Posts tagged ‘sandhurst’

Hits and Misses with Energy Audit and Home Construction

For a long time I’ve considered that my house could be a lot more efficient. One option recently fell though when my water heater started leaking. I put off replacing it for while in order to consider tankless heaters, but I got repeatedly told that the cost of modifying my home for a tankless water heater would be significantly more then the cost of the heater.

Back in more ordinary measures, I felt overwhelmed by the array of options available. I’ve also been dealing with roof replacements and questions about icicles by way of the condo board. I figured I could address both concerns by getting an Energy Audit.

I wasn’t much better off choosing an auditor than I was choosing home improvements. In the end I believe it was some variation of a web search for “energy audit near south elgin, il” that gave me ProEnergy Consultants

I had some preconceptions, mostly unfounded – for instance I half expected to be told that I should replace all my windows. The audit included the infamous “blower door test” and, other than measuring my attic insulation, that was really the extent of it. They claim that as building science has advanced (and, presumably, thermal cameras have become widely available) air infiltration was recognized as a primary cause temperature loss. (If you have an audit done by someone else, it would be interesting to compare notes.)

The air test did prove educational. For one, I learned that the attic should be considered an outside space (at outside temperature) and that opportunities for air exchange with the attic aren’t far from having a window open. The audit turned up lots of items to address – for instance, small cracks that I always considered cosmetic were open pathways for air infiltration.

From the audit, I got a digital copy of the report within a few days (including all or most of the thermal pictures), and a printed copy of the report two weeks later.

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Some specific items, that might be worth checking in your own home:

  • The flue for the furnace and water heater had a hole that was bigger than it’s pipe; it had been taped and painted over, but heat and time had peeled back much of this, further exposing the gap.
  • I mentioned the cracks; many were around windows, so it’s a good idea to caulk around all of them.
  • There was noticeable cold/air leakage along the baseboards. However, they consider this unimportant enough to put off until you remove the baseboards for painting anyway.
  • One of the vertical walls in my bedroom ceiling had spots of missing insulation.
  • The attic hatch had a very loose seal (remember, this is essentially an outside door) They recommended weather striping, and caulking around the trim.
  • Seal electrical boxes and electrical holes in the attic – there was significant air leakage around light fixtures. Later I found very noticeable drafts coming from some of my exterior-wall light switches.

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When my father and I actually got up in the attic to start making repairs, however, we found something to top them all: a rather sizable hole in the ceiling, which appeared to have been very deliberately built. The best guess I can possibly make is that one set of people thought it would be a good idea to have an air return in the utility room (such a good idea, in fact, that they put two registers on it) and vented it to the attic. The people hooking up the ducts, however, were having none of it, and nobody seemed to think much of a pipe sticking up through the insulation, venting warm air into the attic and probably contributing to the roof melting. (Of course, these are the same builders who thought nothing of having the bathroom vent fan exit directly into the attic – they can’t even seem to make up their mind whether the attic is inside or outside!)

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Unfortunately, this wasn’t a priority punch list item in the energy audit – it was only hinted at, off to the side of one thermal picture. I mentioned this to the auditor – I figured “hole in ceiling” might make an amusing story in his line of work. His theory was that the builders may have been trying to “bring in fresh air from the attic for combustion”. Which of course raises the point that all of the air that leaves from the heater exhaust has to be replaced from the outside – likewise with the bathroom vent and dryer, I suppose.

Edit: I’ve found some evidence that a direct vent is required.

Too Much

I let myself get distracted a bit, given immediate deadlines.

Saturday I submitted Disk Clock to,
MacUpdate, which posted it immediately, Version Tracker, which posted it after a few confirmation steps, and Dashboard Widgets, where it hasn’t shown up yet. I have heard from one person who says it isn’t working under OS X 10.5; he was able to pull a line number from th logs; best I can guess Apple did something peculiar with the scope resolution in their latest Javascript engine, but I haven’t had a chance to find out if the internet knows anything about it yet. Probably explains why I haven’t heard anything from Apple yet (would have been nice if they told me.)

