ENERGY STAR Update for Builders 2014 Q2

ENERGY STARENERGY STAR continues to offer tremendous resources at no charge for marketing and promoting the homes that you build.  In addition, their webinar series offers a mix of technical, sales, and marketing ideas that are well worth taking advantage off. For example check these tools out:

One last Energy Star Note:

Yes there is an ENERGY STAR version 3.1 whose primary upgrade is linking the program to the 2012 IECC insulation levels.  However, EPA’s proposed policy for the Version 3.1 program requirements will only be implemented where the 2012 IECC or an equivalent code has been adopted at the state level. Therefore, in a state such as Colorado which has no state-level code, Version 3.1 will not be implemented at this time. At some point in the future (e.g., after a large majority of states or local jurisdictions have adopted the 2012 IECC), EPA may elect to enforce the Version 3.1 program requirements at the national level. Note that if this is done, EPA will first propose a national implementation timeline and solicit comments from stakeholders.  That said, ENERGY STAR will continue to release revisions for the ENERGY STAR version 3 requirements and the next revision is expected to be released this summer.

Scheduling That Works

As we move into summers prime building months we wanted to refresh everyone’s memory with regards to scheduling of your inspections.

We recommend that you schedule this inspection as soon as the house is tight enough to have the blower door test performed. EnergyLogic needs a minimum of 4 days’ notice to schedule finals, next day scheduling of finals is no longer possible.

It never hurts to have a reminder about how EnergyLogic inspections interact with your construction schedule, especially now that things are BOOMING .  With the pace of building picking up we want to ensure that we are full schedulenot slowing your construction schedule.  So we are once again putting out our scheduling expectations.

Many of you are participating in a two inspection process or code, Energy Star, HERS, or both,  which begins with our rough insulation and air barrier inspection (which may also include rough duct leakage testing), but some Builders have requested three distinct field visits from us for verification of the Energy Star program:

1.  Total Duct Leakage Testing: Yes, this test is required of ESv3.

For many of you, for fanatical reasons, we have moved to testing total duct leakage at the same time we perform the rough insulation and air barrier inspection. However, we continue to recommend that it occur as soon as the HVAC furnace cabinet has been set.  In this way we can ensure that we not only test the system, review the installation of ducts and ventilation systems required by the ESv3 Rater HVAC Checklist, but also have minimal impact on your schedule.  If for some reason there is an issue that requires a re-inspection, we have in most cases, 2-3 weeks before insulation to get the system fixed and re-inspected before ducts are covered up with insulation and drywall.  This will require a third site visit and additional fees

2.  Rough Insulation and Air Barrier Inspection:

This inspection occurs right after insulation and prior to drywall.  Essentially we are looking for the same air barrier and insulation issues we have always looked at, with the addition of thermal bridging items and advanced air sealing details such as the connection between the top plate and the attic. Total duct leakage can also be tested at this stage with the knowledge that if there is an issue with the ducts drywall must be delayed.  We recommend that this inspection be scheduled at least at the same time that the insulation has been called

3.  Final Inspection:

We recommend that this is called at least 5 days before you need your reports, or as soon as the house is tight enough to have the blower door test performed (cover plates, weather stripping, attic hatch and sump pump seals, penetrations to unconditioned spaces like outlet boxes and fan housing to attics, etc., should all be in place).  Obviously, we perform the blower door test, but we are also looking at insulation we could not see at rough, such as in attics and on foundations.  Additionally,  we are testing the flow of ventilation systems, measuring window openings, confirming orientation, and compiling your code and program compliance documentation.

4.  For those working with the ESv3 program, you will also need to manage those pesky checklists and documentation.  Here is what you need to know:

  • Revision 8 of the ESv3 program is due out sometime this summer so keep your eye out for it.
  • EnergyLogic will take care of the Thermal Enclosure Checklist and the Rater HVAC Checklist
  • Your ESv3 credentialed HVAC contractor must turn in the following to EnergyLogic, by the final inspection, at the latest.  We will continue to talk with HVAC Contractors, but it would help everyone if you set strong expectations of timely delivery of this information to ensure that this documentation does not slow your construction schedule or cost re-inspection fees:
    • Full Manual J heat load calculation and HVAC design for the system and house
    • Balancing report
    • AHRI certificates
    • Ventilation system documentation
  • The Builder’s Water Management Checklist must be turned into EnergyLogic by the final inspection, at the latest.

The most current fill-able PDF versions of the checklists can be found on our website at: Energy Star v 3 Resources.

To assist your delivery of ESv3 documentation, we currently suggest all documents be emailed to  Shortly we will be releasing usernames and passwords to our online database, “DASH,” where you will be able to directly upload checklists and other documents to each house address.  In addition, you will be gaining direct access to archived reports, schedules, and more.

As we move into the busy summer months we are hopeful that this quick review helps solidify the process of compliance with the IECC and the programs you are working with.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Kind regards,

Robby Schwarz and the EnergyLogic Team


One Builder’s Brilliant Idea

Building scientists always recommend creating a gap between your siding and your drainage plane to promote drainage and drying. One of the best ideas I’ve seen a builder implement this past quarter was as follows. They created a gap by using sill seal installed vertically on the outside of the framed wall and behind the siding on top of the house wrap. This simple and low cost idea creates a break between the siding and the house wrap/drainage plane. As we know, moisture will bypass any siding product that is installed on the house.  The drainage plane is designed as a built-in redundancy to ensure that water drains down and away from any opening in the house. What a simple, low cost, and elegant way to ensure that the space is maintained and that drainage behind the siding is ensured.

Good Bad copy

The worst idea of the quarter goes to jurisdictions that oddly enough have begun to once again require a plastic poly vapor barrier in our wall assemblies.  We have learned from our building science friends that a vapor barrier is designed to stop moisture migration into our wall assemblies by the process diffusion.  Physics tells us that diffusion is a very slow process and only has the ability to move small quantities of moisture.  Physics has also taught us that latex paint substantially stops the process of diffusion and is recognized as the only vapor management strategy that has been codified.  A class one vapor barrier – Poly, class two vapor barrier – Kraft faced batt or a product like MemBrain™, and a class three vapor barrier – latex paint.

Why should you care?  More Moisture Moves with air than by the process of diffusion. We install plastic so poorly that it tends to trap moisture in the assembly once air has bypassed it and dropped off the moisture it was carrying.  Luckily, we have found that jurisdiction have issued variances to builders who are concerned about this issue.  So if you believe strongly, like I do, that plastic in the wall is actually detrimental and causes more builder risk than benefit. Let me know and we can work on a variance request to ensure that you can continue building forgiving assemblies that have great drying potential in both directions.

Robby Schwarz