March 2002 Edition

Are Unvented Fireplaces Safe?

We just purchased a new home with an unvented fireplace. We never had one before and wanted to know if they are safe?
For the past four years, a committee appointed by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers) has been developing a new residential ventilation standard. The proposed standard, ASHRAE 62.2, was first released for public review in early 2000. After reviewing comments, the committee revised the standard and released it for another round of public comment in August 2001. The previous draft includes:
  • Carbon monoxide detectors are no longer required.
  • Although mechanical ventilation will still be required for most homes, it can be omitted in homes where windows are often left open. For example: vacation homes, hot-climate houses without air conditioning, and houses located in regions that are both hot and dry (including the Southwest and most of California).
  • The scope of the standard has been limited to houses without unvented gas fireplaces.
The committee's thorniest debates revolved around unvented gas heaters. "previous drafts of the standard included requirements that addressed unvented appliances, and the gas appliance manufacturers were quite upset about that," committee chairman Max Sherman. "On a policy level, ASHRAE instructed us to work with the appliance manufacturers until they were happy."

Fireplace

Most committee members wanted to require exhaust ventilation from rooms with unvented heaters. "Virtually everybody on the committee knows that it is ludicrous to put one of those devices indoors without providing a way to get combustion products out of the house," says John Proctor, a member of the Standard 62.2 committee and president of Proctor Engineering Group in San Rafael, California. Groping for a solution that would satisfy the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, the ASHRAE board simply decided to ignore the issue. In the "Scope" section of the standard (the section that defines what the standards covers), a new sentence was added: "This standard does not address unvented combustion space heaters."
To many observers, this statement is far from clear. "The standard is silent on the issue of unvented gas appliances," explains Sherman. "We are not saying what will happen if you have such an appliance in a house." Proctor would have preferred that the standard provide guidance on the issue. "For political reasons, we left a big hole in the standards," he says.
Editor's Note: If you have an unvented fireplace in your home, we strongly recommend adding a carbon monoxide detector close to the fireplace.

Journal Of Light Construction, November 2001


Energy Audits Online

Can you give us a list of companies who conduct energy audits?
Home Energy Saver
The Home Energy Saver is designed to help consumers identify the best ways to save energy in their homes and find the resources to make the savings happen. The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of the national Energy Star program for improving energy efficiency in homes.
The Home Energy Saver computes a home's energy use online. By changing one or more features of the modeled home, users can estimate how much energy and money can be saved by implementing energy-efficiency improvements. Categories covered include heating, cooling, major appliances, and lighting.
The Home Energy Saver's Energy Advisor calculates energy use and savings opportunities, based on a detailed description of the home provided by the user. Users begin the process by entering their zip code, and in turn receive instant initial estimates. By providing more information about the home the user receives increasingly customized results along with energy-saving upgrade recommendations. The end result is a graph of usage, with recommendations on the best ways to save money.
The entire process takes approximately 45 minutes. Once a profile has been started, a session number is assigned. Users are able to access and update the profile whenever desired by entering the session number. To try it out, go to http://hes.lbl.gov/.
ENERGYguide.com
Another energy audit site is ENERGYguide.com which is an affiliate of the Energy Star program. At this site, consumers can find out about energy deregulation in all states, and analyze home or business energy use.
For a very basic profile, enter a zip code. To complete an extensive energy analysis of a home or business, enter an email address. The user is then guided through a series of categories, with detailed questions about a home or business energy use. The home categories include weatherization. heating, cooling, hot water, lighting and kitchen.
When the analysis has been completed, a report is generated, which includes graphs of usage and cost versus savings for every suggested improvement. If the user wants even more in-depth analysis, an optional feature of the ENERGYguide analysis is the ability to determine specific usage for e1ectric and natural gas by entering information from a year's worth of energy bills.
The graphic interface of this program is friendly. Watch your energy costs increase or decrease as more detailed data is entered. The information a user enters is saved temporarily, but in order to create a permanent profile that can be accessed at any time, the user must become a member by creating an account. Conducting the energy analysis takes approximately an hour. To begin an ENERGYguide analysis' go to http://www.energyguide.com/.
Both the Home Energy Saver's Energy Advisor and ENERGYguide are excellent tools to help determine where your energy dollars are going, and how to save a little or a lot. They offer specific recommendations based on data input. Although it does require some time to complete the audits, it may be time well spent. The end result is information that you can use.

Source: ASHI Reporter December 2001


If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.


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