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Energy Audits:

Why energy Audit?

Why order an energy audit?  As explained in Home Seals, an average home a can loose efficiency from countless areas of the home, wasting energy and money.  And just like high miles can take their toll on your car, the age of your home is a determining factor in your homes inefficiency.  An energy audit is the best place to start to discover the areas of your home that need the most attention and will produce the greatest energy savings.

What is Home Performance?

A home that performs well makes for a happier, stress-free you; putting more money in your pocket and less green house gases in the air. Your home’s performance can be characterized in different aspects including, comfort, energy efficiency, safety, and indoor air quality.

Over the years our understanding of home performance has evolved into an exact science of methods for improving efficiency.  This science is used to correct energy losses in homes, making them cost effective, and cleaner, safer places to live.

So what is Home performance? Home Performance is a program sponsored by Energy Star and the US Dept of Energy.  It is a comprehensive, whole-home check up buy an Energy Star certified contractor.  The program is aimed at showing homeowners how to save money on their utility costs and increase their homes comfort, durability, and value through a process called “Energy Auditing.”

Energy Audits

Improving home performance is best completed by using a whole home approach.  The first step is a BPI certified energy audit.  The auditing process works by analyzing the home and determining where failures and improvement opportunities exist.  This is done by using building science techniques designed by Energy Star and the Building Performance Institute “BPI” to determine the most cost effective strategies to improving your home’s performance.   Energy Audit testing reveals the homes weaknesses and strengths in efficiency, providing the homeowner a much better understanding of where their energy is begin lost.

What happens on the day of my audit?

During a Home Performance Energy Audit a Certified Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified professional will perform a series of tests to determine the most cost-effective approach to improving your home’s performance. The audit process ensures that the correct improvements are made specific to the conditions of your home.

Blower Door Test

A blower door is used to measure leaks in your home and to determine the air exchange rate between the interior and exterior spaces. It also determines where connectivity exists between the attic or crawl space and the condition space.

The blower door works by creating a negative pressure of 50 Pascal’s in the home.  Next, by using a monometer, the auditor can measure the difference in pressure between indoor and outdoor air.  Then through a series of calculations the home is given a CFM “Cubic Feet Per Minute” rating.  The CFM rating is the measurement of outside air that is making it into the home, or the air leaks.  This process can be duplicated on the homes HVAC ducting to measure leakage, as well as each individual room in the home to pinpoint energy losses and pressure differentials.

Some additional blower door tests include:

Pressure Pan testing identifies leaks in your air conditioning duct system by isolating the pressure in each individual air register.

A Static pressure test measures air flow and helps improper duct design.

Room Pressure Tests identify pressure imbalances in room that can contribute to hot spots in the home and extra workload on the homes HVAC system.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

Thermal imaging is known as Thermography which is a process that measures surface temperature by using infrared and still cameras.  A thermal imaging camera works by sensing and displaying the heat spectrum in its pathway.  It will effectively display hot and cold spots in the home so they can be addressed.

Importance of Thermography in the Audit

Thermal imaging gives the auditor the ability to view the thermal breaks in the home in a matter of seconds.  The auditors can pass the camera across walls in the home; the resulting image will display a color spectrum ranging from blue to red, red being the hot zones.  The resulting information allows the auditor to instantly identify red zones in the home as heat transfers.   Auditors using thermographic measurements can then make recommendations for insulation improvements to the homeowners.

These improvements will stop air from convecting in the walls, which allows the heat to rapidly pass in or out of the home causing losses in energy and the hot zones indentified.   Identifying these spots without thermal imaging is very difficult and nearly impossible because we cannot see into walls.

Thermal imaging For Insulation

Thermal imaging highlights problem areas, these problem areas often require very little work to correct.  In the world of Home Performance a ¼” can be a mile, insulation that has settled over the year or fallen out of place away from the specified air barrier can contribute to rapid energy losses.  Fro Example, an R-30 fiberglass batten insulation can degrade to as little as R-8 due to a ¼ gap between the air barrier.   While this is an incredibly common occurrence, without thermal imaging these losses are often not identified and homeowners are left wasting energy.

