The House as a System

A house is a system of interdependent parts which means that the operation of one part will affect the other. When one of the house parts is not functioning properly it will affect the other parts.

A home loses heat through three methods, which are: conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction is probably the best known and the easiest to understand mode of heat transfer. It occurs when a material separates an area of high temperature from an area of low temperature, such as a wall separating a warm interior from a cold exterior.

Convection is the second mode of heat transfer we will consider. Heat transfer by convection occurs as a result of movement of liquid or gas over a surface. Wind blowing against a house is an example of a gas moving over a surface.

Codes that control trades practices were, for the most part, written when this potential was essentially insignificant. Consequently, individual tradesmen performing code-compliant work can create potentially harmful situations without realizing they have done so. Heating codes commonly ensure sufficient combustion air by requiring so many cubic feet of space per BTU/hr input of the appliance. These codes were established when basements were commonly rubble stone or granite slabs. Concrete is inherently tighter, but some building codes haven’t changed to reflect that.

One common problem with roof/ceiling systems is condensation and staining on the ceiling surface. This is due to moisture condensing on cold surfaces, which is often caused by recessed lights that leak air or are not well insulated. The solution is to make sure that all penetrations through the ceiling are sealed to prevent air flow and insulated to prevent temperature differentials.

Ice damming and roofing material damage can be caused by improper attic ventilation. This can be prevented by installing attic baffles at the eaves to maintain ventilation. Baffles also prevent wind from flowing through the insulation, which can reduce its R-value.

Windows represent a significant source of heat loss or gain in a home. Therefore, it’s important to consider some common problems and their solutions. A common problem with windows that perform poorly is that they make a room uncomfortably hot or cold. Windows with cold surfaces during the winter can cause condensation or even ice buildup at the bottom of the window. Finally, windows can allow furniture and other interior furnishings to be bathed in ultraviolet light, which, over time, causes them to fade.

Heating efficiency ratings are simply the percentage of consumed energy that goes up the chimney. As efficiency increases, less heat and air go up the chimney. As we increase heating appliance efficiency, we reduce draft, which in turn moves less air through the building, reducing its drying capability.
The final step in efficiency improvement is a sealed combustion unit, which gets its combustion air from the outside and consequently does nothing to dry the building at all.

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