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Residential Energy Efficiency Blog

Sunday, January 10 2021

Did you know that when you participate in a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR project on your home that the results are actually measurable?

Is there any other home improvement project that when it is all said and done you can actually test and get immediate, unbiased results?  I can't think of any!

Let's take replacement windows as an example.  Often times windows are replaced around a home to improve comfort and reduce drafts.  But, results are typically subjective and more times than not there is a walk away feeling for both the homeowner and contractor that the windows did not really perform, but there is not much anyone can do now.

Home performance work on the other hand is instantly measurable and to take matters further, a home performance project actually focuses in on physical attributes of your home to really move the comfort needle in your favor. 

ANALOGY: If a jet is not able to take off from the runway, do you want the airline company mechanic to just fix a perceived issue and give it a whirl, or would you rather the technician employ diagnostic tools, real time onboard computer information and proper calculations to get the plane back in the air? 

Of course we all want the more informed approach to ensure our safe return to flight.

So how does this work in home performance you ask?  How can we be sure to target the right connections to the outside in a home so that we can get the results we want?

The blower door test!  A blower door test does two things...

First, it measures the leakage rate of your home.  It quantifies the amount of air that leaves through a large industrial sized fan that essentially "sucks" the air out of your home.

Physics demands that for every cubic foot of air that leaves an enclosure, a cubic foot of air will replace it through an crack, crevice, hole, connection, etc.

So as the fan pulls air out and creates a negative pressure fresh outside air is pulled in through all of the outside connection points in your home and as new air enters and flows through the house and back through the fan, a flow rate is achieved and recorded.  This is the starting number to then measure against after the work is completed.

The second benefit of a blower door test is that is allows the contractor and the homeowner to physically inspect the house while the test is running to discover the leakage points in a physical sense - rather than in a hypothetical sense.

This is very important for the average homeowner that has a thousand other things they would rather be doing and rather be learning about.

When a homeowner can actually participate and see that air leakage can be attributed to many other things before windows it has a profound effect. For every leaky window discovered at a blower door test there are five hundred examples of recessed lights that were much worse offenders.

One great example of a home that made huge gains in comfort, reduced drafts and overall energy usage was a home in which not a single window was replaced.  The results from the air leakage test were huge and the customer noticed a difference the first day.

Here are the blower door results as seen on the pressure and flow gauge (manometer).

 

 

The results show a 29% reduction in the leakage of this home.  This means that actual holes in the home's shell were proper sealed and the results have been measured through diagnostic testing.

So, what did we do to treat this house and make huge gains on reducing air leakage you ask?

CRAWL SPACE ENCAPSULATION!!

 

Saturday, January 02 2021

 

Pepco Home Energy Audit Guide
Table of Contents

Find it Fast
 
  1. Introduction
  2. How a Pepco Audit Flows
  3. Why do you need it?
  4. What kind of service is it?
  5. More about testing
  6.  Indoor Air Quality
  7. Exterior Inspection
  8. Prepare for the audit
  9. Takeaways from an audit 
  10. Eligibility
  11. Participation
  12. Maryland Energy Rebates
  13. Instant Savings Measures
  14. Contractor Qualifications
  15. Pest Intrusion - the link
  16. Lower Energy Bills?
  17. Next steps
  18. Conclusion

 


Everything You Need to Know About a Pepco Energy Audit

Often times homeowners don't know what a Pepco energy audit is or how it can actually help you understand energy waste in "three dimensional" ways.

For example, it is certain that an incorrectly installed bathroom exhaust fan will cost you far more in annual energy waste than perhaps all of the windows in your house.

Here are three benefits of a comprehensive home energy audit through the Pepco Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program:

1.  It can help you avoid choosing the wrong solution to a problem you are having
2.  A Pepco energy audit is a great way to organize your home improvement priority list
3.  It will undoubtedly guide you, or someone you know, to a more comfortable home

This article breaks it all down for you and shows you how getting the audit done can really open your eyes to a few unexpected things!

<Back to Top>


How a Typical Pepco Energy Audit Will Flow

Hour 1 - Meet & Greet 

First, the auditor needs to learn about what is going on with your house and what has you interested in getting the audit done. You can give the auditor a tour of the house.  You and your auditor should discuss any details or items of interest you might want to share.

Hour 2 - Auditor Data Collection/ Testing

Every auditor has their own style and method. Data collection is a very important part of a home energy audit and a house can be fairly complicated.  Typically hour two is spent apart from the technician so that accurate information can be collected through testing and measurements.

Hour 3 - Attic Inspection/ Blower Door Test

Once all information from all of the key places around your home, including your attic and crawl space, have been collected the only test left is the blower door test.  The blower door test is a great opportunity to walk around the house and perform a physical inspection and go through all findings.  This way, when reporting is provided the information in the paperwork will align with the things you see around your home on the day of the audit.