Thermal Imaging for Attic Sealing

Just as thermal imaging can reveal lapses in insulation in walls and attic space, it can reveal leaks in the homes air barrier separating the living spaces from the attic.  Thermography can detect even the littlest leaks in the ceiling; including can lights, Ceiling fans, light switches and even air registers.  Every home has these leaks, and some more than others.  By detecting them, the auditor can make recommendations on how to make the home more efficient.

Thermal imaging for Shade Screens

Another benefit of thermal imaging is its ability to identify temperature differences leading to Fenestration, which is the term used to describe heat gain or loss through doors and windows.  Because homes are placed at different elevations in relation the sun, a home’s windows and door will have different exposures to solar radiant heat.  Thermography will help identify which doors or windows will benefit the most from shading or solar screens.  Cutting down solar heat from entering the home will always contribute to energy saving in the summer months.

 

HVAC Load Calculation and Inspections

After calculating the homes leakages and natural air flows in CFM, the energy auditor can inspect and assess your current HVAC (Heating and Cooling System) to determine if it is properly sized for your home.  While an undersized unit may take too long to cool a home, a bigger culprit for energy loss and discomfort is an oversized unit.  That is correct, a HVAC system that is too large for a home will not cool as efficiently as a properly sized unit.  This is because a central air system must do two things to effectively cool a home.

Central air units must first it must remove the heat from the home and second, remove the humidity.  When a central air unit is too large (too many tons, tonnage being the amount of air in CFM’s the unit is designed to deliver to the home) it will remove too much heat from the comfort zone too rapidly.  This will cause the thermostat to turn the unit off before it has processed and removed humidity from enough of the homes internal air.  This results in humidity issues in the home and discomfort.

A properly sized unit will both remove heat and humidity from the home because the unit runs long enough to recycle the perfect amount air before dropping the temperature to the desired setting.   In addition, a central air unit uses the highest amount of energy when starting and gradually increases in efficiency as it continues to run.  In other terms, a smaller unit will run longer but less often, while and oversized unit may turn on and off repeatedly, wasting energy.

GAS HOMES

Carbon Monoxide Level Testing

Carbon monoxide is the exhaust byproduct of a home’s gas appliances.  These may include a range, dryer, water heater, and furnace.  Carbon monoxide or CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless which in certain quantities can be fatal to animals and humans.  During the audit, the auditor will walk the home using a CO detector and inspect the homes level of CO in parts per million.  Next a  calculation is performed to determine if the home requires additional mechanical ventilation or if the home is at acceptable CO levels.

In addition, each combustion appliance is checked for appropriate CO levels to determine it’s burn efficiency.  This procedure allows the audit to determine if the appliance is not only in compliance, but if it is consuming the proper amount of fuel and operating efficiently.

Gas Leaks check

In addition to CO testing, the auditor will perform a thorough gas leak check off all gas appliances and indoor supply lines.  The purpose of this check is to determine if unwanted gas is entering the living space trough leaks in joints and fittings.  In many cases small gas leaks are detected along junctions where joints have become loose over time.  The gas leaking into the home from these tiny leaks is wasteful and dangerous, so it is necessary to identify them as soon as possible.

Gas checks are performed with a gas sniffer, which is an ultrasonic tool designed to identify small traces of gas with an audible alarm.  For safety and compliance reasons, once a leak is found the auditor must stop work immediately until the leak is corrected.

FAQ

Is My Home Efficient?

