Rosie Romero Special to Arizona Daily Star
Question: What are the first steps to take to make your home more energy efficient?
answer: Gathering information and data about how your home is functioning is the first step. Understanding how your home works will help you plan. The best way to get information is to do a whole house energy audit.
Q: What is involved in a home energy audit?
A: There are more than 10 different aspects of home performance that are audited. The technician asks the homeowner for some background information, such as last year’s utility bills. This establishes a baseline. Then the home check begins. This is a comprehensive examination based on observations and tests designed to generate the data and information needed to focus on home energy issues. Nothing that affects the home’s performance is left unnoticed. Appliances are reviewed for their level of efficiency. Insulation, especially attic insulation, is measured to determine its level of effectiveness. The air barrier between the attic and the house is also checked for efficiency. Inspect windows and doors to determine the effectiveness of glazing and sealing, and to determine if door weatherstripping is adequate. The design, construction, and integrity of the home’s ducts are also evaluated.
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We then collect more data using an array of test equipment. Combustion safety and gas leak tests are performed to determine carbon monoxide levels. This allows you to identify the performance of ovens, stoves, water heaters and furnaces. You don’t want to tighten up your home with these gases floating around.
As part of an energy audit, a blower door test will indicate the extent of your home’s leaks and determine the source of the leaks. A similar test is performed in ductwork. This blower test is specifically for duct leaks. A static pressure test determines how well air moves through your home. This test looks at his entire HVAC system, including ducts and registers. Another type of pressure test is performed to determine the air pressure imbalance from room to room. These imbalances can cause one room to have more dust than another. In general, these imbalances can cause the HVAC system to malfunction more than it should. This process is called home pressure mapping and can reveal a lot of interesting and interesting information.
One test that most people are interested in is thermal camera imaging. Cameras detect changes in temperature and highlight areas where insulation may be inadequate, from poor construction to foundation subsidence over the years.
If you have a pool, make sure it’s tested as well. Testing its efficiency is a necessary step to get a ‘whole house’ picture.
These tests culminate in a full report detailing every aspect of the home’s energy performance. After the report is reviewed with the homeowner and deficiencies are noted, an action plan is developed. The plan details specific steps and costs so you can decide how to proceed.
Q: What are the most common deficiencies found in home energy audits?
A: The biggest problem is duct leaks. Over the years, duct seams may not have been sealed or poor installation techniques may have been used. Ducts can often kink and the size of the ducts is not the right size to move the amount of air needed in the house. Needs adjustment. This may require additional duct work and the use of jump ducts. Jump ducts are a way of directing air circulation to air return, promoting good air flow from room to room.
The second most common discovery concerns insulation. There are two things to consider here. Adequate insulation and air barrier.
Do you have enough “R-value” (a measure of how the insulation acts as a barrier to heat transfer) to maintain a comfortable level in your home? Are there no air barriers? If air leaks here, the insulation will be greatly reduced.
The third most common flaw is probably the simplest. Sun exposure can be important for summer heat build-up. Heat coming in through windows can cause your air conditioner to work harder than it needs to. Significant savings can be realized simply by shading the windows.
A small investment in an energy audit for your entire home can save you thousands of dollars in energy in the long run and make you feel more comfortable throughout the season. If you haven’t been to one, I can’t recommend it more highly. In particular, before investing heavily in air conditioners, insulation, and other energy-saving products and measures, it should be considered as your next investment in your home.
As an Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for over 40 years, Rosie Romero hosts syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio broadcasts on Tucson’s KNST-AM (790) Morning It is broadcast locally from 10:00 to 11:00.