DIY Home Energy Audit


  #1  
Old 09-10-09, 07:18 AM
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DIY Home Energy Audit

Well, I found a website where you can buy one of those smoke pencils that you see the energy auditors use and I was thinking about buying one to do an audit on my own house (it is only $25 and would probably pay for itself).

My question is, do you need to create negative air pressure in the house in order for it to work properly? If I recall one show I watched about energy audits, I think they had a blower door hooked up and then went around testing cracks, windows, recessed lights, etc. Since I don't have a blower door (nor do I plan on purchasing one ), how could I create negative pressure? Could I simply turn on all of the exhaust fans in the house, and would I need to shut off my gas furnace and gas water heater to prevent CO from being drafted into the house?

Thanks,
Neil
 
  #2  
Old 09-10-09, 08:54 AM
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Hi Neil, $25 for a smoke pencil sounds really high, but it will work. If you can tolerate some cigarette smoke (I can't) that works also. Incense sticks as well.

Turning on all exhaust appliances is not supposed to back draft any combustion appliances, that is if things were designed correctly. If your gas furnace and WH don't have pilots, just kill the switch so they don't come on. If you have pilots, they would need to be re-lit.

If you want to increase the negative pressure, set up a window fan. All houses loose air above some neutral plane and pull in replacement air below that plane. To test all areas of the house with incoming air, you will need to exhaust enough air to overcome the stack effect. How much is dependent upon your house. Also, when we use a blower door, we can rest with positive and negative pressure, it helps to see exactly where the air is coming from or going to.

It won't hurt to experiment, but there will be areas that need attention that the smoke test won't show. In fact, I use the smoke test mostly to impress the home owner as the IR camera has already shown me where the leaks are. Or if I'm doing some testing when the temperature is warm outside.

Do some more searching on the internet as there are many DIY audit sites and the tips are good.

More questions, we are here,
Bud
 
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Old 09-10-09, 09:37 AM
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Bud,
Thanks for the reply. Can't tolerate cigarette smoke and the wife hates incense

The smoke pencil I found here:

Smoke Pencil puffer sticks are a draft detector tool

is non-toxic, etc. While I would love an IR camera, it is much more $$$ than the smoke pencil. Right now the temperature is fairly warm still, so I was hoping to get some drafts detected and sealed before it got cold.

IIRC, both furnace and WH have a pilot light (I know the WH does at least). I guess I can, as you suggested, use a window fan and play around to overcome the stack effect. It is a 4-story townhouse, so it could prove interesting! I recently saw a show (on DIY Network I think) where they used a smoke pencil and it showed a lot of draft at the recessed lights (hence the other post you answered).

I have done much internet searching, but the information is almost too plentiful to sift through, so I thought I would ask here and get some answers direct from the experts (or at least those more knowledgeable than me).

Thanks,
Neil
 
  #4  
Old 09-10-09, 10:31 AM
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Ya, if I walk past someone smoking, the wife won't let me in the house.

That smoke stick actually looks better than what I use and it will probably do several homes. Looks like you are in business.

You can use the window fan blowing in or out and test smaller areas where you can close things off. What won't show up are the leaks behind the walls, but what you can locate and seal will help. Key areas are where the building sets on the foundation, plumbing and electrical penetrations, all electrical boxes interior walls and exterior, chimney chase, large vent pipes, drop ceilings, bath tubs and showers, dormers, knee walls, attic access openings, plumbing under sinks, doors and window frames, baseboards, recessed lights, and I'll stop there.

If your furnace or WH have pilots, they are candidates for replacement.

What is your climate, what style home and how have your utility bills been?

Bud
 
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Old 09-10-09, 02:40 PM
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Bud,
Thanks again for the reply. I think the smoke stick will be helpful, at least in some fashion.

I know I won't be able to find all leaks, but hope to find all that I can before spending out for a full blown energy audit sometime in the future. I have some areas along the foundation and inside walls (under staircase behind garage wall) that I will be sealing without even bothering to check for drafts (just as a good practice). The smoke stick will provide me a means to find some of the harder to find leaks that are accessible (like the recessed light in the porch ceiling which doubles as part of my living room floor).

The townhouse is only 9 years old, so I hope the furnace and WH aren't candidates for replacement . Especially since I just got new carpeting on two floors of the house and getting 8 new windows installed next weekend (both items were needed to some extent, but good deals on both lead us to do a little extra). WH will probably be next since I believe they usually only last 8-10 years, but the wife wants new countertops next year...

I live in Maryland, so we get all four seasons. It is a 4-story interior townhouse. Our bills aren't too bad, but it is hard to tell since our utility company has budget billing (rolling 12-month average, adjusted every quarter). Right now I pay $153/month for gas and electric, last quarter was $189/month. We also do a lot of laundry (2 year old son we are trying to potty train :helpme 2. I think in the winter our actual gas and electric usage is about $200-$300/month. Summer is lower. We don't keep the house extremely warm (68 in winter) or cold (80 in summer).
 
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Old 09-11-09, 08:25 AM
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My utility company offers an energy audit - either free or for a minimal charge. Give your utility a call and see if they offer that service.
 
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Old 09-11-09, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by goldstar View Post
My utility company offers an energy audit - either free or for a minimal charge. Give your utility a call and see if they offer that service.
I checked with them a year or two ago and they didn't do it. A couple of other places around here offer them for about $400 I believe. With the new environmental awareness in the past couple of years, I might check with the utility company again to see if they have changed their policy.

Thanks,
Neil
 
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Old 10-24-09, 11:28 AM
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Is there a time (season) that's better to have a professional home energy audit? Winter, spring, summer or fall. My local city/county or utility company doesn't offer home audit. Just the usual on-line audits. My home is about 16yrs old and everything appears to be original, windows, doors, seals, etc. I've been here for 4yrs.

If I were to look for a company that does home energy audits in the yellow pages, what are some of the titles I should look for. I tried "home energy audits" or anything with "home ----" but nothing.

When considering a company, what are some crutial important questions I should ask either before or during the inspection?

Mike
 
  #9  
Old 11-19-09, 02:16 PM
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if you call the utility they 'may' tell you who they use. I got lucky and found a company in the yellow pages that told me they did the utility ones. I forget the heading i looked under though. I'd ask them to tell you what they will do when they come to your house. i could have gotten 200 off by not requesting a written report but i wanted one. I did the blower door test and followed him around and it was well worth that, i learned a lot about my house

I did not get infrared with mine for 400 bucks but IF you will actually go ahead and fix stuff, i'd get it. I'm no expert but i'd think winter is a good time to do it. that way they would see the cold on the wall seeping in from outside. At least intuition tells me that,i'm no pro.

the reason i say IF you will fix things is that even though i know my walls arent insulated, to do that would be a real pain. And the guy even told me in my particular house id get a better payback to insulate the attic and the crawlspace and help avoid the weather getting in the walls that way. he didnt even try to sell me insulating the walls, said payback isnt worth it. Unsure if thats true.

also under all my windows the wood had separated and tons of air getting in so i insulated that myself. Very noticeable difference right away. Also i spent 30 bucks on amazon and got an infrared thermometer...once it gets colder, i'm going to see how cold the walls get relative to the outside. this should also help with my interior walls to see what i'm losing there. I also have an uninsulated crawl to contend with.
 
 

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