In The Field With Neil: Automatic Fan Control

May 7th, 2013

Most of us use either the Energy Conservatory DG-700 or Retrotec DM-2 digital micromanometers.  These meters have some great, yet under utilized features.  I would like to introduce you to one of the features – automatic fan control.  The Energy Conservatory refers to it as “cruise control” and Retrotec as “set pressure”.  In either case, it allows the digital pressure meter to control the fan speed or flow based on the pressure of “A” channel.

With the Automated Control you can…

  • quickly measure building airtightness using a “one-point” 50 Pa test.
  • quickly measure duct airtightness using a “one-point” 25 Pa total leakage test.
  • simultaneously control both the blower door and duct tester fans during a leakage to outside duct airtightness test. During this test, the meter will maintain a constant 25 Pa building pressure while the gauge connected to the duct tester fan maintains a constant 0 Pa pressure in the duct system.
  • maintain a constant building pressure while pressure pan testing, or locating and sealing building and duct system air leaks.
  • perform series leakage to quantify leakage rates between various zones within a building.  (Check out our class on Advanced Pressure Diagnostics…we will be using the cruise control a lot)

So this sounds great – what do you need in order to use the automated fan control feature?

  • An “automated fan compatible” gauge. Most are, but check that it has either “EC-cruise” or “Retrotec-set pressure” buttons on the front panel of your digital pressure gauge.
  • A blower door or duct tester fan speed controller with proper communication jack.
  • A cable to connect the meter to the fan.

That is it!  And you probably already have everything you need – especially if you recently purchased your equipment.  So next time you are out in the field – give it a try; I know you will ask yourself, ‘how did I ever get along without this?’.

For more information on automated blower door control:

2013 EnergyWhiz Olympics Winners

May 6th, 2013

Congratulations to the 2013 EnergyWhiz Olympics Winners:

 

B.A.T. (Battery Assisted Transport) Mobile Challenge

1st Place Race:  Race Girls, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

2nd Place Race:  Millennium Panther, Lewis E. Wadsworth Elementary, Palm Coast

3rd Place Race:  Salt & Pepper, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

 

1st Place Design :  Race Girls, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

2nd Place Design:  Millennium Panther, Lewis E. Wadsworth Elementary, Palm Coast

3rd Place Design:  The Anaxagoras, Montessori World Academy, Orlando

 

Energy Innovations

Middle Division

1st Place Design:  Sunny Circus Snacks, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

2nd Place Design:  Urban Garden, Howard Middle, Orlando

3rd Place Design:   Cooking Device, Hidden Oaks Middle, Palm City

 

High School Division

1st Place Design:  The Sunfisher, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

2nd Place Design:  Suk-A-Poop, Island Coast High, Cape Coral

3rd Place Design:  Solar Bike, Dunbar High, Fort Myers

 

All Divisions

WOW! Award:  The Sunfisher, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

 

Hydrogen Challenge

Middle Division

1st Place:   The Flying Fish, Stewart Middle, Tampa

2nd Place:  The Kit Kats, Lake Nona Middle, Orlando

3rd Place:  Child’s Play, Gifford Middle, Vero Beach

Most Accurate:  N.E.R.D.S. – New Energy Regeneration Device, Gulf Coast Academy, Spring Hill

 

High School Division

1st Place:  Tiger Engineering, Dunbar High, Fort Myers

2nd Place:  The Domino Theory, Edgewood Jr/ Sr High, Merritt Island

3rd Place:  Race Girls, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

Most Accurate :  Race Girls, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, Merritt Island

 

All Divisions

WOW! Award:  The Flying Fish, Stewart Middle, Tampa

Read the rest of this entry »

MEDIA ADVISORY: No Shortage of Energy on May 4th — Student-Built Solar Cars, Cookers and Hydrogen Inventions Energize the EnergyWhiz Olympics

May 1st, 2013

May 01, 2013

COCOA, FL – More than 650 elementary, middle and high school students—from across Florida—will show off their Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) skills at the 11th annual EnergyWhiz Olympics on Saturday, May 4th in Cocoa.

The EnergyWhiz Olympics is a daylong event showcasing student-built projects in solar and hydrogen. These hands-on renewable energy competitions expose students to alternative energy fuel sources and encourage scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork.

The public is invited to attend free of charge. The event is located on Brevard Community College’s Cocoa Campus, at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Road. Competitions are from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., with an awards ceremony following.

