April 28, 2009

Huffed and they Puffed.....

After months of insulation working through one of the worst winters in memory, we come to where the butter hits the toast. Sort of. We are performing the blower door test to see how tightly the house has become.

Larry Masland arrived from the Department of Energy Resources, Gary and David arrives from Synergy Construction, Kohto arrived from Building Science Corporation, plus two guys from Conservation Services Group which will be performing the blower door test.

For the blower door testing, we closed all windows and doors, put these lovely red frocks on the back doors, engaged the fans inserted within said frocks, and started sucking the air out of the house to reduce the internal pressure. For those of you concerned about such things, the fan was not of a power to make us gasp for air, boil our blood, bulge our eyes, or make us float around the room.......which would be more of a gravitional problem.....ANYWAYYYYYY

Here's what the test looked like.

How'd we do?
Here are the results.

The results are not official, but the house is around 60% - 65% tighter. The walls and the roof were not really serviceable. They were as tight as they were ever going to be. But air still flowed into the basement, and therefore somehow up into the house through the basement ceiling. With the fan drawing, with some smoke pens, with a few cans of insulation foam, we should be able to walk around the basement, and then track and kill each tiny ceiling leak. But this was not to be, as everyone's schedule would not permit. Big disappointment.

UPDATE: To answer the comment from Jerry Marin: "So what was the cfm? Enquiring minds want to know."
With the basement door open the leakage was 2825 CFMs (cubic feet per minute)
With the basement door closed the leakage was 2275 CFMs
(Explanation: These leakage rates are during a highly de-pressured test, not during normal usage.) The original pre-project leakage rate in August was 7800 CFM (more or less until I track down the exact test result).
The team was very pleased with the results, but I know that we can do better. I am confident that with 60 minutes we could bring that result south of 2000 CFMs. The disappointment here is that the basement ceiling is completely at hand and reachable. I will attempt to get some sort of de-pressurization using the building's 2 kitchen fans and 3 bathroom fans, get some incense "punks" (are they called "punks" anymore?), armed with a can of foam. Only problem is that we will never have a new reading of the results.

April 25, 2009

Chickens come home to roost

If you plan on taking a house from the age of leakyness-as-virtue to the new age of super-insulated energy efficiency, one imagines that you will occassionally run afoul of the laws of unintended consequences. And so we have......at least a little.
With the addition of super-insulation, and the conversion of hot water to a gas on-demand unit, our 25 year old boiler was firing up less often and for shorter burn duration. By the end of March, we weren't firing at all, so we shut it down. But when a cold snap hit in April, we couldn't get it back on.

The Fawcett Oil servicer informed us that these units were never designed to be cold, never designed to have the hot water portion removed, that by removing the hot water we had essentially signed its death sentence. (evidently Fawcett servicers are very protective of their boilers). I was to learn that to maintain boiler health, the boiler needs to reach full operating temperatures to clean out its pipes and eliminate condensation.......or something like that. Long story short, we were warned to have our boiler cleaned twice a year, September and January, instead of only once. I guess that's not so bad.

April 13, 2009

Foam Touch-Up

Anderson Insulation, who were here for 10 hours in December, fit us into their schedule on short notice for a final foaming touch-up prior to the blower door testing which will mark the end of the insulation phase of the project.
We needed to fix the areas where the cable guys, the plumbers, and the electricians did their damage, as well as get at an area we didn't have access to in December, and a window that was removed.
December 2008: Window still in place

April 2009: Window removed. It's a storage area, who needs a window? On the other side of that window cavity is 4" of rigid foam.

April 2009: The Anderson folks having finished the foaming.

More work in the basement.

Particular attention to the areas where the cable guys, the fiber guys, and the electricians were ripping and tearing at the foam to get their wires in place.

April 12, 2009

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit That

Two Fantech HRVs (Heat Recovery Ventilators) are installed for unit 1 and unit 2 to bring in fresh air, exhaust stale air, AND salvage the heat from the stale air to heat up the fresh air.
The Unit 1 HRV is installed in the basement. Since the bottom of the unit is below grade it was going to be something of a challenge to get the condensation drain out of the building....but then who knows how much condensation is expected in winter. We decide to drain into a bucket and see if evaporation can keep up with condensation.

Unit 2 had its own challenges. To reduce breaks in the envelope, the HRV for unit 2 would exhaust through the 2nd floor bathroom exhaust duct. At the same time the 3rd floor bathroom, which never had ducted ventilation, also was going to be connected to the 2nd floor bathroom exhaust duct. It's a busy duct.

This image is looking up to the 3rd floor soffit. The vent on the right is the exhaust damper for the 2nd + 3rd floor bathroom and the Unit 2 HRV. The small hole on the left has a small clear hose protruding so condensation can drip out.

The HRV was designed to pull from the 3rd floor back room and vent into the 2nd floor back room. Because the connecting staircase is in the front of the house, the air circulates throughout the house. The air intake is not visible as it is hidden within the new soffit. Normally this might be fine, but the soffit is fabricated from a PVC material, and I'm not comfortable having our fresh air filtered through a solar heated PVC box.......of course I could be nuts.

We get our exterior water spigot back, while finally solving that mysterious leak in the wall. This is just in time for spring grass re-seeding.

We got the bulk of our backyard back as the contractors start pulling materials and equipment out.

The mason arrived to fix the foundation which had split. This shows the opening the Mason made to fix the guts of the wall.

Here we're all finished.

Anderson foam is coming in for a final spray to fill in the few areas ripped out by various electricians, plumbers, and cable guys and to spray an area where the drywall had not been removed prior to the main spraying back in December.