Northern Thermal Comfort
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Arbor Vitae, WI 54568

The Insulation Lab

Unforeseen Consequences - Mold

Jeff Aderholdt - Sunday, February 14, 2016

There was a time when we didn't worry about energy efficiency. Energy was cheap. The technology to increase efficiency was expensive. It just wasn't cost effective, and therefore it wasn't a high priority. But then it changed. Starting in the mid-70s, energy costs started to rise dramatically. We started trading in our gas-guzzling American cars for more efficient Japanese imports. Interest increased in alternative forms of energy such as solar and wind. Some even built stills to make there own ethanol.

This concern over energy efficiency was not limited to our cars. Our homes were becoming more and more expensive to heat. Thus started a forty year trial and error project to stop our houses from hemorrhaging energy. The bleeding needed to be stopped, or at least lessened. We started adding insulation. We started plugging holes. All of this was new to us. We never saw some of the consequences that would result from our efforts. One of these consequences was, and is, mold. Some of the techniques we used, and still use, create a perfect breeding ground for mold. This danger is more severe in the extremely cold climates. Southern, warm and humid climates are also at risk, but that is not my expertise. Though the science can be extrapolated for use in such climates, I will leave that discussion to those who know it better. My focus continues to be on cold climate issues. For mold to grow, you need three things: temperature, moisture and food.

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Ducts in the Attic – A Very Bad Idea!

Jeff Aderholdt - Monday, June 08, 2015

Not long ago, I arrived at a new house to start insulating. When I surveyed the house, I was surprised to see that some of the duct work for the heating system was in the unheated attic. Surprise quickly moved to irritation. When the heating system installer arrived, I pointed out the situation, reminding him that it's not the 1960's and this is not acceptable anymore. The rest of the day was a bit tense.  More

Smart Vapor Barriers - Are They Really That Smart?

Jeff Aderholdt - Thursday, June 06, 2013

Recently a friend sent me an e-mail. He is a builder and frequents many of the construction seminars. He had just returned from a conference, and the instructor, a trusted professional in the construction sciences, recommended that, instead of using poly as a vapor barrier, to use Certainteed's MemBrain. My friend was asking what I thought about the product and how much more this would cost. Apparently, the instructor's reasoning was that, because it was a smart vapor barrier, it would also let moisture vapor back through it into the house. Since moisture will get into the structure, this will allow it also to leave. That reasoning seemed a little shaky to me. Let me explain why. More

Box Sill Insulation - To Foam or Not To Foam

Jeff Aderholdt - Monday, December 24, 2012

In recent years, there have been a lot of insulation advancements. New techniques have been developed and employed to make buildings tighter and more energy efficient. The results have been mixed. (See Flash and Batt - Risky in Cold Climates). More

Fiberglass verses Cellulose - Which is Better

Jeff Aderholdt - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ford or Chevy? Coke or Pepsi? PC or Mac? Less filling, taste great? Over the years there have been many controversies and debates. In insulation, one of the biggest debates is over which is the better insulation material, fiberglass or cellulose. Well, which is REALLY better? More

Dense Pack Cellulose – Cellulose Reborn

Jeff Aderholdt - Thursday, August 25, 2011

As energy costs have increased, so has interest in improving insulation techniques. One such insulation technique that is gaining popularity is what is called “dense-pack cellulose”. Dense-pack cellulose is a technique that allows an insulation installer to blow cellulose insulation into wall cavities of new homes during the construction, before the interior paneling or drywall is installed. In a 2 X 6 wall, dense-pack provides an R-value of about R-21. With the dense-pack technique, the performance advantages of cellulose insulation is now available for the new home builder. That's right! Cellulose, it's not just for remodeling anymore! More

Moisture, Psychrometrics and Relative Humidity - Their Effect on Structure and Air Quality

Jeff Aderholdt - Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Earlier, I briefly addressed the importance of moisture and humidity issues in a home on the Why Moisture Control.page. Since this is such an important issue for both structure health and for the health of the those living in the home, it seemed appropriate to expand on the subject. There is a lot of information available from a variety of sources, a lot of it is very technical and difficult to understand. What I will attempt to do is to filter this data into something a little easier to understand and hopefully more useful. More

Flash and Batt – Risky in Cold Climates

Jeff Aderholdt - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In recent years, insulation science and technology has grown by leaps and bounds. New products and new techniques are constantly hitting the market. Added to this, is the fact that we live in an information age. Information about the latest and greatest ways to insulate your new home is at our fingertips. A few clicks of a computer mouse, or a few buttons on the television remote control, and we have a banquet of ideas, all courtesy of our favorite do-it-yourself show or website. This is a good thing. Knowledge is power. Homeowners are empowered to be able to make informed decisions in regards to how their home is to be built. But not always.  More

Birds, Bees And Energies

Jeff Aderholdt - Friday, June 24, 2011

Birds Bess and Energies More