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Want to make a real difference in energy consumption ?

My feelings are still hurt from the 80's. I was living in the Atlanta area and had this great idea that I could set up shop doing high end homes etc and concentrate on radiant and geothermal. While I did do several successful projects the outlook was dismal. As long as builders and architects control the market there will never be efficient systems installed. Particularly for custom homes the low bid wins. Builder's models are all that is installed and the above mentioned "Professionals" will not even discuss options because they cost more. I agree the secret is the envelope so that energy usage is minimized. Architects don't understand vapor barriers and make no effort to learn until they get sued. Enough-I can't change the world, but it sure is frustrating.


  • Darin Cook_3
    Darin Cook_3 Member Posts: 389
    We can make real impact in the arena of home energy consumption!

    There were some great posts in the " End of the age of oil " thread. There are plenty of politics involved when it comes to energy production and procurement in our country for sure. Are we almost out of oil? Who knows? I remember watching saturday morning cartoons in the 1970's and seeing commercials saying we would be out of oil in 30 years. That time has come and gone. Is nuclear power safe? It looks that way. The navy has alot of nuclear powered craft and how many meltdowns or releases of damaging radiation have occured. None that I have heard about. Realistically you probably have gotten more exposure of radiation at the dentist office getting a x-ray. How much uranium is out there in the world? Enough to supply all the power plants we would need? I don't know. The reality is most of us not being in those fields really do not have the answers to any of those questions. We all have our opinions to be sure and some of them sound very convincing.

    But what can we as home heating contractors do to have real impact in the arena of energy consumption in this country? Most of us have no direct involvement in energy production, so lets leave that alone. My answer is that before you even entertain ideas about what type of boiler to use, we need to heavily involve ourselves with the insulation package of the structure or even start doing that work ourselves. Don't you get tired of batting clean-up in covering the heat loss/gain? How accurate are your heatloss calculations? It is a educated "guess" at best, no matter what software you use. Fiberglass has alot of different grades and most of what goes in is not the densest available. But with the new foams and dense pack cellulose available why are we still dealing with the itchy carcinogen? Fiberglass does not stop air flow. The more it is windwashed the greater the loss of R value. When holes are not sealed, improper installation of the product, the R values plummett sometimes into the single digits. If more time and effort was put into this very important but not glamorous feature of home construction and remodeling, we could seriously make reductions in heating and cooling costs. You know where the money goes during constuction all the eye candy. If our homes were insulated as well as they could be, all of the equipment going in could be substantially reduced in size. All those luxurious electrical sucking air conditioners could be either greatly reduced in tonnage or eliminated if you're home had the insulation package that it should.

    In my mind this is a area where we can have direct, impressive, immediate results within our capability. Untill someone comes up with a alternative energy source that is more viable and affordable, we need to use the most efficient fossil fuel equipment with proper piping and control stratedgies starting with the insulation package. Conserve what we have and consume in moderation.

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546

    Darin I totally agree, don't have to convince me. Convince the HO who has been eyeballing all the eye candy in the planning stage. Now they come to you for a bid. You lay a whole envelope package on them that will maybe take away their granite countertop, or jacuzzi. Its hard enough to get them to choose radiant because of cost..... Most people don't get it, when its in their face. LOL

    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,344

    All good posts above with excellant information. But don't forget IAQ issues with sealing a building tight, mold issues.

    Unfortunatly a lot of contractors still guess and have no clue how to do a heat loss or select equipment. I recently replaced a boiler that was firing 1.00 gph. on oil. The house had 50,000 btu baseboard installed and the heat loss was 45,000. With 140,000 input-where was the oil tech on this one??
  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    Builders and architects

    The way I've been doing it is to perform two energy models on a building - here's your energy consumption and on-going cost at 5% inflation with the floor to ceiling west facing conventional glass, and here is the energy consumption and running cost with the proper attention to glass thermal performance, solar shading, and envelope details. Put that in front of the owner and if the owner goes for the glitz and glamour over energy, at least you can't say you didn't give him the option. It can be easily shown that the high performance glass and envelope details are capital cost neutral due to reductions in building systems sizes and equipment first costs.

    All buildings, whether it's a 1500 sq. ft. rancher to a 500,000 sq. ft. office building have to have the three legs of the stool: efficient temperature/comfort system (ideally radiant), proper heat recovery or energy recovery ventilation system, and efficient humidity control. BUT: the first thing that has to happen is to design the proper climate adapted building envelope. Packing in more insulation is a minor improvement - if you haven't paid attention to the 50% heat loss part (glass/windows) and the 30% part: thermal bridging. Infiltration/building leakage is becoming less of an issue as Codes tighten up the envelope.
  • Fred Harwood
    Fred Harwood Member Posts: 261

    "All buildings, whether it's a 1500 sq. ft. rancher to a 500,000 sq. ft. office building have to have the three legs of the stool: efficient temperature/comfort system (ideally radiant), proper heat recovery or energy recovery ventilation system, and efficient humidity control."

    Please e-mail me with the source of this quote. I want to use it. Thanks.
  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477
    Quote source

    The source is right here on the wall- I just said it. Perhaps others have said similarly worded sentences, but I just wrote that one here, just now. It's yours to use.

    Human comfort is three basic items: 50% mean radiant temperature, 35% air movement with air temperature, and 15% perspiration/humidity. Proven by a number of medical research studies. That's the key to realizing comfort and efficiency.
  • jerry scharf_2
    jerry scharf_2 Member Posts: 414
    The point about capital cost neutral is a great one


    How successful have you been at pitching this? Can this be pitched by a sub of a bidding contractor or does it have to happen with the owner and architect.

    I'm really waiting to see how well my GFX waste water heat recovery setup works. If it does prove out, it seems like a slam dunk for those "lots of body jets" type of shower.

    thanks for posting,
  • GMcD
    GMcD Member Posts: 477

    My efforts are largely concerned with institutional and commercial type large scale buildings, so as the mechanical consultant I have to get the architect to buy in to the high perf envelope and then both of us sell it to the owner. I try to avoid GC's and Construction Managers since my experience, at least locally, is that anything that isn't a conventional construction approach is "too expensive", and they seem to be stuck in the line item by line item "value engineering mindset", where the cheapest of everything is the direction. I've only worked with one GC locally that saw the light and actually helped us convince the owner to do the high perf envelope and did the costing to prove that it was cost neutral for the overall project costs.

    Nice Catch-22 on the GFX comment there - trying to add a bunch of copper to recover some heat from a shower that uses far too much potable water in the first place is a bit of a contradiction in priorities. I see the GFX as more of a commercial application for hotels and dormitories where high rates of warm drainage water can be generated more often in order to justify the amount of copper the GFX takes up, plus the added wall space to install them. It's a neat product, but has to be applied to the right place to be effective.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,247
    This is a nice thread!

    Lots of good ideas mentioned here. I'm just finishing up what I hope to be a very efficient house. It does use for the main shower a GFX, which testing says will capture 60% of the "waste" heat. That compares nicely to a solar DHW system at far less cost, less use of copper and less (nothing) to maintain over time. I'm not against solar, having done it since the 1970s, but it needs good design, maintenance and caring owners to be effective.

    Yours, Larry
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