A New Wave of Conservation
"What a home inspector looks for in a Calgary home energy audit. The places conditioned air can leave a house."
As part of a renewed energy conservation initiative, home inspectors are recommending the Government re-establish a home energy audit program.
Coupled with incentives for upgrades, a home energy audit helps a home owner understand where there is conditioned air loss. A follow-up program usually of low cost can return gains in the form of lower energy bills.
Let's examine how air flow interacts with the house systems.
First, air flow can transfer moisture vapor through and into building assemblies in amounts 10 to 100 times more than what would typically occur by vapor diffusion. Significant air leaks — from a bathroom into a cold attic, for example — can deposit large amounts of moisture vapor on cool surfaces and create condensation and water accumulation that damage building materials and make some insulation materials ineffective.
Now, some amount of natural air leakage under the right climate conditions can be a good thing. Old houses naturally "breathe." Air leakage in the form of intended ventilation in attics and crawlspaces (outside of the building’s thermal envelope) is a good way to reduce moisture and is very effective in our climate.
However, the benefits of air infiltration through a building’s thermal envelope are either unreliable or risky in many climates. Therefore, dependence on excessive or uncontrolled air leakage through modern building thermal envelope systems is generally discouraged. And, in fact, modern building standards and energy codes usually require fairly extensive practices to prevent the uncontrolled leakage of air through a building’s thermal envelope.
Blower Doors: A Useful Tool for Checking Air Leaks
A blower door test to evaluate the effectiveness of air-leakage sealing is highly effective. Blower-door testing can be conducted on an existing, finished house or, alternatively, on a house that is insulated and sealed, but with walls not yet closed in. It can be very helpful for clearly observing where leakage in the envelope is occurring through the use of a smoke-pencil device that indicates drafts.
Home inspectors are already trained to do this type of testing and we have access to the required equipment. A little leadership is all that's required to get the ball rolling.