The Making of

My interest in home energy came from my father who dabbled in solar and wind energy all his life.  He was also a Yankee inventor who made about anything that came to his mind: an excavator, a rope tow so we could ski on the hill behind our house, a log splitter, a solar porch.  The one he never got to was a windmill.  The telephone-pole tower he erected still stands on the hill where I grew up. 

I went to collage and tried to find the perfect career.  Since solving the world’s problems with inventions wasn’t a major, I decided to be a science teacher.  I taught physics and physical science for several years and left for the chance to pursue a patent I had for cold weather hand gear.  The idea was that you could keep your hands warm by adding heat to your blood rather than by insulating them.  It worked, sort of.  Field tests proved the human body was smarter than my system so only about half the people who used them felt any warmth at all.  I spent years studying human physiology and heat loss to make my invention better but ultimately had to shelve the idea.  The patent number is 6,268,595 if you’re curious. 

During that time, my brother hired a local expert to inspect my mother’s house for heat loss.  He showed up with an infrared camera, a blower door, and an infrared thermometer.  At one point during the process he handed the infrared thermometer to my wife because part of his style was to allow customers to play with some of the technical tools of the trade.  My wife still jokes today about how I ripped the thermometer right from her hands. 

The expert’s name is Henri Fennell and I eventually went to work for him in his insulation service company FOAM-TECH.  I started out managing residential insulation projects while I learned infrared thermography, fog testing, and blower door testing.    I am a quick study and was handed increasingly complex projects.   Today, I am one of the few people in New England that does multi-fan blower door testing for large buildings and pressure-balanced, or guarded, blower door testing for additions to existing buildings. 

I started because of my many interactions with clients.  I remember what I used to think about insulation and how simple it seemed.  If you need some you go to the building yard and buy the pink stuff.  If you need more, you buy more.   All you really needed to know was “wear gloves.”  The day that Henri showed up at my mom’s home began my ongoing education into just how complicated building insulation is.  Every day people call me in various stages of personal research trying to understand enough to make insulation decisions about their home.  Some call because they have a problem with their new home, others call because they want to make the right choices while building, and still others call because they want to reduce heating costs or improve comfort but don’t know where to start.  Most of them know, by the time they get to me, that insulation is not a simple thing.  With new building materials coming to market each year and demand for ever more efficient buildings, insulation decisions aren’t going to get any easier.  Insulating properly is becoming a technical profession and more and more owners, builders, and even insulators, need accurate advice about it. is designed to provide the latest knowledge of insulation and air sealing to homeowners and builders.  

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