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How Do I Get An Energy Audit Done?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by thephotohound, Aug 6, 2007.

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  1. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    I hear everyone speaking so highly of energy audits (the ones with the vacuum machine and infrared). I'm working on sealing my house up before the snow flies, and I was wondering who to contact to get one done (for free, hopefully!)... any ideas?

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  2. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Contact you utility providers they at yomes offer the audit free of charge to their customers
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  4. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I just contacted MassSave (http://www.masssave.com/) and I have an appointment in Sept. For anyone else in Mass., this seems pretty thorough - 1-1/2 hrs to check insulation, appliances, furnace, etc. I'll probably have to go elsewhere to have the infrared done for leaks, but this is definitely a step in the right direction!
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good plan, keep us posted and take pics if possible.

    Pressure testing the house is for leaks. The infrared scan shows up insulation issues.
  6. karl

    karl Minister of Fire

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    I saw them do one on tv once. It was a DIY show. Basically they came in and opened the front door and put a huge fan in the doorway and then sealed the door with plastic and tape. Then they went around the house looking for drafts. It seems to me that someone could do this themselves pretty easily. I think they used some incense sticks to help see where the air was coming in.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You're right Karl, you can rent one of these fans from a rental shop. Use it to create a large negative pressure in the house by blowing outward, then methodically seek out where air is infiltrating. Incense sticks or punks work well. Temporarily plug up the flue first - and put a big not on it to unplug when done.
  8. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    That's a really good point. I have a commercial sized fan that I could set up... I'll keep you posted.
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  10. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    GREAT article. Thanks!
  11. senorFrog

    senorFrog New Member

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    I just did one in MASS. I wasn't that impressed.

    Things you can take advatage of, in MASS:
    o They'll replace all your lightbulbs except in closets, attic and basement
    o Up to $800 rebate on new heating system, not including hot water heater
    o Up to $25 rebate on programable thermostat
    o $10 rebate on every window replaced
    o Low financing for some improvements

    I think they could make this program much better by including replacing things such as doors, storm doors, storm windows & hot water heaters.

    BTW, this isn't free, you pay a slight surcharge/KW on every bill to fund this.
  12. New England Energy Audit

    New England Energy Audit New Member

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    FYI-I perform professional Home Energy Audits in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. My company is New England Energy Audit. I am not sure if I am allowed to say this or not? If not -sorry!
  13. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    NEEA...Welcome to the forum...

    I'm pretty sure the Webmaster won't have objections "to a plug or two" so long as you "keep it 'low key'..."

    Personally, I look forward to your comments and input.... Always like to hear the variety of folks "Chime in".

    So a ? for ya??? How does someone go about having an audit done???

    Who schedules' it? Who pays for it? What items do you cover on an 'audit'....

    This kind of interests me...

    Once again...welcome to the forum.
  14. New England Energy Audit

    New England Energy Audit New Member

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    As for who schedules it - The Energy Audits I do are because a homeowner or landlord contacts me. The free audits that are done through the utilities are usually scheduled between the customer and the utility company. Also the free audits are usually only visual, i.e. no blower door test, etc. So for me the contract is between the homowner and myself, I get paid by them at the time of the site visit.

    As for what it entails. I do a basement to attic assessment of the home. I interview the homeowner to get some ideas as to what's going on in their home, cold rooms, moisture, the list goes on. I review their heating and electric costs for the past 12-24 months. I perform a blower door test, which is the most telling test one can do. People always think insulation is their problem, but air infiltration is about 50% of it, when it comes to heat loss. After the physical audit, I prepare a written report. This report prioritizes what the energy improvements of the house ought to be. Everyone wants to think it's their windows - usually not. The written report gives the customer close approximations of what savings ($, gal, KWh) can be realized per improvement. This report is specific enough that their home contractor should be able to follow it as though it is a work order.

    I stay away from the one-stop-shopping approach, where I sell the home improvements too, This can sometimes make for biased report. Since I have nothing to gain by work being done after the audit, there is no conflict of interest. I will work with a homeowners contractor to get the tasks completed. Hope that answers the questions. Thanks for asking

    I also meter appliances like the refrigerator or freezer, especially if that appliance is older than 1995
  15. senorFrog

    senorFrog New Member

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    As posted above, I did the "free" audit and it was okay. BTW, it's not "free", check your electric bill. It was better than nothing and basically confirmed the improvements I made.

    This audit seems more like what I'm after. If there are no objections from Web or Site Policy, would you mind posting a website and the typical cost for an audit. Do you do these personally? Are there travel expenses involved? MA, NH, ME is a large area.
  16. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Well, I had the audit done. It was OK. He was a hell of a nice guy, but didn;t really tell me much I didn't know already (mostly by reading this forum!!). He did, however, replace about 5-6 bulbs with CFL's (I must have missed those!), and offered a bunch of rebates on furnaces, windows, etx (like Senor Frog said). He did give me one good thip, though - in my attic, there's an area where warm air is leaking, as evidenced by a black stain on the kneewall insulation. He recommended simply attaching extruded polystyrene perpendicular to the studs, right over the existing insulation. Makes sense... Besides that, not much to speak of.

