Dave's Tips - Managing your time

There's no doubt in my mind that the pace of life seems to have sped up. In the age of the mobile device, we are gradually becoming accustomed to doing things in seconds that used to take minutes or hours, or even days. I've found that as time has gone on and technology has developed, I've simultaneously developed an appreciation for managing my time effectively.

To me, effective time management encompasses a number of different principles - obviously, setting aside enough time each day to accomplish all of the tasks that I need is a start. In order to do that, however, I need to decide which tasks are important to me, and how many of them per day I want to do. In short, the style in which I manage my time boils down to making choices about how I want to live.

One choice that I made early on in my life was not to be passive about this, because as time has gone on I've seen many friends get swept up in a faster pace of life. In between performing tasks and working, I like to take breaks. I'm also into cycling and being outdoors. Both of these things deliver value to the time I spend working and managing projects in the form of mental health benefits.

As you read this you might be thinking, "Dave, why are you writing about all of this?" The reason I think managing time effectively every day is important is because the days add up and turn into months, which in turn add up into years. As far as my eco-friendly home goes, the project is a long-term exercise in time management. In my busy life, I have to manage a full-time job, manage a detailed home construction project, and make sure to take enough time to spend with my wife, children and friends and on top of that, make sure that the time I spend with my family and friends is quality time.

I think that managing your time effectively can lead to better outcomes personally and professionally, and is critical to building a good home. I encourage all of you to take a few minutes and think about whether or not you are managing your time effectively and think about how the answer to that question affects the value you deliver to yourself.

 

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Time for the first blower door test!

I can’t believe that it’s already time for our first blower door test. It feels like yesterday that I was walking around on a piece of raw land and problem-solving with my wife over what we wanted our new home to look like. Now here we are - the lion’s share of construction has been completed and I’ve shifted my focus to the interior.

Before we get into things like solar thermal, trim and drywall and paint, I have to take one last big step when it comes to the building envelope - a blower door test.



A blower door test is part of the home energy evaluation that will make sure the building envelope and other systems will truly do their job once my new home is complete. Basically, we’ll seal off all of the doors and windows of my home and put a specially-designed variable speed fan in one of the doors.

The variable speed fan will be hooked up to a pressure gauge to measure the pressure differential between the interior and exterior of the house, and an airflow manometer for measuring airflow.

For these steps, I’ve invited George Keithan and Paul Sekas of Consulting Engineering Services back to the job site to run the test. They’ll be able to take the data that we gather and give me some conclusions about the overall energy efficiency of my building envelope. Paul is also going to go around with an infrared gun and hunt for areas of the envelope that might need to be tightened up.



Once this blower door test is complete and I have the results in my hand, I’ll be able to make whatever necessary adjustments to the building envelope that need to be made. From there, it’s on to interior details - we’ll have one more blower door test before the project wraps up. Stay tuned!

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Q&A - Sources of inspiration

In between my projects, you might find me at a coffee shop somewhere, sipping some decaffeinated tea and reading up on the latest styles and trends for homes and the people who build them. If you love home building like I do, then I'm sure you've got some favorite magazines and websites that you like to visit to see what's hot.

One of my favorite places to go is TecHome Builder. This comprehensive website has everything from daily news, videos and galleries to information about new products and upcoming events. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it, but if you aren't I definitely suggest you check it out.

As a veteran eco-friendly homebuilder, I'm always on the hunt for the strange and unusual when it comes to online resources and physical magazines. If there's a special place you go to learn about the latest, I'd love to hear about it. Join the conversation and let us know!

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Three things to remember about home automation


One thing that sticks out to me about building an eco-friendly home in 2017 is that from a technology standpoint, there’s never been a better time to build one. The opportunities to free up your time from mundane daily activities are virtually limitless. From appliances to lights to indoor comfort, nearly every facet of a home can be managed through a centralized control system connected to the internet.



