Step 2 of Earning My PowerSaver “Badge”: The Energy Audit

Part 2 in a series about improving energy useage in the Norris-Waldt Home
It was a bright and sunny fall day; Tim Jones of Glory Energy Solutions  arrived first thing in the morning, carrying a clipboard, pen and lots of questions about our home, our HVAC system, and what our goals were for energy conservation and improving our home. He pulled up our years’ worth of electrical useage to surmise what might be going on.
He explained that in 2007, after he and his wife and partner Leah had completed careers of dealing with emergencies in their service with the American Red Cross, they began to notice an increasing concern (their own and others) about rising energy bills. Tim’s background in construction had taught him that the tightness of homes could be better (for example, sheet plastic as a customary vapor barrier made no scientific sense; moisture was trapped and created mold problems in the buildings.)
“Tightness and reducing drafts is the #1 way to keep a home comfortable,” he points out.
To learn more about the philosophy of Glory Energy Solutions,
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View this video where Tim discusses their beginnings.
The “Whole House” Tour
After I reviewed areas that really concerned me (draftiness in some rooms, heat in summer), Tim took off on his house inspection. This takes about an hour, depending upon the size of your home, I suppose. I went back to work and occasionally checked in to see him poking in some corner or another. In the basement, he was examining the many cobwebs that cover the corners of our mostly unfinished space.
Lo and behold—Tim has learned to study spiderwebs, because they are signs of draft entrances. And the dirt in pockets of insulation in the unfinished area also tells its own story—of where air is moving in and out of the basement from the outside. When we peered above the sillplate that is the seat for the rim joists, we saw a spot where we could even see—daylight! Definitely a candidate for spray-foam insulation.
We moved to my daughter’s bedroom in the northeastern corner of the house—the one that was always hot in summer and drafty cold in winter. Tim pointed out several causes, after investigating the attic space above. 1) the room was at the end of the trail of ductwork, giving the heated air a long way to travel  2) we had carpeted a room whose door sweep was sized for hardwood, blocking out any air transfer between the room and the  vent outside the door and 3) the room “heads into the wind” (I could just envision the front of the Titanic heading out of that corner of the house).
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To make matters worse, the drop-down attic door right near the room was uninsulated. We found in the whole-house blower test, (which was to come) that a significant amount of air was leaking through that pulldown door, which can be easily and inexpensively insulated.
Tim set up a Blower Door test to measure air infiltration. A blower
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door test, defined by the US Department of Energy:  A powerful fan is mounted into the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. These tests determine the air infiltration rate of a building.
Blower doors consist of a frame and flexible panel that fit in a doorway, a variable-speed fan, a pressure gauge to measure the pressure differences inside and outside the home, and an airflow manometer and hoses for measuring airflow.
Tim’s Blower Door Test identified other deficiencies in our home:
  • A  non-exterior door was the only thing between an unfinished/unheated/uninsulated room over the garage;
  • On the main floor, an unsealed door frame was leaking air in from an exterior
  • On the main floor, an uninsulated fireplace was leaking air into the main floor
Before leaving, because this was an Potomac Edison Home Energy Saver audit, Tim changed out more than a dozen incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs with energy sizing LEDS—solving one of my Energy Saving goals (see Part 1).
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Tim packed up his materials, made lots of notes, and said he would get back to us shortly with a full plan and its cost. Next up: The Plan and Its Execution
For a video summary of a home energy audit, listen here as Tim explains!
Coming in Part 3: Making the Changes!