Opt for an Energy Audit Before Tackling Home Upgrade Projects

May 30, 2015
Ross and Witmer

Investing in a home energy audit before you start to plan home improvements and upgrades could make your home even more comfortable and enjoyable. Energy audits uncover areas where your home is leaking air or experiencing thermal losses, both of which raise energy bills whenever your home needs cooling or heating. After the audit, you’ll know exactly where you can make improvements that may not require a large investment in either time or money, but will save your energy dollars for years to come.

Who Performs Energy Audits?

Licensed energy auditors and HVAC contractors find the weak points in your home that contribute to higher energy costs. They will visually inspect your home for obvious issues, discuss your energy consumption and habits, and then delve more deeply into the hidden aspects of your home using specialized equipment.

The Blower Door Test

The centerpiece of the home energy audit is the blower door test. The blower door houses air pressure gauges and a powerful fan that pulls the air from your home. As it does, the air pressure drops and the team calculates the amount of air infiltration you have based on how quickly and far the pressure falls.

Homes that are tight lose pressure much faster since there are few places where air can enter. A home with a leaky envelope won’t lose as much air pressure because the suction the fan creates pulls air in through all its cracks and gaps.

Identifying Leakage and Thermal Losses

The gauges on the blower door show the extent of air infiltration, as well as the visual inspection. The auditors use thermographic devices to discover precisely where the leaks are. The most common places include:

  • Window and exterior door frames
  • Areas around the foundation, the sill plate and joints between exterior walls and ceilings
  • Warped fireplace dampers
  • Any place where pipes, cables or wires enter your home
  • Vents for exhaust fans, dryers, the furnace and plumbing

The air leaks will show up easily using the thermal cameras during the home energy audit and show you exactly where to seal those leaks before or during the home improvement project.

The cameras also show the places where the insulation is inadequate. If the outdoor and indoor temperatures are similar, the auditing team may ask you to use the HVAC system to increase the temperature difference between the outside and inside.

The thermographic cameras sense heat differences, and depending on the season, inadequate insulation will show as blue and green hues or yellow and red. Over time, insulation can shift, lose its insulating properties because of mold or moisture, or may be missing in some places entirely. If your attic has inadequate insulation, you’ll experience excessive heat gain or loss year-round.

Detecting Ductwork Problems

When an HVAC contractor conducts home energy audits, he or she will test the ductwork in your home for leakage and insulation. Duct leaks can drive energy costs up significantly since the air you’ve paid to condition leaves the ducts before it reaches its destination. If your ducts are uninsulated and run through the attic, a basement or crawl space, they’re also gaining or losing heat, which adds to conditioning costs.

Using the Results

After the home energy audit is over, auditors will give you a copy of the report that lists the issues and their locations that the assessment turns up. You or your home upgrade contractor can use the information to seal the air leaks, apply weatherstripping and add insulation. The audit may also help you establish priorities based on the degree to which the changes lower your energy consumption.

Problems with the ductwork almost always call for immediate attention, since leaks not only increase energy losses, but also lower indoor air quality. If you have any vented gas appliances, the leaks can backdraft harmful and potentially deadly carbon monoxide gas into your home’s air.

Learn more about Ross & Witmer’s home energy audit services, or call us today at 704-392-6188.

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