Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Infrared Thermology and How It Can Help Save You Energy and Money

infrared_thermological_technologyEnergy consciousness is at an all-time high, and scary home energy bills are one reason why. The good news is that we now have the tools and materials to do much more than just complain about how much it costs to deflect winter’s cold, cruel blasts. Infrared thermography offers the eyes to see where energy losses are actually occurring on your home and where new windows, expanding foam, and advanced weather stripping will do the most good. Thermal imaging tools are coming down in price rapidly, even to the point where simple units are now affordable by any homeowner.
Thinking of buying a new house? Market-savvy builders are now using infrared images to prove efficiency claims by lifting them out of the realm of faith and making them plainly visible. Have you just moved into a resale home and find that peak heating bills are higher than the mortgage? Applying an infrared audit of the sort offered by more and more home inspectors eliminates the mystery of exactly where all your heating dollars go.

Understanding the Ins and Outs of Infrared Thermography

To understand how infrared thermography works, you’ve got to realize something about what we see with our eyes. What we detect as visible light is actually a small part of what scientists call the electromagnetic spectrum. Energy with short wavelengths are the kind of ultraviolet radiation that inflicts sunburns and fades drapes. Energy wavelengths that are longer than what we see heats food in microwave ovens and delivers radio signals to our cars. Nestled between what we see and the wavelengths of energy that swells a bag of microwave popcorn is the infrared spectrum. Although it’s invisible, infrared energy radiation is what thermographic cameras show on screen, highlighting areas in the exterior surfaces of your home that offer the greatest potential for energy improvement.
Winter is an excellent time to conduct a thermographic home audit because the differences in temperature indoors and outside are at their peak. The brighter the area of the thermographic image, the greater the amount of heat loss in that zone. Gradients of heat output are what a thermographic camera shows.

Windows, Walls, and Roofs: Infrared Detects Worry Spots Anywhere

window_infrared_thermologyThe lighter of the two images here show a 20-year-old window from the outside during winter. The numbers on the image show the surface temperature in ÂșC at that spot. The fact that the glass window surface is so much warmer than the surrounding walls proves that significant heat is being lost from inside. By contrast, the darker image shows how the surface temperature of a high performance window is virtually the same as surrounding walls. Thermography is also used to detect waterlogged areas in flat roofs, both residential and commercial. Since these structures are rarely vented, leaks can cause wetting of internal insulation that doesn’t dry out quickly or at all. Infrared thermography shows these zones as hot spots on warm summer evenings as wet sections continue to give off heat after dry areas have cooled.

Infrared Thermographical Tools

The least expensive way to make thermography a part of your home improvement work is with one of the new, compact and inexpensive infrared thermometers. They allow pinpoint measurement of surface temperatures remotely, from as far as 40 feet away. They won’t give you a complete photo image like you see here, but they will let you accurately find hot and cold spots that need attention. I’ve used the DeWALTMilwaukee ($170) and Ryobi($80) units in my work and they all perform very well.
While it may not be quite as useful as Superman’s X-ray vision, infrared thermography can let you see deficiencies that rob you of hard-earned cash while also taking an unnecessary toll on the environment. Shed light on the culprits, foil their hidden schemes, and we’re all better off for it.

Photos courtest of Reiner Hoyer, The Reno Coach

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A classy modern design

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Passive House Design

HomeStars – News and Updates
Thursday, March 3, 2011 
We’ve written about energy saving tips for your home before and we keep stressing about the growing importance of energy efficiency for both environmental and financial reasons. But many of the tips advise on how to retroactively update your home – but what about if you are starting from scratch?
Many people advocate that buying used instead of new (houses or other goods) is better for the environment because “it reduces the amount of new stuff that has to be made.”  But with number of new homes being built, there is definitely no significant reduction in the near future. In addition to updating older homes, we need to look at creating more effective and efficient homes right from the start. Energy efficiency and sustainability is what passive house design is all about.
I first came across this topic when Reiner, The Reno Coach,  posted about a conference he was attending in Toronto, which would train him to be an expert on passive house design.
What is passive house design?
Passive house design was developed by the the Passive House Institute in Germany. It includes standards and techniques that drastically improve the performance of a home thorough these features:
  • superior insulation
  • energy efficient windows, shade considerations
  • air-tightness (no drafts or hot or cold spots)
  • heat recovery ventilators (these eliminate the need for conventional heating systems)
  • sustainable and regenerative hot water supply
  • fixtures that are energy saving (lighting, appliances)
  • solar and landscape considerations
Could you imagine a house with no furnace?
While there are clearly many aspects to this type of design, I think that the most unique is the lack of a traditional furnace. As Reiner explains, “The design philosophy behind the Passive House concept is simple: instead of designing a building, then sizing the required heating system, here the building shell is optimized until the conventional heating system is no longer required. The small amount of heating energy which is still needed in a Passive House can then be supplied via the ventilation air stream.”
Take a look at the images below. The graph on the left shows a comparison of energy efficiency for Canadian heating. The image on the right shows a thermogram of heat (can you tell which one is the passive house?)

Want to know more?
There are so many aspects to passive house design it’s too much to adequately cover in one blog post. We’ll be doing regular installments on specific aspects of passive house design so that we can provide you with detailed and accurate information. In the meantime, check out the Reno Coach’s blog, Passive House TO,  and see what the process is like from beginning to end. His aim is to be the first passive house in Toronto….we can’t wait!