This is the end of Day 10 and the final recap of the National Home Performance Virtual Conference. But you are not alone! The Building Performance Association will continue to connect with you and support you through the recorded live sessions available now, the on-demand presentations available after May 18 to participants, the Building Performance Community, and the Building Performance Journal, a member benefit of the Association.
Terry Nordbye of Air Sealing Specialists in Point Reyes Station, California, is always a pleasure to see and hear from. That translated well to the virtual experience of this morning’s presentation, Retrofit Air Sealing the Wood Frame House. The level of audience participation was extraordinary.
Terry began his session showing us a table from EnergySage, showing the estimated amount of PV one would need for a home to be net-zero, given the level of the home’s airtightness. For a home with a Passive House super-tight infiltration level, or ACH, of 0.6 to be net zero, you would need 14 panels and 160 ft2 of roof space. For a home with an average ACH of about 5, you would need 60 panels and 672 ft2 of roof territory. Air sealing matters.
Terry went on to review some basics, such as the stack effect, and how it can drive leakage in a home. Create a tight “skin” and control the pressure to minimize it. This is basic to many of his audience members, but that’s Terry’s gift, illustrating basic principles of building science in interesting ways, using home-made props, and real-life examples. When polled how many in the audience own or have used a blower door, 95% said yes. That’s probably why the audience engagement was so high.
There are opportunities for anyone with the tools and experience needed to air seal a home. For example, when putting on a new roof, crawlspace-related work, new siding, new insulation and so on. When you expose the thermal and air barrier of a home, you can get right to work. Terry went through numerous examples of air-sealing work he has done in his decade of work as an Air Sealing Specialist (ASS). And he touted the use of contemporary tapes and elastomeric materials for air sealing—he’s not a big fan of spray foam, because it doesn’t adhere well to surfaces. One caveat: This stuff is expensive and probably out of reach for most weatherization crews. Maybe that will change with the emphasis in the home performance world on healthy homes.
Like a Buddhist master, Terry presents the “Nine Degrees of Successful Air Sealing” and the “Four Absolutes of Air Sealing”. No room here, so you’ll just have to see the session recording to find out more.
Kevin Powell from the Red Horse Corporation moderated a panel discussion in the afternoon today, Better from a Distance: Remote Solutions for Program Compliance and Quality Control. Jacob Corvide of RMI, Frank Rapley of TVA, Dan Ridings of CLEAResult, Kim DeVoe of Fort Collins Utility, Scott Suddreth of Platte River Power Authority, and Kurt Roth of Fraunhofer CMI joined Kevin. These folks have been looking into virtual assessments and virtual QA since well before the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone scrambling to figure out how to work on homes remotely. This is a moment where the right technology can help the community pivot on a dime in the face of new challenges.
Scott and Kim discussed how they worked together to make it possible for a utility to do 100% of its QA work from photographs. They have been using products such as Microsoft’s OneNote to connect in real time with crews working on homes in the field. The key, to Scott, is “When QA is done during the process the crews can catch a mistake while it is happening, when they can do something about it.” A “Service Provider Report Card” and check lists that can be seen by office staff while jobs are ongoing are other tools they have developed for use by utility energy efficiency programs.
Kurt described the development of software that allows utilities to gather and analyze data from communicating thermostats to determine remotely which homes have the highest savings potential. The models and algorithms they’ve developed take into consideration several factors that determine a home’s performance. And so far they are having pretty good success. They did an experiment comparing homes that were earlier marked as best bets for retrofits to other homes. The ones that were earmarked for work had two to four times the uptake for measures compared to the control homes.
Frank Rapley of TVA and Dan Ridings of CLEAResult described TVAs development of tools for virtual assessments and virtual QA. They have discovered that the virtual assessments actually increase consumer participation, and that was echoed by the other panelists with experience in remote work. With the real time assessment using a smart phone on both ends, “You are doing something with the homeowner for an hour,” says Dan. “Normally the customer would wait around for the assessor to give them a printout of recommended measures at the end of the day.”
The technology is there, and it’s becoming a great time to work remotely, engage consumers more fully, and save both drive time, carbon emissions, and public health.
That’s it. Kudos to all the presenters and the BPA folks in Pittsburgh who scrambled to make this event happen and worked overtime making sure it went off without too many hitches. Thanks to Bob Krell for being an incredible MC for two weeks, and making it a fun, interesting, and positive experience for everyone. And a big shout out to Steve Skodak, BPA CEO, who started his job only several weeks ago and had to make the decision to go virtual in his second week. Good decision.
Have a great weekend everyone. See you soon.