Receiving a home energy assessment is the first step towards savings. During the assessment, an Efficiency Maine approved Energy Advisor will perform various tests and procedures to determine the best energy savings opportunities, and provide suggestions on projects that can address potential health and safety issues including moisture, mold, and radon. An assessment includes a walk-through of the entire home as well as use of a blower door, a thermal camera, and combustion safety equipment.
Air leakage can be assessed with a blower door test. This test measures air flow through the house and is accomplished by either pressuring or depressurizing the structure with a large fan that fits into a doorway. Typically, air is pulled out of the house with the large fan to recreate the conditions the house experiences during 20 mph wind gusts. This test is the only way to know exactly how tight or leaky your house is and at what point mechanical ventilation (e.g. – a bathroom exhaust fan) is required to maintain good indoor air quality. Most Maine homes are 2 to 3 times as leaky as recommended by building science standards. While the blower door test is underway, the Energy Advisor will look through the home with a thermal camera and use a smoke pencil to identify the most significant sources of air leakage into the structure. Identifying and sealing leaks in your home can save hundreds of dollars in energy costs per year.
Combustion Safety Testing
Energy Advisors also conduct combustion safety testing on heating equipment to ensure that it is operating efficiently and removing exhaust from the house. Combustion air is needed by heating systems that create heat by burning fuel including oil, gas and wood. This air is provided by ducts connected to the outdoors or by indoor air and unintentional air leaks. Because of the reliance on air leakage for combustion air in many homes, combustion safety tests are done before and after air sealing projects.
Infrared or thermal cameras allow trained users to see the temperature of any surface and identify upgrade opportunities in your home such as missing insulation in wall cavities.
Indoor Health and Safety
Your Energy Advisor might also recommend projects to reduce moisture or improve indoor air quality. Health and safety projects will not necessarily save you money, but they often are needed to eliminate potential hazards, as well as improve the comfort and longevity of the home. Health and safety measures can be incorporated into Efficiency Maine loans.
After conducting testing and reviewing conditions of various aspects of your home, the Energy Advisor will provide you with recommendations to make your home more efficient and comfortable. Some advisors provide extensive reports and computer modeling of your home while others may only provide a checklist of the most important items to address. Be sure to ask the advisor about the services they offer and what they charge for different levels of assessment and analysis. Contrary to popular belief, energy assessments can be conducted year round. There’s no reason to wait for the right time of year for an energy assessment, but your Energy Advisor may recommend a few things to prepare your home for these diagnostic tests such as making the attic hatch accessible and leaving wood and pellet stoves unlit.
Some energy assessments also include a computer generated analysis or “model”. Computer modeling can be very useful to quantify the energy and cost savings of a variety of different project scopes to help identify the most cost effective improvements. The Department of Energy has additional information about what is included in an energy assessment and energy diagnostic equipment. Find out more here as you prepare for your energy assessment.