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Using a home energy audit to best advantage:
This article explains how to make best use of a home energy audit to reduce home heating or cooling costs. We provide related insulation and heat loss or heat gain analysis procedures including how to measure or calculate heat loss in a building, defines thermal terms like BTU and calorie, provides measures of heat transmission in materials, gives desired building insulation design data, and shows how
to calculate the heat loss in a building with R values or U values.
How to Get the Most Benefit from a Free Home Energy Audit
Here we discuss the following: How to measure or calculate heat loss (or gain) in a building. How to measure heat transmission in materials: definition of R-values, U-values, K-values, BTU, calorie, and rates of heat loss or gain. Building design temperatures & how to use a home energy audit or heat loss analysis. What insulation "R" values should be used in a building insulation?
Formula-R™ and Owens Corning™ which may be visible in our page top photograph of pink Styrofoam™ insulation boards are registered trademarks of Owens Corning® and were photographed at a Home Depot® building supply center.
Many people have heard of using "R" values to describe "how good" a building's insulation is. This article explains three
measures of the flow of heat out of or into a building: R-values, K-values, and U-values. Each of these is defined below.
But before moving on to these basic concepts of building heat loss (or gain) theory, it is essential that this still
more basic point be considered:
It doesn't matter much how wonderful the building insulation is, how thick it is, or what the insulating material's
"R" value is (see R defined below) if the building is leaky. If, for example, we're considering an older home with
leaky windows or doors, or if we're considering a tall building with poorly controlled heat in winter, such that
occupants of the upper floors are leaving windows open in winter then the heat flow out of these openings
will be so terrific that the amount of insulation won't matter much.
How to make use of a home energy audit or free home energy use survey
A less precise and less computerized method for calculating building heat loss (or gain) is used
by people who perform an "energy survey" or energy audit for a building. Home energy audit services may be free from your local utility company. The
energy survey technician uses a pre-printed form whereon s/he records the areas of the building's walls, top floor ceilings,
foundation walls, floors, and the number and type of windows and doors.
An "R" value is assigned to these and the sheet
is used to manually calculate the building's rate of heat loss. We had one of these "free" surveys performed on a home built
in 1900 when we were renovating it years ago. Regrettably the surveyor was either poorly trained or simply not very observant.
The free energy audit surveyor rated our building walls at a very high
rate of heat loss by assuming that they were not insulated whatsoever (and then proceeded to try to sell us
an insulation service).
What that particular home energy audit surveyor failed to notice was that the building walls had
been insulated (with blown-in foam) - a condition that was quite easy to see since we had removed the building's exterior
siding and wall sheathing. He just didn't look.
So while home energy audits are a great idea, make sure your auditor is awake
before you believe the results of the home energy survey.
And remember that some "home energy auditors" are really trying to
sell you replacement windows (very long payback time) or building insulation. (Remember the urban legend about the home energy
auditor who was using a camera light meter as an "energy loss" indicator to convince home owners that they needed new windows?)
Question: who do I call to get advice on saving on my heating costs?
In 1985/86 local electric utility company's weatherization program did the following for my house:
1. blow insulation put between roof & ceiling, under home crawl space & some other don't know where all at places between exterior wood cedar shingles & exterior walls
2. former wood & rope frame windows replaced with new aluminium slide frame windows
In 2015 licensed, ETC roof business, now out of business, workers removed former roof tar paper & asphalt shingles, added some extra what i call beams, looked like maybe 2 by 4
replaced former roof tar paper & asphalt shingles with new roof tar paper & lifetime asphalt shingles
all nailed to beams
There is no crawl space area between roof & ceiling
Each of my rooms has its own individual base board heaters with on heater controls. Some heaters, not all, were replaced once from 1900 - 2005. Not all of the electric heaters are working right, so I leave them turned off at circuit panel.
I need to know what type/kind of business, ETC i need to do what additional work re: current roof, insulation, ETC situation to help make my home less cold Sept through May every year
- Anonymous by private email
Reply: where to get energy program help from your state, warnings about for-pay or even "free" energy audits
If I understand your question is
"Who can tell me what energy-savings or heat-cost reduction steps I should take for my home?"
You live in Parkland Washington
This website: https://www.energycodes.gov/adoption/states/washington
provides information about your state's energy codes and gives links to its various energy programs.
Also you can use your web browser to search for
Parkland Washington energy audit
and you will see a list of companies offering that service.
You need to know:
Where are the most-important points of un-wanted energy-costs
Watch out: Beware that some energy auditors are better or more-comprehensive than others, and that many of them want to sell you a specific product, like insulation or weatherizing. Still their services are useful and often are offered at no charge.
Too many "home energy auditors" offer services like "blower door testing" that are not sufficiently diagnostic. Such tests, like any incomplete building inspection service, might tell you that your home is leaky and could save money by a weatherizing program, but the test alone will not tell you exactly what steps are needed.
