A homeowner was referred to me as someone who might be able to help him solve a serious moisture problem in his home here in Central New York.  The caller’s home started out in the 1950s as what we near the Adirondacks refer to as a “camp,” but it had been greatly expanded and improved over the years, and such places are often really lovely.

 

He mentioned that the moisture problem is so severe that he has a commercial dehumidifier going 24/7/365 (366 in leap year), and he “sometimes opens all the doors to let the humidity out.”

 

“I see,” was the only thing I could possibly say.

 

My next move was to explain that I would need to visit the site and do a thorough evaluation in order to come up with what he could do to take control of the moisture level.  Once we had met and discussed the situation, I would provide him with a detailed written workscope to resolve his issues (God willing and the creek don’t rise).  This service would cost $X up front.

 

“$X!!!!” he exclaimed.  “Yes, sir," I replied. (My ear is still ringing a little bit.)

Once he stopped spluttering, he continued: “Now you’re going to do one of those tests with the big fan, right?” 

 

“Well, Sir,” I replied, “the blower door determines how much air leakage there is, and where those leaks are located.  In your case, we are looking for sources of moisture.  Based upon your description of what’s going on, I believe that the primary culprit is liquid water rather than air-borne water vapor.  My first step is to determine why there is so much moisture that a commercial dehumidifier does not control it.”

 

“But I need one of those air exchanger things,” he grumped. 

 

“I’ll be happy to come up and go over all this with you,” I said.

 

“$X and no big fan??  I’ll get back to you.”

 

Click.

 

I’m surprised in retrospect that he never asked if I was going to bring an infrared camera.

 

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Comment by Bud Poll on November 29, 2013 at 8:42am

Darn I love a challenge, but Colin is correct, unless you can take control of what you need to do it would be a mistake to guess with less.  A blower door is to us just as a stethoscope is to a doctor.  It lets us check the building's respiration and get to the heart of the problem.

The BD and IR also have a lot of additional benefits, but not sure he would be receptive to hear about them.

Be sure and let us know if you take on the job.

Bud

Comment by Colin Genge on November 28, 2013 at 2:36pm

Your response was totally reasonable and your clients was not.  Yet, how would he have reacted to a challenge from you something like "well so far you've spent about $xxxx dollars per year in wasted energy and if you don't get the job right, it may cost you another $xxx, xxx to rescue your rotted out walls so I guess it depends on how you look at the value. Some customers need to be challenged. 

Comment by Georg Reichard on November 8, 2013 at 10:02am

Thanks for sharing your story - entertaining (though admittedly not for you) and I believe very representative in regard to the misconception of "popular" equipment. I will share this with my students ...

... regarding infrared camera: there is actually an application for this. If you have bulk water intruding, e.g. under a floor or dripping into a wall etc., you can detect the actual occurrence of water with an infrared camera. If there is real water (and not only moisture) involved, there's typically some evaporation going on along the edges, which will show up as small colder(!) bands, where it actually gets warmer ... this has to do with the local evaporative cooling going on that can only come from water changing into vapor. So yes, there could be a use for the infrared camera - but I'd still leave the blower door at home ...

Best,

Georg 

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