Nichole’s Results I

My son slipped and fell and suffered a mild concussion. Two days later he tripped and fell at school and acheived two cuts on his cheek and one stitch in each. Two days ago we discovered lice on his head. Now I’m coming down with a cold.

Forgive me for keeping this post simple–it has been quite a week.

Here is part one of a little series called “Nichole’s Results”. For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand menu.


Visual Observations

The family occupying the house consists of two parents and two school-aged children. There are also two cats residing in the home.

The exterior walls are insulated with fibreglass batt insulation. The home owner stated that a polyethylene air and vapour barrier and spray-foam insulation were recently installed on the basement walls in an attempt to reduce heat losses. The house is heated by an oil-burning furnace located in the basement, which does not have a dedicated outdoor air intake; ducts from the house interior provide the intake air for the furnace. The bathroom does not have an exhaust fan, and the homeowner reported that on occasion they open the window to control the bathroom humidity levels, although this practice is less common in the cooler winter months. The attic floor is insulated, although we did observe an air and vapour barrier on the interior side of the attic insulation. The bathroom ceiling finishes consist of painted tongue-in- groove wood boards, which are not generally air-tight. The solarium, off the kitchen, has a cat door to the exterior. The homeowners stated that they generally keep the solarium door into the house closed, to reduce air leakage from the home through the cat door. There is a small opening in the interior walls to allow the cats access through the solarium.

The house appears to be relying primarily on natural, buoyancy and wind driven, ventilation, with intake air provided through the air-leaky walls and window.

During the site visit on January 31, 2014, we noted that the house had a musty/earthy smell typical of old wood-framed buildings. There was also an odour of cats, particularly in the solarium where the cats often reside. However, the homeowners did not report any complaints with the air quality of their home.

Nichole's Table 1

The family was away on holidays for a week in March, during which time the temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations in the house dropped significantly. Based on this, the average values presented above may be slightly lower than average values when the house is occupied; however, they appear generally consistent with the occupied data.

This section of Nichole’s reports contains a couple of errors but none of them affect the result. The walls are insulated with spray foam, not fiberglass batts, and, as I told you, the cat door to the exterior is in the wall of the old cold cupboard in what was the pantry. There is another cat door from there into the solarium. This is another example of how we insulated and sealed the house and then I cut holes in the envelope for cats and children: the cats have a cat door and the children have things to climb on in their rooms. We’ll do better next time.

In Nichole’s Results you can also start to understand my disappointment after all our work insulating and sealing. Her description of “air-leaky walls and windows” wounded my pride, but wait until you see the wild fluctuations in temperature and humidity (next post). She speaks the hard truth.

It’s information like this that might inspire one to improve the energy efficiency of one’s home and create a Forever House.

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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