14 Dec
2011

Home Energy Audits – Home Energy Assessments

Posted by Norman Fong

Housing accounts for 20% of total US energy use with heating a cooling consuming a whopping 44% of residential energy use.

Home Energy Audits or Home Energy Assessments can help pinpoint energy problems in your home and offer you fixes that will save you energy and money. These professionals should provide you with analysis of your home, a list of items that need fixing, the cost to fix them, and the estimated cost savings.

We recently had a Home Energy Audit done, to comply with the Energy Upgrade California Rebate Program. Being environmentally conscious, we wanted to ensure everything in to save energy.

SDI Energy Audit November 2011

We had to choose a contractor that was on the approved list for Energy Upgrade California. SDI of Burlingame, California was selected because they seemed pretty thorough, knew about the rebates, and were priced reasonably at $500.

The company was pretty thorough with their energy audit and performed the following tests:

  1. We provided statistics regarding our home, including one year of PG&E bills
  2. They photographed and mapped out the entire house
  3. We voiced our concerns over problem areas and upgrade interests
  4. They identified all air vents and sealed them to perform duct pressure test. This checks to see how much our ducts leak by blowing air into the return
  5. Gas and carbon monoxide leak tests – appliances, water heater, heater, stove. This actually found a leak by the water heater and the heater, which PG&E fixed for free.
  6. They performed a 64 point combustion safety test
  7. Combustion gas test with all fans turned on, doors set to worst case, they attempted to find whether gases or carbon monoxide was being emitted by our gas burning appliances. This test found that some of our stove top burners were emitting carbon monoxide. We had them check by a pro.
  8. They checked the walls, attic, and floorboards for insulation
  9. They used a pressure and flow gauge to measure how much air was flowing in and out of the home
  10. Blower test – with all windows closed, fans off, they checked how leaky our home was
  11. Crawl space inspection. Checking for insulation, noting whether rodents were present, and looking for plumbing penetrations
  12. Checking the amount of air exchanges our receives. Adequate fresh air is important

In the end, they offered some useful suggestions including additional insulation and weather stripping. We were interested in replacing our 20 year old central gas forced air furnace, so they went back to analyze the costs and benefits of doing so. In contrast to an energy audit the previous year, SDI did not have equipment to look inside walls like a borascope. The criteria that they used was similar. Our home performed better than expected, probably due to all the changes we have made over the years.

Recurve Energy Audit 2010

Previously we had an energy audit performed by Recurve.

Home Energy Audit Recurve Prius

They where formerly known as Sustainable spaces. We had a 50% off coupon which made the decision to use them easier. Their normal price is $750.  We feel that the price should be a lot cheaper or free considering they want to sell you items.  Before the audit, we sent them the last years gas and power bills.

Home Energy Audit Measure Home

They had a team of people mapping out the layout of the house with laser measuring equipment, this generates information for their energy internal modeling software.

Home Energy Audit Borascope

Recurve used a borascope to look inside our walls and check for insulation.

Home Energy Audit Crawlspace Inspection

They ventured deep into our crawlspace to check out our heating and ventilation.

Home Energy Audit Air Leaks

This found many interesting holes in our floor like this one. Every wire or cable that is run helps turn your floor into Swiss cheese.

A Fluke Thermal Imager was used to look at our walls and ceiling for insulation and possible heat leaks using infrared technology.  It is hard to rip up walls to add insulation but they make it clear that future remodels should incorporate more insulation. A $50 Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector can help you pinpoint air leaks the DIY way.

Home Energy Audit Heating Vents

Air vents were covered during their air blower tests.

Home Energy Audit air leak test

Checking airflow at the vents with a balometer.

Home Energy Audit Heating Equipment Check

Checking heating equipment, operation, make, model.

Home Energy Audit recessed light can

Recessed light fixtures can be a source of heat loss.

Home Energy Audit Blower Test

Air blower test with conduct in this special apparatus in our front door.

Home Energy Audit Analysis 2

A couple days after the odd results were sent over to us. They detailed where energy was being lost in our home. The energy audit then suggested how to mitigate these problems.

Home Energy Audit Analysis

This report examined our heating equipment and made some recommendations. They found some broken air vents, and asbestos in heating boots. Our home was relatively well sealed resulting in less air changes than suggested.

In the end, we found the home energy audit to be useful in analyzing our home’s energy profile. Recurve focused mostly on our heating – HVAC needs. The firm made several recommendations, many of which were very pricey. No return on investment information was provided. Clearly they make their money on repairs not on doing the audit itself. They should have provided some basic information on how to save energy and how things tie into our solar power system. We had several drafty areas that did not receive the analysis we asked for.

We tried to contact them for some followup work and they never returned our emails.

 

Here are some certifications to look for in a firm:

RESNET or Residential Energy Services Network certification means the firm has been trained and demonstrated technical proficiency.

BPI or Building Performance Institute Accredited companies have completed rigorous training, administered by a network of affiliates, in home performance evaluation focusing on this house-as-a-system concept.

Be sure to read our article: Ways to Save Energy, Money on your energy bill

Posted on December 14th, 2011
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9 Responses to “Home Energy Audits – Home Energy Assessments”

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