This article was originally published in the September/October 1998 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1998


Spreading the Word in San Francisco

David Keefe, a technical presenter for the Telltale House exhibit, gives a demonstration at the Western Builders Show in San Francisco.

San Francisco's annual Western Building Show June 26Ð28 featured beautiful desert homes with wide green lawns, sparkling kitchen fixtures, and the most elaborate bathroom spas imaginable. The trade show displays were mouth-watering for interior decorators, but less inspiring for those who care about energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Within the 5-acre exhibit hall, 16,000 visitors encountered booths highlighting range hoods capable of pulling 2,400 CFM, new, improved electric resistance heaters, and halogen torchieres.

Among such displays, the booth from Home Energy and Affordable Comfort, the Telltale House, brought a breath of fresh air. The Telltale House is an educational exhibit that visually demonstrates how subtle changes in a house can affect air movements. It shows the interactions among elements in a house such as a forced-air climate control system, a natural-draft water heater, a fireplace that uses house air for combustion, internal doors, and leaks through the envelope. Air movements are shown by reflective pinwheels and trails of theatrical smoke. Presenters David Keefe and Bruce Manclark, along with Home Energy staff, used the house to instruct more than 500 people in the basics of building science. They described, for example, how air pressures affect comfort. They demonstrated the connections between duct leaks, backdrafting, drafty rooms, and high energy bills.

The house was a hit. Alongside the hundreds of conventioneers who gained from the demonstrations were other exhibitors and presenters. Some sent their sales staff over to see, for example, what happens when a fireplace has inadequate combustion air.

From Trade Show to Lecture Hall In the conference seminars, the whole-house approach to comfort and efficiency was discussed in the dozens of workshops on How to Sell More. In Managing Risk with Quality Control, Stan Luhr, a Southern California construction defect liability consultant, spoke to builders about how to use this approach to avoid liability.

In another seminar, builders and government technical advisors from the Department of Energy's Building America program showed builders the results of their research and development. The program has used a whole-house approach to create a variety of production homes that cost no more than homes built using traditional construction, but use at least 50% less energy than similar homes built to the International Energy-Conservation Code (formerly the Model Energy Code-see Energy Code Goes International, p. 7).

Builders, Remodelers & Indoor Air Quality, an all-day workshop taught by Joseph Laquatra, showed builders the fundamentals of this increasingly important topic. Some attendees at this session received credit toward certification in the institute's Certified Graduate Builders program. The whole- house approach was also put forward in this session.

The Telltale House was developed by Home Energy and Affordable Comfort Incorporated, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Western Building Show was its third stop, with many more lined up. The house is available for trainings anywhere in the country. Contact Affordable Comfort at (800)344-4866.

-Steven Bodzin


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