After submitting those, I started working on generating a set of cards to walk though the martial arts form I pieced together. I got something fairly functional (in part due to a few sleepless hours in the middle of the night) Of course, as the saying goes, “the first 90% takes the first 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.” There is still a need for a icon key and some tweaking.

I was trying to get that ready for a training day. After I got home I had to switch over to getting ready for the condo association meeting. We still didn’t have an appropriately cut down list of concrete work, so I went out checking over the proposed work and rating things. In the end, we decided to look at it again as a group, so it was kind of a waste.

Political Mircocosm

Well, I’m not on the condo association board. Neither are any of the people who were walking the neighborhood to rally support for the election. Beyond the record number of candidates, the actual meeting was the best attended I’ve seen, and we had a large, perhaps record, number of proxies mailed in. In that sense, it was a great success – we went from legally hand-tied to about twice our quorum, and we do have a newly elected board (who we know the names of this time)

Paradoxically, the 100 or so mailed in proxies are also why there was so little change in the board. Most people probably read the included biographies, and voted for the three incumbents, and then the people who could list the most similar experience. That’s certainly what i would have done if wasn’t more involved. In the process, they elected our former president, who is currently performing military service in Afghanistan (yes, it’s legal – he is still a unit owner – but not very effective) and another person who has not attended the last two meetings.

The two new people offer some hope. One is the very first resident, who has been somewhat active. The other is one of the people who will be getting a road very close to her home. She had a pretty impressive ‘resume’ and appears to be a pretty nice person to boot.

And, provided the board doesn’t reject our ideas, we can still carry out the plans various people have had. We can still make suggestions to the board, and provided help and assistance (I’ve heard something about committees) We can still do newsletter, and there was talk of block party as well.

Indeed my thoughts have been practically subversive in the wake of the election. If we have the newsletter, then we will probably be publishing it – perhaps including some the other plans. The block party might also serve as a way to introduce people to some of the non-incumbents they might want to vote for next time.

The only thing I hate about this is that we’re starting to look like a political party.


It occurred to me a while ago that the association was a kind of political microcosm. The same types of issues appear here as anywhere. We could just keep doing things the way they have been done; things don’t get worse but they probably don’t get better. Or we could set in motion sweeping reform and greatly improve the service available – upsetting the balance that has existed so far, and maybe raising the association dues (i.e., taxes) to pay for it.

Onset of adulthood?

Going on two weeks ago, there was a meeting of the condo association. There was a bit of excitement about a road expansion that would be cutting into the property – within 10 feet of one building. Big long discussion about that :^)

Officially, it was an attempted meeting since we didn’t have a quorum, even with the proxies they are always begging people to fill out. Probably the most people I’d ever seen at a meeting was the first won I attended, nearly five years ago. After that followed a long pause as meetings conflicted with martial arts class. A little while ago I decided that the less frequent meetings took precedence over the weekly classes. I considered that the apathy level was pretty high, and once I’d seen how things worked for a year or two I might consider more involvement.

Well, the other big issue at that meeting was that very apathy. There was only one of five board members present (to be fair, the president was called into military service) The meeting was another in a long string of failures to have an official meeting. All the management company director could tell us was that issues should be handled by the board – which by and large wasn’t present. (Sort of like one of the collage social groups – there weren’t enough members left to hold a meeting to disband the group) I don’t think we’ll be disbanding the condos, but the official channels are broken, and you have to go through the official channels to fix the official channels ;^)

Anyway, some of the people from the meeting gathered around and exchanged addresses – however small, the community spirit is growing. Meanwhile, I’ve submitted my name as a candidate for the board of directors. It wouldn’t be hard to find a more qualified person, but it has been hard to find candidates, and somebody has to do it.