This article was originally published in the July/August 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1993



Trends in Energy is a bulletin of residential energy conservation issues. It covers items ranging from the latest policy issues to the newest energy technologies. If you have items that would be of interest, please send them to: Trends Department, Home Energy, 2124 Kittredge St., No. 95, Berkeley, CA 94704.



Spreading Its Wings: Affordable Comfort VII

Now in it's seventh year, the leading residential energy conservation conference is maturing. Affordable Comfort drew some 900 participants to Philadelphia again this March. With 60 workshops, 50 preconference sessions, and about 75 tutorials, the conference has truly evolved into a mega-training event, giving folks introductory information, yet feeding the appetite of professionals who are on the cutting edge.

Health and safety topics such as combustion safety dominated the agenda again this year, as the nation's leading residential energy efficiency experts shared their expertise. Trainers discussed topics ranging from energy fundamentals to heat pump repair, duct repair, and demand-side management measurement and evaluation techniques.

Pressure diagnostics--Michel Blasnik's technique of measuring pressure differences across various partitions to determine interzonal infiltration--was again heavily discussed. Last year (pressure diagnostics) was hot in that people had not even heard of the concept, says conference founder Linda Wigington. This year it was interesting to see how it was actually integrated into the conference, she says. Last year it was like discovering it was possible to fly, but not having any idea how to do it.

As for turnout, there was standing room only in core conference sessions dealing with leaky duct repair. One of the most heavily attended (and talked about) sessions was How Tight Is Right, where a panel sparred over how one decides when a house is weatherized to a point where it is tight enough. Sessions most highly rated by attendees included Cultural Diversity, Improving Payment Behavior, and Mad-Air: The Sequel.

One thing different this year was more new people, and that really added and continues to add to the challenge of doing the conference because it is not specifically focused to one or two or three narrow occupations, notes Wigington. There are so many perspectives. There was also a bit less attention to purely technical aspects of energy conservation--and more emphasis on organizing programs, implementing them, and paying for them.

With fewer people from Pennsylvania compared to earlier years, and with overall attendance steady, the conference was more geographically diverse. Small utilities, municipal utilities, and building contractors were also well-represented. The 1993 conference also marks the first time the event has taken place under the non-profit organization--Affordable Comfort Incorporated--formed last year. The new organization institutionalized the conference to keep it running and organized from year to year.

Thursday's luncheon featured a skit based on the Ten Commandments brought down from the mountain by Moses. Most of us hadn't heard about the Commandments brought forth by brothers and sisters involved in the Affordable Comfort Conference. Having been to the rooftops, seen the burning furnaces and the sealed ductwork, Moses (Bruce Davis of North Carolina Alternative Energy Corporation) heard a voice called out:

I command you to bring the message to all the misguided individuals that work in retrofit, weatherization, and building science fields. I have rules for them to help guide them, and for them to live by:

Thou shalt have no strange energy saving products.
Thou shalt not commit outside caulking.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's LIHEAP.
Thou shalt always use quality control.
Honor thy feds and thy state.
Thou shalt not kill new ideas.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's results.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against your results.
Remember Affordable Comfort and keep it multiplying.


Among the prophets who then appeared (in elaborate costumes, of course) to spread the word of energy efficiency were: Pressure Pan-Man Gary Nelson of the Energy Conservatory; Dr. of Combustion Safety Jeff Tiller of The Southface Institute; Squire of Cellulose Jim Fitzgerald of Jim Fitzgerald Contracting; King of the Blower Doors Gary Anderson of the Energy Conservatory; Priestess of Quality Control Vicky Hayes from Syresco; and Master of the Smoke Pencil Tom Downey of Proctor Engineering. The holiest of prophets (Dr. Duct John J. Tooley Jr.) was also unholy. He believed in the right way to do things, but was truly unholey, because he sealed so many ducts.

Affordable Comfort Incorporated has already issued its Call for Presenters for the 1994 Conference. Those interested in presenting next year should contact Gail Ettinger at (708)864-5651, or Fax: (708)864-7535 for applications which are due August 10, 1993. Affordable Comfort is also accepting applications for its Program Committee, and this does involve traveling at one's own expense for one intensive weekend of meetings. The 1994 conference will be held during the week of March 20, again at the Adams Mark Hotel in Philadelphia. The core conference will run from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday. Cassette tapes of 1993 conference sessions are also available.

    -- Cyril Penn


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