Bob Fassbender's blog

I like BigASSfans and I cannot lie

Posted on: December 13, 2012

Okay, so along the lines of industry standouts, a company that I would personally promote is Big-Ass-Fans 

As I mentioned in the blog on Trane Centravacs, I'm not getting paid to promote them, and I really have nothing to gain personally, and will probably get the hate mail along as BigAssFans does (which they handle with hilarity) However, I have a few reasons to like them, some technical, some simple.

1) What's in a Name?

As Shakespeare said - "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet"... The analogy applied to big-ass-fans, sort of.... stinks? In this case, everything is in the name, and the selection of the name was pure genius, indicating that the company was founded by a sharp mind. Humor in the HVAC industry is extremely tough, and it took some serious gonads to file the company under that name. It caused quite a stir at first, which ultimately paid back. Thus, it was pure genius at it's inception. See the video they made at the bottom.

2) Efficiency and appearance

"the fan does spin with little bitty waste, and a round thing in your face..." Big Ass Fans operate at top efficiency in the industry, and they also have some of the sharpest looking fans. I'm not an interior designer, but "I'm hooked and I can't stop staring"... check this out for yourself

3) Acoustics-

Perhaps the quietest industrial fans available. At under 55 dB (at peak speed), you can hardly hear them at a distance of 20 ft.

Why Trane Chillers Kick Ash

Posted on: November 14, 2012

Just so you know, nobody is paying me to write this - and I'm not affiliated with Trane, but a number of you have asked us, "what equipment really stands out in the industry?" I don't want to detract from many great products - there are many awesome products out there made by a multitude of companies. But, since so many of you asked, I will tell you the truth - there's no denying, you certainly can't stop a Trane chiller. (For those of you who don't know what a chiller is; think of a giant air conditioner that produces cold water). Chillers are essential for cooling large buildings, and they are very important for energy modeling - and I’m always glad when I see Trane Chillers - because it usually makes it easier to get LEED points (not just EAc1, but also EAc4). 

And with near zero refrigerant leak and ultra-low CO2 production - Trane chillers kick Ash.

Chillers are really simple to explain, but really, really complicated to make (though it actually looks easy when you see how it’s done). Trane has this down to Chiller Science (which literally might be on par with rocket science). But, there's a few reasons that Trane Centravac chillers are "leading" the way, and I want to list 7 of them as simply as possible

1) No Leakers Allowed

They operate at below atmospheric pressure.This means they basically can't leak, because air leaks into them, instead of refrigerant leaking out. Of course, nothing is perfect when it comes to leakage, but Trane centravacs are Nearly Net-zero when it comes to leakage.

2) Super -Efficiency

Energy modeling mentioned in Presidential Debate?

Posted on: October 15, 2012

The other morning I was watching the news on the Vice Presidential debate, and the TV screen was panning across a document that cited ENERGY MODELING! Now, I had only watched part of the debate, so this really gauged my interest, "How did building energy simulation [energy modeling] tie into the debate?

For those of you who watched it or didn't watch it. The debate (according to Twitter) went something like this:

Biden: Haha, my friend (big smile)
Ryan : Gulp, Gulp (drinking water)
Biden: [Interuppting] That's Mathematically Impossible
Ryan: [more math than most energy models]


[Okay, let's get serious. The relevant conversation went something like this:]

Ryan:  Where did all the wasted stimulus money go? 
Biden : Funny you mention that, since I have several letters from you asking for stimulus money.
Ryan: We always ask for grant money for non-partisan groups - who ask for grant money from both parties.

Fact Check:

How to match Utility Bills in an Energy model

Posted on: October 12, 2012

In energy modeling, a lot of you have asked about how to match utility bills (because the owner requested that they match). In many cases, this is quite difficult, and experience is really the best tool.

Why is it so difficult? The reason is that when you change 1 item in an energy model, it might impact everything else. For instance, if you choose a smaller  sized fan, (assuming a VAV fan) you might increase your fan energy, because the fan does less unloading, and then you create more heat, which causes more cooling and a bit less heating. Complicated huh? I have helped a huge number of people match rates, and I know first hand that this can be very complicated, but for most cases we can solve the problem with 4 key factors (in climates with a heating season and cooling season - in cooling or heating only, it’s actually easier to solve anyway):

4 Important factors in the energy model

1) July Energy Bill (is it high or low?)

