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Anyone ever get an energy assessment or inspection to get increased heat efficiency?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by tickbitty, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. tickbitty

    tickbitty Minister of Fire

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    We have a fairly small brick ranch house and a decent sized stove. The heating could be better though. I think we have some insulation deficiencies and possibly a few other issues. When we moved in we used oil heat but the furnace croaked so we went to heat pump/AC installed in attic and added woodstove too. The whole way the house works has changed now, as the underside/crawl space of the foundation and the utility basement no longer have heat in them, and there's no insulation under the floor. We have some insulation in the attic, but got a new roof and I don't think the insulation up there is great either. So I just wondered if it would be worth it to have some kind of energy assessment this year to see if we could get some improvement in our heating/cooling efficiencies. Any of you ever try that?

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    A professional energy audit can be very helpful. They should do a blower door test which can uncover a lot of leaks.
  3. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Not all energy audits will include a blower door test. Our power utility company sent a man to our house to do an energy audit. Other than his cool infared heat sensing camera, the audit was of little benefit. He did give us a low flow showerhead for free but no blower test. I do believe that a blower test would be an excellent way to determine the tightness of your home, a quality that is impossible to see without a blower test.

    It is very easy to find out what insulation level you have in your home's attic, floor, and walls. Then it is also easy to find out what they should be. If different then make the upgrade.

    It is very easy to find out the efficiency ratings of your appliances and compare that to modern versions to consider return on investment for the upgrade.

    If you can get the audit done for free then I would say do it, nothing to lose. If you can pay a bit for a blower door test then that is even better.
  4. karl

    karl Minister of Fire

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    I have a friend who works for Weatherization Works. That's the government home insulation thing. He says the door test is great. He has hooked it up to houses and you could feel the breeze from the leaks. The one problem is that it finds the big leaks first and you don't notice all the little leaks unless you have a second one done. He's going to hook it up to my house in a few months. He told me to get some spray foam and go seal ever leak I can find. That way the house will be pretty tight when he comes and he'll be able to find all the small ones that I missed.
  5. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    NH has a great deal these days. Assuming exceed the current standard for energy consumption for the house, the audit is $100 and they do a blower door and multiple other tests. They also supply you with a contractor estimate to get the work done and rebate the $100 if you implement the recomendations and rebate 50% of the cost of the renovations. The only hassle is that you need to document the prior two years of energy use and since I cut and split my own wood I dont have receipts (but do have some oil receipts).

    I havent applied but plan to one of these days. I know I need my sills sprayed so if I can get 50% rebate its worth it.
  6. laynes69

    laynes69 Minister of Fire

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    We had a blower test done for free from our local electric co-op. I thought our home was fairly tight until they did the audit. What we found was the areas I was going to concentrate on werent leaky. It saved me time an allowed me to concentrate my efforts on the large leaks. Since then I airsealed our attic and various other places they recommend. I still need to hit the basement as well as a couple of rooms. Even though they rated our home drafty as a barn, there was a home a few miles away that was new and had more infiltration than ours. I didn't feel too bad then about our 150+ year old home. Whenever I get the problem areas finished, I want another one so I can see the difference. They didn't use an infared cam, which would have also been helpful. Either way it's a fine diagnostic tool that will allow you to see what needs done. It's made a good difference in our comfort and we still have room for improvement.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Both have their place. The blower door test checks for air leaks. The infrared imaging (FLIR) checks for heat radiation leaks. FLIR imaging is pretty good, but I would think that it would be most effective when done in winter to show the strongest thermal differences. The blower door test can be done all year.
  8. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    I had one done through my elec and nat gas provider. The subcontractor was great, put extra insulation in the attic, and insulated a few walls that I did not gut out when I bought the house. Airsealing was also done, which I was surprised to see some of the areas they found that leaked air. The blower door test was done before and after with great results. They also did a combustion test on the boiler to make sure the house still let in make-up air. About 3/4 of the insulation cost was paid by the utility. I found it well worth it.
  9. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    Any good insulator/energy auditor/contractor should be able to "see" how leaky a home is for all practical purposes. A photo taken by a realtor from the street is enough to rank most houses fairly accurately on a leakiness scale, a look through the attic and at the sill plate will detect most of the leaks that the blower door and camera will find.

