Insulation Air Bypass Leaks, Voids & Heat Loss Analysis for buildings
INSULATION AIR & HEAT LEAKS - CONTENTS: Fiberglass batts or other insulation leaks, air leaks, and insulation voids lose building heat. Where fiberglass insulation leaks occur. Voids & air leaks into duct work at an icynene-foam insulated crawl space. Voids & thermal bypass leaks at a blown-in cellulose insulation job. How to spot insulation air bypass leaks, voids, and heat loss points. Where convection loops & thermal bypass leaks most often occur in buildings. "House Doctors" survey buildings to find and fix energy losing air & heat leaks
This article series discusses air bypass leaks, thermal convection loops, voids & leaks in building insulation, including fiberglass, chopped fiberglass, icynene foam, and blown-in cellulose.
Our page top photo shows a void in wall insulation, viewed from a seldom-visited attic. An insulation void such as this one should show up easily during an infrared building scan using thermal imaging. But unless the homeowner thinks of this step, the uninsulated wall may pump heat out of the building for years.
Leaky Fiberglass Insulation?
In our Solar Age Magazine article on building heat loss, AIR LEAK DETECTION TOOLS, according to Gadsby from PEP, fiberglass insulation will not block convective loop escape routes for a building's heat: Gadsby's view is that fiberglass does not stop airflow in wall cavities.
That article says that infrared scanners tell the same story, showing heat loss around and even through fiberglass insulation--even the massive batts in a superinsulated ceiling. For that reason, the PEP partners prefer blown insulation over fiberglass batts. With loose-fill fiberglass insulation, they believe, the airflow paths are circuitous enough to stop short any airflow.
Our photo (above left) shows the black stains deposited by dust particles (this is not mold) when building air leaks past fiberglass insulation, seen from the attic side of a 1960's contemporary framed home with lots of air leaks.
In our photo and in many air leak problems at fiberglass-batt insulated cavities, the problem is one of installation and construction leak problems, not a defect in the fiberglass insulating batt itself.
OPINION-DJF: we pose that loose-fill insulation may do a more consistent job of closing air or thermal bypass leaks that are sometimes left around fiberglass batts - that's the real problem.
Looking at an IR scan that shows heat loss "through" an insulating batt, if combined with visual inspection, using invasive cuts if necessary, will, we predict, show air bypass leaks, other insulation installation errors, or insulation wet from building leaks. Otherwise we should not see large solid areas of no-leaks on IR scans of walls and ceilings that have tightly-installed batts, no voids, and no penetrations.
The claim of fiberglass batt air leakage, supported vigorously by the foam insulation industry, is equally vigorously counter-argued by the fiberglass insulation companies who point out that properly installed the air flow rate through the fiberglass itself in fiberglass insulated cavities is very low.
OPINION-DJF: air leaks around insulating batts that are not snugly fit between building framing members or where openings have been cut for ceiling lights, electrical boxes, plumbing chases, and voids left from workers who move or remove insulation appear from visual inspection to be the prime culprit, rather than air movement through the fiberglass insulating batt itself.
Our attic photo (left) shows both air bypass leaks (black stains on the fiberglass batt at center-left of the photo) and an insulation void (above the bath vent fan).
Where air leaks occur around fiberglass batts, look closely: you will probably see that the leaks are at the perimeter of the insulation and at locations where openings in framing, drywall, or insulation were cut to admit recessed ceiling lights, electrical or plumbing penetrations, or similar openings.
If airflow were simply through the fiberglass batt in any uniform way, the dust stains on and inside the insulation would also be expected to be uniform. They are not.
We full agree with PEP, however, that predicting air leaks through fiberglass-insulated cavities is very difficult, since leakage depends on the quality of installation workmanship. We have indeed occasionally found workmanship errors that resulted in unanticipated air leaks though foam-sprayed insulation as well, particularly when the insulation (of either type) was installed in a hard-to-access space such as a crawl area.
Our pair of photos above were taken in a tight, hard to enter crawl area where the icynene spray foam insulation was not so carefully applied.
Our smoke test found air movement from the damp, occasionally moldy crawl area into an opening in the foam insulating blanket. We pulled a bit of this already-leaky material off to see what was behind and found (photo above right) a leaky metal return air duct.
When the air handler was running it was drawing cold, sometimes nasty, crawl space air into the duct system through this leak.
Take a look at our foam retrofit photo at above left. We noticed two impressive details: a flood of foam entered this attic space over the un-heated garage (the insulator just pumped away, thinking he was foaming into an enclosed wall cavity).
But at the photo's upper right we see a shiny metal foil surface (a pre-existing radiant barrier) but no insulation whatsoever.
Our photo (left) shows a very large void in the building attic's blanket of blown-in cellulose insulation where no provision was made to insulate around a chimney chase.
