggestions.

Like most HOA boards.

There isn't much to do here; if they don't want to listen to what's proven to work, that's their prerogative.

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There isn't much to do here; if they don't want to listen to what's proven to work, that's their prerogative.

I haven't quite given up on them yet. Are you saying that our "vented" crawls would be better served if the vents were shut year round as our home inspector suggested (providing the space is dry, has a vapor barrier and insulation on the walls)?

Also, do you know where I could find an article supporting this?

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Thanks for the link. (How come my links get broken and yours didn't?)

The trouble with the articles/studies linked from the advancedenergy.org page is that they all focus on "closed crawl" = conditioned crawl - and conditioning is not an option for our condo's crawls (because they are linked in pairs with no fire doors between = too expensive to upgrade + and other reasons). What I wish I could find is an article something like: Proper Use of Crawlspace Vents - When Conditioning is Not an Option. If anyone knows of such a piece, pls let me know.

I contacted my home inspector again about the newly installed automatic vents. He does not like them and says, "They usually fail to work properly in a short amount of time." He appears to stand by his earlier opinion that, given our circumstances, it probably would be better to keep our vents shut year round.

OTOH, a statement I came across that caught my attention in one advancedenergy.org-linked article was: "The irony is that wall vents get closed when they can do the most crawl space drying - during the dry weather of winter." Hmmm... What is one to do?

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.

............... What is one to do?

When you're dealing with condo boards that don't know what to do, and don't want to listen to the right way to do things........

Not much.

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Thanks for the link. (How come my links get broken and yours didn't?)

The trouble with the articles/studies linked from the advancedenergy.org page is that they all focus on "closed crawl" = conditioned crawl - and conditioning is not an option for our condo's crawls (because they are linked in pairs with no fire doors between = too expensive to upgrade + and other reasons). What I wish I could find is an article something like: Proper Use of Crawlspace Vents - When Conditioning is Not an Option. If anyone knows of such a piece, pls let me know.

I contacted my home inspector again about the newly installed automatic vents. He does not like them and says, "They usually fail to work properly in a short amount of time." He appears to stand by his earlier opinion that, given our circumstances, it probably would be better to keep our vents shut year round.

OTOH, a statement I came across that caught my attention in one advancedenergy.org-linked article was: "The irony is that wall vents get closed when they can do the most crawl space drying - during the dry weather of winter." Hmmm... What is one to do?

I disagree with your home inspector. You should either have a closed, conditioned crawlspace, or an open unconditioned one. What he's proposing is an unconditioned crawlspace that you close up, either occasionally, or permanently. That not a good idea and it's contrary to the building code, which requires such crawlspaces to be vented -- not sometimes, always.

If you want to close up the crawlspace, then it has to be designed to be closed up. Seems like you already explored that path . . .

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I disagree with your home inspector. You should either have a closed, conditioned crawlspace,

This is not an option. That being the case, how would you vary the vent positions during the year?
or an open unconditioned one. What he's proposing is an unconditioned crawlspace that you close up, either occasionally, or permanently. That not a good idea and it's contrary to the building code, which requires such crawlspaces to be vented -- not sometimes, always.
Are you saying the vents should be open year round?

Your post raises some interesting points. Let me say -

The building is 20 years old. There does not appear to be any water penetration or vapor issues.

When asking about crawl pressurization, we were told by more than one professional (including our HVAC tech) that our building is not so tight that it would be a problem. Assuming this to be true, if the vents were closed wouldn't the stack effect draw air into the crawl through cracks, cheap vents, etc. - in effect, causing the crawl to be "vented" year round? I mean, our crawl will never really be "closed" as it is now, right?

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I disagree with your home inspector. You should either have a closed, conditioned crawlspace,

This is not an option. That being the case, how would you vary the vent positions during the year?

I'm getting tired of saying this: YOU DON'T.

or an open unconditioned one. What he's proposing is an unconditioned crawlspace that you close up, either occasionally, or permanently. That not a good idea and it's contrary to the building code, which requires such crawlspaces to be vented -- not sometimes, always.
Are you saying the vents should be open year round?

