Sunday, August 28, 2011

Home Energy Audit Results

Having to leave the country this spring for a couple weeks due to work, the Home Energy Audit that I won from the Crunchy Chicken blog had to be put on hold.  We were finally able to connect and get the audit done towards the end of June.  Within a week or so after the audit, the Final Report was received via e-mail.

A lot of things have been going on around here, not to mention the earthquake, so it has been slow getting this posted on my blog.  My intention was also to show you some of the energy saving tips that were recommended and completed, but that is happening a lot slower than anticipated.  Without any further delay, to the audit we go.

After winning the contest from the Crunchy Chicken, it didn't take long for John from Pro Energy Consultants gave me a call to set up an appointment.  He was very friendly and cooperative with my hectic schedule.  Since business travel was in my near future, we decided to postpone the audit.  It took me a good couple months to get back to him, and he was still ready and waiting.  Part of the reason for waiting was that the spring weather was so nice, we weren't using the heat or the a/c in the house.  The thinking was that the audit would show more "leaks" in the house if the temperature differential was greater between the inside and the outside.  John mentioned that he does do more audits in the summer and winter, but mostly because people are thinking about their energy bills more when the heat or a/c are running and people are receiving their extra large utility bills.  You know, out of sight, out of mind.  Hmmm, this may have been part of my delay too, but I won't confess to it.

John showed up on time and on schedule in his car slathered with his business information and his very appropriate license plate.

Apparently the top question on his car window explains the rush during the summer and winter months.

We did a quick walk through of the house getting some basic information, such as the size of the house and the types of rooms.  Then he quickly went to work setting up the fan in the doorway that would draw a suction on the house and expose all those leaks and tell us exactly how big the leaks were.

Once the a/c units were turned off and the windows and doors closed, John got out the thermal imager that would show us the leaks.  It didn't take long before we could feel where the leaks were coming from.

With the outside temperature into the lower 90's, and the inside temperature in the low 80's there was enough temperature differential that you could feel the heat being sucked into the house through all the cracks and crevices.  Not only that, there was a hot breeze coming down the stairs from the top bedroom suite.  It felt as though a window was open up there.  The top bedroom suite was created when the previous owner of the house converted the upstairs attic into a bedroom and bathroom.  It is a nice room, but apparently not very air tight.

The thermal imager wasn't needed to figure out where the hot air was coming from.  It was the can lights in the ceiling.  Those can lights backed into the small space between the ceiling of that room and the roof of the house.  John pointed the thermal imager up towards on of the lights and it was amazing.

The light is not on and hadn't been on, so there was no residual heat from the bulb.  That was all heat pouring in from the space just under the roof!  When I placed my hand below the can light, I could feel a hot breeze being sucked into the house.

As we went through the house, we also looked at windows and outlets.  Any outlets on the outside walls were leaking like a sieve.

You can see in the above picture the heat "spraying" into the house from the outlet.  Surprisingly, my windows were fairly tight and caulked up well.  There wasn't much leaking coming from around the windows, which is where I had expected most of the leaks to be located.  The one set of doors that I did expect the leaks to appear and wasn't disappointed, was the french doors down in the basement.

The whole audit took about two hours.  The time went really fast and it may not have taken so long if I wasn't tagging along, taking pictures of his thermal imager and asking so many questions.  But I feel that seeing is believing, and seeing the thermal imager on MY house, made me a believer that there are opportunities to save money on my energy bills.

If you take the time to read the Final Report, a lot of it is generic information.  Information you probably already know or can find on the web.  The one calculation that they figure out is how much my house is leaking.  The report shows that it is leaking slightly more than the national average, and all the leaks combined is the equivalent of having a 4.0 square foot window (2 feet by 2 feet) open 365 days a year.  When you think about it that way, it is much easier to realize how much the house is leaking and that something needs to be done.

The end of the report also listed some recommendations/correction strategies to seal up some of those leaks.  The top floor bedroom was the worst area for me, so those need to be done first, but there are not a lack of things to seal up.

Now the main question everyone is wondering, "Was it worth it?"  For me, since I got this service free from a give away, it was definitely worth it.  But would it be worth the $300-500 they normally charge? The final report was less than I expected as far as useful content, but I think that is because I followed him around during the audit, asked a lot of questions and we discussed a lot of these items, so it wasn't anything new from that.  What really made it worth while was seeing the leaks on the thermal imager.

Looking online, they cost several thousand dollars, so that doesn't make sense to buy one, and the only places that could be found online that rent the units, rent them by the month at $400-600 per month.  That is about the same cost as the energy audit, but without all the knowledge of what to look for.  So is it worth it?  I would have to say yes.

The one thing that I wish was a part of the audit, was a revisit later with the thermal imager to show how all the improvements made have helped.  This could be a part of the total audit package.  Or if Home Depot would just rent these devices by the day, it could also solve the problem.

There will be future postings as I show making the corrections/recommendations of the audit and if these changes seem to make much of a difference.  Thanks Crunchy Chicken for the Pro Energy Audit.


  1. Why oh why can i not make comments? if i can only figure out where my comments are going instead of on your page? Probably some unsuspecting crafty mom is getting all my snarky comments. You best friend in Knoxville:) You better know who that is....

  2. Ok now that i actually read the post instead of trying only to post a comment, i can now comment on the content of this post. on earth do you always win stuff for "free"....If we moved closer to you would some of that "free karma" rub off on us? my two cents is that it is worth getting the audit if only because it will make you so much more aware of how energy is seeping out of your house and ways to conserve. I like the image of the huge window open all year long 365 days! That is pretty wild!

    Ok now that i've made my comments....more than likely from here on out it will be the Handsome Husband posting comments!

  3. Though not as cool as a thermal imager, there's a thermal sensor from Black & Decker that we got for less than $40 that has been very helpful. (The box says "TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector")

    You point it at something and it tells you the surface temperature. But even better, you point it at something (a wall say) initially to set a baseline. It shines on the wall like a green flashlight. Then as you shine it on different surfaces, the light will change to red if the surface is significantly hotter than the baseline, or blue if it's cooler. This allows you to quickly "scan" your walls, outlets, fixtures, door frames, etc. to find hot spots or cool spots.

    I'd love to play with a thermal imager for a day, but I'm pretty happy with the sensor for the price.