2) January Energy Bill (is it high or low)

3) Peak Energy use (month to month)

4) Annual Bill (high, low, or even)

From these four details, you can match most projects:

Example 1: 

1) July bill is higher than reality

2) January gas bill is lower than reality (if you have electric heat, you may find that that the electric bill is correct in January)

3) Peak Energy (demand) is more steady than reality

4) Annual Bill is not too far off but slightly high


The receptacle loads or lighting loads are probably too high. 


Lights and receptacles give off heat, and consume energy. 

1) This will increase the cooling load and thus your July bill will be high. 

How to Save Energy

Posted on: August 23, 2012

If you google “How to save energy” - most of the results you get are either  common sense  - or only half true. I just read one that said to make sure that you "air dry" dishes instead of heating them. Really? Reading between the lines, you are basically saying that you think your clients are stupid? It's time we start giving credit to people asking this question.

Here at, we study “How to save energy” for a living, and we know that it’s not always cut and dry, and we're pretty sure that most of you are smart enough to understand more than "Change your lightbulbs"

For instance, did you know that for most of  U.S.A. - adding insulation can actually INCREASE your energy usage? (It’s all about getting the “sweet spot” read more here)

Or how about this? - in a college dorm room - with electric heat, it doesn’t save any energy to switch to fluorescent bulbs? (Wouldn’t this have settled a lot of fights over who left the lights on?)

So, how do you save energy? Well, the real way to save energy is to first get a handle on how energy Interacts and costs you money.

These are the 8 key factors on how to save energy:

  1. Your climate (how much does your air conditioner run vs. your heater?)
  2. Gas vs. Electric (if you have electric heat - this changes everything!)
  3. Windows and Blinds (Light, leakage, and heat gain)
  4. Lights (produce heat and light)
  5. Electric equipment (Spins the meter and produces heat)
  6. Hot water usage (This can be half your bill)
  7. The Sun

Beat the Heat - How to save energy - In hot weather

Posted on: July 16, 2012

Call me an energy nerd.... I've read tons of articles on saving energy, and they involve buying various gadgets (many of which I own), but what I am going to list here is 5 things (actually 6) you can do to your own house that take only a few minutes (most of them) and that are basically free.  The goal here is to keep the house cool, without unnecessary effort and for free! 

1) Blinds or Drapes

Common sense tells you to keep your blinds closed on a hot sunny day. This lowers your solar gains, as well as gives better insulation, but there's more too it than just closing them.

  • If you have slat blinds - adjust them so the top of each slat is pointing towards the window ( like this "/"). Otherwise, more hot air is "pushed" into your house via convection.
  • Keep the blinds completely closed to avoid convection
  • Some blinds have a light/dark side. Keep the light side facing outside
  • If the light is needed Consider keeping your blinds open in shaded areas (ie the north side). This relates to number 4.

2) Grill out!

  • This is the easiest one on our list to follow. Please don't start any wildfires, but grilling outside (in the shade) is advantageous for several reasons
  • Cooking produces a lot of heat and also a lot of steam. Excess moisture in your house makes it feel warmer than it is. So, grilling outside can both eliminate the heat, and the moisture that enters your house via cooking.
  • An even better solution is to simply eat cold foods (cold cuts, fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, dairy, etc)

3) Keeps unnecessary lights and pilot lights off!

Top 5 Energy Innovations

Posted on: June 20, 2012

Let's face it: There is no current  end-all solution to our dependence on fossil fuels. That means, an end-all solution requires imagination and innovation. LEED has recognized the importance of creativity and gives points based on innovation. That was a pretty good idea especially since the HVAC and automobile industry are often criticized for lack of inspiration.

I suppose, collectively, we have been riding the genius of Willis Carrier and Henry Ford for about 100 years, but there hasn't been a need to fix anything (it it ain't broke, don't fix it)
So, despite the missing "end-all" solution - if there is one - there have been some awesome innovations regarding energy efficiency. Let's mention 5 of them

(Warning - None of these go to the automobile industry - don't even argue with me on this - Hybrid cars? whoop-de-doo!...Billions in bailout dollars and they come up with.... the Chevy volt?) :

#5 LED light bulbs

If you look at the light bulb, it was invented only 23 years before the air conditioner (1879 vs 1902). Yet, the technology has changed greatly. LED's seem to be very promising, and are really quite new to the commercial market, plus most of us are grateful for our lightweight and efficient LED TV's. This could easily be listed as #1, because, by the way, LED lights last a very long time.

