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Seeing Red

6/6/2008 12:00:00 AM

Tags: green building

For the past year, I’ve been chronicling the progress of a green-built home here in Boulder, Colo., where I live, via this blog and accompanying videos. Watching the project unfold has been enlightening for many reasons, not least of which is the opportunity to see firsthand many of the cool technologies we read about and hear about. Sometimes that entails a little sacrifice.

One frigid morning last winter I got up at the crack of dawn to meet project director Ron Flax of Rodwin Architecture at the site of the house-in-progress. Ron had a neat little handheld machine that uses infrared technology to detect leaks in the building’s thermal envelope, which can cause energy loss of up to 40 percent. When Ron held the device up to the walls, wispy patterns on the small monitor would indicate that air was leaking into the home. Ron and his team could then seal up the cracks and stop the leakage.

“Eliminating air leakage the single most important method of improving the performance of the thermal envelope,” Ron told me. “This is true both from the perspective of the rate of energy loss, as well as the many issues that are related to the unwanted movement of moisture laden air.”

We met on a particularly cold Colorado morning because leaks are most visible when the temperature difference between inside and out are extreme. Because the house was not yet complete, Ron explains, a blower door test—common air-filtration tests in which a powerful fan mounted into an exterior door pulls air out of the house, causing air to flow into any unsealed cracks and openings—was not yet possible. The infrared reader allowed Ron’s crew to get at some of the leaks that would have been covered with finish materials and impossible to fix later on. I’m not alone in predicting that using infrared technology will soon be standard operating procedure in all new homes and remodels.


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