January, 2011
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Environmental: Energy


EPA's IndoorairPLUS best practices guide was featured in November's News in Brief on Page 8. The guide described the need for installing wind baffles or another form of air barrier in the eave bays of roof assemblies that contain soffit vents to prevent wind from blowing through fibrous insulating materials at the eaves.

This month, ASHI Certified Inspector Roger Hankey provides photographs illustrating what happens when wind-wash barriers are not used.

 He inspected the center unit of a three-unit townhouse in May of 2004. Built in 1987, the two-story building has a walkout basement on its east side, facing a pond, which separates it from a similar building to the east. There were no trees on this side of the building. Therefore, the east face of the building has three stories exposed to the wind.

Photo above: The middle unit was inspected. 
Photo © 2011 hankeyandbrown.com

Photo: Continuous soffit vent strips were placed tight to the wall edge of the soffit. 
Photo © 2011 hankeyandbrown.com

Photo: Bottom: The wind blew the loose
insulation in the attic.
Photo © 2011 hankeyandbrown.com

Hankey said that, unfortunately, the continuous soffit vent strips were placed tight to the wall edge of the soffit. The result was that an east wind striking the wall was directed up into the attic, blowing into the loose-fill insulation. This condition is obvious from the attic hatch.

Although he didn't have an infrared camera in 2004, he was able to identify the temperature gradient on the ceiling with an IR thermometer. His recommendation was to install wind-wash barriers and re-insulate, because he believed it would be simpler and more cost-effective to do this than to alter the soffits to relocate the vent strip.

Installing wind-wash barriers at the eaves has been standard practice in Minnesota since the 1994 Minnesota energy code was adopted.

Although this was a worst-case scenario of insulation blown off the ceiling due to misplaced soffit vent, Hankey said less dramatic cases still point to the need for wind-wash barriers. The fact that wind blows through the insulation, even if it remains in place, defeats the purpose of the insulation. 

Therefore, the wind wash barrier is beneficial whenever soffit vents are installed. 

Washington Watch
The Moment of Truth – Presidential Commission on Budget Reform

As we go to press, the members of The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform are due to vote on a 59-page report titled "The Moment of Truth." It is unclear whether the majority of the commission members, two-thirds of whom are sitting members of Congress, will attach their names.  In any event, it is a most serious proposal; even if the package does not proceed as a package, individual items will be called for debate and consideration. There are numerous provisions that, if adopted, would affect small businesses and the housing and real estate industries.

Randall Pence, Capitol Hill Advocates, is monitoring the proposal and will keep ASHI informed of its possible impact on home inspectors and related industries.

Environmental: Radon
Federal Agencies Join Efforts to Fight Radon Exposure

The EPA convened leaders from federal agencies for a historic event to generate momentum and create new opportunities for radon risk reduction. This diverse group of leaders included Department of Defense (DOD), Veterans Administration (VA), Department of Energy  (DOE), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Interior (DOI). They discussed ways the federal government can do more to reduce radon risk in the housing and buildings it owns or influences.

ASHI has welcomed the opportunity to participate when the EPA reaches beyond the agencies for input. Watch for developments in the months to come.

Participants at the summit will reconvene in 90 days to discuss specific actions the federal government can take through existing programs to protect families by creating safe and healthy home environments.

Learn more about the Federal Radon Summit and stay tuned for updates by visiting www.epa.gov/radon/federal_summit.html.