Q&A Spotlight

Planning for Backup Power in an All-Electric House

Posted on February 19, 2018 by Scott Gibson

Writing from central Kentucky, Clay Whitenack poses this question: in an all-electric house, what's the best way of providing power when the grid is down?

Whitenack and his family live in a new house, a house that does not have a fireplace or a wood stove. "This leaves us vulnerable in the event of a power outage during a bad winter," he writes in a post at the Q&A forum. "We live in central Kentucky, so the winters here are usually not too bad, but we do have times when the temps get below freezing for extended periods of time."

Choosing a New HVAC System

Posted on February 5, 2018 by Scott Gibson

Jill D has done her homework, and now it's time to choose a new heating and cooling system for her Climate Zone 5B home.

There are three distinct zones to consider: the main house, a sunroom addition, and an office addition. Neither the office nor the sunroom is ducted, although heating and cooling loads there are relatively low. In the main house, the heating loadRate at which heat must be added to a space to maintain a desired temperature. See cooling load. has been calculated at between 28,000 and 36,000 BtuBritish thermal unit, the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit in temperature—about the heat content of one wooden kitchen match. One Btu is equivalent to 0.293 watt-hours or 1,055 joules. per hour, and the cooling load at between 24,000 and 36,000 Btu per hour.

A One-Room Insulation Challenge

Posted on January 22, 2018 by Scott Gibson

The one-room addition on Emerson W's home is not what anyone would realistically consider over-insulated: R-11 batts in the walls and R-19 at most in the ceiling. But the immediate issue is the floor. There's no insulation at all there, and because the addition sits on concrete piers, there's nothing to stop the wind from blowing freely below.

A 1950s Cape With Many Needs

Posted on January 8, 2018 by Scott Gibson

Emerson W has acquired his first free-standing home, a Cape built in Maryland in 1952, and in no time he's compiled a long list of upgrades the house will need — everything from a new heating system to dealing with vented, unconditioned crawl spaces.

Pondering an Attic Conversion in New York

Posted on December 25, 2017 by Scott Gibson

An energy auditEnergy audit that also includes inspections and tests to assess moisture flow, combustion safety, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and durability. on BuildingNewb's upstate New York home has prompted a recommendation that he insulate the rafter bays with dense-packed cellulose, transforming what is now a ventilated attic into conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. .

How to Insulate a Wood Foundation

Posted on December 11, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Jeepasaurus, a GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com reader from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, recently bought a log house sitting atop a permanent wood foundation (PWF). Although initially reluctant to buy the house because of this detail, Jeep did enough research to convince him there's nothing inherently wrong with a wood foundation. The problem is how to insulate it.

There’s Mold in My Attic

Posted on November 27, 2017 by Scott Gibson

A three-season cabin built in the 1940s became a year-round dwelling two years ago, but owner Marty Pfeif has discovered an alarming problem: a bumper crop of mold in the attic.

In a post at the Q&A forum, Pfeif ticks off the particulars, including no apparent attempts at air-sealing, "shake and rake" R-19 insulation on the attic floor and some batting against the walls, no vapor barrier, and a ridge vent but no gable vents.

Planning a Retrofit in the Pacific Northwest

Posted on November 13, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Brad Steeg's Seattle home was built in 1915, and from the description he provides in this post at GBA's Q&A forum, it's not hard to understand why Steeg is so uncomfortable during the winter: not much insulation, single-pane windows, and lots of air leaks.

"During the winter, my thermostat reads 70° but it still feel cold because the cold walls and ceiling suck the heat out of my body," Steeg writes.

Lead Paint and Old Clapboards

Posted on October 30, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Gregg Zuman's house in Beacon, New York, was built near the start of the Civil War, and like most any building of that era it's in need of a few repairs. At the moment, Zuman is stuck on what to do about the clapboard siding.

Can Bathroom Fans Be Used to Distribute Heat?

Posted on October 16, 2017 by Scott Gibson

Debra's new house in southwestern Virginia will be a one-story design of 1,344 square feet with half the space devoted to a single, open room and the remaining area divided into two bedrooms, two baths, and a utility room. The main source of heat will be in the open room, and in the absence of a conventional forced air heating system, Debra's quandary is how to distribute the heat evenly.

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