For my home, I don’t plan on automating every single thing, but there are some important facets of my living space that I plan on automating or connecting to the internet - namely, our thermostats, lights, and window shades. The thermostats were definitely on my list from the beginning, because climate control is an area that I can save some money in over the long term. By utilizing a smart system, I can control the temperature more precisely and in turn control the systems that provide indoor comfort so that no amount of energy is wasted.

You might remember my previous conversation with Gerry Lynch of System 7. He’s been at the forefront of the home automation market since the early 2000s, when it was just becoming economical to automate systems on the scale that we see today. Gerry got in at the ground floor, before the iPhone was released - the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has been a game changer for the home automation market.

Gerry has been instrumental in helping me determine what my exact home automation needs are, and in helping me develop and implement a plan to install these systems in my new home during the interior construction phase. Luckily, the talented people at System 7 have made this easy for me, and I’ve learned quite a bit from Gerry during our meetings together. That reminds me, I wanted to share with you these three important takeaways that I think will make a difference for anyone thinking about engaging the IoT in their project...

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Dave's Tips - Maximizing your takeaways

I think one of the things that has strengthened and maintained my interest in building homes over the years is the way I tend to look at my projects. I usually do my best to be holistic in my approach to completing the work, and I look at each conversation I have with other professionals as a learning experience and an opportunity for a win-win. I think one of the things I've enjoyed the most about building my own homes is the opportunity to work with other people and learn from their perspective.

Good communication skills and an ability to work well with others are vital traits essential to any successful home builder, but so are the traits of patience and being able to learn from mistakes. If something doesn't go as planned on a project, I don't get discouraged - I try to maximize my time in finding a solution.

I'm excited to be building this super insulated, eco-friendly home because I've gotten to try a few techniques that I've never tried before, like the particular way I designed and built the envelope, and I get to refine some of my existing knowledge, like which professionals I need to work with and in what order. Building this home and every step in between has been a very involved, enriching process so far.

What was one of your biggest takeaways from a project? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Rays of Energy Efficiency

If you were to look at the back of my new home, you'd see a bunch of protrusions sticking out from the shingles. Those protrusions are actually mounting brackets for the photovoltaic solar panels that I've been planning to install on my roof since the beginning of the project. Now that the roofing system is basically done, it's time for me to begin preparing to install the solar panels up on to the roof.

It's easy to think that installing solar panels is simply a matter of purchasing the panels, installing the mounting brackets and then mounting the panels on a part of the roof. But actually, there's a lot that goes into these installations that people may not think about. Understanding fully how a solar panel system works can seem like a daunting task to some, and that's why many people I know hire professionals to do most of the work. But, I think anyone who gets a solar panel system installed onto their home should have a rudimentary understanding on how it works.

While I was doing my research, I found a great resource that explains and defines some of the basic terminology for solar panel systems. HeatSpring Magazine has a great article that gives a breakdown of the basics - from vocabulary terms to understanding how AC and DC currents work with systems to magnetic declination, I'd say this article and ones like it are a must read for anyone who plans to install a solar panel system on their roof.

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Q&A - Knowledge you didn't expect

In my years of building and renovating homes, I've always learned something by the end of each project. Whether it's sharpening my time management skills, honing my logistics skills for ordering materials, or who to call for a certain portion of my project, the benefits of gaining experience have been cumulative.

Anyone who has built their own home knows that there are always unforeseen items that crop up during the whole process. For example, I selected a particular brand and color of shingles that I wanted to use on my new home. I placed my order several months ago, but I learned only after placing the order that the shingles I want are on back order. Another unforeseen circumstance with my project was when the need came up to change the placement of mechanical systems in my basement - if I had waited to address this, it could have run into some serious money. It's always better to address potential issues quickly to avoid having a project spiral out of control.

One of the biggest things I've learned from building homes is that it's important to take care of the small things - if I ignore a small detail that needs to be addressed at a certain stage of construction, it can come back to haunt me later. If you can't take care of the small things in a project, it's harder to take care of the big things.