<Back to Top>


Why Do You Need a Pepco Energy Audit?

A great way to significantly reduce energy waste is to tighten up the envelope of your house. When sealing is done properly your HVAC runs less, pests have a harder time getting in and you feel more comfortable.  Knowing where to look and how to accomplish improving your "building's shell" is the central focus of a Pepco energy audit.  

A Pepco energy auditor will investigate areas of your home that typically do not see much "daylight".  It is the dark corners and small spaces that sometimes yield the most information.  Getting a Pepco energy audit just to have a trained pro to check out the attic is well worth the small investment of $100!

<Back to Top>


What Kind of Service is a Pepco Energy Audit?

Not every contractor in Maryland qualifies to perform a Pepco energy audit.  Improving your home's building shell tightness is not as simple as adding more insulation.Pepco Home Energy Audits Maryland

Energy auditors have to be certified as Building Analysts to identify what a house needs. Calculating the number of air changes per hour your house loses uncontrolled to the outside is part of the assessment.  You can see examples of interesting things we find tied to air leakage here.

A Pepco energy auditor evaluates your house as it stands now. The auditor accurately takes a "snapshot" of your home's energy performance.

Health and safety testing, pressure readings and an air leakage test are all data points needed to complete a Pepco energy audit.  Other evaluations depend on age, symptoms and preexisting conditions.

<Back to Top>

 

What does a Pepco Energy Audit Test Around Your House?

Health & Safety Testing

There are several health and safety tests that are performed during a Pepco energy audit.  You can expect the following:

  • Combustion testing of any gas appliances
  • Carbon monoxide testing
  • Gas line leakage testing

Air Flow Testing

Ventilation is an important part of healthy living and must be part of the overall plan to improve efficiency.

  • Measure exhaust fan ventilation speed
  • Blower door testing
  • Duct leakage testing

Take the smart step and schedule your Pepco energy audit for as soon as you can!  It is a steal at $100!

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

 

How Can a Pepco Energy Audit Give You a Check-In on Your Home's Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality is commonly misunderstood as a number calculated in particles.  Instead, it refers to getting fresh air into a home.

A Pepco energy audit is a great way to determine what your indoor air quality "score" is and how to fix any deficits that may exist. A great way to figure out indoor air quality is to consider a common misconception.

A very good carpenter that works around houses every day once said to me during a discussion about air sealing a house:

"Well gee, don't you need to let the house breathe?"

This comment has a direct tie to indoor air quality.  The answer is, YES, of course.  But, what we need to discuss is the difference between uncontrolled and controlled "breathing".

A Pepco energy audit, with the use of sophisticated modeling software, calculates the required air changes per hour for each individual home that is inspected.  A Pepco energy audit looks to tighten a building's shell, therefore calculations are made as the house stands now and projections are calculated if the house is tightened.

The great thing about the Pepco energy audit is that you can find out your indoor air quality status now without getting any additional work done.  Some houses are too tight before any measures are taken and the occupants are happy to know there is a deficit and how to remedy the issue.  An energy audit consistently delivers the options for solutions which gives the homeowner complete control.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

 

What does a Pepco Energy Audit Look for on the Exterior of Your Home?

BGE home InspectionA walk around the perimeter of your home by a certified auditor is an important part of taking a whole house approach to remodeling.  Uncovering issues that have gone unnoticed is an effective way to prioritize your home remodeling projects. 

For example, if downspouts are not properly extended from the home, recommendations on how to remedy the issue will be provided in order to keep water away from the foundation wall.

Other areas of importance are siding, windows, doors, HVAC and trim.  Looking at ventilation areas on the outside of the home will also help to prioritize your next home improvement projects.

Watch this short clip that demonstrates the connection between the basement and the outside of your home that every energy auditor needs to pay attention to for you.

 


​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

 

How to Prepare for a Pepco Energy Audit

Pointing out comfort issues and other concerns to your Pepco energy auditor is an important part of the audit. This way proper time will be set aside to investigate your specific issue.

Here are the ways you can prepare and get the most out of your audit:

  • Write down any comfort issues by season
  • List any smells around the house you might have noticed
  • Think about any changes to insulation you have made since living in the home
  • Find out the age of you HVAC equipment
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, clean out the ashes before the Pepco energy audit
  • Get a copy of your Pepco energy bill for the audit
  • Carve out about four hours of your time to have the audit performed
  • Clear any entrances to the attic, crawl space or other area that might need insulation and is hard to accessPreplist for Pepco Energy Audit

Download this one page Pepco energy audit prep checklist.  

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

 

 

What Takeaways Can You Expect from a Pepco Energy Audit?

