Cold-Weather Comfort and the three-legged stool

Posted on 17. Dec, 2013 by in Building Science, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Heating and Air-Conditioning

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Heat escapes the conditioned area via pressure and thermal “holes” at the furnace flue and whole house fan

Cold, Comfort and Energy

Cold-Weather Comfort and the three-legged stool

Building Science has shown there are three components required for comfort and efficiency:  

  • A source of energy 
  • A building enclosure in which the flow of energy is controlled  
  • A system of delivering energy from a source to the enclosure 

Of these three sources of energy dominates conventional wisdom, the market, and the construction industry.   Sources of energy include HVAC appliances common in Atlanta like  gas furnaces, electric heat pumps and A/C systems.  

Building enclosures keep energy in by establishing pressure and temperature boundaries.    Policy and construction standards have steadily improved building enclosure performance, especially in the last 20 years.   The process of sealing holes in  the building enclosure (draftstopping) and then insulating conditioned space is known as weatherization.   

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Energy-efficient furnace rendered energy-inefficient by poor duct workmanship

Energy delivery in Atlanta most often means delivery of heated or cooled air forced through a system of air ducts.  The quality of duct design, materials and installation varies from acceptable to poor.

Common homeowner fixes that don’t work very well

  • Bigger, more efficient HVAC appliances:  these help but often do not address fundamental problems
  • More ceiling fans:  heat from inefficient fans often makes the situation worse
  • Ceiling insulation without sealing holes in the pressure boundary:  conditioned air leaks around insulation (thermal bypass)

Homeowners should have a well-balanced stool:  a comprehensive energy strategy that gives equal consideration to sources of energy, the building enclosure and energy delivery.   Building enclosure and duct repairs are often less expensive and more effective than equipment replacement.  The first step to effective comfort and efficiency improvement is an energy audit.

More info here:

www.dancurlhomeinspector.com  Contact me for an energy audit

Case study of unbalanced duct system

 

Southface Energy Institute is THE resource for energy efficiency in Atlanta:  www.southface.org

Ignorance repeats itself.  Get  the knowledge you need before you spend.

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