Affordable Comfort Heads West


Bringing the gospel of residential energy efficiency and quality construction to the West Coast, Affordable Comfort Inc. held it's first regional conference in October. House technicians, researchers and program developers descended on Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Learning Center in San Ramon, California for three days of presentations, workshops, and field tutorials.

One track of workshops, called "Survival in the 90s," covered issues ranging from the effects of regulatory and policy changes on energy efficiency to market transformation. Other session categories included health and safety, energy-efficient construction, ducts/HVAC systems, and multifamily buildings. Building construction, HVAC and insulation contractors explored issues like marketing efficiency and quality to customers, using diagnostic equipment, and guaranteeing cost and comfort in new construction.

A recurring theme was that one can't treat part of a house without understanding the whole. The complex relationships between heating and cooling systems, ducts, holes in the building envelope, and house pressures came up in session after session. One Saturday field tutorial was a whole house audit (led by Rob de Kieffer of Sun Power Consumer Association, Lydia Gill-Polley of Constructive Consulting, Inc., David Keefe of Building Tune-Ups, Inc., and Eric Vander Leest of Chitwood Energy Management) designed to stress the importance of having a complete picture of energy use in a home. Other field tutorials covered testing for combustion safety, using blower doors and other diagnostic equipment, mobile home insulation opportunities, measuring duct leakage, and finding and sealing duct leaks.

A particularly enlightening presentation by John Proctor of Proctor Engineering Group and Mark Modera of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory explained the links between air conditioner sizing, performance, and efficiency. Modera and Proctor helped explain mysteries like why installing a high-SEER air conditioner sometimes increases the peak energy use in a house.