Activities include:

  • The Energy Innovations program (10:00 a.m.) is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designs and constructs a product or artistic work fully powered by photovoltaics (PV), also called solar electric cells. In addition, teams create marketing pieces—such as brochures, fliers, and posters—to accompany their products.
  • The Hydrogen Challenge (10:30 a.m.) for students in grades 6 through 12, provide opportunities for student teams to explore hydrogen through hands-on engineering. Students demonstrate an understanding of hydrogen through a creative timing apparatus built with several Rube Goldberg-type steps.
  • The Battery Assisted Transport (BAT) Mobile (11:00 a.m.) challenges students in grades 6 through 8, to build and race model-sized electric cars. The race tests the creative engineering skills of students as they gain hands-on experience in the automotive design process. This event is a component of the Department of Energy’s Middle School Science Bowl.
  • The Junior Solar Sprint (11:30 a.m.) is a competition that challenges middle-school students to design, build and race model solar cars. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.
  • The Bright House Solar Energy Cookoff (1:00 p.m.) challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to design and build solar cookers and cook a recipe of their own creation using the power of the sun.  In Top Chef-style, each dish will be judged by a panel of experts based on taste, ingredients and creativity.
  • The Electrathon (10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.) is a competition for high school students and older. The go-cart-type vehicles, powered by an electric motor and batteries, must be skillfully designed, built and driven to maximize distance traveled within a given time limit.
  • In addition, Food Truck Crazy will be on site with 10 different food trucks
    (11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

For more information, visit

http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/education/k-12/energywhiz_olympics/index.htm, or watch a video about the EnergyWhiz Olympics at http://vimeo.com/9522310.

CONTACT:

Susan Schleith, FSEC Education Coordinator, 321-638-1017 or susan@fsec.ucf.edu

Sherri Shields, Asst. Director Communications, 321-638-1019 or sherri@fsec.ucf.edu

Note: photographs from previous years events available upon request.

About FSEC: The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research institute in the nation. Current divisions and their research activities include Advanced Energy Research: alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel and fuel cells; Buildings Research: energy-efficient buildings; and Solar Energy: solar water and pool heating, and solar electric and distributed generation systems. For more information about the center, visit http://www.floridaenergycenter.org or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at 321-638-1015.

UCF Stands For Opportunity: The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the 2nd largest in the nation with more than 59,000 students. UCF’s first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region’s economic development. UCF’s culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy. For more information, visit http://news.ucf.edu.

####

PR13-01-R1

Tei Explains It: Quality Assurance

April 30th, 2013

It is very important for a builders, superintendents and agents to understand the significance of field quality assurance (QA).  The process on the outside may sound threatening, but it really is a very simple process.  Failure to comply with QA may result in losing your ability to register ratings and ultimately the revocation of your certification.

Question: Is field quality assurance mandatory?

Field quality assurance is not voluntary. It is mandatory requirement by RESNET Standards.

Question: Who must have quality assurance performed?

If you are an Energy Rater and do ratings, then you must have field quality assurance performed on at least one home a year if you perform 1 – 100 ratings.  If you perform ratings on 101 homes in a year, you must have 2 homes quality assured.  RESNET Standards require 1% of your annual total of ratings to have a field quality assurance visit.  Unfortunately, the Standard rounds up to an additional field QA at one not fifty and therefore 202 ratings will result in 3 field reviews.

Your files which come in for registration is also quality assured.  One in ten homes go through a quality assurance process which helps to instill confidence in every rater’s file.  So remember, when you create the file and it has any comments, mistakes or rejections, they reflect on your ability because you are the rater of record.  These are also reported to RESNET on an annual basis.

Question: Who should be informed of these visits?

Everyone! Please inform your builders, clients and your client’s agents that quality assurance is not a voluntary requirement. It is mandatory by RESNET Standards.  In this case, cooperation is essential.  Failure of your builder, client or your client’s agent to cooperate in quality assurance will result in the denial of rating registrations by that particular builder.  The Standard applies to all regardless of what Program, if any, they are participating in.  Also highly recommend upon soliciting a new client you make sure that they understand this process and that all their agents understand so there is less confusion on the field when quality assurance is performed.  You can go as far as having them sign that they acknowledge and understand the process and this may occur at any time with any of their homes.  We strive to make this as painless as possible by soliciting your cooperation so the process is smooth and does not create any undue hardship on the part of your client.  We are able to schedule in the evenings as well as the weekend if necessary.  Again, our aim is to get this done as painless as possible, with as little discomfort as possible.

So remember to make sure your client understands and agrees to quality assurance!

Important notification regarding photovoltaic (solar) panels sold under the trade name Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) on behalf of Bluechip Energy LLC

April 24th, 2013

On February 13, 2013, the Florida Solar Energy Center revoked its module registration of ASP modules, having discovered that documentation asserting Underwriters Laboratories (UL) testing was not substantiated by UL.