Pepco Energy Audit Blower Door TestIf you had a Pepco energy audit or plan to get one, you should be able to identify with several if not all of the following take-aways:

 

  • The technician explained the Pepco energy audit process
  • You will know how much insulation you have and how much you need
  • The technician answered all of your questions
  • The technician showed you something that you did not realize about your home
  • Parts of the Pepco energy audit were interactive
  • You part ways with your auditor feeling smarter about energy waste and more in control
  • A clear priority list begins to emerge with both wants and needs addressed
  • At least one do-it-yourself tip that will make an immediate impact on your energy usage/comfort
  • You remember the blower door test!
  • You felt a leakage point somewhere inside your house
  • Your home was left in the same way it was prior to the start of the Pepco energy audit!

These are all signs that you have had an excellent Pepco energy audit!

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

 

Who is Eligible for a Pepco Energy Audit?

Pepco home inspectionIn order to qualify for a Pepco energy audit, you must be receiving electric and/or natural gas service from Pepco. 

The offer is not valid for new construction, multi-family dwellings or commercial buildings.  The special $100 fee for the audit is also only valid for your first audit for a Pepco account at a specific address.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

 

 

 

How to Participate in the Pepco Energy Audit Program

According to Pepco the first step to get an energy audit is to select a participating contractor. You can schedule a comprehensive home energy audit with Hometrust here. The cost is $100 ($400 value).

Once the Pepco energy audit is complete your home's data will get entered into the modeling software. The program calculates eligible rebates. It also calculates how much energy you can save if you get the work done as prescribed.

Pepco home energy audit modeling program
Modeling software generates an accurate Pepco energy audit report.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>


Incentives and Rebates Connected to the Pepco Energy Audit

Are you are having a specific comfort or energy usage issue? Are you in the market for insulation, efficient windows and doors, a new water heater or new HVAC?

If you said yes, then the Pepco energy audit program is an absolute no-brainer. Here is what the incentives cover in the way of high efficiency products and solutions:

  • Air Sealing and insulation
  • Heating and cooling equipment
  • ENERGY STAR® Windows and Doors
  • Hybrid heat pump water heaters
  • Duct Sealing
  • Smart Thermostats​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>


Pepco Energy Audit Instant Savings Measures

A great benefit of the Pepco energy audit is the energy saving measures that the energy auditor can install in your home.  The "direct installs" include the following:

  • High efficiency LED light bulbs
  • Low-flow shower head fixtures
  • Low-flow sink aerators
  • Insulation for hot water heater pipe
  • Smart power strips

Pepco energy audit direct install

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>


Who is Qualified to Perform a Pepco Energy Audit?

There are only a select few contractors in the state of Maryland that qualify to perform a Pepco energy audit. An approved auditing company in the program has a very unique skill set.

There are two unique certifications that are critical to understanding the audit process and being accepted into the program. A contractor that carries a Building Analyst certification can identify energy issues. The Envelope Professional designation means that we also know how to fix problems.

Most contractors know how to sell you what you want and install what they sell. Pepco energy audit approved energy firms know how to show you what you need and install it so it makes a difference.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>


Can a Pepco Energy Audit Help Me Find Ways to Reduce Insects/Rodents In My Home?Pepco energy audit

A Pepco energy audit has one main purpose and that is to tighten the envelope of your home. This means to let less air leak in or out. Insects travel in and out through the exact same pathways.

The answer is yes! A Pepco energy audit will look around your entire home to search for air leakage. When you take advantage of the available incentives to get the work done it will also help to reduce pests.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>


Will the results of a Pepco energy audit save you money?

Pepco Energy Audit

A Pepco energy audit will save you money - no questions asked! Upon completion of your initial inspection, the auditor will install energy saving measures. This will help you save right away!

On a grander scale, the answer gets more complicated. There are many factors that must be in the equation to determine an answer.

For example: 

  • How long will you live in the home?
  • How much work does the home need?
  • What type of fuel do you use for heating and cooling?

A Pepco energy audit is the absolute best way to figure out the answer to the question. In fact, that is the design of the program. The audit is the analyzation step. Information obtained during the audit can set a pathway to comfort and efficiency.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>

What Types of Recommendations Come Out of a Pepco Energy Audit?

If you believe that improving comfort and efficiency is as simple as adding insulation to what you have then a Pepco energy audit is something you should strongly consider.

A typical prescription for tightening up a house and making it more efficient will include things like caulking, air sealing and weatherization treatment to the attic hatch.  Walls that are accessible in the attic (knee walls) may be recommended for treatment and the basement rim joist is a big opportunity in unfinished areas.

Each home is different and the "low hanging fruit" are different for each home.  A good auditor will find differences in the same model in the same neighborhood.  A Pepco energy audit takes a snapshot of your home's insulation levels around the house, reports on them and makes recommendations on how to improve the boundary locations.

​​​​​​​<Back to Top>


Conclusion

Residential houses and commercial buildings account for approximately 39 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. 

Energy consumption within a building is made up of many parts and the building envelope is the single biggest factor in what part of the usage is waste.  The envelope serves as the barrier between the inside and outside. 

