Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You've come to the right place to find answers to your questions about energy conservation, energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality and much more.
Q: Why is the bonus room over the garage uncomfortable in the summer and winter months?
A: In many cases the first response is for the consumer to call an HVAC contractor that usually will install a return if one is not in the room or in some instances add additional supply registers in the bonus room. Generally this does little to change the conditions in the room if other issues exist. The cause of the original problem is typically an improperly insulated room with perhaps some HVAC issues. Investigating the methods of insulation installation and HVAC needs for the room should be the first step. From there a comprehensive investigation plan can be made and executed upon to achieve the desired results.
Q: Why does my crawl space insulation and duct work have dripping water on them in the summer?
A: Traditional crawl spaces have foundation vents which we have been taught to keep open in the summer and close in the winter. This advice was sensible before we began to air-condition our homes. The air-conditioning cools the air temperatures under our homes and then "Mother Nature" takes over. Warm humid air enters the crawl space through open foundation vents, other openings or perhaps a loose fitting crawl space access door. The warm humid air cools down and the moisture in the air condenses on the cool surfaces inside of the crawl space. Other sources of moisture that can add to the problem are lack of ground cover, improperly installed ground cover or standing water in the crawl space. Properly identifying the source or sources of moisture is key. Closing, sealing and conditioning of crawl spaces have been performed for over twenty years and when done correctly renders the crawl space dry with less likelihood of structural damage from dry rot and mold growth. In addition typically less maintenace will occur for the HVAC equipment that is located in the dryer crawl space.
Q: Can the mold growing in my crawl space get into my house and can it be cleaned out of the crawl space?
A: The mold can migrate into the house through leaky duct systems and the many holes that were drilled during the construction of the house for wires and pipes to pass through. Mold spores are naturally occuring and are found just about anywhere. If the mold spores in the crawl have the right environment which includes proper temperature, enough moisture and a food source they will begin to grow. The typical vented crawlspace in this climate is ideal for the growth of mold. The moisture in the summer that accummalates on the insulation, duct systems, wood framing members and the dust that is naturally occuring in the crawl provide all of the ingredients for mold to grow. Keeping the crawl dry is the most important element in reducing the chance for mold growth.
Mold that has grown in the crawl space can be cleaned. There are anti-microbial sprays that can be used in conjunction with hand cleaning. More extensive situations can require abrasive cleaning using sanding, soda blasting or dry-ice cleaning. There are coatings that can be used that provide a residual value. However, the sensible soulution is to keep the crawl space dry.
Q: What is the difference between a closed crawl and a conditioned crawl space?
A: A closed crawl space is when a conventionally vented crawl space is retrofitted by sealing off the openings in the fondation (eg. foundation vents, wire & pipe penetrations in the foundation, the gap between the sill plate and top course of the foundation and the crawl space access panel) and installing a complete and sealed vapor barrier over the dirt floor of the crawl space. Typically a small portion of conditioned air from the HVAC system is introduced into the crawl space or a dehumidifier is installed to take active control of the moisture level in the crawl space.
A conditioned crawl space is very similar to the closed crawl space with the major exeception being where the insulation is installed. The conditioned crawl space foundation walls are insulated using any number of methods, (eg. foam board, basement wall insulation or spray foam insulation). By insulating the foundation walls and introducing a small portion of conditioned air form the HVAC system the temperature and humidity inside of the crawl space is very similar to what is found inside of the home. Typically the floor over a conditioned crawl space will be warmer than that of a conventionally vented foundation as well.
The environment in a properly closed or conditioned crawl space is not conducive to mold growth thereby helping to create a healthier home.
Installing a remote temperature/humidity sensor in the crawl space with the readout inside of the home enables the homeowner monitor conditions inside of the crawl space.
Q: Can the mold grow inside of my duct work and can it be cleaned out?
A: Mold can grow inside of ductwork. Many types of materials comprise the duct systems in our homes. Metal duct work that has a lining that harbors dust, mold spores, pollen, etc. When the ducts are in environments that allow the lining to become damp, (eg. duct systems located in damp crawl spaces) mold will grow and then can be distributed into the home. Significant amounts of mold have been found in flexible ductwork particularly that portion of flexible ducting that is used in crawl spaces.
Duct work can be cleaned. However, depending on the type of duct work will determine how well it can be cleaned. In some instances the cleaning can cause damage to the lining, creating another problem and not eliviating the mold issue. A comprehensive look at the duct work by a trained professional will help determine the best course of action to be taken.
Q: Should I insulate my roof deck or just add more insulation to my flat ceiling?
A: Insulating the flat ceiling to the proper insulation value has been the conventional method of improving energy efficiency to our ceilings for many years. This method if done correctly can help reduce our energy costs both in the summer and winter. There is a significant consideration with this method that is generally not thought about about by the insualtion installer. If you have an HVAC system and duct work in your attic then the HVAC system is still operating in extreme temperatures during both the winter and summer. It is not unusual for attic temperatures to exceed 120 degrees in the summer and drop to below freezing in the winter. The typical duct insulation is usually an R-6 to R-8 meaning that if you just insulated your flat ceiling to R-38 you have 4 - 6 times more insulation value in your ceiling than on your ducts. This causes the HVAC system to have to work harder to provide the desired comfort in your home resulting in higher energy costs.
With the advent of Icynene foam insulation, the underside of the roof and gable end walls of the attic can be insulated. This method then provides a buffered attic which is within approximately 5-10 degrees of what the house temperature is. The result is your energy costs are reduced by having a superior insulation and the heating and cooling system operates more efficently because it is in a more hospitable environment further reducing your energy costs. Another benefit is your attic space can then be used for storage without having to worry about extreme temperatures.
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