The National Retrofit Workforce Guidelines: Round 2 (Section 9 Baseload aka Appliances & Lighting)

As listed in the first article in this series, many industry experts were asked to perform a technical review of the updated Workforce Guidelines and we are combining both the review & a Clif Notes version of the standards together. HTRC Series: Combustion Safety, Ventilation, Air Sealing, Heating & Cooling, Insulation, Crawl Space & Basements, Base-Load aka Appliances & Lighting.

Topic: Baseload (9.2 – 9.9)

  • 9.2 – Refrigerator Replacement – ok I can understand this one, as this is normally done in the Weatherization program, but what I don’t understand is why you simply don’t state that the refrigerator must meet or exceed the ENERGY STAR standard (yes there are some that exceed said standard, but don’t care about the program) Also while the weatherization folks might want to concern themselves with the size, please don’t handicap the rest of us if they may have a kitchen remodel being scheduled, etc… Appliance will fit in the available space
  • 9.3 – Cleaning & Tuning Existing Equipment – well all-righty then, just curious though what we are supposed to do if said refrigerator or freezer doesn’t hold @ 0 or 35 – 40?
  • 9.4 – Entertainment & Computer System Replacements? Just what in the world are you spending those Weatherization funds on? “Will meet occupant preferences & have the lowest energy use e.g. Plasma vs. LED” Wouldn’t this & many of the other topics I am seeing fall under occupant education?
  • 9.5 Lighting
  • 9.5.1 – Day lighting, ooh this just keeps getting better “Window coverings will be replaced or maneuvered to maximize useful daylight” & “Active and passive day lighting will be properly oriented, designed, and installed where appropriate” Are you doing a remodel or building something new here?
  • 9.5.2 – Selection (bulb selection) – not too bad except for LED is here & it’s not really future lighting technology – will it improve? Surely it will, just CFL’s and many other types continually improve.
  • 9.6 – Washing Machine – I take it we are supposed to buy them a new washing machine also?
  • 9.7 – oh cool & a dryer to…
  • 9.8 – and a dehumidifier (whether needed or not) – you know if the company doing the retrofit work actually knew there stuff this would not be needed in most of the country
  • 9.9 – & the silliness continues with the Regional considerations
  • 9.9.1: Very Cold Climates On-demand water heaters will… – I think that is the next section
  • 9.9.2: Mixed Humid – I guess only if you live in a mixed humid environment do you need metal pipe for venting dryers, rupture resistant hoses, and even portable dehumidifiers must be hard-piped outside.
  • 9.9.3: Marine – hmm, only in said marine environment are you required to vent the dryer outside & to top it off this is the only environment that “occupants should be discouraged from storing large amounts of firewood in the living space”.
  • 9.9.4: Hot dry – no worries for you guys as there is no special considerations

Topic: Water Heating (9.10 – 9.16)

  • 9.10 – Water Heater Selection – please define freeze resistant, and why not just specify a direct vent unit?
  • 9.11: Shower head & Faucet Aerators – shower head @ 1.75 GPM, multiple @ 3.5 & sinks @ 1.2. While they do require an inspection & repairs to the plumbing to be made if required, not once do they mention a licensed plumber….
  • 9.12: Storage Type Appliance (Typical Water Heaters & storage types hooked up to a boiler / solar) – Again not one word about a licensed plumber or someone qualified, even under the remove old oil tans & assoc. piping, fuel supplies, etc… which would have easily turned this 6 page fiasco into 1 simple page (or less) for specs to check or make sure they are included…
  • 9.13: On Demand Appliances – same thought as above
  • 9.14: Regional Considerations – seriously this is getting old – hurricane & earthquake straps are only required in marine environments? No matter what insulation is to be installed on water heaters in a mixed humid environment (contrary to many manufacturers’ directions?)
  • 9.15: Storage Type Appliance Maintenance Inspection –umm yeah – hasn’t this all been addressed earlier (CAZ, Electrical Checks, Plumbing) Ok I will grant you, you did add some more items worthy of being checked, but I will take issues with the expansion tank requirement – many houses don’t have them & do not need them.
  • 9.16: On Demand Appliance Maintenance Inspection – dittos with the above(minus the storage tank as it isn’t listed)

