Tag Archives: Indoor air quality

Focus on Energy/Focus on Education

The year of 2006 marked a milestone year of change for Great Lakes Carpentry. That was the year that we fully embraced the concept of building  sustainable, energy-efficient homes.

We were very proud and excited that we had made the leap from the old paradigm of home building, which primarily focuses on the visual aspects of the exterior and interior of the home and broadened our focus to include the performance aspects of the homes we build. We enrolled and tested our homes through the Wisconsin Energy Star New Homes Program and certified them “Green” through Wisconsin Environmental Initiative’s “Green Built Homes” program.

For us at Great Lakes Carpentry the paradigm shift made perfect sense. The “Green” movement was gaining traction and it seemed that everyone would be climbing on board. We anticipated that the “Green” home building field would become full, as our competitors rushed to join the movement.
I’m sad to say that in our area the “rush” to enter this market segment has yet to come.

That didn’t stop us. We jumped in, with both feet.
We studied Building Science and came to realize the benefits of taking a “holistic approach” to the design/build process and in implementing  “building science best practices” into all of the homes we build.
We immediately understood that energy efficiency is the cornerstone of green building practices. We focused on energy and honed our skills at making our building envelopes as well insulated and air-tight as we possibly could.

Our understanding fostered a sense of responsibility and we knew that there was no turning back. No longer could we recommend building run of the mill homes.
We couldn’t recommend using old technology , materials and methods that lead to wasted energy, poor indoor-air quality and degradation of the structure with a clear conscience.

Since 2006, we’ve earned our Certified Green Building Professional designation, through the National Association of Home Builder’s, National Green Building Standard program and we’ve become Trade Allies of Focus on Energy New Homes program. We’ve carved ourselves a niche, as the only Certified Green Building Professional designation holder, for miles around.
CGP Logo

We’ve evolved into a group of, “happy people, building sustainable, energy-efficient homes.” Our field and office staff have a purposeful step to their stride.
They hold their heads high and take pride in their extraordinary skill sets, the meaningful work that they do and in our commitment as a team to this “Mission with Purpose.”

Each new home offers the opportunity to hone our skills and to improve upon the performance data gathered while testing our previous projects.
Our team takes pleasure in rising to the challenge to do better at every opportunity.
We think that this is a win, win, win scenario.
The customer wins, by getting a home that is safe, durable, energy-efficient and  costs much less to operate than the typical home. Our environment wins, because we’ve reduced the amount of green-house gas generated for operating the home and our staff wins, because of the sense of accomplishment and pride taken from doing the right thing for our client and our environment.

We focus on energy and how to reduce the amount of energy required to operate the homes we build and we focus on educating  our staff, our trade partners and our vendors, so that we can work as a team to produce what we like to call, “Future Proof Homes.”

Focus on Energy  New Homes Program

Focus on Energy
New Homes Program

If you’d like to learn more about our Focus on Energy and Education, visit our website. www.greatlakescarpentry.com

Believe it our not. This was the easy part.
Our biggest challenge lies in education consumers.

Stay tuned.
We’ll talk more about this challenge in our next post.

Tools of the Trade Part III

Our previous post focused on the infrared thermal imaging scanner that we use to detect air infiltration into new and existing homes.

Infrared Scanner

Infrared Scanner

In this post we’ll focus on another of the diagnostic tools of the trade that we use to verify supply and return-air efficiencies in forced-air heating/cooling systems.

We use the Minneapolis Duct Blaster to perform a “Total Leakage Test” of the duct system.

Duct Blaster

Duct Blaster

The Duct Blaster is a device that uses pressure testing to find the amount and location of air leakage in a duct system.
To do the test, we seal all outlets except for one on the return side of the system. This is the side that returns stale air to the furnace to be reconditioned. The Duct Blaster is connected to this return-air opening and then turned on to blow air into the ducts. The air goes through the return ducts to the air handler and then through the supply ducts. If the duct system is very tight, it doesn’t take much airflow through the fan to pressurize the ducts. If you have a big leak, like a disconnected plenum or duct, it will be next to impossible to pressurize the ducts adequately.  This would be like trying to pump air into a tire that has a big hole in it.

