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Diligence

Update at 11/5/2015: Look at this! An advancement in Oregon.



I accept work only where complete diligence is expected, and will be fairly rewarded. I prove all elements of diligence in photo reports, knowing work will not remain visible. Photos, and albums presenting them, are kept in customer files, and are sent to the customer in pdf format. I rarely bear the cost of color printing. Important photos and captions are also presented in invoices and rebate application documents. This process involves competent, not-free software, and some computer skills. This Google Sites forum is another means of sharing documents, especially where they are under development and subject to revision, including customer comment. Documents can be posted confidentially. Give links to those sharing in a project and its documentation. Here is an example of the job photo album I find necessary to express achievements in a job, that always include new learning that deserves sharing. It is more than a Diligence Reporter could offer. An album must at minimum, prove completion of all steps in a Check List that Chesley Sullenberger could respect. On this necessary path to freely-offered check lists, Jurisdictional Authorities will have a lot of important work to do.

I imagine a network of contractors, report processors, and supervisory/ government monitors to achieve diligence and honesty in weatherization contracting, doing real work as in avoiding ruin of a new program like Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, by dishonesty. I have posted one example of a hard-copy (pdf) report, of the kind that might be placed in a "customer vault" by an inspector, using only free software, OpenOffice, here.  I found the OpenOffice document a lot less friendly for picture placement, captions, headers and footers, than my preferred Adobe FrameMaker. If there is a future in community maintenance of diligence, I may have to get used to OpenOffice.

Check boxes are not acceptable as documentation of diligence. This from Energy Trust of Oregon, treats each action as trivial. A check might refer to numerous complex repairs, some taking days of work.  It is silly to think that a clean-shirted Home Performance Inspector would accomplish any useful work, and I think that is the usual crime. Some will claim to have reduced house infiltration by hundreds or thousands of CFM50, with a portion of a caulk tube. Those seeking to inspire or require diligence, must expect more. I find great fault with inclusion of before/ after blower door tests in the checklist and as mandatory for rebates. Rebates here in effect are only offered for a dishonest  report of "work" done in an hour or two of blower door setup, with upset and inconvenienced occupants. It is because of this demanded dishonesty, that I will not own a blower door. I will continue to work to have all "performance" thought taken out of testing. The only purpose of a blower door test is to ensure adequate ventilation in that odd house that might become too "tight," verified once as a last step. The "performance" minimum for Portland rebates, a 300 CFM50 reduction, has almost no cash value, just $22 energy savings per year. I will save customers many times that in an average house, with measures that have no measurable effect on a blower door test.  Just plain silly, that performance notion. 

Check lists do work. A check list is about dealing with matters in an order that can be anticipated, and with noting of needed documentation. We will have a lot of work to do in creating check lists in lieu of formless building permits and aimless or impossible-after-fact inspections, with power-creating gotchas. In weatherization, the check list must say, fix things that are dangerous or become unaffordable of service, with burial. Prove you did, or be presumed a slacker.


Here are photos from a job completed in May, 2010, presenting some of the elements of diligence that should be expected and rewarded:
      
Upgrading this 750 sq ft Portland Oregon attic with R13 cellulose, to a thick-floored R40, will of itself save the customer $70 per year, as computed with Insulation Math, for energy at reference $2 per therm. And now we all should know fuel has much larger true cost, than the payment to a Utility. Any loose-fill installer would have stopped at the $70 per year savings, missing seventy percent of the potential savings. Much larger savings, another $180 per year, come from diligence.  

The largest savings come from measures that have no effect on blower-door measurements of infiltration, stilling air in walls by sealing a commonly-found attic floor pit, and all wall headers. The dropped ceiling over a bathroom exposed 100 sq ft of wall area to attic and outside-wall temperature. Closure included filling the outside wall with cellulose pushed-down.The pit closure saves $80 per year. I estimate another $40 per year savings from careful sealing of wiring holes and all wall-to-wall-header gaps. There can be no rigorous measurement of header sealing effect.

I had a rare opportunity in this house to do some real blockage of outside-air infiltration, for smaller additional savings. An open ceiling over a gas water heater, though an unforgivable installation crime, would be rebateable, if accomplished with blower door testing. A test would have been invalid in measurement of change, as caused vacuum would have brought a rain of cellulose, blowing some hole blockage and increasing tested leakage by several hundred CFM50. Even without blowout concern, a blower door can not measure change of infiltration at a spot, better than as calculated for measured area. I estimate a 100 sq in free area over the water heater. My sealing this will save $56 per year in heating cost, for reduction of infiltration by 750 CFM50. Another 50 CFM50 and $3 per year savings were achieved by very great effort of bocking six square inches of five leaky ceiling-light boxes. 

My rebate organization does nothing to encourage diligence, except for "air sealing", if done by one of the few large  insulation contractors who would do before, and after, blower door tests, and can find or, more often, steal, 300 CFM50 reduced infiltration. I note that 300 CFM50 corresponds to a hole 7" diameter, 40 sq in, and saved heat cost is just $22 per year. It is really hard, usually impossible, to do that much sealing against infiltration. Do you fix a broken window, or reattach a heating duct? How would you argue that such measures should count? What is the big deal, with such pitiful savings? In this example, the sealing that really matters is against slow-churning communication with interior walls, where losses are by conduction and convection, and this has little effect on measured infiltration. 

I have never seen a home where a blower door would have helped in finding the diligence needed. Most diligence involves down-and-dirty moving of insulation and other obstacles, for sight inspection, in a condition of good access and lighting. Clean-shirted  test conditions are not compatible with that discovery.

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