While there is no way of knowing your homes efficiency level without a certified energy audit, chances are, your home needs attention.  In fact, Energy Star estimated over 92% of homes have in-efficiencies needing attention.  This is due to several unfortunate truths.  First, homes are rarely designed around efficiency; energy efficiency is typically an afterthought at best.  Second, homebuilders very seldom go the extra mile in energy efficiency, and in some cases fail to finish the first mile needed for true efficiency.  So, the long answer is no, your home is not as efficient as it could be.  That being said, the improvements are rarely as expensive as homeowner fears and the payback in savings is tremendous.


Weatherization

Weatherization or a “Home Seal” is the process of improving the “envelope” of a home.  Weatherization helps to better insulate and seal the home, effectively blocking the outside elements and helping to maintain a interior climate. Weatherization includes several key parts.

Duct Sealing
The process of duct sealing
can take as little as 3 hours to perform and can make your home a much cleaner and more comfortable environment. Duct sealing is exactly as it sounds; it is the process of tracing leaks and kinks, and sealing all loose joints and connections in the ducting system

Benefits. According to Energystar.gov, 92% of homes have leaking or blocked ducts accounting for up to 20% loss in efficiency. Leaking ducts can also bring in dust and carbon monoxide form the attic, causing interior air pollution to be 2-5 times greater than outside air.  A properly sealed duct system can eliminate up to 15% of your annual energy costs and will significantly reduce the workload of your heating and cooling system, prolonging its lifespan.
Savings. In the hundreds annually.

 

Environmentally and wallet friendly

Installation time : 1-2hrs

 

Solar Hot Water

AET,Alternative Energy Technologies is one of the finest thermal solar systems available to homeowners for solar water heating.

Solar water heaters utilize the suns heat to supply the home with its hot water needs. The greatest part about the suns energy, It’s free.  Choosing to switch to a solar hot water system is one of the best areas to begin lowering the homes utility costs.  A conventional water heater must run constantly throughout the day to regulate the temperature of the hot water.  This translates to a high operational cost even when hot water demands are low.  Consider leaving you car on idle for the entire day just to drive too and from work.  That would be a tremendous waste of energy, would it not?  A conventional water heater does just that, it runs all day so homeowners can have hot water whenever they need it.

Help the Environment. Our EnergyStar certified solar water heaters reduce the average homes carbon dioxide emissions by half! In terms of electricity saved that’s nearly 3,300 kWh’s per year in energy. According to EnergyStar.gov, that’s prevents over 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere. You would need to park your car a period of 4 months to save the equivalent!

Payback. Current state, federal and utility rebates are more aggressive that ever! In past years the average system would require a ten year payback, but with current incentive systems can start putting money in your pocket from day one!

Lifespan. Our solar water heats carry a 10 year full parts and labor warranty and have a 30 year system designed lifespan.

Alternate Energy Technologies. The best thermal systems on the market. Since 1975.

Highlights:

Savings are typically $40-50/month converting from an electric water heater.
Savings are typically $20-30/month converting from a gas water heater.
Very cost-effective; savings typically exceed payments from day one.
Over 5 times more efficient than photovoltaic systems for water heating

Increases home value significantly
Low maintenance cost
10 Year Manufacturer Warranty, 30 Year Panel Warranty
Light in weight
Durable Thermafin panels
Installation time: 4-5hrs

Environmentally friendly

Photovoltaic Electric Systems

Solar Power

When it comes to Going Green there are truly very few home improvements that can out weigh the benefits of solar panels.  The Suns light  is the greatest renewable source of energy known to man.  By allowing your home to draw its energy from the sun you eliminate your dependence on the electrical companies that use mostly fossil fuels to create the energy.  Switching your home to Solar power  is a wonderful contribution to your environment and a great step forward in reducing reliance upon depleting fossil fuels.  The solar energy market has risen a steady 30% a year for the last 15 years and grew by 57% alone in 2007(Global solar center.)  The wave of the future is renewable waste free solar energy.