Learn More: Geobulb

#4 Super efficiency Chillers


Magnet's are pretty much the foundation of the Electric revolution. Daikin McQuay came up with a "cool" concept of implementing a levitating bearing to reduce friction and make their chillers more efficient. 


10 Reasons TRACE 700 is great for LEED

Posted on: March 9, 2012

So, you're into energy-modeling, and you're probably not that happy with the program you use, or you think it's buggy, or whatever. Maybe you want to get into energy-modeling, and you don't know what to choose.

Soo many options.... Which one do I chose? 

Heck folks, if I knew which one to bet on, I might be able to get some sleep, instead of staying up trying to stay updated on everything.

Something that interests me is that A LOT of folks call us here at and ask about what software to choose. I've noticed 5 things that seem important to people:

  1. Credibility (Do other people recognize the name?)
  2. Accuracy (Can I trust it's output?)
  3. Longevity (Is it going to still be used in a few year?)
  4. Standards (Is it accepted for LEED, 179D, etc?)
  5. Cost (is it worth buying it?)

Since this article focuses on TRACE 700, the answer to questions 1-4 is "Yes, absolutely".

The answer to 5 depends on your point of view, I suppose. Now, the way I see it, if you hire an energy-modeler, it often costs $100/hour or more and something like unmet hours can cost you easily 20 hours (I've seen people spend weeks on them). So, the cost is actually a pretty minor issue in my opinion. The annual cost of TRACE after your first purchase is less than a good day's wage for an energy modeler.

So the answer to 5 is YES. </p> 
Now, that we answered the questions that most people have, let's look at how it works with LEED.

6.  Automatic Fan calculations

TRACE 700 + LEED - step by step course

Posted on: March 7, 2012

Losing sleep because of LEED?

Or do you just think LEED modeling is a pain in the ass? Maybe you find it easy, but for some reason you are still getting comments from LEED reviewers?

I've been teaching TRACE 700 + LEED for over 4 years now, and I have never met someone who didn't have more to learn (though I've met about 200 people who think they knew everything!)

LET'S FACE IT: You Don't know what you don't know

By popular demand, we have completed a "step by step" LEED + TRACE 700 course. It's a course unlike any other - we dive right in. Plus, we have a massive cheat sheet to help you stick to the "process". See, that's the key with LEED modeling - have a process, but the process needs to have some flexibility.  That's what we cover in this course.

In this course, we walk through a LEED Model from start to finish, step by step by step. But, we skip the boring part of setting up the model (we have a video available if you wish to watch this part though).

So, we start with a Load Design model, convert it to an energy-model for LEED, then we create the LEED baseline building, troubleshoot, and prepare for submittal.

We also take on the big questions, like "How much do I charge for a LEED model?" or "How long does a LEED model take?

As a special bonus, you will get listed in our database of TRACE 700 LEED modelers once you pass the final exam. Since I've met so many people who think they are the best, we are also going to be featuring the highest scorers (with their permission of course). Thus, we can really find out who is a super-skilled TRACE 700 ninja.

What is Energy? A look at Naked energy

Posted on: March 4, 2012

What is Energy?

For all the talk about saving energy nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be enough talk about energy itself. What is Energy anyway? Well, I can hear a bunch of nerds reading this saying “Energy is the ability to do work”. By the way - that’s not a definition, that’s idiocy. It’s like asking, “What is an automobile?” and then answering, “an automobile is the ability to drive”. Get my point?

So, I ask again, what is energy? What is energy not hidden behind matter (naked energy, so to speak)? Does anybody really know? Well, the last great Scientist, Einstein, was famous for an equation about energy. However, that equation answered the question - What is matter? The answer of course being “Energy”. So, we know that that matter is made of energy, and therefore matter and energy are made of the same thing.

Then, what is this “thing” that makes up matter AND energy? Well, nobody really has an answer. Stephen Hawking (not a great scientist) has pretended to know since 1975, but if he actually did know, we would have hover cars by now. Furthermore, his answer (or the answer of other physicists) is such that most people cannot even follow the logic.

I will simplify the logic here. Basically, most conventional science tells us that matter and energy are made of “mass”, but not the conventional type of mass that has weight. By mass, they mean some tiny strange particles (or strings as some will say) that show resistance when attempting to change their direction (even light “pushes” on something when it hits it - search the internet for ‘solar sail’ for more information).