What's the biggest unexpected takeaway you've experienced in a project? Join the conversation and let us know!

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What's in the attic?

Throughout my project so far, I’ve been fortunate to have a chance to work with many different experts and licensed professionals. From the architects to the foundation contractor, I’ve learned something from each person who has come to the job-site or whose office I’ve paid a visit to.

Besides being an eco-friendly home builder, I’m also a product manager at Taco Comfort Solutions. Taco is a premier manufacturer of residential and commercial water circulation systems, water heater accessories, and HVAC technology. I count myself lucky to work at a place where I’m surrounded by the best and brightest, people who I can count on for their expertise in and out of the office.

So far, most of the people I’ve consulted with about my project work in the residential realm. But since my project incorporates some elements of commercial system design, there is one person from Taco who I’ve been clamoring to show my project to. That person is Rich Medairos, a Senior Systems Engineer. In my opinion, he’s one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry when it comes to commercial system design. Rich also runs Taco’s commercial-side training programs and works with engineers all over the country to design commercial HVAC systems.

So all of that being said, you can probably tell why I’m excited to have him come out and look at my eco-friendly system design. I really want to get Rich’s opinion about my choice of mechanicals, where I decided to place them inside my home, and how the systems will work in tandem with other systems I’ve designed for my new home.

The project is moving right along - there’s no doubt that Rich’s feedback will be useful to me as I workout the final details of my HVAC system. What do you think of the overall design? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Q&A - The walls of comfort

Over the past few weeks, we've shifted the focus of our blog over to the interior portion of my home construction process. My framing team finished their work several months ago and most of what I've done with the exterior since then relates to making the building envelope super tight and making sure that the walls of my new home reflect the plans we put together at the beginning of the project.

Earlier in the project, I put together a diagram that explains how each layer in my wall system functions to create a super tight envelope. When the walls are finished, they'll reduce my energy costs and provide the caliber of indoor comfort that my wife and I are used to. I encourage everyone to take a look at it - as far as wall construction systems go, this is not something you see every as far as how the typical home is constructed.

You might have noticed from the past few episodes that the outside of my home is looking a bit more complete than it did just a few months ago. I'm excited to show you what the finished product will look like once I'm able to start shingling and working on the cosmetic details.

The fruit of my hard work feels like it's right around the corner, even though there's so much left to do. As far as keeping the interior nice and cool, I'm already beginning to experience the benefits of advanced wall construction - I've been able to keep the interior relatively cool while I work, with just a window-mount air conditioner for now because the super tight envelope prevents warm air from infiltrating the interior space.

Next week, you'll get to learn more about the mechanical systems that will make real indoor comfort possible. Taco Senior Systems Engineer Rich Medairos will be paying me a visit at the job site to learn about my commercial-grade sprinkler system, air-to-air exchanger, and the other goodies in my mechanical room. Stay tuned!

What do you think about the techniques we used to build the walls of my new home? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Putting the AC in HVAC

Building a new home in the middle of the summer can be a sweltering experience. There have been days recently where I’ve been installing insulation in hundred degree temperatures, but what keeps me going is the prospect of being finished sooner and getting to relax in sublime indoor comfort.



When it comes to air conditioning, the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of us are the window units that we grew up with. But, there have been a lot of developments in the world of air conditioning since I grew up. Believe it or not, low-cost air conditioners only became widely available about 70 years ago - that’s really one lifetime ago. The next time it gets hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk, think about how lucky we are to enjoy such a convenience!

The U.S. Department of Energy has a section on their website about the history of air conditioning. Whether you work in the HVAC industry or you are just interested in how things came to be, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.

Some of the more important breakthroughs in air conditioning technology include the advent of central AC systems — these are standard features in many of today’s new homes, including mine. Another important milestone for air conditioning is the industry’s achievements in making air conditioning more environmentally friendly - most air conditioning systems developed after 1990 do not use ozone eating CFCs and must adhere to minimum efficiency standards.

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