Global Warming – Cause Found!


Global Warming Cause Found!

Yes, It would seem like it!  Here at a home in a West Island community !

I was there doing a home inspection for the potential buyers. While there, my clients asked me if I could find out why the heating bills were so high for this property.

And I did.   There were three major contributors: (1) The fire place. (2) The ceiling lights and (3) The thermostat setting.

(1)  The photo shows the least of them.  For those who don’t know, this is the fireplace damper. It’s in the open position (partly open).  This is how you’d expect to find it the morning after you had a fire the evening before. Then you close it until the next time you use the fireplace.

The problem here is that the current owners have been there for 9 years and never used the fireplace. That means there has been a steady heat loss literally up the chimney for nine winters. I had been thinking about why an unused chimney was in such good condition. Now I knew. A warm chimney is a stable chimney.

(2)  This is a large and generously proportioned house. The entry hall, living room and stairway areas have a high two story ceiling that is continuous along the second story hallway and balcony/mezzanine space. (And lovely bright two story windows.)

The large ceiling common to all these spaces had 16 pot lights. The big ones that were standard 25 years ago. They are safely housed in metal cases as per fire and electrical codes of the time, but they allow air to pass freely through them to the attic. Effectively bypassing all the attic insulation meant to keep the heat in.

(3)   If that wasn’t enough heat loss, then there is the cost. The heating here is not bi-energy but it is a dual mode electric system. It has a heat pump that transfers heat from the exterior in milder temperatures and when it gets down around -10 to -12 degrees C the system switches over to a  back-up electric furnace. This is because there is not enough heat in the outside air to extract any appreciable amount.

This furnace is a resistance heater (works like stove elements only bigger and hotter). In terms of power consumption resistance heating is the MOST inefficient way to use electricity. So it uses a LOT of power and therefore costs A LOT.

Once the high demand is met the system is set up to go back to the heat pump mode automatically. HOWEVER there is a thermostat control setting called “Emergency heat” that you would switch on if you returned home to a cold house after being away or woke up to a particularly cold morning. This switches all all the functions to the electric furnace  and bypasses all the other controls. It is meant to be manually switched back to automatic when the setting temperature has been reached. But the owners left it there as they found it more comfortable.

That means the controls kept the furnace doing all the work and left the efficient economical heat pump idle. There is the big dollar cost right there, but then add the fact that the home lost heat comparitively rapidly because the 16 pot lights and the open chimney act as vents.

This one house, by its self, obviously isn’t the cause of global warming, but it contributes to the total effect. Every heating system operating inefficiently is a contributor, part of the problem. So it’s worth correcting, and it will save you money.

If you or someone you know has high home operating expenses, it’s time to have it inspected for cause. Most times it’s more than one factor, so a systematic overview of the house as a system is required.

Robert Butler – Home Inspection.

The Twisted Fix To Real Victorian Smokers………………………Answer To Mimi’s Question.

The Twisted Fix To Real Victorian Smokers………………………Answer To Mimi’s Question.


Victorian homes had multi-faceted high steep pitched roofs.

The Problem: This created downdraft problems for many of the chimneys. They would release smoke into the house and make house keeping cleaning a real chore.

One solution for this was to extend the height of the chimneys and this meant tall thin, usually freestanding, chimneys from the roof up to heights near to, if not exceeding the ridge of the roof.

This worked mostly, but the right (or wrong) weather conditions would cool these chimneys and cause thermal inversions and make them sometimes hard to light and also drafty. In some of these old homes most of the significant rooms had a fireplace.

Additionally they were subject to weather damage and were dangerous or more difficult to build (read costly). Being thinner (in general) they cooled more easily so they had condensation problems, which manifested itself as creosote buildup (increased risk of chimney fires) and more maintenance repairs.

The Fix: So architects and builders tried to incorporate the chimneys in the body of the roof as much as possible. The optimum plan allowed a chimney to rise to near the ridge and emerge with only the last few feet exposed to the elements. 

This worked very well, kept the chimney from excessive cooling, maintenance was relatively low and there were minimal draft problems. Great, but not all floor plans would allow this with straight chimneys. 

The Twist: Then the ‘offset flue’ construction of chimneys came about as a way to get the chimney to exit the roof as close to the optimal location as could be achieved. This was achieved by stepping off the successive layers of brick by small increments per layer.

Some referred to this a corbelling and structurally it is closer to cantilevering but here the weight of the masonry above counterbalances the overhang. As any toddler who’s played with blocks can tell you, there are limits as to how far you can go.

The physical realities limit how far the offsets can move the chimney and extended offsets also re-introduced draft problems as well. Fire regulations also limited the number of turns, lengths of runs and combinations of flues in a given chimney body.

So architects and the masonry trade soon learned to work within a well defined set of rules for successful application of this technique.

Look for gradual turns and smaller lateral displacements in proportion to the height rise.

If you have concerns consult with a specialist. ( A chimney sweep, a master mason, or a WETT certified technician. WETT = Wood Energy Transfer Technology.)





This article was written by Robert Butler to answer a comment question from a previous article. ;

  Mimi’s QuestionI have a question.  I specialize in Victorian homes.  Many times in the attic the brick chimney stack is a little twisted between the attic floor and the exit at the roof line.  Any idea why they did that?  The first few times I thought it was the same drunken mason, but it is too consistent, and I have always wondered why.







Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

E D , Erectile Dysfunction……………………………An OMG File.

E D , Erectile Dysfunction……………………………An OMG File.

chimney photo

Not what you were expecting?  Well neither was I.

I was inspecting the roof with the black shingles, sighting down the soffit for gutter slope when I did a double take on this chimney. O.M. G. indeed.

It took a few moments to realize how this got to be that way. It’s obvious that maintenance repointing has been done.

And it’s equally obvious that it was a DIY mason, likely the home owner. And this erectile dysfunction came about as the homeowner DIY mason has a well developed respect for heights (read fear of heights).

Either that or a ladder that only gave him access to the roof. This curve took some time to develop from multiple repointing repairs over time. The more easily accessible from the roof side got better attention and joints were kept filled (maybe overfilled), while those on the harder to teach out side got less repair and compressed.

On the other direction (90 degree view) there is no curvature evident. From this I can deduce that the mason was right handed. He could reach the sides facing us and facing away with his right hand, and of course the side to the left from our view point.

But the right side would have been hard to reach with his right hand, because he would be too close to the open roof edge on his distaff side. Anybody nervous or hyper aware of the height would rather use their left had and stand more securly in from the roof edge. The left handed work would be less dexterous and repairs maybe less frequent than otherwise.

A clear case of bias wouldn’t you think.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post