The Building Envelope

House Warming in the Winter:

I would love to be able to keep my $15 gas bills year round, but in a 1930’s house with an antiquated furnace what are my options? My monthly bill from November – April on average, raises $100.

I can make sure that the air I am heating in my furnace is being delivered to my rooms the best it can by checking all of my ducts to see if there are any leaks. Duct Sealing with ‘Duct Mastic’ can be applied with a brush or caulk gun. Find one that is a water based formula like Uni-Mastic 181 Duct Sealer, that is safe for you and your indoor air. Use mesh tape if the gaps are larger than 1/4″

EHow tells you step by step what to look for in leaks and what to use. Green Sense adopted an image from the Department of Energy and offered six places where leaks are most likely to occur: Duct Connections, return leaks, furnace and filter slot leaks; ineffective duct tape seal, fallen duct insulation, supply leaks, or restricted airflow because of duct work kinks.

Speaking of leaky ducts.. how about leaky houses?

Making sure you have a good building envelope is the first step. The easiest way to keep the conditioned air in your home is by caulking and weather-stripping. Check any place where two different materials are next to one another, for example, wood door to metal threshold or aluminum window to wooden frame.

You can get an energy audit, hire a contractor or perform the maintenance yourself.

In Ohio, AEP offers In-Home Energy programs for Energy Efficiency. Columbia Gas in Ohio offers Home Performance Solutions, and a link to a cute adobe flash presentation on home performance solutions. Ohio even offers a Home Weatherization Assistance Programs. Wonderful!

Replacing old windows? – Think about replacing the sashes. Great Efficient Windows Collaborative here!

We need more insulation over here! I’ve done a lot of research on insulation and I show what I’ve found to be good here, at my Green Building Supply Matrix. But, through this book I found a little more. Here in Ohio we are in zone 5, almost 6. If you go looking on the DOE website they have a nice insulation calculator. The book directs me to peek into my walls through my outlet boxes to see if my walls have insulation. They probably don’t, so I’ve been looking into a few types of blow in insulation that can be for homes built before modern construction methods.  Recycled newspaper is used in cellulose blow-in applications such as NuWool, but I still want to make sure that these materials aren’t compromising my indoor air quality. At the Pittsburgh Home Show I came across USA Premium Insulation, so I am currently comparing these products for my own home.

If I were building new I’d look into Green Polyiso from Atlas Roofing. This building product provides an R value of 7 per inch! And, I’d consider making my roof as light as possible. Light in color, that is.  A roof coating can be applied to make an existing roof lighter or reflective. An SRI of 29 or higher is good and what that means in the roof’s Solar Reflectivity Index number, being higher is more reflective, and less hot… and that’s good summer news.

~The Building Envelope and the Things we Build With~

Now, let’s talk about the things we build with.  It is important to me to choose local materials that contain no toxic chemicals. In some cases I may even find repurposed materials that would do the job! Look for buildings coming down (so sad!) in your area and create discussion for disassembling versus demolishing them. Then, use the materials in a new way. Habitat for Humanity has ReStores across the country. Check out Habitat for Humanity or the Re Use People. Other places to find reclaimed materials are: Building Materials Reuse Association Salvage Web

If you are considering using concrete in construction look into companies that use fly ask cement from Coal plants. This is the left over soot that can go into the concrete mix and replace portland cement. This gives concrete a smoother and stronger finish and by using the by-product, we turn waste into something useful!

These are just a few notions the book led me too… research in this area of the things we build with is ongoing. It consumes my thoughts and research daily and I really enjoy learning about how to be more energy-efficient so that I can share my knowledge with clients and the general public… and hold intelligent conversations with people who have been practicing a light lifestyle a lot longer than me.

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