    If you're the guy in MS heating with free wood, a blower door test is completely unnecesary. On the other hand, if you're spending most of your energy on AC in VA with ductwork in the attic... get the blower test.
  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    A street look is not going to tell you diddly about how well a house is sealed. Our house is 87 years old, but it has had a lot of work put into sealing leaks. Agreed that a good visual inspection of the areas mentioned, plus door and window sealing, outlet gaskets and inspection of other penetrations in the house envelope like recessed cans will provide a good start toward tightening up a house. This followed by a blower door test can find other places you may have missed.
  11. tickbitty

    tickbitty Minister of Fire

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    Thank you all very much for this input. I looked for some listings of folks who do this in my area, it does not appear to be very common - so I will keep looking.. I know we had an energy audit done where I work, but it was quite expensive (it also saved quite a bit of money though.) I will check into the energy companies, but it doesn't look like they do them.
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Your power company or nat gas co may have info. If not, check with your community associations or municipal govt.
  13. woodchip

    woodchip Minister of Fire

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    Our local council did an energy survey a while back using infrared pictures taken from an aircraft.

    The idea was that all the roofs around the area shown in red were emitting a lot of heat, and the blue roofs showed the well insulated houses.

    Our roof was nice and blue, but a neighbours shed was showing bright red.

    Just shows, if you are going to grow certain herbal plants in a shed, you really ought to insulate it well......... ;-)
  14. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    Got one a few years ago. Good deal. Identified several areas I would not have improved.
    Alaska had an energy policy to improve efficiencies.
    If you got the audit, did the recommendations, you got some reimbursed $$ for the audit & for the upgrades made.
    Fed gov. had one about then also with tax credits.
    Got a few new things done to the house & saved allot of money doing it. Still saving!

    Worth the expense; Yes!
    Even with out the incentives, if you upgrade & repair some heat loss areas identified in the inspection, it pays you back yearly, from now until you sell the house.
  15. I had an energy audit and blower door test done. When they cranked up the blower interior doors started slamming shut and you could easily feel all the problems spots.
    My house was/is considered leaky (6000 cfm at 50 pascal -- 3500 sq ft of living and 2100 in the basement)

    I am working on the problem areas (attic eaves intersection, sills and recessed lights) But I am not expecting huge payback. According to the auditor each cfm of air leakage that I can seal up will save me $3.35 over the next 30 years. So if I can cut the leakage to 3000 cfm at 50 pascal then I will save $10,050 over 30 years. Or $335 a year. Those numbers are before expenses and at todays energy costs.

    He went on to say there projections show that if I fixed all the problem areas than my oil consumption would be reduced but the bill would about the same due to rising energy costs.
  16. jimbom

    jimbom Combustion Analyzer

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    What a fun guy.
  17. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    Definitely to honest to be a politician, but you really do have to be specific when working with homeowners, the work will make the house more efficient, they won't necessarily have lower bills if the thermostat setting changes or if prices change or if the next winter is colder.
  18. jimbom

    jimbom Combustion Analyzer

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    I agree. Even when you are dead level accurate with your assessment, they often remember only what they wanted to hear, not what they were told. Too honest to be a politician - faint praise indeed.
  19. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Just keeping your oil bill the same in the face of rising oil costs is a major accomplishment. Had you done nothing, your heating cost would have risen along with the price of oil.

    Wasting expensive energy can be a business decision. You need good information and then you can decide on your course of action.

  20. I am planning to do the improvements -- but I was disappointed to hear there was not room for giant gains. Basically I will save the equivalent of about 100 gallons of oil. Which is a worthy goal, but if I were to hire the work I would spend more than I would save (at current prices)
  21. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Wait a minute. You might spend more than you save the first year but what about the next years? In ten years that 100 gallons of oil will be 1000 gallons. Does 1000 gallons of oil savings, even at current prices, pay for those one time efficiency investments?
  22. I am sure that I am not explaining this as well as the auditor did. But this is my understanding -- every cfm/at 50 pascal of air sealing that I do will result in a savings of $3.35 over 30 years or about 11 cents a year.

