This article was originally published in the January/February 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1997


Molten Glass, Burning Metal. Paper burns better than glass; wood burns better than metal. These facts have led many people to assume that cellulose is more flammable than fiberglass and that wood studs are more flammable than steel. However, nobody had really tested these materials in side-by-side, realistic flame spread tests. Now Canada's Institute for Research in Construction has conducted full-scale and small-scale tests of load-bearing and non­load-bearing walls using various types of drywall over wood or steel studs filled with various insulation materials. The results were surprising. In full-scale walls, mineral fiber slowed the fire, but both fiberglass and cellulose had neutral effects. In the small scale walls, things got strange: cellulose--ground newspapers mixed with fire retardant--was better than fiberglass at resisting flame spread, and wood studs were 12% better than steel. The IRC did not explain why wood and paper are apparently better at resisting fire than steel and glass. Fine Homebuilding, November 1996. Taunton Press, 63 S Main St., P.O. Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506. Tel:(800)283-7252; Fax: (203)270-6751.

EIFS Revisited. Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) have been held responsible for moisture problems in many homes in the Southeast. Rain got in behind the synthetic stucco, but there was no way for it to drain out, so the homes rotted. Now, manufacturers are starting to find ways to deal with the moisture problems that these systems can cause. United States Gypsum (USG) has released a new system with a drainage plane between the impermeable siding and the exterior sheathing or framing. The system uses a mat of foam, felt, or paper to allow moisture to drain down between the wall layers into a drainage gutter of flashing at the base of the siding. Another company, Dryvit Systems Incorporated, adds an impermeable layer of fiberglass board, fiberglass mesh, and flashing tape behind the siding. This system adds one more line of moisture resistance to a system already consisting of stucco, expanded polystyrene board, and cement board. The USG system seems more popular with building departments in North Carolina, where moisture damaged dozens of EIFS homes last winter. The local building code in Hanover County, North Carolina, now requires a drainage plane behind EIFS, and the statewide code may soon say the same. Energy Design Update, October 1996. 235 W 102nd St., Suite 7J, New York, NY 10025. Tel:(212)662-7428; Fax:(212) 662-0039.

You Won't Have Installers to Kick Around Any More. Quality HVAC technicians are constantly frustrated that their prices get undercut by the less qualified competition. And energy efficiency advocates are frustrated by the leaky ducts, oversized compressors, and improperly serviced units that waste energy and leave occupants uncomfortable. All this may fade into memory, though, as the air conditioning industry moves toward standardized training--and certification--of installers and service personnel. The Industry Technician Educational Testing Special Committee is composed of industry educators, manufacturers, wholesalers, suppliers, contractors, and service representatives. The group is working on training modules, and training will begin in 1997. Koldfax September 1996. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, 4301 N Fairfax Dr., Suite 425, Arlington, VA 22203. Tel:(703)524-8800; Fax:(703)528-3816.

What Do You Want? Efficient HVAC. A four-year study by Contracting Business Magazine asked customers what they considered most important in HVAC systems. More customers wanted low energy costs than wanted either low price or good comfort. Indeed, first cost was the priority for only 17% of respondents, while 46% prioritized energy costs. The complete study is available for $4. Contracting Business Magazine, October 1996. Penton Publishing, Incorporated, 1100 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-2543. Tel:(216)696-7000; Fax:(216)696-6413.


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