UL has issued a public notice regarding the counterfeit products, and information enabling identification of the affected panels is available in the Public Notices portion of the UL website, or may be accessed via the following link to the notice: UL warns of counterfeit UL Mark on photovoltaic panels (Release 13PN-20).

Please note that ASP issued a recall for these mislabeled photovoltaic products, with details regarding inspection and replacement accessible via the following link: Advanced Solar Photonics Announces Product Recall of PV Modules for Code Compliance.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office is equipped to receive complaints regarding the ASP/Bluechip Energy products directly from consumers, with protocols in place to investigate consumer fraud. Complaints may be filed via a “Quick Link” on the Attorney General website homepage, or accessed and submitted electronically via the Citizen Services Contact Form via the following link: Citizen Services Contact Form.

Please direct all complaints and investigative inquiries to the Florida Attorney General’s Office

No Shortage of Energy on May 4th

April 15th, 2013

Student-Built Solar Cars, Cookers and Hydrogen Inventions
Energize the EnergyWhiz Olympics

More than 650 elementary, middle and high school students—from across Florida—will show off their Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) skills at the 11th annual EnergyWhiz Olympics on Saturday, May 4th in Cocoa.

The EnergyWhiz Olympics is a daylong event showcasing student-built projects in solar and hydrogen. These hands-on renewable energy competitions expose students to alternative energy fuel sources and encourage scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork.

The public is invited to attend free of charge. The event is located on Brevard Community College’s Cocoa Campus, at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Road. Competitions are from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., with an awards ceremony following.

Activities include:

  • The Energy Innovations program (10:00 a.m.) is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designs and constructs a product or artistic work fully powered by photovoltaics (PV), also called solar electric cells. In addition, teams create marketing pieces—such as brochures, fliers, and posters—to accompany their products.
  • The Hydrogen Challenge (10:30 a.m.) for students in grades 6 through 12, provide opportunities for student teams to explore hydrogen through hands-on engineering. Students demonstrate an understanding of hydrogen through a creative timing apparatus built with several Rube Goldberg-type steps.
  • The Battery Assisted Transport (BAT) Mobile (11:00 a.m.) challenges students in grades 6 through 8, to build and race model-sized electric cars. The race tests the creative engineering skills of students as they gain hands-on experience in the automotive design process. This event is a component of the Department of Energy’s Middle School Science Bowl.
  • The Junior Solar Sprint (11:30 a.m.) is a competition that challenges middle-school students to design, build and race model solar cars. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.
  • The Bright House Solar Energy Cookoff (1:00 p.m.) challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to design and build solar cookers and cook a recipe of their own creation using the power of the sun. In Top Chef-style, each dish will be judged by a panel of experts based on taste, ingredients and creativity.
  • The Electrathon (10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.) is a competition for high school students and older. The go-cart-type vehicles, powered by an electric motor and batteries, must be skillfully designed, built and driven to maximize distance traveled within a given time limit.
  • In addition, Food Truck Bazaar will be on site with 10 different food trucks (11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

For more information, visit
http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/education/k-12/energywhiz_olympics/index.htm, or watch a video about the EnergyWhiz Olympics at http://vimeo.com/9522310.

CONTACT:
Susan Schleith, FSEC Education Coordinator, 321-638-1017 or susan@fsec.ucf.edu
Sherri Shields, Asst. Director Communications, 321-638-1019 or sherri@fsec.ucf.edu

Note: photographs from previous years events available upon request.

About FSEC: The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research institute in the nation. Current divisions and their research activities include Advanced Energy Research: alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel and fuel cells; Buildings Research: energy-efficient buildings; and Solar Energy: solar water and pool heating, and solar electric and distributed generation systems. For more information about the center, visit http://www.floridaenergycenter.org or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at 321-638-1015.

UCF Stands For Opportunity: The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the 2nd largest in the nation with more than 58,000 students. UCF’s first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region’s economic development. UCF’s culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy. For more information, visit http://news.ucf.edu.

Tei Explains It: Rater Role & Responsibility

March 27th, 2013

Question: What are my roles and responsibilities as a rater?

You are a rater.  It doesn’t matter what classification. You are considered a third party verifier of energy efficiency of real property.  Decisions made about this property regarding energy efficiency are basically “in your hands”.  Your input to the client, whether it be a builder or homeowner, is important for solid, sound decisions about spending money wisely on replacement or upgrading systems and materials.  Your opinions should be based on solid principles as well as keeping in mind the “law of diminishing returns.”