A Pepco energy audit evaluates your home's envelope and looks for easy ways to tighten things up.  A Pepco energy audit can lead to more home comfort and smaller energy bills. 

 

________________

Written by Eric Gans
I have over 1000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.
 

Have you had a Pepco energy audit and if so, what was your experience?  We want to know!

Saturday, January 02 2021

 


BGE Home Energy Audit Guide
Table of Contents

Find it Fast 
  1. Introduction
  2. How a BGE Audit Flows
  3. Why do you need it?
  4. What kind of service is it?
  5. More about testing
  6. Indoor Air Quality
  7. Exterior Inspection
  8. Prepare for the audit
  9. Takeaways from an audit
  10. Eligibility
  11. Participation
  12. Maryland Energy Rebates
  13. Instant Savings Measures
  14. Contractor Qualifications
  15. Pest Intrusion & the link
  16. Lower Energy Bills?
  17. Next steps
  18. Conclusion

 


Everything You Need to Know About a BGE Energy Audit

Often times homeowners don't know what a BGE energy audit is or how it can actually help you understand energy waste in "three dimensional" ways.

For example, it is certain that an incorrectly installed bathroom exhaust fan will cost you far more in annual energy waste than perhaps all of the windows in your house.

Here are three benefits of a comprehensive home energy audit through the BGE Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program:

1.  It can help you avoid choosing the wrong solution to a problem you are having
2.  A BGE energy audit is a great way to organize your home improvement priority list
3.  It will undoubtedly guide you, or someone you know, to a more comfortable home

This article breaks it all down for you and shows you how getting the audit done can really open your eyes to a few unexpected things!

<Back to Top>


How a Typical BGE Energy Audit Will Flow

Hour 1 - Meet & Greet

First, the auditor needs to learn about what is going on with your house and what has you interested in getting the audit done. You can give the auditor a tour of the house.  You and your auditor should discuss any details or items of interest you might want to share.

Hour 2 - Auditor Data Collection/ Testing

Every auditor has their own style and method. Data collection is a very important part of a home energy audit and a house can be fairly complicated.  Typically hour two is spent apart from the technician so that accurate information can be collected through testing and measurements.

Hour 3 - Attic Inspection/ Blower Door Test

Once all information from all of the key places around your home, including your attic and crawl space, have been collected the only test left is the blower door test.  The blower door test is a great opportunity to walk around the house and perform a physical inspection and go through all findings.  This way, when reporting is provided the information in the paperwork will align with the things you see around your home on the day of the audit.

<Back to Top>


Why Do You Need a BGE Energy Audit?

A great way to significantly reduce energy waste is to tighten up the envelope of your home. When sealing is done properly your HVAC runs less, pests have a harder time getting in and you feel more comfortable.  Knowing where to look and how to accomplish improving your "building's shell" is the central focus of a BGE energy audit.  

A certified energy auditor will investigate areas of your home that typically do not see much "daylight".  It is the dark corners and small spaces that sometimes yield the most information. 

Getting the service done just to have a trained pro to check out the attic or crawl space is well worth the small investment of $100!

<Back to Top>


What Kind of Service is a BGE Energy Audit?

Not every contractor in Maryland qualifies to perform a BGE energy audit.  Improving your home's building shell tightness is not as simple as adding more insulation.BGE Home Energy Audits Maryland

Energy auditors have to be certified as Building Analysts to identify what a house needs. Calculating the number of air changes per hour your house loses uncontrolled to the outside is part of  the assessment.  You can see examples of interesting things we find tied to air leakage here.

A BGE energy auditor evaluates your house as it stands now. The auditor accurately takes a "snapshot" of your home's energy performance.

Health and safety testing, pressure readings and an air leakage test are all data points needed to complete the energy audit.  Other evaluations depend on age, symptoms and preexisting conditions.

<Back to Top>


What does a BGE Energy Audit Test Around Your House?

Health & Safety Testing

There are several health and safety tests that are performed during a BGE energy audit.  You can expect the following:

  • Combustion testing of any gas appliances
  • Carbon monoxide testing
  • Gas line leakage testing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Flow Testing

Ventilation is an important part of healthy living and must be part of the overall plan to improve efficiency.

  • Measure exhaust fan ventilation speed
  • Blower door testing
  • Duct leakage testing

Take the important step of scheduling your BGE energy audit as soon as you can!  It's a steal at $100!

<Back to Top>

How Can a BGE Energy Audit Give You a Check-In on Your Home's Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality is commonly misunderstood as a number calculated in particles.  Instead, it refers to getting fresh air into a home.

A BGE energy audit is a great way to determine what your indoor air quality "score" is and how to fix any deficits that may exist. A great way to figure out indoor air quality is to consider a common misconception.

A very good carpenter that works around houses every day once said to me during a discussion about air sealing a house:

"Well gee, don't you need to let the house breathe?"

