March 23, 2018: Beware of Tradies In Your Attic

I need to get something off my chest… it’s been bothering me for YEARS and I’ve finally had enough. I’m talking about tradesmen who go up into an attic, move the insulation out of the way to get to what they need to work on, do their work and then leave.

Can you spot the tell-tale signs that there's been a tradie in this attic?

Can you spot the tell-tale signs that there’s been a tradie in this attic?

I took the above photo last year when I was doing an energy assessment on a house in Bundanoon and this is absolutely typical. Obviously an electrician has been up there to install the light (on the right-hand -side) and the bathroom exhaust fan (on the left-hand-side). As usual they’ve moved the insulation out of the way to get to the locations they needed and to access the wiring. They’ve done their thing and then they haven’t put the insulation back. (While I’m at it I might also point out that they’ve installed the bathroom fan in such a way that the outlet is pointing directly into the insulation. This means that all the warm humid air from the shower is blowing straight into one fibreglass batt… how long do you think it will be before that batt is saturated and mould starts to grow?… but that’s another rant.)

I wouldn’t mind so much if this was an unusual occurrence but this is an epidemic!

I’ve been in the building game for thirty years and for the last twenty I’ve been focused primarily on energy efficiency. I’ve done energy audits and assessments on hundreds of houses both in Australia and the US. And I can honestly say that I have seen this sort of thing in EVERY attic I’ve ever been in (except for the ones that had no insulation at all… and there are a surprising lot of those too!).

I’m perfectly serious… in every attic I’ve inspected I’ve found evidence that some tradesman (could be an electrician, a heating and cooling installer, a plumber, a cable TV guy, a solar installer, a roofer, a pest inspector… pretty much anyone who goes into attics) has moved the insulation and not put it back.

I’ve had enough! This has got to stop! Australian insulation jobs are generally not very good in the first place with gaps, cracks, folds and voids appearing all over the place (see our Newsletter from back in March 2016 for a whole other rant on that subject). The last thing we need is tradesmen (who really should know better) stuffing things up even more.

This attic in Epping

This attic in Epping was typically poorly insulated BEFORE the electrician got to it… now look at it!

Why do tradesmen not care about insulation?

I think it’s a symptom of poor training and a fragmented industry. Each tradesman is taught to know and care (if you’re lucky) about their own little link in the building chain and nothing else. Electricians know all about electrical codes and fire safety and circuit loads but they don’t know anything (and aren’t taught to care about) any other aspect of the building process. Likewise a plumber cares about plumbing, a roofer cares about roofing, and none of them give a hoot about what the other guy is doing. Insulation and energy efficiency are never seen as important. In fact they’re seen as unnecessary impediments to a quick and profitable turnaround. On most Australian building sites the job of installing the fibreglass batts (which, by the way, are not a very good way to insulate a building in the first place) is given to the least knowledgeable and most inexperienced person on the site. They’re given very little instruction on how to do it and told to get it done as quickly as possible. It’s seen as brainless and simple work to stuff a few batts into a few cavities and beside… no-one inspects it so WHO CARES!.

The truth is that doing a good job of insulating a wall or a ceiling (or particularly a floor… I ought to know because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks) requires experience, thought and care. Each piece has to be cut precisely to fit its space and installed so that it completely fills the cavity from front to back. It shouldn’t be folded or stuffed or squashed and there shouldn’t be any gaps, cracks or voids around the edges or between the batts. And most importantly it shouldn’t have some bozo tradie rip it out, toss it across the attic and not put it back when he’s finished.

This photo shows what a good insulation job should look like (ignore the gaps beside the old window because we're about to take it out and replace it with a new, double-glazed one).

This photo shows what a good insulation job should look like (ignore the gaps beside the old window because we’re about to take it out and replace it with a new, double-glazed one).

So how can you prevent tradies from stuffing up your attic insulation?

I suggest that any time you are considering hiring a tradesman to do ANY kind of work in your attic you send them an email (so you have it in writing) that says, ‘The insulation in my attic is very important to me and I need it to be kept in good condition. If your work requires you to move any insulation for any reason, I expect it to be put back the way you found it. After your job is finished (and before I pay you) I will be inspecting the attic to make sure the insulation is in perfect condition. If it isn’t I will expect you to come back and fix it or I will hire a specialist to do it and deduct the cost from your final payment. Thanks for being careful’. That should keep the bastards honest.

Here endeth the lesson.

On a Happier Note – Cheap, 3D Printed EV

The 3D printed LSEV from China

The 3D printed LSEV from China

I’ve been saying for quite a while that we need small, simple, affordable electric vehicles and they’ll probably be coming from China or India. Western car manufacturers seem irrevocably obsessed with making cars bigger, fancier, faster and more complex. I think they’re going to miss out on the lions share of the future car market because what people really need is something like this.

It’s the LSEV and it’s the love child of a Chinese 3D printing company and an Italian EV designer. As reported in this New Atlas article

According to Polymaker, all visible parts of the car except the chassis, seats and glass are 3D-printed. Taking this approach reportedly allowed the total number of separate parts to be reduced from a typical 2,000 to only 57 – that presumably doesn’t include things like the drivetrain. It also made possible a claimed complete vehicle weight of just 450 kg (992 lb)…

We’ve reached out to Polymaker for more details on the vehicle, and are still waiting to hear back. In a recent report from CNBC, however, it was stated that the car will be priced at approximately US$7,500, have a top speed of about 43 mph (69 km/h), and a battery range of 93 miles (150 km) per charge.

Cintia and I are pretty happy with our PHEV as a work vehicle and for longer trips, camping, etc. but this little beauty would be perfect for us as a second car for running around town. Of course it probably won’t be offered for sale in Australia but we live in hope.

Thanks for reading.

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