As a rater, your only responsibility is to your client.  Remember that as a rater you are the person who is certified.  You are the person who passed all of the exams and jumped through all of the hoops.  When you perform a rating, you are putting your reputation on the line as well as the whole energy efficiency industry.  When you perform a rating you are NOT really representing the company you are paid by because companies are not certified.  At this point you are a third party verifier and the client is your only concern.  If you allow any person or circumstance to change your professional judgment you are not being a third party verifier.  You are being a paid “yes” man/woman.  This can cause problems in the future if there is a complaint because defending yourself in a “compromising” situation can be detrimental to you not your employer or client.  You are actually putting your certification in jeopardy, not to mention eroding the integrity of the rating system.

Please make sure you explain to your employer that you represent the rating industry as a third party verifier when you perform a rating, and your job is to verify the features of the home as well as assist with sound, solid advice when asked to do so.  Selling or advising a client to purchase a material or service from your company is fine as long as you can justify its cost through its savings.  If asked to compromise your advice based on what the company sells is a red flag warning. Remember your certification is yours, and will be taken from you, not the company you are employed through.  Trying to “please” your builder because your employer “expects” it also becomes another red flag warning.  Again, remember whose certification is on the line.

So, the next time you hit the road to perform a rating, remember that you are representing yourself as a third party verifier as well as an entire energy efficiency community.  Please take pride in what you do and all of those you represent.

In The Field With Neil: Digital Meter Calibration

March 27th, 2013

Spring is in the air – so what does that have to do with your manometer calibration?  Probably nothing, except Spring means new beginnings and we need to make sure that our equipment is up to the task ahead.

Question: Why do I need to have my manometer calibrated?

Simply answer – RESNET Standard dictates it and I quote from the standard:

802.9 Equipment Accuracy and Requirements
Blower door fans used for building air leakage testing shall measure airflow (after making any necessary air density corrections) with an accuracy of +/- 5%. Pressure gauges shall measure pressure differences with a resolution of 0.1 Pa and have an accuracy of +/- 1% of reading or 0.5Pa, whichever is greater.

Blower door and associated pressure testing instruments shall be tested annually for calibration by the HERS Rating Provider or Certified Rater. The provider shall use a standard for field testing of calibration provided by the equipment manufacturer. Magnehelic Gauges cannot be field tested and shall be recalibrated by the Blower Door manufacturer annually. Field check the fan and flow measuring systems for defects and maintain them according to manufacturers recommendations. The HERS Rating Provider or Certified Rater shall maintain a written log of the annual calibration check to verify all equipment accuracy for a period of three (3) years. These records shall be made available within 3 business days to the RESNET Quality Assurance Administrator upon request.

Therefore you have 3 options for compliance…

  1. Send your meter(s) to the manufacturer for calibration on a yearly basis.  This is the most expensive method, but has the advantage of having your meter calibrated and brought into factory specifications. (Click on the manufacturer link to go to their site).
    • The Energy Conservatory – TEC recommends that all of it’s digital pressure gauges be recalibrated once per year in order to maintain the instrument’s accuracy specifications of 1% of reading (or 0.15 Pa, whichever is greater). Calibration is performed at our facility in Minneapolis, MN. The cost to calibrate a digital pressure gauge is $75. This price includes return ground shipping within the continental 48 states and Canada (expedited or air shipments will cost more). Turn around time at our facility for calibration is typically 2-3 days following receipt of the instrument (assuming no repairs are necessary). We will provide a NIST traceable calibration certificate which includes “as found” as well as “current condition” pressure data.
    • Retrotec – Our recommendation for manufacturer calibration is: – Every two years for DM-2 pressure gauges – Every five years for the entire flow measurement system.  You will need to send in or call to get a price quote.

     

  2. Send or bring in your meter to us at FSEC.  We will do a field calibration check on your meter(s).  We do not modify, adjust or certify the meter – only verify whether it is within factory specifications.  If your meter is not in spec, we will let you know and it needs to be sent out for repair/factory calibration.  Our cost – FREE to our raters.
    • Make an appointment with Jimmy Williams (jwilliams@fsec.ucf.edu) if you are bringing them by (it takes about 30 minutes to do the check)
    • Send them in to:
      Jimmy Williams, Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Rd, Cocoa, FL  32922
      • You prepay for the shipping both directions.
      • We are not responsible for any loss or damage done through shipping.

     

  3. Perform a field calibration per the manufacturer as done by a certified RESNET Rater (Class 1 rater in Florida).

     

Now, one more thing – if FSEC is your rating provider, we need a copy of the field calibration for each meter you use.

