Reduce Your Energy Bill – Energy Savings Testimonial!

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eneryg light

As an engineering consulting firm overseeing projects, Complete Building Solutions has been serving Minnesota homeowners with home performance issues for years, and we provide solutions that last!  CBS will typically test for heat loss using a thermal camera before and after improvements and then, at times, will test even a year later.

Over the weekend we received an email from an ecstatic client stating that their energy bills had dropped by over 35%! This is the kind of thing that drives us to continue doing what we do best, advocating for the consumer by ensuring long lasting homes.

This particular project consisted of 53 Minneapolis townhome units that needed serious work done. The attic systems were lacking sufficient ventilation and insulation resulting in a large temperature difference from the inside of the attic to outside. This led to heat loss, condensation, and non-adherance to fire codes. In short, the attics were “rotting” from the inside out, and the energy bills were high.

Here’s the proof. This client’s energy bill decreased by 35% after an attic inspection and the necessary improvements.

 


“Immediately after the roofing project, we noticed things like the furnace running less often, the thermostat not needing to be kept as high, the upstairs room feeling evenly heated compared to downstairs, etc.  We continue to be very thankful for these improvements following our roofing project.”

 

 Old monthly bill versus new monthly bill 

Snip It Energy Bill

This particular bill is based on Xcel Energy’s Averaged Monthly Payment Service which looks at the past 12 months worth of billing data and calculates an averaged amount to pay the next 12 months. You can see the significant drop in charges from the previous years average which was set before the attic improvements had been made.

To read more about this same clients Energy Savings click here !

 

 

Choosing Ice-Melts

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Ice-Melts

As we speak, our social media newsfeeds are blowing up with snow warnings, schools are closing, business meetings are being rescheduled, and families are stocking up for the incoming storm in Minneapolis.  If you are making last minute runs to the store, be sure to acquire the proper ice-melt that fits your home’s needs. Below is a chart, put together by Consumer Reports, that can help you determine which product is right for your home.

Keep in mind that certain products effect asphalt and concrete differently. According to a recent study, magnesium products “are the most damaging to the concrete”, specifically Calcium magnesium acetate (Lee, 5). Within the same study, sodium chloride products were discovered to be the least detrimental to concrete.  As far as asphalt is concerned, acetate products can be disadvantageous because of their tendency “to break down the bonds between aggregate and asphalt binder” (consumer reports, 1).  The chart below provides many options for safe asphalt de-icers.

Ice-Melts Comparison

For more information and tips on de-icing best practices, check out the following link: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/02/best-ice-melts/index.htm .

 

If you are noticing large build-ups of ice around your home check out what our engineer and consultants have to say http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=149 about PERMANENTLY fixing the problem.  

 

Sources:

“Best Rock Salt and Ice Melts Review – Consumer Reports.” Best Rock Salt and Ice Melts Review – Consumer Reports. N.p., Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

Lee, H., R. D. Cody, A. M. Cody, and P. G. Spry. EFFECTS OF VARIOUS DEICING CHEMICALS ON PAVEMENT CONCRETE DETERIORATION. Proc. of Mid-Continent Transportation Symposium 2000, Center for Transportation Research and Education, 2711 South Loop Drive. N.p.: n.p., 2000. 151-55. Print.

 

 

The Vices of Ices: How to get Rid of Ice at your Home

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Ice Dam Prevention MN

Minnesota winters produce harsh winds, dark skies, and snow. But, the most precarious weather consequence affecting, not only the elderly population, but all generations, is ice.  Ice is a rigid structure maintained by hydrogen bonds and forms when water is cooled below 32°F (0°C). It hosts many of our states favorite pastimes (shout out to the Minnesota Wild), but also poses danger to drivers, pedestrians, and homeowners who are simply trying to maneuver through the labyrinthine byways of a once secure driveway. Needless to say, this challenge is not always a success.

Incidentally, the leading cause of brain injuries in the state of Minnesota is from falls. The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and the Minnesota Department of Health say, falls are responsible for 38% of all brain injuries annually (https://www.braininjurymn.org/aboutBrain/falls.php). That is a huge number! Ideally, we would like to completely eradicate ice in order to decrease the injuries that coincide, but this is not realistic. However, individually, we can take measures to drastically decrease the problem within our own home.

