Home Energy January February 2012 : Page 3

LETTERS 1250 Addison Street, Suite 211B, Berkeley, CA 94702 (510)524-5405 contact@homeenergy.org www.homeenergy.org ________________ DIAGNOSING AN IAQ PROBLEM I read your article in Home Energy and thought I would try to contact you about a problem (“Safe Air at Home” Sept/Oct ’11, p. 6). I had a contractor (not a blown-insulation specialist) install Owens Corning Attic Cat loose-fi ll fi berglass last spring in the two exterior walls of a room that I am planning to use for a home offi ce. After the insulation and before painting the drywall (paint = Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint/primer combo), I smelled an odor that has persisted for several months even with the windows open continuously. Just after completion of the room refi nish, I tried working in it but became light-headed after several hours and noticed some teeth gnashing. There does not appear to be any additional dust present (that is, same level of dust that accumulates in the other rooms, which isn’t a problem). I have moved the offi ce to a different room. I have read that odors from VOC related to fi berglass insulation can cause lightheadedness and teeth gnashing, and can take some time (amount not specifi ed) to dis-sipate. However, as winter approaches, the smell persists, so it’s time for action, as I don’t want to leave the windows open in that room all winter, and it would be good to use the room for its intended purpose. I am thinking the best course of action is to ▪ rip out the drywall on the two exterior walls; ▪ collect and dispose of the insulation; ▪ do a thorough vacuuming (perhaps two or three passes) of the ex-posed exterior wall cavity, carpet, and other interior wall surfaces and ceiling; ▪ let the room set (with cavity exposed) for a couple weeks and see if that takes care of the odor; and ▪ refi nish the exterior walls using some type of less-toxic insulation material. QUESTIONS: 1. Does that sound like a good approach? 2. Should I fi rst try to fi nd an environmental consultant with a VOC sensor to check if the odor corresponds to something that may be emitted by the fi berglass insulation (and related binder)? 3. Any other advice? Thanks for any help you can provide. — Joel Neymark P.E. J. Neymark & Associates Golden, Colorado Senior Executive Editor Executive Editor Editor Assistant Editor Design & Production Manager Technical Editors Alan Meier Iain Walker Jim Gunshinan Macie Melendez Kate Henke Henry Gifford Steve Greenberg Chris Stratton Contributing Editor Steve Mann Copyeditor Irene Elmer Writers This Issue Dan Berube, Brett Dillon, Thomas Dolan, Roger Hahn, John Koeller, David Korn, Steve Mann, Lauren Mattison, Paul Raymer, Chad Ruhoff, Ted Shoemaker Publisher Advertising & Marketing Manager Controller Office Manager Fulfillment Manager O ffice Intern Tom White Carol A. Markell Jan Elkington Maggie Forti Alana Shindler Toni White Advertising Home Energy requires all advertisers to provide documentation to support any claims of product effi ciency and performance contained in ads. We welcome companies involved in residential conservation to join this select group. It includes manufacturers of conservation materials, tools, instrumentation, computer software, and effi cient appliances, and providers of technical services, training, and labor. For advertising rates, contact: Carol A. Markell, Home Energy , 1250 Addison Street, Suite 211B, Berkeley, CA 94702. Tel: (510)524-5405, e-mail: CAMarkell@homeenergy.org. Home Energy is published by Energy Auditor & Retrofi tter, Incorporated President, Alan Meier Executive Director, Tom White Board of Directors Karen Butterfi eld Robert Knight David Canny Joseph Kuonen Alan Meier Bill Parlapiano III Ted Pope John B. Smith Iain Walker SunPower Corporation Bevilacqua-Knight, Incorporated Pacifi c Gas & Electric CLEAResult Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory PECI Energy Solutions Johns Manville Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Editorial Advisory Board Steve Baden Marcus Bianchi Michael Blasnik Chris Dorsi Doug Garrett Theresa Gilbride Ron Judkoff Rick Karg Courtney Moriarta John Porterfi eld Greg Thomas Linda Wigington Edward Wyatt Larry Zarker RESNET National Renewable Energy Laboratory M. Blasnik & Associates Saturn Resource Management, Inc. Building Performance & Comfort, Inc. Pacifi c Northwest National Laboratory National Renewable Energy Laboratory R. J. Karg Associates Sangfroid Associates eZing, Inc. Performance Systems Development ACI Scientifi c Certifi cation Systems Building Performance Institute Home Energy (ISSN 0896-9442) is a bimonthly publication of Energy Auditor and Retrofitter, Incorporated, 1250 Addison Street, Suite 211B, Berkeley, CA 94702. EA&R is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the dissemination of objective information on residential energy conservation. Yearly subscription rate: $75 for six issues. Canada and other foreign countries U.S.$90, payable by U.S. money order only. Subscribe on our Web site at www.homeenergy.org. Periodical postage paid at Berkeley, California, and additional mailing office. postmaster: Send address changes to Home Energy, 1250 Addison Street, Suite 211B, Berkeley, CA 94702. Return undeliverable Canada addresses to: Station A, PO Box 54, Windsor ON N9A 6J5, e-mail: returnsIL@imex.pb.com. Energy Auditor and Retrofitter, Incorporated, gratefully accepts contributions from institutions and firms interested in promoting energy conservation. © Copyright 2012, Energy Auditor and Retrofitter, Incorporated. Energy Auditor and Retrofitter, Incorporated, grants authorization to photocopy material from Home Energy for internal or personal use under circumstances that do not violate the fair use provisions of the copyright act. For permission to reprint, write to the above address. Printed on recycled paper Author A. Tamasin Sterner replies: Thanks for contacting me. I feel for you. Without seeing your house, I can only guess what is going on. These are my suggestions: ▪ Get the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the materials used in your home, including the Sheetrock, and see if there are warnings about exposure and ventilation suggestions. ▪ If you determine that the best solution is to remove what was installed, I think your approach sounds reason-able. Just protect yourself. www. homeenergy.org 3 A. T. STERNER

