For information about our energy audit process, take a look at our YouTube video, What is a Home Energy Audit? -where Rich Dexter walks you through a real energy audit. You can also scroll down and see a detailed description of our process.
Here are some steps to explain what we do…
Step 1- Outside Perimeter Evaluation
A few minutes after arrival and introducing themselves, the Building Specialist will perform an outside perimeter check on the building. We evaluate the building’s shell and landscape to identify potential energy loss, moisture and safety concerns. We will inspect chimney and vent location and conditions when possible. Evaluate the roof /window shadings and determine the cardinal direction each side faces.
Step 2- You talk-We listen
Once inside, we would like to take some time to ask you more questions about your reason for the audit, your concern, any building retrofits and get a good idea on how energy is used in your home (i.e. How many times you use the dishwasher a week?) to help understand your behaviors and needs. This is a great opportunity to talk about the drafty and cold rooms in your house, share utility bills to determine usage better. We will then inspect the interior of the house, with you and your permission to evaluate potential moisture and safety concerns, air leakage sites and determining the thermal boundaries of your home. We will inspect and determine the efficiency of the appliance. We will note opportunities that will help you be more efficient with utility costs like lighting, thermostat controls, shading and moisture controls. We will also be measuring the buildings floor space and interior volume.
Step 3-Blower Door Testing
During the Comprehensive Audit, we are testing the air barrier and the house tightness. We set up the blower door and conduct a building depressurization test. In this test we use a calibrated fan that is set up at an exterior door. The fan will depressurize the house by pulling the air through the fan. When this happens, the leaks in the building will start to show by pulling air from outside to the inside. Sometimes the leaks are obvious in the house but more often they are hidden and we find them by using clues.
While the fan is running and collecting data, we will be looking throughout the house with our infrared camera, fog stick and other diagnostic equipment to test air pressures room to room.
The infrared camera can show a great image of temperature loss in areas like recessed lights, outlets, and windowsills by displaying a temperature range of the area in color or black and white. The hotter or colder the day, the more prominent the range will be on the image. The odorless fog stick can distinguish where air is penetrating by pushing a little smoke along an area like a windowsill and watching the fog smoke get quickly displaced at the leakage point. This is part of the audit where we love to have the homeowner participate and see the effects of this test. Our homeowners commonly exclaim phrases like “Holy Cow”, “Wow” and “Do that again” in their excitement. We will see leaks in attic hatches, closets, baseboards, plumbing outlets, electrical outlets and much more.
At the end of the test, we will know where your house leaks, how many times it changes air per hour and provide an initial estimate of how big the leak is by lumping all the holes into one. A good example of this would be that cumulative leaks in your house add up as if you has a 30×30 inch window open all year round!
Step 4- Top to Bottom Inspection
We start at the bottom (basement/crawlspaces) and work our way to the top evaluating the home. The top (attic) and bottom (basement) areas of the home is where the majority of savings can be found. This will require us to spend time carefully inspecting these areas. In the basement we will look for cracks,
moisture and areas of air infiltration. Where the frame of the house (sill plate, band/rim joist) meets the foundation of the building is the area of most air infiltration. Most of the time, we will see the need for air sealing and insulation around this area. If we do see evidence of moisture concerns we will examine to find out the source.
During the attic inspection we will determine air leakage by inspecting for proper ventilation, insulation levels and condition, duct work and vent pipe condition and ceiling seams between the drywall and interior/exterior walls. This can be a big culprit of energy loss. The attic hatch and whole house fans tend to be significant contributors to air leakage and we can provide solutions to those items. TIP-One of the best ways to determine if a house has good/adequate insulation from the outside. Whatever roof on the block that has snow the longest, has the best insulation!
Step 5- Additional Testing
We also provide Combustion Safety and Efficiency testing of all combustion appliances, Appliance consumption testing and an HVAC diagnosis. The Combustion Safety and Efficiency test is performed by using calibrated combustion analyzers to evaluate equipment efficiency and safety. We test for back drafting, flame roll out, carbon monoxide and gas leakage. Our Appliance consumption tests will show you how much each appliance costs you to run for a month or year. We evaluate your HVAC (Heating-Vent-Air conditioning) equipment and water heater to make sure that it is running correctly and producing maximum efficiency.
Step 6- The Results
Our Building Specialists will analyze all the information collected from the audit and spend time entering the data in to our software program to “model” the home. The Building Specialist will then provide a report detailing the home’s performance in efficiency, safety, durability and health. Infrared images (Comprehensive Audit) will show the areas of greatest concern. The report will provide a list of recommendations to the homeowner in order of priority, payback and cost effectiveness in mind. The report is about 8-10 pages for an Efficiency Audit to 20-25 pages for the Comprehensive Audit and is downloaded to a CD for convenience while saving a few trees in the process. The report will be delivered within a week of the audit date.