First, one must be aware of the drainage system on their roof. A functioning roof system will shed moisture off the roof and into gutters where it can be properly filtered away from your foundation and walkways. If you have noticed ice dams, your roof is unable to perform because an issue exists within in your attic. It is important to note that a permanent solution, which does not require continual snow removal of the roof, exists and will increase the life of your roof and structural components of the attic. Check out our blog on attics & energy loss to learn more about the attic system http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=121. At CBS, we specialize in these exact issues and offer lasting solutions to ensure peak energy efficiency, life span, and performance of your roof and attic.

Roof Ice Dams Solution

*This ice dam is preventing the roof’s drainage system from functioning properly.

A second factor to consider is the foundation of your home. It is paramount that water be directed away from the foundation to avoid ice build-up, but to also prevent basement leakage.

Charles Glossop, owner of Minnesota’s most highly esteemed commercial snow, landscaping, and consulting company, Hantho Farms, LLC, provided us with some of his methods (which CBS highly supports) for the best ways to prepare for this phenomena pre-winter: 1) Downspouts and gutters must be efficiently draining water away from entrances and walkways and 2) A positive slope must exist around the foundation, walkways, and driveways with at least a  6” drop in elevation within the first 10 feet of the foundation (International Residential Code). This positive slope encourages water to move away from your home and 3) Consult a professional before planting trees near your home. If trees are too close, their roots can actually grow into the foundation, causing cracks, and will retain water near the base of the home. If you combine a negative grade and trees in close proximity to a foundation, the tree roots will actually follow the water (which is trapped near foundation from negative grade) and may cause serious damage to the home’s foundation (International Residential Code).

Bad-grading

*The above photo demonstrates a gutter that is not draining water away from the foundation and a negative grade that is holding water near the foundation.

Now, we know it is mid-winter and your negative grade issues cannot be addressed until spring. However, there are some measures you can take NOW to prevent ice build-up. Charles Glossop suggests using a liquid brine BEFORE it snows to “prevent the bonding of snow to the pavement.” Check out Hantho Farms website http://www.hanthofarms.com to learn more about the liquid brine they make and use for commercial snow removal.

To recap, the two main sources that propagate ice are 1) an insufficient roof drainage system and 2) Improper drainage system of your foundation. After the recent snows, and upcoming freeze/thaw cycle, you will quickly know if there are problems within these drainage systems. If you have ice dams, slippery sidewalks, ice build-up on driveways, or around other areas of your home, you may need to start planning for next year. Call CBS to come inspect your property and start working towards a plan to create an efficient and safe environment at your home.

Leaks: Don’t Ignore the Unseen

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Roof Leakage

It is mid-January in Minnesota. We have seen temperatures plunge below zero and return to the mid-thirties (degrees Fahrenheit) multiple times. This varying temperature span is a recipe for attic leaks. Ultimately, the leakage problem exists because your attic system is failing somewhere.

A healthy attic means three things: first and foremost, the bypasses are sealed, two, an airflow is provided by correct ventilation, and three, the right amount of insulation pertinent to your area is present. To learn more about the attic system check out this blog post  http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=121 .

When your attic is not performing at its peak, leakage can occur. Many homeowners assume that if a leak were present, it would be visible on the sheetrock surface of their home. This is NOT the case. When was the last time you visited your attic? You might be surprised at what you would find.

There are multiple ways that water can infiltrate your attic. One way is through condensation and frost. When your attic system is not functioning properly, warm air will escape through open bypasses and move into your attic. When this warm air meets the cold attic, it will stick to metals first and wood structures second. During periods of cold temperatures, this moisture will become visible as frost. When the weather begins to warm up, this frost will begin to thaw. All of this moisture has to go somewhere, so it leaks onto the attic insulation.

Another way moisture can enter the attic is through the build-up of ice dams. Again, these ice dams are formed because your attic is not performing adequately. As snow melts and water moves down your roof, the dam continues to build.  Water will search for ways to migrate underneath the shingles, through the roofing deck, and into the attic.

This dripping moisture from condensation & ice dams can cause mold to form, but more importantly, the insulation will become damp. Ultimately, this weakens the materials ability to resist heat flow (R-value=resistance to heat flow). It no longer acts as an insulator, but conversely, as a conductor of heat, allowing warm air to escape through your attic. In concurrence with the ineffective insulation, mold may also form on the roofing deck of the attic. The mold will continue to spread and break down the structural materials in your attic. Can you believe that all of this is may be occurring without you even knowing?

Ice build up on slate roof.

