Tools of the Trade

Here, in the lakes region of Northern Wisconsin we rely on many tools during the course of  building the beautiful, energy-efficient homes that we build.
The log, timber-frame and Structural Insulated Panel homes that we build requires us to deploy a good  number of specialty  tools and we take pride in our ability to work with what we consider to be our “Tools of the Trade.”

Perfect Log Cuts

Perfectly Cut Logs  Produce Air-Tight Joints

In our quest to build responsibly, we rely heavily on a second set of specialty “Tools of the Trade” and we consider these to be the tools that help us to bring the greatest amount of added value to the homes that we build.

We consider the knowledge and specialty tools that our Home Performance Professional brings as very special and critical “Tool of the Trade” in our high-performance home building tool set.
We consider this professional and what he brings as one of the most valuable tools brought to the process.

We like to bring him in early on during the design phase as a second set of eyes and as an adviser in planning and executing our most efficient and cost-effective, energy-saving strategies.

Once we have specifications called-out he uses licensed computer software to run an energy model that will help to predict the energy consumption of the home, based on design criteria.
This helps us to set efficiency and performance goals and in working together, along with the homeowner in the decision-making process, to achieve these goals.

Next to our H-P Professional’s skill sets, the “Blower Door” and its’ peripherals are probably the most important tool in the set.
The blower door is used to depressurized the home to 50 pascal, which is the prescribed level of depressurization for measuring air-tightness in a home.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

The Minneapolis Blower-Door

The fan is mounted in the bottom of the canvas face-frame that seals the entry door opening. All windows and any other doors in the home are closed and locked.
The blower door is connected to a pressure & flow gauge that senses outside and inside air pressures and communicates with the blower door and a laptop computer that runs sophisticated software.

DG-700 Pressure & Flow Guage
DG-700 Pressure & Flow Gauge

Once everything is connect and we’ve checked that there will be no conflicts with combustion appliances or any safety issues, we begin the test.
The blower door fan ramps up to the precise speed that it needs to be at, in order to depressurize the home to 50 pascal via communication with the pressure gauge and software.
This simulates a 20 mph wind coming at the home from all directions at once.

The pressure and flow gauge is communicating with the fan and the computer software which gives us the information we need to estimate the air-leakage rate of the home and how many air changes per hour we have during depressurization at 50 pascal and what we can expect under normal operating conditions for the home.

Now that we have a 20 mph wind coming at the house from all directions it’s the perfect time to visually check for areas of air-leakage.
The low-tech way to do this is with a smoke stick.

This can be used around window and door openings to detect air leaks.
It can also be used at roof to wall connections and anywhere where one might suspect air leakage.
This is old school method of detecting air leaks, but still has its place in the tool box.

There is a much more high-tech method for visually detecting air-leakage and we’ll cover this and some of the other “Tools of the Trade” for building high-performance homes in our next blog post.

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