This comment has a direct tie to indoor air quality.  The answer is, YES, of course.  But, what we need to discuss is the difference between uncontrolled and controlled "breathing".

With the use of sophisticated modeling software, data collected during the audit will calculate the required air changes per hour for each individual home that is inspected.  The assessment looks to tighten a building's shell, therefore calculations are made as the house stands now and projections are calculated if the house is tightened.

The great thing about the BGE energy audit is that you can find out your indoor air quality status now without getting any additional work done.  Some houses are too tight before any measures are taken and the occupants are happy to know there is a deficit and how to remedy the issue.  An energy audit consistently delivers the options for solutions which gives the homeowner complete control.

<Back to Top>

What does a BGE Energy Audit Look for on the Exterior of Your Home?

BGE home InspectionA walk around the perimeter of your home by a certified auditor is an important part of taking a whole house approach to remodeling.  Uncovering issues that have gone unnoticed is an effective way to prioritize your home remodeling projects. 

For example, if downspouts are not properly extended from the home, recommendations on how to remedy the issue will be provided in order to keep water away from the foundation wall.

Other areas of importance are siding, windows, doors, HVAC and trim.  Looking at ventilation areas on the outside of the home will also help to prioritize your next home improvement projects.

Watch this short clip that demonstrates the connection between the basement and the outside of your home that every energy auditor needs to pay attention to for you.

 

<Back to Top>

 

 

The Initial Interview & How to Prepare for a BGE Energy Audit

Pointing out comfort issues or other concerns to your energy technician is an important part of the audit. This way proper time will be set aside to investigate your specific concerns.

Here are the ways you can prepare and get the most out of your audit:

  • Write down any comfort issues by season
  • List any smells around the house you might have noticed
  • Think about any changes to insulation you have made since living in the home
  • Find out the age of your HVAC equipment
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, clean out the ashes before the BGE energy audit
  • Get a copy of your BGE energy bill for the audit
  • Carve out about four hours of your time to have the audit performed
  • Clear any entrances to the attic, crawl space or other area that might need insulation and is hard to access

Preplist for BGE Energy AuditDownload this one page BGE energy audit prep checklist. 

 

<Back to Top>

 

 

What Takeaways Can You Expect from a BGE Energy Audit?

If you had an audit through the program or plan to get one, you should be able to identify with several if not all of the following take-aways:

  • Your technician explained the BGE energy audit process
  • You will know how much insulation you have and how much you need
  • The technician answered all of your questions
  • The technician showed you something that you did not realize about your home
  • Parts of the BGE energy audit were interactive
  • You part ways with your auditor feeling smarter about energy waste and more in control
  • A clear priority list begins to emerge with both wants and needs addressed
  • At least one do-it-yourself tip that will make an immediate impact on your energy usage/comfort
  • You remember the blower door test!
  • You felt a leakage point somewhere inside your house
  • Your home was left in the same way it was prior to the energy audit!

BGE Energy Audit Blower Door Test

These are all signs that you have had an excellent BGE energy audit!

<Back to Top>

 

Who is Eligible for a BGE Energy Audit?

bge home inspectionIn order to qualify for the energy audit and participate in the BGE Weatherization Program, you must have an active electric and/or natural gas account with service from BGE. 

The offer is not valid for new construction, multi-family dwellings or commercial buildings. 

The special $100 fee for the audit is also only valid for your first audit under your BGE account at a specific address.

<Back to Top>


How to Participate in the BGE Energy Audit Program?

According to BGE the first step to get an energy audit is to select an approved BGE weatherization contractor. You can schedule a comprehensive home energy audit with Hometrust here. The cost is $100 ($400 value).

Once the BGE energy audit is complete your home's data will get entered into the modeling software. The program calculates eligible rebates. It also calculates how much energy you can save if you get the work done as prescribed.

bge home energy audit modeling program
Modeling software generates an accurate and detailed energy report.

<Back to Top>

Incentives and Rebates Connected to the BGE Energy Audit

Are you are having a specific comfort or energy usage issue? Are you in the market for insulation, efficient windows and doors, a new water heater or new HVAC?

If you said yes, then the BGE energy audit program is an absolute no-brainer for you. Here is what the incentives cover in the way of high efficiency products and solutions:

  • Air Sealing and insulation
  • Heating and cooling equipment
  • ENERGY STAR® Windows and Doors
  • Hybrid heat pump water heaters
  • Duct Sealing
  • Smart Thermostats

<Back to Top>


BGE Energy Audit Instant Savings Measures

BGE energy audit direct installA great benefit of the BGE energy audit is the energy saving measures that the energy auditor can install in your home on the day of the audit.  The "direct installs" include the following:

  • High efficiency LED light bulbs
  • Low-flow shower head fixtures
  • Low-flow sink aerators
  • Insulation for hot water heater pipe
  • Smart power strips

<Back to Top>

 

 

Who is Qualified to Perform a BGE Energy Audit?