The process yields quantitative results because testing requires two pressure measurements: one inside the ducts and the other inside the fan. The first allows the tester to compare results from different systems by always pressurizing to the same level. The second measures the airflow in the fan when that level is reached. As mentioned above, tight ducts means low airflow, and leaky ducts require lots of airflow.

Pressurizing only the ducts determines the total leakage. That includes the air that escapes into the conditioned space and the air that leaks to the outside of the building envelope (i.e., the attic or crawl space). The latter is the most important part because you derive no benefit from it. To separate it from the total leakage, we pressurize the house to the same level as the ducts by using the Blower Door. Then, when the Duct Blaster brings the ducts up to the required pressure, none will leak to the inside of the house because it’s at the same pressure as the ducts. The fan only has to blow enough air in to make up for the leakage to the outside, and that’s the amount that’s important.

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

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

In a tight air distribution system, the leakage to the outside (in cubic feet per minute, or cfm) will be 5% or less of the square footage of the home. Most new installations start at about 15% to 20%, and go downhill from there. At those rates, a third of the heating and cooling bills could be a direct result of duct leakage.

After performing a Duct Blaster test to determine the amount and locations of air and duct leakage, we seal up the leaks that we find. Upon completion the house and/or duct system will perform better, and your heating and cooing bill will be lower.

You can follow this link to a you tube video part 1 of 4 videos.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk-A08zsguE

As they say at Focus on Energy, “Testing Trumps Talk” and we couldn’t agree more.
By testing and  verifying the tightness of the building envelope and the duct systems in our high-performance homes, we are able to identify any deficiencies and take corrective measures.

Lower operating costs, greater comfort, safety, durability and higher resale values are just a few of the benefits realized by implementing building science principles and best practices into the homes that we build.

By testing, inspecting, and documenting the quality of work, we bring a higher level of added value and peace of mind for our clients.

The Duct Blaster is another diagnostic tool of the trade that helps us in delivering the added value that is built-in to our high-performance homes and remodel projects.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can provide added value to your new home or remodel, please visit our website and contact us.
http://www.greatlakescarpentry.com

In our next post, we’ll talk about mechanical ventilation, exhaust equipment and the diagnostic tools of the trade that we use to verify performance and efficiency of this critical component of the high-performance homes we build.

Great Lakes Carpentry is “Building Today for a Greener Tomorrow.”

 

Energy Efficient Mortagages

All of us at Great Lakes Carpentry are excited and encouraged to see that high performance homes are starting to get the recognition they deserve, from a growing number of lenders.

Have you heard the term “Energy Efficient Mortgage“? (EEM)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development now offers an Energy Efficient Mortgage for qualified home buyers.
HUD realizes that the money saved on each month’s utility bill can be put toward affording a more comfortable, energy-efficient home.

Last year, as a member of the Focus on Energy New Homes Program, we received a press release, regarding an Unprecedented New Home Financing Model;
North Shore Bank of Wisconsin will now offer home mortgage loans at low rates for Wisconsin residents who build a new home that is enrolled in the Focus on Energy New Homes Program.
“North Shore Bank recognizes the financial savings that energy efficiency brings,” said Rovinski. “That’s why we created a special package to allow higher debt to income ratios for those who have Focus on Energy certified homes. We want this program to succeed and for our customers to love their new efficient homes.”
North Shore Bank is demonstrating its leadership on this important front by accepting low down payment options and not selling the loans. In addition, it also has over 45 office locations throughout Wisconsin, helping increase exposure to the Focus on Energy New Homes Program. North Shore Bank’s value-added services offer the convenience and motivation for home-buyers to build a Focus on Energy New Home.

