Energy Assessment Process
Energy auditor arrives with diagnostic equipment.
Client shares information about the building to assist with the energy assessment.
A blower door test measures air leaks in the home and helps prioritize the areas for work.
Auditor points out potential trouble spots in the basement.
Auditor explains how air moves through the building, from the basement to the attic.
Auditor tests the heating system for safe, efficient operation.
Here's a step-by-step description of the process we follow in conducting energy assessments. Just a reminder—the energy assessment is most effective when the homeowner is present, so please plan to be available for the entire process.
- Please arrange to be home at the time of the assessment. We learn a lot from you about your home and want to share how we look at a home with you.
- Have your questions ready and show us where you have concerns.
- Please be sure we can gain access to basements, crawl spaces, attics, etc.
Step 1: We Start with a Look Around the Outside
We want to see the lay of the land, both to get the orientation of the home to the elements of rain, sun and snow, and to know where we are when we get inside. We’re looking at where vents like bath fans, kitchen hoods and the dryer penetrate the building’s exterior shell. What is the condition of the siding, roofing, chimney, and windows? All of these can give us important clues about indoor air quality and building durability—the auditor's highest priorities when considering energy saving renovations.
Step 2: The Inside Interview
Inside we get a quick tour of the home and have a brief interview about what the issues are for those who live there; the comfort, cost, maintenance challenges, and retrofits are all important.
Step 3: Blower Door Test
We then set up a blower door in an exterior door and conduct a building depressurization test. The blower door is a calibrated fan that provides quantifiable data about the building shell and various areas of the home, such as the basement, garage, walls, sloped ceilings and attics. The blower door will find leaks. We encourage homeowners to participate in the depressurization inspection—the most common comment during a blower test is “Wow.” In seasons where infrared imaging is viable, leakage through the shell of the building can be seen in thermal images.
Results of the blower door guide the rest of the assessment, so the rest of the energy assessment may include any or all of the following steps.
Step 4: From the Bottom…
In most Vermont houses, the major savings will be found at the top and bottom of the building. Typically this requires a careful investigation of the basement and the attic, or knee walls when present. The blower door may highlight issues between an attached garage and the living space. In the basement, we want to understand the leakage around the box sill (a.k.a. band joist, rim joist) where the floor system is sitting on the foundation wall. Where the foundation is laid stone or block, we’ll need to seal any leakage from cracks or holes. If signs of moisture exist, we’ll need to understand how this could influence any retrofits.
It is surprisingly common to find un-insulated walls in Vermont, and very common to find poorly insulated walls. The sad reality is that fiberglass insulation is extremely difficult and time-consuming to install properly. Too often the question is not whether fiberglass is underperforming, but how badly, and what we can do about it. The auditor can probe cavities around outlets and switches for clues that help answer these questions.
All of the cracks and gaps in a typical home add up to the size of a basketball.
A note here: EnergySmart does only non-destructive assessments. On rare occasions we may ask to drill a small hole in the side of a closet to assess some situation. But in cases where enclosed cavities lack access— such as knee walls—we will not cut our way in to investigate during an assessment. Should we identify problems in these areas the scope of work will include creating access and sealing the access energy tight as part of the renovation.
Step 5: …To the Top
The attic of most Vermont houses is where there is the most heat loss. After all, warm air is buoyant in the presence of cool air and seeks to rise. Obvious holes into the attic may include the seams around pull-down stairs. Less obvious are the holes cut when the utilities went into the building: electrical, sensors, plumbing and chimney are but a few. Seams between sheetrock and the top plates of walls, both interior and exterior, appear innocuous, but in fact contribute significantly to building leakage. The auditor will be looking under any existing insulation to identify and quantify the nature and extent of leakage into the attic, and review the amount of existing insulation, and its performance R-value.
Step 6: Other Parts of the Assessment
An EnergySmart of Vermont assessment includes testing and analysis of the building's heating system in compliance with the protocols of the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Where applicable, a combustion efficiency test will be conducted (how much of the fuel you buy ends up as heat in the building verses escaping up the chimney) along with analysis of exhaust gases for hazardous levels of poisonous carbon monoxide. An EnergySmart assessment includes a review of electrical consumption and replacement of inefficient lighting with compact fluorescent light bulbs. As part of our agency agreement with Efficiency Vermont we can provide CFL’s in any fixture that has an average “on” time of one hour per day.
Step 7: Written Report
The written report that is sent following the assessment is a punch-list of prioritized renovation recommendations with costs for construction and supporting analysis of savings and return on investment. During the assessment, there is time to explain what our professional auditors are finding and respond to homeowner’s questions. If you need or want an engineering report on your building, those services should be purchased elsewhere.
We encourage you to meet with your auditor to review the report and determine your next steps.