LETTERS

Joel Neymark

<br /> DIAGNOSING AN IAQ PROBLEM<br /> I read your article in Home Energy and thought I would try to contact you about a problem (“Safe Air at Home” Sept/Oct ’11, p. 6).<br /> <br /> I had a contractor (not a blown-insulation specialist) install Owens Corning Attic Cat loose-fill fiberglass last spring in the two exterior walls of a room that I am planning to use for a home office. After the insulation and before painting the drywall (paint = Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint/primer combo), I smelled an odor that has persisted for several months even with the windows open continuously. Just after completion of the room refinish, I tried working in it but became lightheaded after several hours and noticed some teeth gnashing. There does not appear to be any additional dust present (that is, same level of dust that accumulates in the other rooms, which isn’t a problem). I have moved the office to a different room. I have read that odors from VOC related to fiberglass insulation can cause light-headedness and teeth gnashing, and can take some time (amount not specified) to dissipate. However, as winter approaches, the smell persists, so it’s time for action, as I don’t want to leave the windows open in that room all winter, and it would be good to use the room for its intended purpose.<br /> <br /> I am thinking the best course of action is to<br /> ▪ Rip out the drywall on the two exterior walls;<br /> ▪ Collect and dispose of the insulation;<br /> ▪ Do a thorough vacuuming (perhaps two or three passes) of the exposed exterior wall cavity, carpet, and other interior wall surfaces and ceiling;<br /> ▪ Let the room set (with cavity exposed) for a couple weeks and see if that takes care of the odor; and<br /> ▪ Refinish the exterior walls using some type of less-toxic insulation material.<br /> <br /> QUESTIONS:<br /> 1. Does that sound like a good approach?<br /> 2. Should I first try to find an environmental consultant with a VOC sensor to check if the odor corresponds to something that may be emitted by the fiberglass insulation (and related binder)?<br /> 3. Any other advice?<br /> <br /> Thanks for any help you can provide.<br /> <br /> Author A. Tamasin Sterner replies:<br /> Thanks for contacting me. I feel for you.<br /> <br /> Without seeing your house, I can only guess what is going on. These are my suggestions:<br /> ▪ Get the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the materials used in your home, including the Sheetrock, and see if there are warnings about exposure and ventilation suggestions.<br /> ▪ If you determine that the best solution is to remove what was installed, I think your approach sounds reason reasonable. Just protect yourself.<br /> ▪ If you choose to reinsulate, spend a day with the materials before installing them to see how you feel and react to the materials.<br /> <br /> Another idea you could consider is this: Put the room under slight pressurization. Supply air to the room and don’t allow much air to leave the room. This should push air into the walls and to the outside (under the best circumstances), and that will ventilate the walls. Keep the room dry while you do this so you don’t push moisture into the walls as well.<br /> <br /> Another thought is this: Was the paint moldy? What does the odor smell like? You may be dealing with a mold problem, which means you have moisture in the walls.<br /> <br /> Good luck, and please let me know what works for you.<br /> <br /> THE DOWN-LOW ON DOWNLIGHTS<br /> Here is a question for the experts. My house was built in 1912, and it is generally as leaky as a sieve. However, I had recessed-can downlights put in the kitchen about 20 years ago. They take a 100W incandescent flood. When it is installed, the surface of the bulb is about flush with the outside edge of the can. Today I couldn’t find any regular floods, so I bought a 90W halogen flood instead. I notice that when this flood is installed, the surface of the bulb is recessed about 2 inches inside the can.<br /> <br /> So my question is, Will this create excessive heat inside the can? (I believe that halogens are hotter than regular incandescents.) Or in other words, should I switch this bulb out before I burn my house down? Thanks for any advice that you can provide.<br /> —In the Dark About Halogens<br /> <br /> Home Energy editor Jim Gunshinan replies:<br /> That is a great question. Since recessed-can lights are so prominent in homes, new homes especially, and since these can lights are notorious leak sites, the topic comes up frequently for discussion on the Home Energy Pros web site and other sites.<br /> <br /> When we had our home retrofit in 2007, while the house was depressurized with a blower door, the contractor had me put my hand below a recessed-can light in our living room. It felt like my hand was in front of a powerful fan! Lots of air was coming from the attic into my house. The fix was to put a foam board box around the fixtures in the attic, to seal the can light fixture, and to insulate it so that we wouldn’t be losing heat into the attic from the light. But when we turned on the lights after that (incandescent downlights), after an hour and a half the lights switched off. There is a safety feature in new downlight fixtures—a thermal cutoff switch. Instead of our house burning down, when the temperature in the light fixture reached above a certain temperature (194ºF), the lights switch off.<br /> <br /> We replaced the incandescents with cool CFL downlights, and that fixed the problem.<br /> <br /> If you have leaky downlights, then you probably won’t have problems of heat buildup. If they are sealed and insulated, you should have problems—lights turning off but not the house burning down!<br /> <br /> The CFLs work well. They don’t dim as smoothly as the incandescents and the light is not so bright. We kept an incandescent light in one can because we need a brighter light, but we don’t use that light for long. I understand that there are pretty good, and cool, LED downlights available now and the prices are falling as I write this. Last I checked, you could purchase a dimming LED flood for about $40. LED downlights could be a very energy-efficient and economical choice.<br /> <br /> Hope this helps!

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