I'm saying it and the building code is saying it. If you want to screw with covering the vents, then do a conditioned crawlspace.

Your post raises some interesting points. Let me say -

The building is 20 years old. There does not appear to be any water penetration or vapor issues.

When asking about crawl pressurization, we were told by more than one professional (including our HVAC tech) that our building is not so tight that it would be a problem. Assuming this to be true, if the vents were closed wouldn't the stack effect draw air into the crawl through cracks, cheap vents, etc. - in effect, causing the crawl to be "vented" year round? I mean, our crawl will never really be "closed" as it is now, right?

I don't know. You don't know. Your HVAC tech doesn't know. The stack effect will vary from minute to minute. Relying on cracks & gaps for your ventilation is unpredictable. It might work or it might cause big problems.

If you're going to do an unconditioned crawlspace, vent it properly, per the code requirements, and leave it that way.

Here are the requirements:

R408.1 Ventilation. The under-floor space between the bottom of the floor joists and the earth under any building (except space occupied by a basement) shall have ventilation openings through foundation walls or exterior walls. The minimum net area of ventilation openings shall not be less than 1 square foot (0.0929 m2) for each 150 square feet (14 m2) of under-floor space area. One such ventilating opening shall be within 3 feet (914 mm) of each corner of the building.

R408.2 Openings for under-floor ventilation. The minimum net area of ventilation openings shall not be less than 1 square foot (0.0929m2) for each 150 square feet (14m2) of under-floor area. One ventilating opening shall be within 3 feet (914 mm) of each corner of the building. Ventilation openings shall be covered for their height and width with any of the following materials provided that the least dimension of the covering shall not exceed 1/4 inch (6.4 mm):

1. Perforated sheet metal plates not less than 0.070 inch (1.8 mm) thick.

2. Expanded sheet metal plates not less than 0.047 inch (1.2 mm) thick.

3. Cast-iron grill or grating.

4. Extruded load-bearing brick vents.

5. Hardware cloth of 0.035 inch (0.89 mm)wire or heavier.

6. Corrosion-resistant wire mesh, with the least dimension being 1/8 inch (3.2 mm).

There's nothing in there about closing the vents sometimes and opening them other times.

Now, sometimes, particularly in the south, the code's prescriptive ventilation requirements don't work so well. The answer *is not* to simply close the vents. If you want to do that, you first have to prepare the crawlspace to perform properly without ventilation. You've said that this isn't an option for you. So just stick with the prescriptive requirements.

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Look, I don't want to frustrate anyone here. I am just trying to weigh the different opinions and balance that against the reality of the building's present condition and history, and the intransigence of those actually having the power to make changes in it.

Some final(?) questions for anyone who has experience with closed vents in unconditioned crawls:

Regulations and heating efficiency aside for the moment -

As long as the crawl spaces remain relatively dry, why would we want to have open vents in the summer introducing humidity laden air that is very warm?

There is, in reality, a very small vent area in place (see below) in our building. And more than likely there is leakage from the duct work in the crawl spaces. If we did close the vents in summer, wouldn't the AC duct leakage help condition the crawls?

Realities:

1. Our southern Indiana condo building is 20 years old.

2. The vent area is typical cinder block size (approx 1 sq ft), so approx total only 4 sq ft for approx total 2,000 sq ft of the 2 combined crawls.

3. 1 year ago when we moved in, I believe all 3 of our vents (2 on west, 1 on south) were open and, as far as I know, not attended to in any way. I assume the linked crawlspace neighbor on our east had its 1 vent open as well.

4. The crawl is below the sidewalk on the north, so no vents there.

5. I assume the construction was inspected 20 years ago and OKd.

6. No moisture issues in the crawls when inspected 1 year ago.

7. The automatic vents just installed will probably at some point get stuck in the open or shut position - unless someone can convince them to replace them with a manually operated type.

Finally, I know someone in the area who has two small crawl spaces under the house and neither are vented - and they are not experiencing problems.

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