Topic: Shading 9.17

  • 9.17 Indigenous Shading – seriously, this falls under Baseload?
  • 9.17.1: All plantings intended for shading will be indigenous and drought resistant – well technically all plants are indigenous, just maybe not that area. Now as for the drought resistant – if you actually plant a native species to that area, it should thrive in that area without needing any additional water not normally supplied by Mother Nature.
  • 9.17.2: Size; No planting will be chosen that will grow to a height that would cause damage to the house if it or any part of it fell on the house – talk about short sighted & clueless, you have just relegated many trees to be planted 150 to300 feet away from the house giving one no shading or energy reduction potential at all. The biggest issue is making sure the canopy of the tree does not grow up against the house, or allow for large branches to grow over the roof (and if so they should be trimmed back). Amazingly you don’t talk about the biggest issue & that is bushes growing right up against the house which not only is a safety concern, but a huge maintenance, pest & water issues.

The rest of the document, final thoughts, maybe a workable idea:

There is still an additional 147 pages which includes 10 pages of glossary terms & followed up by parts & pieces of numerous ASTM, ASHRAE, SMACNA, NFPA, and many other “standards” (some of which are quoted 3 times or more). At 11,000 plus words in just this series of articles, I am still left wondering if they truly know what they want or are trying to achieve. I believe that they could easily get this down to an easy 30 or 40 pages if they quite trying to create a new codebook & created an actual set of guidelines.

This leads me to the biggest issue I see & I have no tolerance for; which is the complete disregard of the current codes (even some of the older ones) which have not only considered many of these standards listed, but actually clarify them better than this document. While I can hear many saying, but there are so many – who cares, choose the most applicable one (2009) and add in any changes you feel need to be there for the guidelines. If someone is still using 2003 – oh well, this program requires… (and seeing it’s only “voluntary”) you can either choose to participate, or not.

As pointed out in many area’s but especially the Ventilation area, one has to careful of saying “Will” & “Must” because some of those items are not practical or possible even in new construction. Not to harp too much on the bathroom venting but I have one more example for you – it is one groups best practice in cold climates to help maximize insulation & prevent condensation from dripping back down is to use a 90 straight at the outlet (like you would to vent out of the roof), and then have another 90 shortly above the insulation allowing for the vent to slope down to the exterior exit point (yes the pipe is insulated).

An idea:

I am wondering if they don’t tier the program based on the amount or type of work being done – Level 1 a walk through audit, where a Baseload (a true one, not that joke above) & Energy Efficiency scan is done; where conservation & upkeep measures are discussed or maybe scheduled (at no time should an additional insulation be included in this type of review due to CO and other issues from it). Level 2 – a specific trade is brought in to help tighten up or improve the efficiency of an item (Insulation added, windows replaced, HVAC, etc…) Level 3 – maybe this fits the WX program with multiple tasks, etc… Level 4 between that & a level 5 a deep energy retrofit with possible solar power or something similar. Maybe a layout like….

Mandatory Steps for Level 2 Work:

  • A permit must be applied for and gotten if required by the AHJ
  • Any and all combustion appliances & venting must be checked & serviced per NCI / SMACNA/ whatever standard(s) you choose
  • A CO & Smoke Detector must be in working order and/or installed per R314 & R315.1 & .3 (no exclusions)
  • Blah, Blah, Blah…

Material Installation Standards:

  • Batt Style Insulation
  • All applicable manufacturers’ direction must…
  • It must be installed to or greater than the proper R or U Value established in IRC N1102
  • Common issues: Batt insulation must not be compressed … (run through the common issues and that they are not acceptable)
  • Best Practice – maybe add this in if applicable (one example I gave was back in the insulation review for foam boards would be if at all possible 2 foam boards should be utilized with overlapping and taped seams…)

Wall Insulation:

  • If any exterior wall is opened up, it should be checked for (global safety issues, water issues)…
  • If any exterior wall is opened up and it requires new insulation, it should be added per the applicable Material Installation Standard as listed…

The above is just a thought on a way of maybe doing it that would make more sense – granted it is coming from my very fried mind so…