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.

Is Your House Sporting A Beret? It’s That Time Of Year. Keep Looking Up.

Is Your House Sporting A Beret?   It’s That Time Of Year. Keep Looking Up.

snow on roof

2  4 5

It is that time of year. Snow does build up on roofs. You even get snow drifts on roofs with windy conditions.

You also get what I like to call snowbrows. Which may look like your roof is wearing a snow beret.

The right conditions can create built-up overhangs, or ‘brows’ at eves and other roof edges. They often get heavy enough to break of and fall with a big ‘whump’ sound as this pile of snow hits the ground or a lower roof.

Sometimes this happens while it is still snowing.  But  if the conditions are right they can ‘hang’ there for days, even weeks.  They can look ominous but some people think ‘it’s only snow so it’s not a danger’. But that’s not right.

It’s a lot of snow.  If it drops on you, you’re going to know it.  Remember; a ton of bricks sounds heavy and a ton of feathers (or snow) doesen’t conjure up the same weighty image.  But a ton is a ton.  You don’t want to be under it.

The second factor here is ice. Did you notice the icicles present?  There’s lots of them and they are big.  That means something is happening under that snow.

Because snow is cold to the touch, few people think of it as functioning as an insulation, but a thick snow layer is very effective insulation because it is light and airy, it does not allow much heat transfer by conduction. (Igloo and Ice Hotel builders use that to their advantage.)

So when we have deep snow cover on roofs the insulating effect allows heat (loss from the house or solar heat gains from other surfaces) to warm up the roof surfaces.  Snow in contact with the roof melts, the water runs down to the cold eve edges and refreezes. This causes the big icicles and ice dams. Those ice dams can back up water till the point that it may run under the shingles and sometimes leak into the interior.

Even if you don’t get interior water, the ice dams build up deeper and thicker and heavier. All or mosly out of sight under the deep snow and snowbrows.

So now  if  when they fall they will be heavier, harder and pack more punch. Their impact will feel like bricks.

So don’t slam that door!

3 This front entry door is right under this brow!

Ever when there are no snowbrow buildups, the weight of the snow and ice accumulation can be considerable.

Add rain into that deep snow layer.  What do you think happens.?  No it does not drain off or melt the snow.  The snow soaks it up like a sponge and holds it there.  It all stays on the roof.

Was your roof designed for that? Most likely not.

Construction costs usually dictate code minimums designed for average conditions, plus a certain safety factor. The roof should not fail structurally, but it can still be damaged (shingles, sheathing, gutters, water entry, etc.).

It is a good maintenance practice to knock off all over hanging ‘brows’ as soon as they are formed and befor large ice buid-ups can occur.

Big snow accumulations on roof edges are better removed, also early –  before ice is allowed to buildup.  But this is not cause for panic or drastic action every time you have a big snow fall.

Once you’ve cleared your driveway and walks, have a look at how much is on the roof. The most important areas to clear are the lower half of the sloped roofs.

We recommend using a roof rake (with pole handle extensions) from the ground.  Don’t try to remove ice that is too big to break off easily.  We do not recommend ice removal.  It is to easy to damage roofs, walls and windows this way.

Ice left in place, with no snow cover, will safely freeze to the spot, generally till spring weather gradually reduces them.

If ice mass has to be removed because of damage or water entry problems, have it professionally done.  They have the safety equipment, the experience and usually the capability to repair any damaged they may cause.

Avoid slamming the door on winter mornings and remember to “keep looking up”.


Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

Why is this bag of water hanging in the attic and should you have one?

Why is this bag of water hanging in the attic and should you have one?

Short answer: No. The attic space is outside the heated area of the home and such water will freeze, eventually break the plastic and soak the building materials and leak into the home interior. So why is it here?

Here’s the bigger picture;… it’s a real effort to do it the wrong way.

full view

The blue arrows (1 & 2) are the start and direction of the exhausts from two bathrooms. Instead of going straight up and out through the roof, the ducts are bent downward to exit (arrows 3 & 4) at the soffits. That is the basic error.

Amateurs often are uninformed about correct methods to open and flash an exit through the roofing, so like here, they get quite inventive and do a lot of work to ‘solve’ their problem without cutting the roof. ‘Duct tape’ is not a building product any more than it is a car repair product so it’s presence is a dead give away.

This ‘thinker’ must have heard about condensation but does not understand the use of vapour barrier. Only incomming ducts are insulated. Exhaust ducts are not and vapour barrier on the cold side of insulation is wrong and in this case is what gave us the ‘bag ‘ of water.

Note the water colour. Not the pristine clear colour of condensed water is it. This is an indicator of another condition as is the photo below; … stains and ‘lint’ on the ceiling grills are problem indicators. Yes we’re talking mold in the ducts.

mold indication water sign

Duct runs going latterally or horizontally just allow condenation to collect and along with all the house dust (skin cells etc.). Once the weather warms up you’ll have an explosion of mold growth because you’ve provided water, food and now heat.

The imperfections in the ceiling of the last photo is water damage. So if our ‘bag is holding water, is there a roof leak?

water route mold stain at soffit.

No, not a roof leak, just your old bath water back to haunt you.

Look at the circled areas in the last photo, and also in the second photo (an oval). This is mold stain on the roof sheathing from humidity that actually made it all the way outdoors but was then pulled back into the attic to do damage. Why does that happen?

Because the warm moist air is being released right into the intake grills of the roof venting (cooling) system, aka ‘the soffits’. Not much point in trying to get rid of it if you are only going to pull it back in again.

So all bathroom exhaust ducts that enter the attic must exit directly vertically and through the roof to the exterior. No latteral or horizontal runs. Insulation or vapour barrier has no place on attic ducts. You just want to blast the humidity out above the roof where it can do no harm. Exiting at the soffits is worse than useless.

So a bag of water in the attic is the sword of Damocles hanging overhead.

No thanks.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post