Your energy audit needs to identify:
Cold air leaks into the building
Heat losses out of the building
Areas of missing insulation
Causes of excessive stack-effect air movement upwards drawing cold air into the building during the heating season
A casual energy audit by an experienced weatherization or insulation company might spot common points of heat loss and may walk around your home commenting on common problem spots like recessed ceiling lights, gaps in trim caulk, or roof ventilation.
But without a more careful, better-informed analysis, perhaps using thermography or other measurements during the heating season, often such generic advice is plain wrong.
Examples of Some Energy Auditors & Their Advice
Case 1: wrong assumptions about building insulation
In the 1980's a New York State energy auditor examined a home built in 1900, that had blown-in foam insulation in the 1970's, and that I [DF] had renovated, weather stripped, caulked, and sealed in the 1980's.
He noted the age of the home and said "well your walls are uninsulated, you need to have us insulate them". A rather careless conclusion that was not helpful.
It's not entirely sensible to assume that by 2015 a home built in 1900 has never had insulation added to its walls and attic, and a careful inspection can usually spot signs that insulation has indeed been added.
This home sported round drill marks where insulation had been blown into walls, and in both attic and basement oozing foam insulation was readily visible had anyone bothered to look.
An experienced auditor might have known that during the 1970's Arab Oil Embargo energy crisis many people blew UFFI into their older home's uninsulated walls.
Mixed-wrong UFFI could cause temporary but un-wanted high levels of formaldehyde off-gassing, and later owners might have discovered that their UFFI shrunk,leaving gaps around the insulation in walls.
Did not ask if we had already taken any steps to save on energy costs - that might have enabled him to see mistakes in what we had done, or to focus on what remaining steps would be most-beneficial
Did not use any instruments to examine for points of heat loss or air leaks
Did make a casual (and free) walk-around the outside and some of the inside of the home, suggesting that we would benefit from better caulking and sealing of exterior trim and interior pot lights or ceiling lights. He also suggested providing outdoor air supply to a heating boiler (located in a garage into which outdoor air leaks around the garage door).
We were left with a couple of nice suggestions but no idea whether or not those suggestions were accurately drawn rather than drawn just from general experience. There was not mention of where we had actually found the major air leaks previously, discussed at the window and door air leak sealing project cited above.
To be fair, nobody can, in a casual walk-through, know the detailed history of a building, nor can they have a complete picture with objective data showing the priorities of attention to stop un-wanted energy costs.
But an energy auditor could ask about building history or spot evidence of renovations and discuss what has been done in deciding what remains to be done.
The auditor offered a for-fee blower door test that would tell how much air leakage the building was still suffering.
While blower door tests are useful diagnostic tools, they're not prescriptive. We'd have still needed to guess at where the air leaks were and thus would be shooting our caulk guns in the dark.
Using infra-red or thermography to screen buildings for un-wanted heat loss, leaks, or heat gain points
Home energy loss surveys using thermography or simple infra-red thermometers are a great way to pinpoint individual points of
heat loss (or unwanted heat gain) in a building.
In the hands of a properly-trained expert (not a window salesman) this equipment
can help find unexpected building air leaks or heat loss points even when you think that the building has already been insulated.
Having a "high-R" insulated wall or ceiling is not going to be enough to make a building energy efficient if there are many
unidentified air leaks or insulation voids in the building's walls, ceilings, or floors.
See THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY for an series of articles explaining what thermography is, how it works, how it is best-used to save energy in buildings, and where to buy thermography scanning cameras and equipment.
What is the Typical Design Temperature for buildings and Building Insulation?
The "indoor design temperature" for a building refers to the assumed target indoor temperature that the building owner or occupants
want. Typically 70 deg. F. is used unless the owner specifies something different.
The "outdoor design temperature" for a building is (for heating purposes) assumed to be the average lowest recorded temperature
for each month between October and March (the heating season in most climates).
If we are specifying a "design temperature" for
cooling climates we'd use the average outdoor highest recorded temperature during the heating season, perhaps April through September.
Building Energy Codes & Standards for Energy Ratings
These codes include detailed specifications for testing and reporting on HVAC system air leakage
CALIFORNIA HERS REGULATIONS, Home Energy Rating System [PDF], U.S. California Energy Commission (2009) CEC-400-2008-011-CMF, CALIFORNIA CODE OF REGULATIONS
Chapter 4, Article 8, Sections 1670 â€“ 1675 California Home Energy Rating System Program
Abstract: Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 25942 directs the Energy Commission to adopt a statewide California Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Program for residential dwellings.
Phase I of the California HERS Program, which was adopted in 1999, established the basic operating framework of the program, including training and certification procedures for raters, quality assurance procedures, and data collecting and reporting requirements for raters who are
performing field verification and diagnostic testing services for demonstrating compliance with Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards.
CALIFORNIA HERS REGULATIONS TECHNICAL MANUAL [PDF], U.S. California Energy Commission (2008) cite as: California Energy Commission, HERS Technical Manual, California Energy Commission, High Performance Buildings and Standards Development Office. CECâ€400â€2008â€012.