Blown-in building insulation is often packed tightly between building framing members and other surfaces, and is likely to pose fewer air bypass leaks than sloppily-installed fiberglass batts (discussed above).
But precisely because blown-in cellulose is often selected for an insulation retrofit in older homes that may have had little or even no insulation previously, there is the risk that the insulator fails to notice and handle trouble spots such as the one shown in our photo.
Chopped-fiberglass blown-in insulation, and any pumped or blown insulating product that is sent into building cavities where there is no direct view all face the risk of unexpected voids.
For example in post-and-beam structures and converted barns, experienced retrofit insulation contractors have learned to watch out for the wall framing blockage formed by diagonal bracing. The contractor will drill extra openings to be sure that no insulation voids are left in the building walls.
How to Find Points of Heat Loss & Building Air Leaks
The article HEAT LOSS DETECTION TOOLS explains how to survey a building for air and heat loss or gain points and how to correct them. Just below are links to images of pages from "House Doctors with Better Medicine, Princeton Energy Partners use the latest diagnostic tools to comb a house for the major causes of heat loss. Their findings are often astonishing. Their strong prescriptions bring results", Steven Bliss, rom Solar Age Magazine.
In this article the author, Steven Bliss, accompanies a building weatherization and energy-savings company through a detailed building inspection for heat loss points, convective loops, and air leaks.
The author accompanies Princeton Energy Partners as they use thermal imaging, smoke guns, and visual inspection to pinpoint building air leaks, heat loss points, air infiltration and air exfiltration on a building.
The importance of setting priorities for sealing these points of energy wasted is emphasized and discussed, and sketches as well as photographs of common points of building heat loss, or unwanted heat gain, and air leaks are provided.
The text above significantly expands, and also paraphrases, quotes-from, and comments an original article, "House Doctors with Better Medicine", Steven Bliss, (see links just above) from Solar Age Magazine.
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Solar Age Magazine was the official publication of the American Solar Energy Society. The contemporary solar energy magazine associated with the Society is Solar Today. "Established in 1954, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nation's leading association of solar professionals & advocates. Our mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy. We advance education, research and policy. Leading for more than 50 years.
ASES leads national efforts to increase the use of solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies in the U.S. We publish the award-winning SOLAR TODAY magazine, organize and present the ASES National Solar Conference and lead the ASES National Solar Tour – the largest grassroots solar event in the world."
Ice Dam Leaks in building attics and roof cavities, how to inspect for evidence of leaks, identify causes, and correct bad attic ventilation, improper roof venting, and these causes of attic mold or roof structure damage
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on ASBESTOS, ITS INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS, ROSATO 1959, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
Brick Nogging, Historical Investigation and Contemporary Repair, Construction Specifier, April 2006. Historical use of brick in timber-framed buildings, drawing on the investigations of the Kent Tavern in Calais, VT.
"Brick nogging is a European method of construction which was brought to the new world in the early-nineteenth century. It was a common construction method that employed masonry as infill between the vertical uprights of wood framing." -- quoting the web article review.
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
Falls and Related Injuries: Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences, Lawyers & Judges Publishing, (June 2002), ISBN-10: 0913875430 ISBN-13: 978-0913875438 "Falls in the home and public places are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, but are overlooked in most literature. This book is unique in that it is entirely devoted to falls. Of use to primary care physicians, nurses, insurance adjusters, architects, writers of building codes, attorneys, or anyone who cares for the elderly, this book will tell you how, why, and when people will likely fall, what most likely will be injured, and how such injuries come about. "
Fiberglass: Indoor Air Quality Investigations: Health Concerns About Airborne Fiberglass: Fiberglass in Indoor Air from HVAC ducts, and Building Insulation
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Piquet Wall Construction: See this photo of
piquet wall construction - involving timber-framed wall construction with long top girts, diagonal timber bracing, and small diameter logs
placed vertically along with concrete chinking to fill in the wall plane.
Plank House Construction: weblog from plankhouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/plank-house-construction/ and where plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project.
Re-Bath, tub lining products is a bath tub relining manufacturer and distributor located in Tempe, Arizona - see rebath.com
Rubblestone Wall Filler: See this Lartigue House using exterior-exposed rubblestone filler between vertical timbers of a post and beam-framed Canadian building.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or
ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2,
available from the publisher, Lawyers ^ Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com email@example.com and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20Stair%20IRC%20SCREEN.pdf ] -
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Mold-Resistant Building Practices, advice from an expert on how to prevent mold after a building flood and how to prevent mold growth in buildings by selection of building materials and by anti-mold construction details.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2, available from the publisher, Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com firstname.lastname@example.org and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
Steps and Stairways, Cleo Baldon & Ib Melchior, Rizzoli, 1989.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones