Energy Standards: Common sense Basics

energy-standardsOur Current Energy Standards-Making Process

Engineers and other contributors often write national energy standards, or change them without a clear idea of the desired benefits or the unintended consequences. The process of updating standards resembles software updates. The updates aren’t so much designed for the user’s benefits but for the income of the updating organization. Yes, everyone has to make a living.  However, couldn’t we get better compliance with less guidance and simpler guidance from guidance organizations that are cooperating rather than competing?

How Standards Distract Us from the Mission of Energy Efficiency

Ventilation is a topic area where the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) clearly rules. ASHRAE’s new residential ventilation standard has thrown weatherization and home performance into a training and compliance frenzy, costing millions of dollars. ASHRAE 62.2-2010 is a confusing jumble of requirements and choices that has wasted vast amounts of time and money in training personnel and coping with confusion. Next they’ll subject us to ASHRAE 62.2 2013, which will be different and lead to another cycle of confusion and wasted resources.

ASHRAE representatives proclaim that the simple, practical ventilation guidelines of the past (0.35 air changes per hour but not less than 15 cubic feet per minute) are obsolete and must not be used. Never mind that thousands of organizations are still using these simple guidelines for good reasons. For example,  the old guidelines are simple, and they seem to provide acceptable indoor air quality. The ASHRAE 62.2 process is a good example of how the whole energy-efficiency community gets derailed in developing, training, and implementing inconsequential changes.

Questionable Assumptions for Energy Standards

ASHRAE must have held some assumptions that led them to develop the new ventilation standards. I’ll try to guess them.

  1. There are millions of respiratory problems relating to a lack of ventilation. There is no evidence of this. Researchers can’t pinpoint the cause of asthma (our most severe respiratory problem) so how could they relate any respiratory problem or solution to ventilation?
  2. Improvements in the new standard over the old one will improve ventilation levels in homes. I doubt this and you couldn’t prove it. Most new buildings require a fan under the old standards.
  3. Small differences in a building’s ventilation level result in measurable health benefits. There is no evidence of this, and ASHRAE couldn’t prove it with $10 million worth of research.
  4. A complex standard is better than a simple standard. Engineering principles dispute this.

What good is a standard if a tiny fraction of the relevant practitioners understand it or make an effort to comply?




9 thoughts on “Energy Standards: Common sense Basics”

  1. I am not the most informed on the “new” standards, but I do have a question. If we concentrate on “ventilation” don’t we have to bring in this air that we are exhausting,in order to allow the fans to exhaust correctly. Where does this makeup air com from? maybe under the house or out of a hot attic. Again I say that this may be addressed in the standards but I am intellectually challenged on this.

  2. 62.2 is probably creating more problems than it is curing. What I find fascinating is that nobody talks about cost-effective air sealing anymore. Energy savings are declining and costs are shooting up. Simple and effective approaches are scoffed at by the elitists. Evaluation results are ignored. As funds dry up, programs are crumbling under the weight of over regulation. It is time to simplify.

  3. I would not consider money spent on training for 62.2, or any training, as wasted unless it was bad training. ASHRAE 62.2 will happen, just not when it should have. How about complaining about the huge costs contractors incur to be retested every three years, do people really forget how to calculate the volume of a room or how to set up a blower door and take a reading after three years or are they actually more knowledgeable from three years of experience? If you agree with retesting, consider if you should have to retake your college final or licensing exams every three years.

  4. Thank you John,
    I’ve been railing away about this for more than a year and still don’t have any common sense answers from the “experts”. I recently did a test in two homes in NJ. Both had condensation inside the insulated windows after a heater (no humidifier), air sealing and insulation package was installed. Relative humidity inside was around 45%. My test was simple; let’s run the bathroom fans constantly for two days and see the results. Not surprisingly the RH didn’t change but the customers reported colder bathrooms and longer run times for the heaters. Installing bathroom fans is not the universal answer to ventilation. Unfortunately, many state WAP programs and home performance contractors have been led to think otherwise. There’s lots of work ahead on this topic.

  5. Nice post John!!

    … And how about “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”?

    How is ventilation rate measuring indoor air quality?

    Instead of presuming fresh air based upon air changes, wouldn’t it make more sense to adjust air changes based upon air quality?

  6. Amen, most make home owners feel like building performance is an all or nothing deal, then chastise for nothing or not enough. Money is an issue and building performance is a journey. Every improvement is good and one step toward a goal. Keep it simple, and prioritize by cost and benefit.

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