Focus on Energy New Homes Program Advantages;
Focus on Energy New Homes are at least 10 percent more energy-efficient than homes built to Wisconsin’s Uniform Dwelling Code. Moreover, buyers of a Focus on Energy New Home can expect the following: Peace of mind—At every stage, Focus on Energy works with builders to help new homes meet the highest standards for energy efficiency. Lower energy bills—Home-buyers receive a homeowners manual to help them maximize the energy-efficient features of a Focus on Energy New Home. Proof positive—A third-party energy consultant certifies all Focus on Energy New Homes to verify they meet strict standards for energy efficiency, air tightness, insulation, ventilation, and safety. Resale differentiator—Focus on Energy New Home owners who sold their homes reported that energy efficiency was a differentiator for their prospective buyers.
“If you’re in the market to build a new home, an energy-efficient home is a smart investment. You’ll save money, enjoy better air quality, and have a more durable home,” said Carter Dedolph, Focus on Energy Senior Programs Manager. “And, now Focus on Energy New Homes are even more appealing because of loan rates that are less than the national average.”

As more people demand that their new homes and remodel projects be built to higher energy efficiency design standards, more and more lenders will realize that they will need to offer this type of home loan, in order to be competitive.

Those of us at Great Lakes Carpentry firmly believe that the demand for high-performance new homes and remodeling projects, along with financial products that take energy efficiency into account, will grow to the point that both will be looked upon as the “New Normal” for the home building and lending industries.

To learn more about building a high-performance home or remodeling project, contact Great Lakes Carpentry.

Top 10 Reasons Why Green Building is Important

What is Green Building?

The goal of green building is to build the best, most sustainable, and practical homes for people and the environment.  Green building incorporates environmental considerations and resource efficiency into every step of the land development and home building process to minimize the environmental impact of the home. Green building requires intentional decisions that positively impact energy and resource efficiency as well as indoor environmental quality

1. Ensures your home is built right the first time.
Building a home that is energy efficient means going further to make sure your home is done right to help prevent major repairs later.

2. Lowers your energy consumption.
Just one Energy Start Rated or Focus on Energy new home can keep 4,500 pounds of greenhouse gases out of our air each year.

3. You will have better indoor air quality.
A home that is air tight allows you to have complete control over the air that is circulating in your home.

4. Durability.
A Green-Built, energy efficient home will be more durable and able to stand up to climate changes without consuming more energy. Over 90% of damage to homes is caused by moisture. A contractor who understands building science will implement building science principals and best practices for moisture management during the course of construction.

5. Resource and energy efficient.
When building a home a green builder understands that it’s important to consider where the materials for the home are coming from. Are the materials coming from in state or out of state? Can you get some of the materials locally? Were the material manufactured with the environment in mind?

6. Take advantage of the Sun when building.
A very energy efficient way to heat a home is to take advantage of the sun.  The ideal situation  would be to have the house oriented east-west with the longest wall facing south. This way the sun can shine into the windows creating natural heat.

7. A home as a System.
Green builders take the holistic approach to home building. Green builders understand that a home works as a system.  One part of the home cannot operate correctly without another. Changes to one component can dramatically change how other components perform.

8. Job Creation.
A political theme of the past few years has been job creation.  Well, here is an industry that could capitalize on to create more jobs, would help the environment and help people reduce their carbon footprint and energy costs. For example, the Green Retrofit Program was designed in 2010 to create thousands of green jobs as workers retrofit older federally assisted multifamily apartments with energy efficient technology.

9. Outdated homes.
We have only added 1% to 2% new homes to the housing stock even in the strongest market years.  As a result a majority of existing homes don’t even meet the bare minimum energy requirement of the current building code. This illustrates the need for sustainable homes and the need to upgrade existing homes.

10. Lower Energy Costs.
A properly built energy efficient home can save you 40% to 60% on your energy bills.

Visit us at greatlakescarpentry.com, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook!

