An efficient, well-maintained heating and cooling system is important for ensuring that your home is comfortable and energy efficient. Even the best system though, cannot make up for houses that are drafty, leaky or poorly insulated. Your heating and cooling system delivers conditioned air into your home to replace heat that is lost or gained by the house itself. It only goes to say that a house that loses its heat quicker due to air leakage or poor insulation will need a bigger heating system that runs longer to replace this lost heat. This will create higher utility bills, comfort problems and indoor air quality issues. It is often wiser and more cost effective to identify and correct these building deficiencies. Once corrected your home will immediately become more comfortable and energy efficient.
Air-Right Energy Design, Inc. offers a complete line tests that identify problems which lead to comfort, high utility bill and indoor air quality complaints. Let one of our energy consultants help determine which tests will better identify problems you may have in your home.
Blower Door Test
The Blower Door test is a diagnostic tool designed to measure the air tightness of buildings and to help locate air leakage sites. The Blower Door consists of a powerful, calibrated fan that is temporarily sealed into an exterior doorway. The fan blows air into or out of the building to create a slight pressure different between inside and outside. The pressure created simulates 20 mph. winds on all four sides of the building. This pressure difference forces air through all holes and penetrations in the exterior envelope. By simultaneously measuring the airflow through the fan and its effect on the air pressure in the building, this test measures the air tightness of the entire building envelope. The tighter the building (e.g. fewer holes), the less air you need from the fan to create a change in building pressure.
Pressure Pan Testing
The Pressure Pan test is a duct leakage diagnostic tool which is used along with the Blower Door and digital pressure gauge to identify exterior air leakage in duct systems. This technique involves placing a gasketed pressure pan over each register or grille with the air handler fan off and the Blower Door depressurizing the house to a standard reference pressure. A measurement of the pressure between a duct run and the room where the duct register or grille is located provides a quick and reliable indication of whether significant exterior duct leaks exist in that section of the duct system.
Duct Blaster Test
The Duct Blaster is a device that uses pressure testing to find the amount and location of air leakage in a duct system. To do the test, we seal all the outlets except for one on the return side of the system (the side that returns stale air to be reconditioned). The Duct Blaster is connected to that last one and then turned on to blow air into the ducts. The air goes through the return ducts to the air handler and then through the supply ducts. If the whole system is very tight, it does not take much airflow through the fan to pressurize the ducts. If you have a big leak, like a disconnected plenum or duct, it will be impossible to pressurize the ducts adequately. Similar to the Blower door the calibrated fan on the Duct Blaster measures the air flow it and determines the amount of leakage in the duct system.
Thermal Imagery Scanning (Infrared)
Using Infrared Technology, we can scan all exterior walls, ceilings and shafts to detect thermal bypasses and insulation deficiencies your home. A thermal bypass is an area which allows heat to enter or leave the building and adds to the heating or cooling load and increases the cost of heating and cooling your home along with contributing to comfort issues. The infrared camera is used to help locate these bypasses which may include defective insulation and more. The infrared camera is also an excellent tool when used in conjunction with the blower door, as during the blower door test, the air leakage pathways will change temperature and become visible to the camera.
Zonal Pressure Diagnostics
The Zonal Pressure Diagnostic test is done in conjunction with the Blower Door test to determine the pressure relationship of areas considered to be outside the house, to areas of the house that are conditioned. Attics, crawlspaces, knee walls and garages are all areas that we consider to be outside of the house and are not generally conditioned using heat or air conditioning. It is important that these areas have as little communication with the living area of the house in order to maintain comfort, indoor air quality and minimize utility bills. Zonal pressure diagnostics allow us to measure the relationship of these areas with respect to the living area of the house and help us to determine if mitigation measures are necessary.
All the tests listed above give us a very good idea of how a house is performing and areas that need improvement. These tests are good but do not replace visual verification, especially when it comes down to recommending mitigation measures. We investigate areas that are accessible from the house such as attics, crawlspaces and knee walls. This allows us to visually see any building deficiency and helps us to formulate a priority for corrective measures.
Unlike normal visual investigation we sometimes find it necessary to gain access to areas that are not open from the living area of the house. Some attics, knee walls, shafts, cavities and garage ceilings have no access opening from the house. If our tests have indicated that these areas are a potential problem, then we may find it necessary to access an opening through a wall or ceiling. We try to limit this type of procedure but we often find this necessary because these areas were often overlooked during the building process.