Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Energy Audit

In September I had the Home Energy Squad come in and do a few things to save energy in my house - they installed a programmable thermostat, low flow water aerators, and weather stripped the front door.  They told me about a full scale energy audit that I could do, but seeing as I had gotten my two wisdom teeth out that morning and was doped up, I was not really paying attention.

Fast forward to November.  It's getting cold in Minnesota, and my house is getting cold. Especially my 2nd floor.  When you would walk up the stairs to the second floor, you'd get about halfway up and the temperature would drastically change. Brrrr. 

My friend Justin was going to come over and put down some more insulation in the attic, but the Saturday he was going to was our first bad snow/ice storm of the year.  Instead of just having him come and put some down, I decided to go ahead and get a full energy audit.  It was only $100, through Xcel and the NEC and included a blower door test and infrared photos on the walls.

Thursday, December 16. Energy Audit day.  Mark the auditor came over with his van full of equipment.  He measured the outside of the house first, checked the furnace and water heater for age and defect, climbed up into the attic crawl space to look at the insulation situation, then set up the blower door test and measured the drafts and cold air coming through the shell of the house. He also snapped infrared photos at this point as well.  It's going to take maybe 10 days to get my official report back (I'm hoping sooner, since I have a contractor coming out to give an estimate on Tuesday!). 

Here is the brief list of findings I can share now though:

Major Problem: My exisiting attic insulation he measured at about an R19.  For our area of the country, the insulation should measure about an R50. Explains the Brrrr. 

Other problems exist with the attic as well.  First, the existing insulation doesn't extend all the way to the eaves - there's about a 2 foot gap that is a dead cold air zone.  The vents under the roof have to breathe, but there are these handy rafter vents that you can install that lets you insulate all the way to the edge of the floor, while still allowing the fresh air to flow.

Second, there are useless vents cut into the celings of the bedrooms, that aren't connected to any duct work - so I'm essentially sending heat to the second floor that goes right up into the attic. Third, the vent fan in the bathroom just vents into the attic, and is not vented up and out the roof.  These last two problems explain my fourth probelm - frosty ceiling joists. Ruh-roh.  Fifth, I need to weather strip and insulate the attic hatch.

Less Major Problems: I need to air-seal framing gaps and penetration leaks in the basement rim joist from the interior face of the foundation wall to the outer rim. 

This explains why my basement is so cold and why I have so many spiders.  This also includes the scary crawl space, that is dirt floor. So the dirt floor should be poly sheeted and caulked and air sealed.

2nd Less Major Problem: My first floor walls only appear to be insulated to an R5 value.  They should be at least an R14.  The auditor cut a hole in a closet wall and saw that the cavity was only about 1/3 full of insulation.  The two ways to fix this are by taking down ALL the drywall on the first floor and insulating or by cutting a hole in between each stud to stick a hose to blow insulation in. Don't those options sound exciting?

The simplest problems that I can and need to fix are caulking different spots where air is seeping in the house - around window framing, the drywall along the stairs, etc.

Once I get my full report, I'll share the infrared photos and other info, because I bet it's going to be awfully exciting. Plus, it'll show me the cost savings I should expect to see if I address some of the different issues.


  1. It sounds like you had a really good experience, learning why it was so cold! There are definitely some things homeowners can do to conserve energy, but sometimes you just have to get the energy audit and find out where all the serious problems are. You got a really good deal on the energy audit, so I bet you'll be really interested in the report.

  2. this blog is very informative for me....its a great work from ur side....thanks and congrats...
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