(HERS) Program, including requirements for HERS Providers, modeling procedures and assumptions for HERS software, and procedures for California Wholeâ€House Home Energy Raters. HERS rating software is used to calculate the California HERS Index, generate recommendations on how to improve the energy performance of the rated home, and analyze customersâ€™ utility bills.
The Technical Manual also explains the roles, requirements, and procedures for persons certified to perform specific functions related to HERS ratings. The Technical Manual explains the requirements for completion of California Home Energy Audits that are provided for people who do not wish to have a formal rating but want recommendations for cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. The Technical Manual also explains the HERS reports, data collection procedures, and certification and quality assurance procedures.
ENERGY CODE, U.S. Department of Energy, Website: https://www.energycodes.gov/
The Building Energy Codes Program (BECP) mission is to support building energy code development, adoption, implementation and enforcement processes to achieve the maximum practicable, cost-effective improvements in energy efficiency while providing safe, healthy buildings for occupants.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is directed to participate in industry processes to develop model building energy codes, issue determinations as to whether updated codes result in energy savings, and provide technical assistance to states to implement and comply with the codes.
NY CES Clean Energy Standard,[PDF] retrieved 2017 07 26 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
17 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY 12203-6399 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 518-862-1090 Contacts: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Contacts
original source: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Clean-Energy-Standard
The CES is designed to fight climate change, reduce harmful air pollution, and ensure a diverse and reliable low carbon energy supply. To help achieve these goals, the CES requires that 50 percent of New York's electricity come from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind by 2030, with a progressive phase-in schedule starting in 2017.
NYSERDA Code Overview & Library: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Email: email@example.com Tel: 518-862-1090 866-NYSERDA (Toll free) Website: https://nyserdacodetraining.com/overview.php
NYSERDA, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Website: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/About Website excerpt:
Clean energy can power New York while protecting the environment. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, known as NYSERDA, promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources.
These efforts are key to developing a less polluting and more reliable and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. Collectively, NYSERDAâ€™s efforts aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate economic growth, and reduce customer energy bills.
NYSERDA Plan Review & Inspection Services, assistance with building plan review and on-site inspection services Website: https://nyserdacodetraining.com/services.php
WASHINGTON STATE COMMERCIAL ENERGY CODE [PDF] (2015) Washington state has adopted (and amended its version of) the 2012 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code Commercial Provisions, the 2012 IECC model code. Retrieved 2017/11/05, original source: https://fortress.wa.gov/ga/apps/SBCC/File.ashx?cid=6195
WASHINGTON STATE RESIDENTIAL ENERGY CODE [PDF] (2015) Washington state has adopted (and amended its version of) the 2012 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code Residential Provisions, the 2012 IECC model code. Retrieved 2017/11/05, original source: https://fortress.wa.gov/ga/apps/SBCC/File.ashx?cid=6303
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"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on ASBESTOS, ITS INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS, ROSATO 1959, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
Brick Nogging, Historical Investigation and Contemporary Repair, Construction Specifier, April 2006. Historical use of brick in timber-framed buildings, drawing on the investigations of the Kent Tavern in Calais, VT.
"Brick nogging is a European method of construction which was brought to the new world in the early-nineteenth century. It was a common construction method that employed masonry as infill between the vertical uprights of wood framing." -- quoting the web article review.
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
Falls and Related Injuries: Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences, Lawyers & Judges Publishing, (June 2002), ISBN-10: 0913875430 ISBN-13: 978-0913875438 "Falls in the home and public places are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, but are overlooked in most literature. This book is unique in that it is entirely devoted to falls. Of use to primary care physicians, nurses, insurance adjusters, architects, writers of building codes, attorneys, or anyone who cares for the elderly, this book will tell you how, why, and when people will likely fall, what most likely will be injured, and how such injuries come about. "
Fiberglass: Indoor Air Quality Investigations: Health Concerns About Airborne Fiberglass: Fiberglass in Indoor Air from HVAC ducts, and Building Insulation
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Piquet Wall Construction: See this photo of
piquet wall construction - involving timber-framed wall construction with long top girts, diagonal timber bracing, and small diameter logs
placed vertically along with concrete chinking to fill in the wall plane.
Plank House Construction: weblog from plankhouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/plank-house-construction/ and where plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project.
Re-Bath, tub lining products is a bath tub relining manufacturer and distributor located in Tempe, Arizona - see rebath.com
Rubblestone Wall Filler: See this Lartigue House using exterior-exposed rubblestone filler between vertical timbers of a post and beam-framed Canadian building.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or
ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2,
available from the publisher, Lawyers ^ Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com firstname.lastname@example.org and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20Stair%20IRC%20SCREEN.pdf ] -
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Mold-Resistant Building Practices, advice from an expert on how to prevent mold after a building flood and how to prevent mold growth in buildings by selection of building materials and by anti-mold construction details.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2, available from the publisher, Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com email@example.com and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
Steps and Stairways, Cleo Baldon & Ib Melchior, Rizzoli, 1989.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones