DavidAndersen's blog

Free TN Energy Audits: Is it really free?energy aud

Excerpts from: http://www.nachi.org/forum/f58/free-tn-energy-audits-really-free-40364/

 I have been recently getting a flood of calls from general contractors wanting to get some "Obama money" and require a blower door, duct blaster, thermal imaging evaluation after their jobs are done.

How much do these inspections cost?

Should this inspection be ongoing throughout the construction progress to expedite and more efficiently correct air infiltration and insulation loss?

How much can an energy contractor afford on a project like this?

What about all the free energy audits?

Tennessee Valley Authority in the Southeast will do that energy audit for $150 which you recoup at end of the project.

Existing home renovations with Obama money is directed towards low income housing!?
Under what standard are we supposed to be working under?

I have been all the way to the governor's office in Tennessee and besides installing Energy Star equipment on inefficient building structures, I really don't see a plan.

I am completely familiar with blower door technology. I can tell you why they work not just how they work. However, I am going to have to spend about $10,000 to get certified and purchase equipment under a new name to collect Obama money. I'm sure this is a stimulus effect.

I see all kinds of negative aspects involved with this technology such as sucking hazardous natural pollutants out of the wall and crawlspace, having to work in low income housing areas, not fixing the real problem, other agencies giving this testing away for free (under the Obama plan).

My County got $6.7 million under this program and I cannot find a single way to collect on one dollar that to "actually correct the problems".

There is already a conflict of interest, TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) one of the largest government conglomerates in existence from the last Great Depression! They have electric power to sell, and they're doing energy audits for "almost" free. From what perspective should I look at this?

Can some of you professional auditors out there shed some light with some "real $ numbers" as to why and in what direction we should approach this situation?

I see inspectors complaining about low fuel prices destroying their energy auditing incomes, wishing fuel prices would rise! Isn't this great for those power companies?

Then, we have equipment providers trying to sell us some of the most expensive test equipment for the layman Inc. in conjunction with education required to adequately operate it. Are they just collecting their Obama share?

How long is this going to last?

Is someone going to come out and say you shouldn't be sucking VOC's, radon, mold, substances unknown to man from behind those walls and floors? Then condemning the use of all this equipment for the sake of energy efficiency?

Are we going to tighten up our homes so tightly that the need for ventilation which will be overlooked due to excessive costs and create another "legionnaires disease"?

Excellent post! Let me try to answer some of your concerns.

Enery Star Certification of new residential construction requires 3 inspections (pre-insulation, after insulation installed and a final), a blower door test and a duct blaster test during the final inspection. These tests document total house leakage, air exchange rate and duct leakage. If the air exchange rate is very low it might require mechanical ventilation. I see no health hazards associated with these tests. It is the only way to get a house Energy Star certified. On 1/1/2010 every new house will have to be Energy Star certified in San Antonio. An energy star inspection on the new house I just used my IR camera on would have caught the wall cavity where insulation does not exist.

Energy audits, on the other hand, can be a consumer rip-off! Many "energy auditers" are poorly trained. In my area where the cost of electricity is so cheap it is very difficult to make an energy efficiency upgrade and recoup the cost in energy savings. The energy audit protocol used my many "auditers" is flawed and does not gather the correct info. I seldom, if ever, (except for FHA/HUD Energy Efficient Mortgages which require one) use my blower door on an existing house (should allieviate fears of ingesting mold!). I do, however, use my dust blaster if my visual inspection reveals the possibility of leaky ducts. The energy audits I conduct are really energy effciency classes for the homeowner!

Thank you to everyone that has called and/or posted or posting.
I received three more calls since I posted here. "Someone with something to sell with energy audit attached".

Not sure I believe the "energy star" hype. I see too many new Energy Star certified homes missing SIGNIFICANT areas of insulation. Then the builders try to argue with "well it is energy star" which does not change the fact that the Whole master bedroom ceiling is not insulated (a common real example.
I remember hearing at a presentation by an Energy Star Rep at a Realtor meeting, this may be inaccurate, that only 1 in 7 energy star homes are actually checked. That some builders get "packages" approved and then the actual homes are not checked. 

My personal experience tells me that it is not near what it is marketed to be, in practice and application. Which is not to say that the improvements are not good, just that they are not as strictly watched as people believe.

I also agree that the term "energy audit" has already been completely watered down and corrupted. The average consumer has no idea what it means and contractors in any semi related industry are advertising one for free.

Kevin, it seems to me that "Energy Star" is about selling high dollar appliances and equipment. Building certification uses the blower door which determines air leakage (which can be from numerous legitimate sources) not energy efficiency such as missing installation. A blower door can not detect inadequate insulation. Granted, the greatest heat loss is from air convection versus R-value. However it's similar to the new window salesman who installs a new window in an old frame where the air leakage exceeds the U-value of the window.

I also agree about the watering down of the "energy audit". Just do a search and you'll come up with several hundred of them.

Some of the massive efficiency losses in a home are almost unnoticeable!
I come across this all the time: 

Unsecured Insulation. What ever happened to the staple gun? Would this be a new Energy Star Program Practice? Not.
This is a low delta T (2 degrees F) Thermal Image and it still can be seen by a blind man.

Can you say "Air Leakage"? And they tell me I need a blower door and duct blaster to determine how much air is leaking to the outdoors!? When you can see it?! 

That equipment will tell you that you have a leak, but not where. But that is all that is required for any of the certifications. 

This amount of leakage could be estimated into the chimney and appliance flues and never be identified. Someone is going to climb up to each of these 13' high registers with a smoke pencil? Yea, right! 

The greatest efficiency loss comes with air leakage and the greatest air leakage occurs in pressurized and de-pressurized air duct systems. The tiny little air leaks around windows and doors which are grossly exaggerated by creating a 20 mph exterior wind on the house with a blower door, could hardly come close to this amount of air leakage under normal conditions. This is a normal condition! But it goes undetected every day.

I won't go so far as to say that Blower Door use is not a significant tool to be used, but it is HOW it is being used and relied upon. It's all about the "Standard".

There is no need for 50 pa pressure reduction in a residential building when using an IR camera...

Blower door tells how loose the house is, but it can't see missing insulation and where the leaks are located. 

I see no need for a standard when that standard does not fix the problem. 

You cango to 9 out of 10 houses out there and pull the supply air registers and will find leaks that can be fixed without any test equipment. Open the return plenums and take a look inside. Sometimes you can about inspect the crawlspace from that vantage point! 

No need for any certification or special tools in this energy star home...

Why is that white insulation so dirty around the plenum pan? 

I have received several calls from very reputable NACHI members that use and have used this equipment for years. I too have been certified under another acronym. But, this whole system that is unfolding under the Obama "double time agenda" of pushing it through now and worry about if it works later...

I like to see the posts about what is seen out there in the "real world". Some places will be better than others, but for the most part I feel that new programs using old construction techniques is headed in the wrong direction.

Look at all the problems with siding. Is it the siding, or is it that no one uses proper flashing anymore! I can't remember the last time a saw kick-out flashing. A single week will not pass where the lack of, is a major problem to solve.

Submitted by DavidAndersen on Thu, 06/11/2009 - 09:45.
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