Send us a copy (pdf format to: Jimmy Williams (jwilliams@fsec.ucf.edu) or by mail  to Jimmy Williams, Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Rd, Cocoa, FL  32922).  The nice thing about option #2 is that not only is the calibration check free – but all the paperwork we need is done.

Tei Explains It: Rater Class Distinction in Florida

March 1st, 2013

Question: Is there a rater class distinction in Florida?

The answer is YES! Only in Florida are there 3 distinct classifications of energy raters – Class 3, Class 2 and Class 1.

Let’s review these three classification as well as requirements for each.

Class 3

raterTraining

Class 3 ratings are ratings based on construction documents. A Class 3 Rater is only recognized in Florida and can only rate buildings from these construction documents alone. A Class 3 Rater is not recognized nationally by RESNET and can only perform ratings in the State of Florida.

A Class 3 Rater must obtain 12 CEU’s (Continuing Education Units) every three years. Currently these CEU’s do not have to be registered with the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) and allow the rater to get short trainings from suppliers of construction materials and processes as long as the courses are related to “green building”, construction materials, HVAC equipment, insulation, ventilation, IAQ and energy efficiency.

Class 2

Class 2 ratings are based on a site audit. A Class 2 Rater measures the windows, walls, floors, ceiling and doors. The equipment and systems in the home are documented by make and model number and all are documented by photographs which become essential if there is a problem. A Class 2 Rater, like the Class 3 Rater, is not recognized nationally by RESNET and can only perform ratings in the State of Florida.

A Class 2 Rater must obtain 12 CEU’s every three years similar to the Class 3 Rater. Currently these CEU’s do not have to be registered with DBPR and allow the rater to get short trainings from suppliers of construction materials and processes as long as the courses are related to “green building”, construction materials, HVAC equipment, insulation, ventilation, IAQ and energy efficiency.

Class 1

raterTraining1

Class 1 ratings are based on the site audit and include a building airtightness test as well as a duct leakage total test and duct leakage to outside test. A Class 1 Rater is the only one recognized nationally by RESNET and are allowed to perform ratings in every state except for California.

A Class 1 Rater can register the coveted tax credits for qualifying homes and are also eligible to register and certify homes for EPA’s Energy Star Version 3.0 (with special training) and DOE’s Challenge Home.

A Class 1 Rater is required to obtain 18 PDU’s (Professional Development Units) in three (3) years. These PDU’s can be obtained in three different ways.

  1. Attend a RESNET Conference and obtain 18 PDU’s by documentation of sessions to equal 18 hours. You can also attend the EEBA and ACI Conferences making sure that the tracks you attend are approved by RESNET
  2. Re-take the RESNET Core Exam and pass with at least 80%
  3. Take RESNET approved classes to obtain PDU’s

It is required that all raters regardless of classification will take a recertification test every three (3) years to retain their certification. At that time they will take a Recertification class and exams relevant to their classification. A Class 1 Rater will also show proficiency by performing a blower door and duct leakage test total and duct leakage test outside.

Questions regarding rater class distinction, contact Tei Kucharski.

In The Field With Neil: Depressurize or Pressurize Airtightness Test

March 1st, 2013

Question: Should the blower door test be performed in a pressurized or depressurized mode?

blowerDoortest

The blower door test follows ASTM standard E779 (Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage Rate by Fan Pressurization), which states that this test method consists of mechanical pressurization or de-pressurization of a building and measurements of the resulting airflow rates at given indoor-outdoor static pressure differences. From the relationship between the airflow rates and pressure differences, the air leakage characteristics of a building envelope are determined. It is intended to quantify the air tightness of a building envelope and does not measure air change rate or air leakage.

So the answer is… either method is acceptable.

In general, we tend to depressurize buildings as it prevents a jet of air from being blown into the house during the test process. However, under certain conditions it is necessary to conduct a blower door test by pressurizing the building. For example, pressurization testing may be used to avoid the possibility of pulling known pollutants into the building during the test procedure (e.g. mold from wall cavities or crawlspaces). The pressurization test also requires an additional outside reference hose connected to the meter.

Remember it is fan sensor with reference to fan sensor location. Therefore if we are using a DG-700 meter, the fan sensor would be installed on the B-side input tap and the outside reference connected to the B-side reference tap.

Tip from Neil:
When reporting your results – we assume that a depressurization
test was done. If you tested otherwise, be sure to document it.

In comparing the results of a pressurization test to that of a depressurization test, in general the depressurization test will yield a slightly tighter structure. The reason is quite simple. A depressurization test tends to pull dampers closed (i.e. bath fans, kitchen fans and dryer vents), whereas the pressurization test will tend to force them open.