There are only a select few contractors in the state of Maryland that qualify to perform a BGE energy audit. An approved auditing company in the program has a very unique skill set.

There are two unique certifications that are critical to understanding the audit process and being accepted into the program. A contractor that carries a Building Analyst certification can identify energy issues. The Envelope Professional designation means that we also know how to fix problems.

Most contractors know how to sell you what you want and install what they sell. BGE energy audit approved energy firms know how to show you what you need and install it so it makes a difference.

<Back to Top>


Can a BGE Energy Audit Help Me Find Ways to Reduce Insects/Rodents In My Home?

An energy audit has one main purpose and that is to tighten the envelope of your home. This means to let less air leak in or out. Insects travel in and out through the exact same pathways.

maryland energy rebates

The answer is yes! An BGE energy audit will look around your entire home to search for air leakage. When you take advantage of the available incentives to get the work done it will also help to reduce pests.

<Back to Top>


Will the results of a BGE energy audit save you money?

BGE Energy Audit

A comprehensive energy assessment through BGE will save you money - no questions asked! Upon completion of your initial inspection, the auditor will install energy saving measures. This will help you save right away!

On a bigger scale, the answer gets more complicated. There are many factors that must be in the equation to determine an answer.

For example:

  • How long will you live in the home?
  • How much work does the home need?
  • What type of fuel do you use for heating and cooling?

A BGE energy audit is the absolute best way to figure out the answer to the $ question. In fact, that is the design of the program. The audit is the analyzation step. Information obtained during the audit can set a pathway to comfort and efficiency.

<Back to Top>


What Types of Recommendations Can Come Out of a BGE Energy Audit?

If you believe that improving comfort and efficiency is as simple as replacing windows or adding insulation to what you have then a BGE energy audit is something you should strongly consider.  Following building science principles will make great sense after the audit is complete.

A typical prescription for tightening up a house and making it more efficient will include things like caulking, air sealing, insulation and weatherization treatment to the attic hatch.  Walls that are accessible in the attic (knee walls) may be recommended for improved treatment and the basement rim joist is a big opportunity in unfinished areas to seal up the lower areas of the home which also account for energy waste and comfort issues.

Each home is different and the "low hanging fruit" are different for each home.  A good energy auditor will find differences in the same model in the same neighborhood.  The audit takes a snapshot of your home's insulation levels around the house, reports on them and makes recommendations on how to improve the boundary locations.

BGE Energy Audit Solutions

<Back to Top>

Conclusion

Residential homes and commercial buildings account for approximately 39 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. 

Energy consumption within a building is made up of many parts and the building envelope is the single biggest factor in what part of the usage is waste.  The envelope serves as the barrier between the inside and outside. 

A BGE energy audit evaluates your home's envelope and looks for easy ways to tighten things up.  A BGE energy audit can lead to more home comfort and smaller energy bills. 

 

________________

Written by Eric Gans
I have over 1000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.
 

Have you had a BGE energy audit and if so, what was your experience?  We want to know!

Friday, January 01 2021
The Blower Door Test | Pass IECC Energy Code

IECC Energy Code Testing - This House Passed the Blower Door Test!

This beautiful new construction house that was completed in summer 2020 located in New Windsor, MD went through one of it's final steps to pass the energy code in the state of Maryland. IECC Blower Door Test New Windsor Maryland

The blower door test, or air leakage test was performed in accordance with the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). 

The air leakage code requires that a house test at equal to or less than three air changes per hour (3ACH). 

The test was conducted using the ASTM E1827 - single point method. 

The blower door test was conducted five times and each measurement was recorded and entered into the report. 

Each test result yielded an ACH number less than two so the house passed with flying colors. 

In Carroll County Maryland and many other counties across the country, it is important to consider the building envelope during each construction phase so that your house is sealed properly and it can also easily pass the test. 

Tighter houses use less energy and are more comfortable.  In a tighter house you control the home's "breathing" rather than letting your energy dollars escape through the  various holes to the outside around a typical residential building's shell.

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Guide to Air Sealing a Home

The blower door test will reveal whether these measures were properly taken during the construction of the home.

1. Air barrier and thermal barrier. 

  • A continuous air barrier/pressure boundary must be installed in the building envelope.
  • Exterior thermal envelope contains a continuous air barrier.
  • Breaks or seams/joints in the air barrier must be sealed.
  • Air-permeable insulation (fiberglass batts) should not be used as sealing material.

2. Ceiling/attic

  • The air barrier/pressure boundary in any dropped ceiling/bulkhead/soffit should be aligned
  • with the insulation and any gaps need to be sealed.
  • Access opening, drop down stairs or knee wall doors to unconditioned space should be sealed.