    I will definitely still do my own pressure test pretty soon to check for leaks. I think I already know the main areas to hit, but this will show me everything.
  17. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    So where does most of this air infiltration take place anyways? My project for the year is a set of window inserts. Plexiglass inner storm windows. I thought of the idea all on my own based on feeling the outside of my daughters fish tank and doing some looking around. Of course after I designed what we needed didn't I discover that someone already made them. For the $100 + for each window I can and will surely make my own. One thing that did surely impress me was how much better insulator plexi is than any sort of glass. Those CFL lights are a must with the cost of em these days, they even light fast. They still don't much fill the bill outdoors though much after October. Sams club sells a neat spot light for a not so ugly price. Give it about 30 seconds and the CFL inside will light up the porch just as well as its 80 watt counterpart. Still, come winter they come back inside. I remember all too well how fast the tubes in my flourescent lights burned out using them in the winter. I somehow doubt they will act any different as starting at -20 is plumb brutal on those lights. I keep waiting for LED lights to get to where they fill that bill. Sorry if I hijacked your thread.
  18. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Not at all... I notice the same thing about the CFL's. They absolutely do light up just as bright after a few seconds outside. The only place I can't use them is the bathroom. They give off this yellowish glow that my wife can't stand, so we use the GE Reveal bulbs in there instead. Other than that, it's CFL all around!

    As for the air infiltration, I get it mostly around window casements, where the drywall meets the floor, behind the floor molding, and also around recessed lights.
  19. New England Energy Audit

    New England Energy Audit New Member

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    I hope I am not breaking the rules, but in response to Senor Frog, my website is www.newenglandenergyaudit.com Feel free to email or telephone me for further info anytime. My charges are posted on my website. I personally do the audits.
  20. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Because of the stack effect, the most important place to air seal is the attic, followed by the basement (again because of stack effect), then lastly seal around the main living space. Sort of like the rule if your hands & feet are cold wear a hat.

    I found my biggest leaks by turning on my house fan and walking around with punk you call it incense and feeling where the drafts were coming in. My results were, my outlets even those on the inside walls were streaming in tons of air from my unheated basement. After going to HD and picking up those outlet foam insulation things that go under the outlet covers at about 1/2 the cost as my local hardware store I found out why they're half price. They're 1/2 as thick and all 1/2" too short and being too short are totally useless, Home Depots are too cheaply made to be effective. So, went to HD bring those back and got some at my local hardware store and they were thicker and didn't gimp on the length like Home Cheapo. After putting those gaskets in they reduced things but I still had significant air flow coming in the outlets, through the slots things plug in. I got all my outlets at Home Cheapo so, maybe it's another way they cut costs and offer inferior products their outlets are damn leaky through the slots when things aren't plugged in. Fortunately the insulation kit from my local hardware store came with "child proof" covers which I didn't need but after finding out how leaky the slots were I put those in which fixed the outlet air leakage. My other major air infiltration problem was around my windows, where the trim went against the drywall. There was a lot of air sneaking inbetween the window trim & drywall. Some windows where the trim was not perfectly tight against the drywall were extremely leaky. Sealed those all up with painters caulk, and painted over the painters caulk (it collects dirt & crap if not painted over afterward), and sealed any other seams I could find.

    I had some original windows in my house which leaked so much they were pointless to try to fix and broken anyway, couldn't exactly be shut. I purchased some window plastic and covered them. They were so bad, the plastic (fastened with double-sided tape) couldn't hold the air leakage back and blew off. I ended up using 1" wide double-sided tape which held for most of the winter eventually the tape dried out and let go and the aftermath was the tape stained the trim. So recently I replaced the original windows with high efficiency replacement ones. Replacing windows BTW is usually a poor place to save energy, they cost a lot of money and you get very little improvement. There's a company that offers you the difference in your heating if their replacement windows don't cut your heating bills by 50%, I can't see how replacing windows would ever amount to that much savings I think replacing the windows are more in the ballpark of 5%. I think that company depend most won't notice or won't file the claim. You normally choose to put replacements because the ones there are broken and need to be replaced/repaired anyway or reasons like convenience, or simply because your original ones won't shut and leak so bad you have to put plastic over them and that plastic drives your wife nuts. The plastic/wife reason was my case. As long as you caulk around the trim of your windows you've stopped a major source of air leakage. I'd get yourself one "window" sealing plastic kit and on a cold windy day cover a window to see just how bad it is. The plastic will inflate like a balloon, if it pops the double-sided tape it may be time to replace the window. Some of my original 1962 casement windows didn't leak at all, putting up the plastic it inflated slightly from the pressure difference and didn't budge the whole year no matter how windy or nothing. I replaced those windows simply so they'd match the others and chances are my new ones are more leaky (double-hung are more leaky than casements). But, don't keep the tape on too long else it will stain the trim or the glue of the tape will become a permenant part of the trim. I needed to paint the trim anyway so I scraped what I could off, sanded, and painted and looks good as new.
  21. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Rhonemas, I installed anderson 400 windows in a 1957 ranch with original single pane and storm(in good shape) and I can tell you that it made an incredible difference. The colder it is the bigger the difference. I used to get ice on the windows...now clear and warm. My bedroom use to be 9+ degrees cooler than the stove room. Now it is 1 degree, 2 if it is below 0. I do agree with your attic viewpoint. I made essentially a dow board box missing 1 side to fit over it from the top before the ladder section closed and it works great!
  22. New England Energy Audit