Passive House

History

Super energy efficient homes are not a thing of the future, but rather a blast from the past.  The Passive House standard was developed in Germany by a physicist Wolfgang Feist in 1996. His inspiration came from the super insulated homes that were being build in the 1970s in the United States and Canada. Now, upwards of 20,000 Passive Houses have been built in Europe while the U.S has built less than two dozen.  A few reasons why this idea did not catch on 40 years ago was because the technology for high performance windows, doors, and ventilation systems were not quite there yet. Politics is also another factor, and still is an important factor when talking about energy efficient building practices. If politicians don’t understand or believe energy efficient building standards are important than its hard to make any progress in the building industry.

Main Goal

The goal of a Passive House is to maximize solar gain. This is achieved through a virtually airtight building envelope, mechanical ventilation, triple-pane windows, and eliminating thermal bridging. The three requirements that a Passive House needs to meet include: Air Infiltration, Btu consumption, and Energy usage.  If these requirements are not met or there is a slight mistake, the home will not acheive the title of Passive House.

Main Advantages

Passive House performance based building standard can result in a home that consumes as little as 10% of the total heating and cooling energy.

Doesn’t fall into the trap that electricity production is better done on the roof.

A Passive House is planned even before the contractor breaks ground. Contractors and the home owner know exactly how much energy the home is going to consume once it is built, and how much it is going to cost of operate.

One of our most recent projects (pictured above) which we refer to as the “Energy Sipper” achieved Passive House air-tightness standard and a HERS score of 37. To learn more about how we can help you get into a super-energy efficient home visit the  Great Lakes Carpentry website. Like us on Facebook, also follow us on Twitter!

If you missed our article last week Net Zero: The Next Frontier check it out. You can also compare and contrast the differences between Passive House and a Net- Zero energy home by visiting Green Building Adviser. If you would like more information about Passive House, check out this PDF.

 

 

5 Reasons to Build an Enercept Home

Think about that last scalding hot cup of coffee you bought and how that 1/8 inch foam cup kept your coffee hot and your hand cool.  That is exactly how an Enercept SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) home operates.

We refer to this project as the “Energy SIPPER” which was built in Mercer Wis.

Energy Efficiency

We like to call our SIP Homes “Energy Sippers” because that is exactly what they do.  They use as little energy as possible to heat and cool your home.  This feature will save you 40% to 60% on your energy bills.

Air Tight

SIP homes are very air tight keeping the heat in and the cold out.
Some people are concerned about indoor air quality, but by making a home air tight, you now have complete control of your indoor environment. The home owner can now manage the quality through mechanical ventilation, through the use of a

These are the actual panels before they get dressed up with siding. If you look closely you can see the insulation between the wood panels.

Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV).  These systems will allow you to manage the humidity in the home and will provide a complete change of air on average every four hours during the winter months.

Quiet and Comfortable

A SIP home doesn’t have any thermal bridging which will keep all the heat in your house during the winter months and keep it nice and cool during the summer.   Another benefit of a SIP home is how quiet the home is.  The insulation will keep all the noise outside where it should be.

Speed of Construction/ Less Waste

A SIP home comes together very quickly due to the fact that the panels are already assembled when they get to the job site.  For example, an 1,800 square foot structure can be assembled in less than a week.   This also equates to less job site waste making this method of building a better for the environment.

Fully Customized

Enercept panels are the most customizable panels on the market.  Meaning you can build the home exactly the way you want it.  For example instead of having your outlets at the typical 16 inch height above the floor, you might prefer to have them up 24 inches.  This will make plugging in your electronics easier.  Enercept panels will allow you to do that easily.

Great Lakes Carpentry is an independent dealer and factory trained installation specialists.  Enercept offers fee panel quotes.

Stop by next week where we discuss Super Insulated Windows:  Serious Windows.