Most of us have experienced one of the following problems: a house with uneven temperatures, an air conditioning system that is too loud, a utility bill that is too high, an unpleasant odor, stuffiness in a house or building, a room that is too cold even though the air temperature is fine, a supply register blowing air on us, a house that always seems too dusty … all of these issues make us uncomfortable.
What do all of these problems have in common? They are all symptomatic of a combination of poor building, poor HVAC system design and/or system installation.
Can these problems be solved? It depends on the problem, building design and budget. Quite frankly, some of the problems we encounter cannot be eliminated because the initial design is so flawed, or a fix would simply be too expensive. But many problems are relatively easy to diagnose and resolve.
It is our experience that many occupants live with uncomfortable space or high utility bills for years because no one could seem to diagnose or solve the problem. They often learn to live with mediocre building performance. Many times, they are not even aware of an opportunity to reduce energy consumption, improve comfort and improve indoor air quality.
So, why do these problems persist? Most of the problems we see in homes and commercial spaces are caused by poor system design, system installation or a combination of both.
Let’s face it: most tradespeople are only versed in one trade. As Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” It ultimately means if you only have one skill, you will try to use it to solve every problem, even if it is not the best solution.
Most HVAC technicians are not trained in school or on the job to consider the basics of heat flow, air flow and moisture flow. We know this type of training is critical to solving home performance problems. At Advantage Home Performance, we have solved comfort and efficiency issues for many existing buildings that several contractors have tried to fix before. Without a deep understanding of building science, the solutions to these problems can be elusive.
We also know from firsthand experience that excellent building performance is not an accident. We design and install HVAC systems and insulation for several Energy Star Builders in the Quad Cities area. These builders consistently deliver homes that are healthy, comfortable, safe and energy efficient. I have spoken to the homeowners about their new homes after they have moved in and almost all of them are delighted with the performance of their new homes. These homes have a rigorous commissioning process and are inspected by a third-party testing company.
Home performance is both a philosophy and science based on the premise that homes and buildings should be safe, healthy, comfortable, durable and efficient. This goal is very attainable. We also adhere to this philosophy. Thus, my company’s name: Advantage Home Performance.
Home performance is based on building science. Building science is based on physics. Physics is the foundation for all science. If you want to know how to solve problems in buildings, we always go back to the building science.
As a former adjunct faculty member at Yavapai Community College, I taught a building science class. As a heating, air conditioning and insulation contractor, my company, Advantage Home Performance, often is called upon to solve an array of problems, from high energy use, uneven temperatures, moisture problems, elevated radon levels, comfort and indoor air quality. Most of these are caused by poorly designed building and HVAC systems.
In this column in the next several months, we will begin to share solutions to common problems we see in homes and commercial buildings in the Quad Cities area. We’ll talk about some cost-effective solutions to achieve acceptable indoor air quality, comfort and energy efficiency. QCBN
By Mike Uniacke
Mike Uniacke is the owner of Advantage Home Performance. His company is the winner of the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Business Ethics. For more information visit advantagehomeperformance.com.