    The goal for my house is to cut the leakage in half. Which would result in a savings of $10,050 total over 30 years if energy costs stay even. Once you take into account the cost of doing the air sealing the savings are not that great. He felt that if I had someone do all the work it would cost "close to or more than" 10k

    The auditor was independent and I feel honest. My house is 8 years old and was built more or less to code. Plenty of insulation and typical lack of attention to air sealing when it was built. There were no great surprises such as walls missing insulation or giant holes in the thermal envelope. Just little details that add up. Which will be time consuming, dirty dusty work to fix.
    He was much more concerned with the basement and attic then the middle floors -- said that leaks at the top and bottom were exacerbated by the stack effect. If you can seal up the basement and attic then less cold air will be pulled through the living space.

    An example of one recommendation -- I have a bunch 25+ can lights in the vaulted ceiling and second floor ceiling. Said the fiberglass insulation needs to be removed from the joist bays in the vaulted ceiling that have can lights (use a piece of strapping with a hook on the end to pull out) and have dense pack blown in. In the attic remove the insulation around the lights and build boxes out of rigid foam around them, seal with spray foam, re insulate with loose fill.

    You can obviously play with the numbers and make the payback look better (or worse)
  23. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Crunching your numbers, with the assumption that your typical natural leakage is the 50 Pa rate divided by 20, and you have 5000 ddays of seasonal heating, you are losing 36 MMBTU/yr to air leakage. If you cut that in half, you would save 160 gals/yr, $500/yr, conservatively. Pretty much in line with your guy's estimate. The 30 yr thing seems specious, neglecting compound interest, which is favorable in this case.

    IMO, your leakage is pretty _low_ compared to old construction--I am estimating you at ACH_nat, natural air changes per hour = 0.5. My 1960s split level started out at ~1.3, and is now at 0.5 after a few years of DIY work. Starting to approach a diminishing return case.
  24. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    I can tell you what I found myself that would apply in your case.
    When I got a new roof they cut a ridge vent and my house felt colder.

    Since that is code now I needed a Code Heat fix! LOL

    So I did 2 things
    1. Installed a soffit strip vent, rafter vents and stapled foil over the rafter vents!

    2. The I built plywood doors to close up the Gable vents in the winter!

    What a difference those two items made! The snow does not melt and cause ice damns on the roof anymore and I am much warmer in the winter!
    The foil makes the whole house 10 Degrees cooler in the summer and the air conditioning works much more efficiently!!
    See my pics here >> http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/68155/
  25. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I just had one of these assessments done by Mass Save - which is our state outfit that does these funded by the utilities.

    They evaluate everything - insulation, sealing, windows, lighting, appliances, water use - but its just a visual check, at least the initial assessment. Improvements in insulation, air sealing and windows can be done directly through their contractors and subsidized. Small things like CFL bulbs and low flow faucets they give out free on the day of the inspection.

    In our case we already have CFLs, new appliances and storm windows so we concentrated on insulation. About 1/3 of my exterior walls are empty, and the finished second floor attic has only 2in of 1950s cellulose batts. They wrote up a proposal to insulate all of it - Dense pack cellulose blown into the walls and slope ceilings, loose fill in the attic floor and polyiso behind the second floor kneewalls. All with appropriate damming and air barriers put in. They are also going to do extensive air sealing before the insulation.

    In our case the insulation work to be done is quite extensive... the proposal I got:

    Insulation work & air sealing: $3500
    NSTAR incentives: $(2000)
    Out of pocket: $1500
    tax credit @ 10%: $(150)
    Net: $1350 - can be financed at 0% for 24 months

    Estimated yearly savings on gas/electric bills: $800

    I'm sure the savings estimate is high but even if its only half of that I'm still looking at a quick 3-4 year payback.

    I can either pick my own contractor or just let them take care of it in which case they do all the scheduling and the incentives get paid directly. Plus they re inspect after the job.

    They do a blower door after the improvements usually - but in my case they are giving me a hard time about that part because they are concerned about asbestos pipe insulation dust (even though I showed them that it was all professionally removed by an abatement firm 6 years ago).

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