Because Minnesota is the 3rd coldest state in the United States (http://www.wdsu.com/weather/states-with-the-coldest-winters/22668580), it is even more important to ensure attic performance.  This is the time to call the Twin Cities premier engineering and consulting firm, Complete Building Solutions. Your attic will be assessed as a whole, and the proper course of action will be determined. We pride ourselves on our ability to create building solutions for your home that last.

High Energy Bills: The Truth about the Attic

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Ice Damming Prevention MN

What if we told you there is a way to drastically decrease your energy loss and ultimately put money back in your pocket?  All you have to do is, look up. Your attic could be needing some serious attention.

It is common knowledge that warm air rises towards the top part of a building. This creates a pressure gradient within the structure. A higher pressure exists near the uppermost part of a building while a lower pressure resides near the bottom. Ultimately, the low pressure near the foundation will pull cool air into the building while the high pressure at the uppermost part of the building drives warm air out through any crevice it can find.

 No wonder your energy bill is literally THROUGH THE ROOF!

You can see why it is so important to have a properly insulated attic. In order for an attic to perform at its best, it must function as a system. Three main areas must work together to ensure peak performance:

  1. Bypasses

Frequently, the ceiling bypasses are not sealed correctly rendering the attic insulation ineffective. Sealing bypasses can be anything from an interior wall extending into the attic, ducting, bathroom fans, plumb vents, lights, and wires. Many times, these bypasses are not insulated at all, leaving the home vulnerable to serious energy loss.

  1. Insulation

Insulation is naturally resistant to conductive heat flow. Depending on the density, thickness, and type of insulation, the level of resistance, or R-value, varies.  A higher R-value will be more effective against heat trying to escape. Your geographic location helps to determine how much insulation you need. Again, the more insulation used, the higher the R-value.

  1. Ventilation

An effective ventilation system helps keep your attic at a temperature which allows for best performance. Keeping attic temperatures down in the summer while also keeping the attics dry in the winter is essential. This allows for a prolonged life of materials and structures as well as lower energy bills

All three of the systems mentioned above must work together in order for a home to function at its best. Having a new home does NOT guarantee this.

Luckily, CBS has ensured peak attic performance in more than 120 townhome association’s in order to eradicate heat loss due to incorrectly insulated ceiling bypasses. Our experienced engineers understand that insulating an attic is irrelevant if the bypasses have not been sealed properly. Our team addresses the attic as a whole structure, not just as individual parts, in order to find the root of the problem and act accordingly.

Be aware! If you have/are experiencing any of the following, your attic may need some attention:

A) Ice dams

Ice dams

  • When heat escapes through poorly insulated areas, the attic is warmed up and melts snow on your roof. This melting snow migrates to the edge of the roof where it freezes and continues to build up and hold water in the form of a dam. This is a serious issue that can lead to further problems such as severe water damage.

For more information on ice dams, check out a previous blog: Ice Dams vs. Natural Ice Build-up

B) Mold

  • As we touched upon earlier, warm air rises and will try to escape out of any open channel it can find in your attic. An open bypass is a great vessel for this air to escape. As the escaping warm air meets the cool air from outside, condensation is formed. This condensation, along with other forms of moisture intrusion, leave your home very susceptible to mold. This mold will be apparent not only within the attic, but on walls and other areas of the home. Think of the health implications this proposes.

C) Nail pops on roof

  • The hygroscopic nature of plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) contributes greatly to the nail pop issue. Plywood is made from several layers of veneer held tonail popgether by glue. During periods of drastic temperature differences (40-50 degrees F difference) between the attic and exterior, expansion and contraction between the different layers of veneer (or within OSB) occurs. What do you think happens to the wood when this takes place? Here’s a hint, we have all experienced this at one point or another. Yes, the wood literally becomes unglued! You can see why this is a problem. The nails are slowly and forcefully pushed upwards due to the conflicting movement (“ungluing”) of the wood. This phenomena transpires more frequently as moisture content in the attic increases, primarily from unsealed bypasses.

Nail pops must be taken care of immediately in order to prevent moisture intrusion, however, if your attic is not insulated properly, they will continue to occur. If you are interested in prolonging the life of your roof, this issue must be acknowledged and corrected.

D) High energy bills

  • Your energy bills could be high because your attic is not sealed and insulated properly. Remember, heat rises and will escape out of any area it can find. If measures are not taken to keep heat within the home, such as sealing bypasses, your hard earned money is being lost to the atmosphere.