3. Walls

  • Corners and headers should be insulated and the junction of the foundation and sill plate must be sealed.
  • The junction at the top plate and top of exterior walls should be sealed.
  • Wall insulation should be in continuous alignment/contact with the air barrier
  • Kneewalls should be sealed.

4. Windows, skylight and doors

  • The space between window and door jambs and framing as well as skylights and framing should be properly sealed.

5. Rim Joists

  • Rim joists should be air sealed (air barrier) and insulated.
  • Floors (above garage/cantilever)

6. Insulation must be installed and affixed to the underside of the subfloor plywood.

  • The air barrier must be installed at any exposed edge of the insulation.

7. Crawl Space Walls

  • Encapsulation is recommended including installing vapor barrier at the floor, sealing and insulating the walls and disconnecting the space from the outside.

8. Shafts, penetrations

  • Utility penetrations,
  • Shafts for ducts
  • Conduits for wiring
  • Flue chases that open to the outside or unconditioned space should be sealed.

9. Narrow Cavities

  • The proper insulation solution should be used to block and seal any irregular voids.

10. Garage Separation

  • Air sealing should be done between the garage and conditioned spaces.

11. Recessed Lighting

  • Recessed light fixtures installed in the thermal/pressure boundary should be air tight, IC rated and sealed to the drywall.

12. Plumbing and wiring

  • Batt insulation should be cut neatly to conform to any wiring and plumbing located in exterior walls.

13. Shower/tub on exterior wall

  • Outside walls connected to showers and tubs shall be insulated and the air barrier installed separating them from the shower and tub.

14. Electrical/phone box on exterior walls

  • The air barrier must be installed behind electrical and communication panels/boxes or air sealed boxes should be installed.

15. HVAC duct measures

16. Fireplace

  • An air barrier should be installed on fireplace walls and the doors on a fireplace should be gasketed.


Watch the Blower Door Get Set up in 2.5 Minutes


 


 

Thursday, December 31 2020
Cape Cod Style Air Seal & Insulation Project From A to Z

 

Towson - Maryland

If you have a Cape-Cod style home and you are wondering if you can air seal and insulate effectively - the answer is yes, however not without a good plan.

Houses with Cape-Cod style framing stem from being built in the 1940's and 1950's when the cost of heating was dirt cheap and insulation was an afterthought.

If you live in this style home, chances are very good that it has not been properly addressed due to the complexities of the way it was built. 

Take a look at this recent Cape-Cod insulation project and what steps were taken to seal and insulate.  This one is located in the friendly residential Southland Hills community of about 200 homes in the heart of Towson, Maryland.  The homes in the neighborhood were built in the 1940s.  

 

The Comprehensive Energy Audit


Bonus Room House!

When I pull up to a home as an energy auditor I have my radar on:  What style home is it?  What is the footprint of the home?  What condition is the home in?  Is the heating and cooling gas or electric?  These are some of the take-off points to begin a great home energy audit.

One thing at this house stood out to me when I arrived.  

I window at the top of a wall within the side gable usually means the house has a "bonus room".  Another, more well known way to describe the style of home is Cape-Cod style.

If you have a Cape-Cod style house then you know it really means the bonus room is really just an extra dose of difficulty.

The small attic behind the wall at the bottom of the sloped ceiling is usually hard to reach and a source for discomfort and dust due to old/worn insulation, poorly sealed hatches and general basic neglect (nobody's judging ya!). 
 

     
Panel that leads to attic space behind bonus room wall.                     The attic area behind the bonus room wall.

I find these attics in older homes throughout Baltimore County and if you take a drive through this Southland Hills neighborhood, it is easy to see that many of the 200 homes built in the development are all of similar Cape-Cod style.

 

How to Make Insulation Decisions in a Cape-Cod

 

Finding a Good Air Sealing & Insulation Treatment Approach

The best approach to take in a house that is a Cape-Cod configuration is to see what the house has to offer as a starting point.  What I mean by that is to figure out what areas of the space can be easily accessed.

 

 

Collar Attic Plan

Treatment to the top flat portion of the attic (called the collar attic) should be evaluated for treatment including sealing and adding insulation. If space permits air sealing and insulation should be installed.

Look at these similarly constructed homes with varying amounts of space above the top flat ceiling.  The lines indicate the approximate ceiling location.

      

Example Home with only 20" of space                                                     Home Where Audit was Conducted has 36" of space to work

 

In the two different configurations, literally the difference between 16" makes the difference between being able to work in the space or not.

The good news for this home in the Southland Hills neighborhood is that it had sufficient space for a human to work.

Check out some of the details...

 

                   

The ceiling measures 7' across.                                                 A hatch that was cut for HVAC in the collar attic.
 

A pop up inside the space reveals not much room to move, but a good opportunity
to make improvements, nonetheless.

 

At the end of the day a air sealing and adding insulation to the collar attic was feasible and recommended to the homeowner.  Each Cape-Cod collar attic should be independently evaluated for feasibility.