    New England Energy Audit New Member

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    Windows 9 out of 10 times are not the real source of air infiltration. If they were the window companies would be utilizing the same diagnostic tests that we do, i.e. blower door. The culprit is usually the framing around the window, (lack of insulation and caulking). The best R value one usually gets from a window is around 3.8 or so. Windows are great aesthetically however, for every square foot of glass, it cost you about 1 gallon of oil annually. I recommend window treatments to up that R-value. If anyone wants a great article on windows e-mail me and I will forward it to you. The frosting on the windows usually comes from moisture inside the home, which can be reduced by using mechanical ventilation, i.e. bathroom/kitchen exhaust fans. Be careful thinking windows will solve all your problems. They certainly may be the problem in a few homes, but they have a very long payback period, because of their expense.
  23. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    I've got a program that calculates the effect of improvements. It really shocked me as well. The U-Value of your windows (I looked it up) is 0.32 which translates to them being R3.125. I ran that through my program that calculates heat savings based on the sq ft improvement and ones area they live (Heating Degree Days & Cooling Degree Days) and told it I lived in Madison Wisconsin. It came up with per square foot of window one can expect to save 32,400 btu's for heating/year and 2,592 btu's for cooling going from R2 to R3.125 in Madison. My house is a ranch with 130 sq ft window area and would save 4,212,000 btu's for heating and 336,960 btu's cooling/year doing that. That's a savings/year of

    1,243 kW if heat with electricity (savings of $263.33/year)
    40.11 gallons oil/year if heating with oil (savings of $139.95/year at $3/gallon & 75% efficient boiler)
    0.31 tons pellets (savings of $110.60/year at $250/ton & 85% efficiency)
    0.22 cords wood (savings of $60.73/year at $185/cord & 70% efficiency)

    My replacements cost me over $6000 and since I heat with wood I should expect a savings of $61/year it's about 100 year payback, maybe take 25 years off for energy cost increases, inflation, etc. Super insulated windows on the south side of ones house can increase energy use. They block the free heat from the sun in winter, as long as you have tight fitting shades/blinds you close at night the south ones are best simply being double-pane without Low-E nor Argon (which also fades fabrics), and get the insulated ones for the other sides. As a tip screens should be removed on south windows for winter they can block up to 50% of the suns free energy.

    I'm not saying they're a bad investment, even after I calculated my payback I don't look back one bit. They improved the look of the inside of my house drastically (in large part I don't use plastic over the windows), there's less noise, and we love how easy they clean. My program does not tell how much your comfort is improved and the effects of what's called "Mean radiant temperature" which I think is what you and I experienced after replacing (y)our windows. The mean radiant temperature above all else determines ones comfort more so than air temperature. For every 1 degree you lower the mean radiant temperature you need to raise the air temperature 1.3 - 1.4 degrees to feel the same comfort. So, in a room with a lot of windows or a seat near a window if your window surface temp is 10F warmer that room/seat will feel significantly more comfortable even though the air temp is still the same. Masonry heaters, and radiant floor heating take advantage of this phenomina letting you feel comfortable at lower air temps.
  24. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    I think the other guy hit it on the head, a lot of heat loss arround the windows as well. I have low E and I notice an incredible difference. I replaced just the living room windows ( a lot of windows) one year while heating with gas, the next year in January we actually had the same # of heating degree days and my bill (usage) was down about 10%. Even if there is a fudge factor there it has to be 8+ percent lower. I think the glass just gives off cold and the gap arround the frame did its share too. I don't doubt you, just the program. I don't believe in a one size fits all. Some of the info you present is very interesting though. Just for grins, I approx 175 sq ft of windows going to double pane low E from single pane. What do you calculate?

    P.S. You hit it on the head, I want my family to be comfortable. I now solely heat with wood and the natural gas bill is about 30-35 bucks a month.
  25. burntime

    burntime New Member

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