Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


January 22, 2010

Results of my Energy Audit: Before and After Pictures

Category: Conservation,Energy Audit,Household,Save Fuel,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 10:31 pm

In the Spring of 2009 I hired energy auditor Flemming Lund to do an energy audit on our house — I posted pictures and the full report — it was pretty amazing. I had some work done this summer (air sealing and insulation), and did some more on my own this fall — mostly caulking and stuff. Then I asked Flemming to come back and re-do the test. I told him he would have endless fame, fortune and that I would continue to refer customers to him, so he graciously waived the re-audit fee (thanks Flemming!)

And here are the results. Well, actually, the results are on Energy Circle — they have real editors and a wider audience than little ol’ Five Percent, and it was Energy Circle that helped me find Flemming and learn about a lot of this stuff from the start.

I hope you’ll take a minute to pop over and read my story. Our savings from the whole process, from an energy audit, air sealing, insulation, and good old caulk are pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.

Here’s a little teaser…
Before and After Pictures

6 Comments

  1. That is pretty cool! It’s great to have such a clear cut picture to determine where to insulate or caulk. I’ve been working around my house but without the benefit of an energy audit. Sometimes, I think people don’t realize how simple projects can really make a house much more efficient.

    Comment by Ethan@OneProjectCloser — January 23, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  2. Ethan — there is no doubt that the energy audit will pay for itself time and time again. Part of it is, as you say, you know where to apply effort. For us this was especially true and visible with some of the IR pictures showing where our first round of insulation missed. But I have to say, as much of the experience and learning was a result of our auditor not only explaining, but showing where air was rushing in.

    When the blower was attached to the door, sucking air out of the house, it was pretty easy to tell which rooms were tight and which were not — you could just close the door and put your hand up to feel the draft … or not. Flemming had a smoke gun, too — little puffs of smoke would tell the tale of exactly where holes were.

    But I think the most useful bit of information was that the efficacy of insulation is severely compromised if the airspace in which it is installed is not tight.

    I need to do some research and see if I can find some facts about this, but I suspect that most people would think that one of the first things they should do to improve a leaky old house would be to insulate. That’s what we thought (in our first round 7 or 8 years ago), but the next winter, we still hard a hard time keeping the house warm. We replaced all of our old windows — that was expensive — and it made a difference.

    But neither of those improvements really “kicked in” until we got some foam and a few tubes of caulk and sealed the house up so that it was tighter. Our auditor explained this to us. I kind of wish the original insulation salesman, or the Pella window salesman had delivered this same information. The audit was cheap compared to all the other things we did.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — January 23, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  3. We moved to our current house about 3 years ago. Did an energy audit right off, sealed up a bunch of major air leaks that we found with a blower test (cut airflow almost in 1/2), replaced a valve that was stuck 1/2 open (constantly heating a green-house room when any radiant heat zone called), and put a wood stove in the 3′ x 4′ stone fireplace openning.

    Even though we’re a family of 5 that replaced an older couple, our first year energy use was cut in more than half of the previous owners.

    There were lots of changes that went on, and we could debate as to whether the payback was less than a year, or closer to 18 months. In general, I’ll worry about calculating the ROI of projects once they start taking more than just a few years to pay for themselves (like the DHW solar system I put in last June).

    While I’m currently researching and trying to get a neighborhood PC solar array setup this year, reading Tom’s article was a great reminder that I still have a lot of cheap, easy, quick return things to do.

    Adding insulation can be really expensive, and is a total waste of money if you still have a lot of air leaks. Inspired, I bought a case of caulk yesterday and will be going around the great-room while watching the play-off’s later today (big room, very high ceilings). The investment is a couple of hours of my time, and will probably cost less than the bottle of wine I plan on having with dinner. I would hazard a guess that it might not pay for itself before this winter here in Vermont is over, but it will before the year is out.

    Boy, I’d love to get an infrared camera for a while (BIG bucks!), but the $25 infrared thermometer I got on Ebay and a couple of incense sticks make it pretty easy to find the low hanging fruit.

    Now I just need to find what the kids did with my caulk gun…

    Comment by Bob Baron — January 24, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  4. Bob —

    You’re either using cheap caulk or drinking expensive wine, or both.

    I used clear silicone and it worked well (for air sealing, not drinking).

    Tom

    Comment by Tom Harrison — January 24, 2010 @ 11:10 am

  5. Tom,

    Thanks for the response and additional info.

    Did you find that electrical receptacles were a spot for air leaks and poor insulation? Or not that bad?

    Ethan

    Comment by Ethan@OneProjectCloser — January 24, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  6. Ethan — good question. The receptacles (and switches) didn’t jump out as being a problem in our audit — many are on interior walls, but a few are on exterior walls. I know they recommend sealing around them with foam, or using spongey inserts that seal the box, but “they” is probably the companies that make those very products :-).

    Any hole in the building envelope is bad, of course, but I think in our case, even after several rounds of sealing, we’re still at the point where our house is fairly leaky.

    Next time it’s really cold, I’ll do a “feel test” around the external wall boxes and see what I feel. I am pretty sure I see a lifetime of foam and caulk in my future :-)

    Tom

    Comment by Tom Harrison — January 24, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

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