 

Sloped Attic Approach

Sloped ceiling portions of a Cape-Cod attic should be evaluated both visually and with thermal imaging.  One possible deterrent for homeowners to treat a Cape-Cod attic is that finished sloped ceilings can be costly to re-insulate. 

But don't over-think or try to over-do the job.  With a few subtle installation techniques, the R-value in the sloped cavity can be increased in some cases and treating areas that are more practical to reach will only improve overall leakage of the ceiling bays.

The solution for this home was to seal the cavity bays from below and from above and leave the existing insulation to keep the project within a budget.

 

Knee Wall Areas

Another challenge to getting measurable results when air sealing a Cape-Cod style home is getting to all of the small spaces between the roof and the knee wall.

In many cases access will need to be made in several locations, so knowing this and prioritizing improvements is critically important.

As an example, don't re-paint the upstairs bonus room if you are considering insulation or if you are finding this article because you are not comfortable in the space and want to find solutions.

Energy auditing, home performance and the BPI guidelines all work towards finding areas around preexisting homes to treat where the return on investment is positive over time. 

In some instances, costs will outweigh value, but when it comes to treating these inaccessible spaces that have older insulation - the gains in energy savings and comfort can really pay off if a little finishing work is required after the project is done adds a little to the overall cost.

Every situation should be evaluated on a case by case basis and a home energy audit is precisely a way to figure all of this out.

Notice how the front dormer windows create multiple areas that need to be treated, making it a bit more difficult.
 

Check out how we create access to an attic area that is not currently accessible.

 

Final Plan: Sealing and Insulating in the Best Locations for this House

The stack effect drives the air change conveyor belt inside your home quite a bit in the heating season. This is due to leakage in the basement and in the attic.

During an energy audit I am literally "on the hunt" for places that air can infiltrate (come into your conditioned space) and exfiltrate (your conditioned air goes out).  Sealing up these two places in cost effective ways is the name of the game!

So, after careful review and consultation between myself and the homeowner, we decided on the following work scope:

 

~WORK SCOPE~

Foundation -- Air Sealing / Insulation 

Air seal any penetrations at the accessible rim joist in the basement with two-part spray foam (~60 linear ft) which will also insulate the area to R-19.

Attic -- Air Sealing / Insulation

Cut access in three wall locations to gain access to upper floor attic.  Reinstall the drywall with removable panel for future access if needed.

Treat three existing attic access areas by adding insulation to each and weatherstripping.  (2 wall, 1 ceiling)

Add 5-7” of open cell spray foam to the accessible sloped roof surfaces of the kneewall attic areas (~392 sq ft).

Blow 10” of loose fill cellulose to the flat collar attic using the existing ceiling hatch in the closet (~154 sq ft).



Basement Rim & Band Joist - Every Home Should Get this Treatment by the Way

If you are not sure what the rim and band joist are in your basement and if it is accessible for treatment - you are about to find out!

First, put yourself in the unfinished part of your basement.  Usually it is a utility room with HVAC, water heater and maybe washer/dryer.

Identify your foundation wall at the top and you have found your rim and band joist.

 

 

Take a look at how the electrical "main" is coming through the rim joist in the basement of this Towson, Maryland home performance home.  This is happening in a lot of homes.

 

 

Look at the size of that hole.  And this is the point - it is a hole going directly to the outside which means this:

Summer: humidity infiltration
Winter: cold air infiltration

Just look at those spider webs.  The spiders like to make their traps where air is moving.  It is instinctual.  So if you see a spider web, air is flowing.

Now get your full frame of reference by watching this short video clip that shows where the electrical main and gas line enter into the rim joist from the outside which appears "invisible", but it is not.

 

 

Results - A Look at the Final Project and the Test-Out Numbers

 

Rim and Band Joist Treatment - Closed Cell Spray Foam

Watch the spray foam team treat a portion of the rim and band joist in this up close and personal clip. 

 

Knee Wall Attic Treatment Before / After

 

Blower Door Results

Many factors drive the overall reduction in leakage that each home is schedule to achieve during a home performance project through the BGE program.  I make this very clear to my customers that for every house I am believe we can get 30% reduction and don't there is a home that I am convinced we can only achieve the minimum required to meet the program standards (10%) - only to exceed that by a lot.

As a result of many audits and challenging situations when I was wrong, the partnership I formed with this customer went a long way.  We both agreed that 20% reduction was a good target and that due to other factors that were not reported here, we will do everything we can to nail the work scope and see where it takes us.

Ultimately, this home performance project achieved an 11% reduction in leakage.  

 

 

 

Initial Blower Door Test In CFM: 3775 Cubic Feet Per Minute at Negative Pressure -50 Pascals

 

 

Final Test Out Number: 3255 Cubic Feet Per Minute at negative pressure -50 Pascals

 

 

 

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