Grid tied Vs Off Grid Tied

  • There are currently two types of solar panel systems sold on the market.  Although they both offer the same energy producing principals they have different features that separate them in cost.
  • A grid tied unit is the more cost effective system of the two.  These solar power systems are tied into the main utility grid.  This allows them to transmit excess power collected back onto the main grid, which in turn the utility company will give power credits for.  In essence, selling the extra power to the utility company.
  • Before getting to excited about the prospect of selling power to the power company understand that there is good reason for creating the power credit.  Solar panels do not produce energy at night or in the dark.  At night you will need to draw power from the utility companies grid.  The goal being to draw the same amount of power at night that you so generously sold to them during the peak of the day.  Thus, canceling out any costs incurred.
  • The grid tied systems are more cost effective than the off grid systems because they differ in one area.  They must still rely on the power companies for off hours power.  Off grid systems or photovoltaic systems are self reliant “and completely off the grid”.  Unlike grid tied system, they have the ability to store there excess power in battery cells.  In the night hours the charge from the batteries powers the home.  These systems have zero reliance upon the utility companies and are self sufficient.  Although the off grid systems cost slightly more, mostly due to the cost of the batteries.  They have the benefits of removing your household from future electrical bills, power outages, rate increases or worrying about peak season bills!…ect.


Benefits of going Solar

Environment

The greatest motivation for going solar is going to be environmental impact. Before discussing any of the monetary advantages to going solar,  Pure Energy must emphasize the wonderfully positive impact on the environment solar panels make, they remove Co2 from the atmosphere and reduce our foreign oil dependency.

The benefits of solar energy to the environment is the single greatest aspect of making the decision to go solar.  Solar panels release the grasp the utility companies have over your household.  Over 70% of the utility companies in the US use un-renewable resources such as coal or natural gas to generate power. Fossil fuels being a un-renewable resource are continually depleting and rising in cost.  In addition to there rising cost, burning fossil fuels has severe known and unknown impacts on our environment each day.  As of 2008 renewable energy sources only contribute to slightly over 9.5% of the energy that fossil fuels do. This is a percentage that’s growth is essential for the well being of the environment.  (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/consump.html)

Pocketbook

While contractors and solar panel manufactures will certainly use government incentives, rebates, payback scenarios and many other incentives to sway homeowners into going solar,  the environmental impact of switching to solar energy will remain the greatest incentive to go solar.  Having that said, here’s some interesting details on the monetary benefits of going solar

Payback

The average homeowners utility bill can range from 10-40% of there monthly expenses.  Solar panels eliminate utility bills.  Over the course of the next 25 years (the predicted life span of current silicon based solar panels) you will be saving 10s of thousands of dollars on utility bills.  In the long run the solar panels will certainly make up for there initial cost.

Government, State and Local incentives :

The government is well aware of the need to increase the countries renewability, in fact as a country we get less than 5% of our energy from renewable sources.  Because of this the federal government offers 30% of solar’s total cost back to homeowners via a tax credit on qualifying systems.  In addition, individual states and local utility companies often offer aggressive rebate programs as well.  In some areas of the country your solar project can be over 80% funded by available credits.

Emergency

Solar panels keep supplying energy regardless of what the utility company is struggling with.  Power outages are virtually a worry of the past.

HOW THEY WORK

Old technology, A New application

Solar panels, although a relatively new product to storm market utilize a technology that was revealed in 1839 when a French physicist discovered the photovoltaic effect.

Solar panels are a photovoltaic cell, through the photovoltaic effect PV cells collect radiant heat from the sun and then convert it to usable direct current DC energy for the home.

Some of the first generation solar panels ranged from only 2 – 6% efficiency.  Since the mid 1950s the focus has been on increasing the efficiency of the solar cells.  Today’s solar panels are capable of reaching 30% efficiency levels. (they can convert 30% of the energy they draw from the sun into usable household energy.)  The costs of solar technology has also significantly dropped making it more available to residential and commercial markets.

Today thousands are enjoying the benefits of solar power, while government programs encourage more to join the effort in conserving and using renewable energy.