Last Push before LEED Rating

We returned from our camping trip late Tuesday and I had about two days to finish several projects for the LEED final rating appointment on Friday. It was not easy to prioritize. I found an article that mentioned the 10 biggest issues passing a LEED rating. I had already had a blower door test to find some of the worst air leaks and had applied foam and insulation to the areas we discovered. I also bought extra door weatherstripping but only had applied it to one of the doors! The biggest project before the rating had been installing the glass on the Trombe wall so it would provide more radiant heat to the uninsulated block wall.

1. Manual J Equipment Sizing Calculations. I thought I had this covered. Even though I did the calculations at the start of the project and could not know all the final design details, it came pretty close.

2. Duct Leakage. No HVAC ducts but the ERV ducts were giving me problems. This turned out to take the most time to solve.

3. Air Flow ERV airflow was less than design. I had shortened the pipes to get the fresh air moving.

4. Air Filters Good here, have MERV 12 in the ERV and Radiant heat does not use air filters.

5. Bath and Kitchen Fan Exhaust. Good here too. Great Panasonic Whisper Green fans in two bathrooms, ERV in the other.

6. Ventilation and Exhaust Controls. The bathrooms have the humidstat controls that work wonderfully.

7. Air Sealing. This was a big concern so I did what I could to reduce places I knew about. It wasn’t enough.

8. Insulation. Had additional insulation blown into the rear of the house and had already passed the big insulation inspection.

9. Project Team Communication. The most difficult thing was being sure the vendors followed the requirements and design of a LEED home. But most of that was done years ago.

10. Documents and Submittals. A huge job and one that I have spent hours completing. But I’m pretty sure I can deliver any documentation that is required.

It was obvious to me from the list that my ERV needed the most attention as well as any extra sealing I could do. So I took those last two days to concentrate on improving the ERV ducting and air flow. I had purchased a vent fan that had a speed control and was not high wattage (46w on high). So I was determined to add it to the ducting system.

AC Infinity Duct Fan
AC Infinity Duct Fan

The long arm of vent on the right side of the layout had been disconnected and that junction is where I installed the fan.

Duct Layout
Duct Layout

The day was warm and working in a small space in the attic was tight. The pipe on the left is the central vacuum run. Also notice the mini-split refrigerant pipes and the electric junction box. The ERV is on the right side of the radon pipe. Lots of stuff in a small space. I took out the temporary elbow and reinstalled a duct tee so that the air could feed both arms of duct on the right hand side of the diagram.

Had to squeeze between the radon pipe and the wall to connect pipes.
I had to squeeze between the radon pipe and the wall to connect pipes.

It was much easier to take a ladder to the top of the refrigerator to reach the duct there. That is how I installed the duct fan. And I ran the wiring through to the attic space. The fan had a plug and the controller was on the electric cord. It was easy to connect. I’m running the fan on medium. This was another big job that took most of two days.

Easier to reach the duct from the top of the refrigerator
Easier to reach the duct from the top of the refrigerator

It was still hot when I taped the joints of the solar tube in the rear bathroom attic and relaid the insulation there to get better coverage around the tube. It was miserably hot in the attic but the tasks did not take long.

The next day in late May, the rater was scheduled to arrived and it turned cold and snowed. He came about 2 pm so I had installed the weatherstripping on the doors that morning. The night before I got an email with several questions about points that I was pursuing. I had the documentation and just had to spend time attaching it to the email. I lost three points I had hoped to gain, first because the mudroom shoe storage and bench were not considered permanent. I quickly built the little bench I had planned to build for months over the plumbing in the mud room corner. Then I cleared off a shelf for shoes in the closet but I’m pretty sure I still won’t get that point.

Small shoe removal bench
Small shoe removal bench

The other point I seem to have lost is EPA certification for the boiler fireplace. It has EU certification and it is an imported stove so I thought that would count. There is a disclaimer for foreign applicants that if the US regulations don’t apply those of the country of origin of similar type would count instead. The EPA did not have a category for wood stove boilers and they were exempted at the time I installed the stove. But the letter of the law is EPA. Rats another point that I needed and tried to gain. Apparently we don’t get a point for planting a tree for shade either because there are already trees? I don’t understand that but our aspen may not have made it this winter anyway.

So the final rating day came at last. Dave bought me a special t-shirt for my birthday that I almost forgot to put on. The rater was far too young to really appreciate the humor, although he had heard of Green Acres.

Green Acres Shack
Green Acres Shack
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas on Green Acres
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas on Green Acres

The rater was very nice and even complimented some of my work. But the blower door test was a big disappointment. Since late November when Nancy did a blower door and got 2700 cfm/50 I had worked to tighten the house in places we found that day. But it wasn’t enough. The rater got a low of 1900 cfm/50. Technically that does not pass Energy Star requirements. But he said a remodel might be different. They are much more difficult to reduce. Our chimney was leaking air at an astonishing rate and despite my application of foam there were still leaks at some windows and doors. The energy audit in 2012 started at 3250 cfm/50. He said that was a huge reduction so I might be OK because of all the other work I have done.

I completed the forms for Energy Star HVAC efficiency and water management and sent them back. So now I wait to hear the verdict. I’m sure it takes a lot of time to enter all the information on the USGBC site. Then the organization needs time to evaluate all of it. I have my fingers crossed and will continue to work on the tightness of the house even though it won’t affect this rating.

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