Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 12 seconds
As a remodeling contractor I am often asked to troubleshoot home comfort related problems. I have used this blog platform, specifically the Understanding Your Home partition, to help others figure out their homes and solve all sorts of issues that we come across. Energy efficiency, temperature, and indoor comfort control are big issues here in Idaho, as we have all 4 seasons to contend with.
My feeling is that although we enjoy among the lowest energy costs per Kilowatt or BTU in the country, it is nice to hang onto those hard earned dollars for the finer things in life.
As luck would have it, a client of mine called complaining about several confusing things going on at this home, specifically, uneven heating and cooling between levels and rooms. He had just had a new thermostat installed and a new furnace. He had also had his duct work carefully wrapped and insulated. Realizing that he had done all this work to solve a problem that didn’t get fixed, I decided to recommend a full energy audit to learn from his results.
My goal was to get enough information based upon test results and hard data to make the solution obvious, rather than having the client take a shotgun approach and risk throwing more money at the problem and coming up empty. I must have made a convincing argument because an energy audit was soon scheduled.
The Day Of The Audit
I was there on the day of the test and listened intently as Eric took the in-depth home history, then got involved in assisting with the physical examination, scientific testing, and data mapping.
We spent 3 hours going over everything. We inspected, detected, measured, recorded, drilled, tapped, interrogated, vacuumed, pressurized, climbed up, hunkered down, and all that sort of Alice’s Restaurant stuff. We used lots of cool tools too, including smoke generators, a big fan called a blower door, electronic gizmos, thermometers, fancy tape, flashlights, and duct covers. Our goal was to gather the metadata for the big report.
Often, during testing we find some low hanging fruit to fix, this case was no exception. Covered supply registers and a loose skylight were easy to fix on the spot, but something else seemed way off. What could it be?
The Report Arrives
Once the report arrived, it was reviewed and some interesting conclusions presented themselves. In the end, at this particular home, we discovered that the primary culprit causing the home to be uncomfortable was leaky duct work. The ducts had been wrapped in insulation without being properly sealed first. The leaky ducts were not getting the warm or cool air to their proper destination. We are currently exploring a fairly new technique of sealing the ducts from the inside as a possible solution.
I used to give my clients a best guess scenario based upon my professional opinion and experience, what I call a “working diagnosis.” Now I see that the real thing in the form of an energy audit is the final word. In this case, the computer model of the home gave my client the specific recommendations for his home, answers to his unique conditions, and to his most pressing questions like; what is the best bang for the buck, and what is the projected ROI? The good news was that the report is designed for a homeowner rather than a scientist to understand.
It got me thinking about what advice I have been giving to folks regarding energy efficient upgrades for years.
What To Do?
In many of our older homes, my recommendations include some generic things like;
- Sealing leaks of air to the outside, attic, and crawl space.
- Adding to your attic insulation (to achieve R-38 at least)
- Replacing Windows
- Perimeter foundation insulation
Although Eric agrees that what I am telling folks is true, the “hip shot,” although valuable, is less accurate than using a scope. My new approach is to be a better diagnostician by running an energy audit before I make a true diagnosis. The parallels between your family physician’s history & physical examination, plus laboratory testing and x-rays, are uncanny to me.
As I gain more expertise in solving problems associated with homes, I’ll always admit that I am not a licensed expert, but my knowledge base and insights are nothing to Poo-Poo. The cool thing is that I have an ever expanding experience base, inspection tools, and robust contact list of experts to tap into and solve these sort of problems together.
If you think your home, or someone you know could use some help in diagnosing a energy wasting situation, or confusing home HVAC problem, call Levco to help make sense of things.
Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261