Want to learn more about energy savings? Check out this blog: Energy Savings

If you have noticed any of the above issues, it is time to call CBS. Using our expert knowledge to best assess your needs, the root of the issue will be determined and corrected.  Don’t waste time and money addressing symptoms that come from a poorly insulated attic when the real problems are still lurking within. Imagine the peace of mind and money saved by having a smaller energy bill, the lifetime of your roof extended by 15 years, prevention of water damage, and a healthy family. Why not call CBS to take care of the real problem once and for all?

Contact CBS

 

 

 

Ice Dams vs. Natural Ice Build-up

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I find that homeowners often confuse natural melt/freeze ice build-up with a systemic ice dam problem in their home.  I also often hear people say things like “ice dams cannot be stopped in Minnesota” or “nature causes ice dams, you cannot fix Mother Nature.”  This also leads me to the conclusion people need to learn to differentiate between the two occurrences.

Early February provided some interesting weather here in Minnesota.  Temperatures have fluctuated between dry, extremely cold days to days with weather near or just above freezing with a lot of moisture in the air.  We have seen a lot of natural ice build-up and several cases of hoarfrost which is less common in Minnesota due to dry weather in the winter.

Hoarfrost:

Hoarfrost is defined: “A grayish-white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc.”  Occasionally we wake up to this phenomenon and see these crystalline deposits on trees, fences etc.  You probably notice it mostly on trees.

You might wonder how this affects my home.  With high humidity in the air, condensation can occur in areas and freeze.  We often see this occur on plumbing stacks on a roof.  There are two conclusions when we find this issue; either it’s a one-time occurrence (hoarfrost) or it’s a systemic problem caused by condensation coming from the plumbing stack.

It is important to differentiate between the two.  If the plumbing stacks were installed improperly, the issue should be corrected.  We find that often they are cut too high off the roof elevation (more than 12”) and freezing will occur due to the install.  This should be corrected immediately.  However even when properly installed the plumbing vent may still freeze due to the moisture in the air (hoarfrost), this is a “one-time” occurrence or something that will happen infrequently and while clearing the ice is advised, there is not a problem that needs to be addressed.

Natural Ice Build-up vs. Ice Dams

We receive a handful of phone calls when the weather fluctuates between near or above freezing during the day and drops below freezing at night.  Most homeowners are concerned due to icicles forming on the eave or visible ice on the roof.  Again it is important to differentiate between Mother Nature and an ongoing problem with heat loss in your attic space.

Ice Dams form due to heat loss in the attic along with improper ventilation.  Attic bypass often allows warm air from the home into the attic and in turn it warms the roof deck.  This melts the snow on the roof, when the melt reaches the cold eave (overhang) it then freezes.  When there is enough ice built up and it reaches the warm area on the roof, water builds up behind the ice, working its way uphill and will often cause leaks in the attic.  This can lead to problems such as; leaks, mold, warped roof deck and deterioration of shingles.  Also, heat loss and bypass lead to other attic issues, most notably moisture issues.  I’ll to a whole blog about this in the future, stay tuned!

Even if all your heat loss is stopped and your ventilation is performing you can still have some ice form on your roof eave.  We see this happen with or without gutters, although more often when gutters are present.  When it snows, and either warms up near or above freezing during the day or the sun shines on the roof during the day and then at night the temperature drops, we see natural ice forming on roofs.  The most important distinction to make here is that there is no water sitting behind the ice or working its way uphill on the roof. Thus there is no problem with your attic.  Again, it’s ok to have a little ice on your eave or a few icicles as long as your attic is performing.

Natural Ice build-up

Natural Ice forming on a roof.

A saying that we repeat a lot around our office is that “gutters are a double edged sword.”  While they do help move roof water away from the foundation of your home, they do enhance the natural ice build-up on a roof eave.  Gutters along with the overhang are cold, so naturally when they will form ice in the winter.  Gutters are often necessary to move roof water, this only reinforces the need to properly insulate and ventilate your attic space.

Conclusion

While in most cases we still advise you have a professional inspect any potential issue, it is important to understand the difference between natural ice and ice formed from unnatural occurrences in your home, namely heat loss.  If your attic space is sealed and there is proper ventilation in your attic a little ice can be expected from time to time, but if you are seeing large amounts of ice or what you feel are ice dams, you should have a professional inspect your attic space and get a recommendation on how to remediate these issues.