COLUMBIA–A red canvas frame fits tightly to the front door with a large fan and reference hose connecting the outside to the inside of the 3,386 square-foot home. The fan turns on, and in a matter of seconds the home is depressurized.
The blower door test is part of EnergyLink’s home energy audit, which looks more closely at factors involved in conserving energy.
“This process measures the amount of air going through the fan to ultimately give a percentage of how much air leaks through the house every hour,” EnergyLink part owner Scott Schnelle said. “It is ideal to have 35 percent of air leave your home every hour. Otherwise you could have mold and other moisture problems.”
Having a tight house can save you anywhere from 40 to 60 percent on utility bills. EnergyLink assesses a home’s energy consumption through air leakage and inspecting thermal boundaries. Following the audit, EnergyLink teams up with Columbia Water and Light to offer rebates on making energy efficiency improvements to a home.
Since 2009 in Missouri, completion of a home energy audit is 100 percent deductable on income taxes. According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, maximum yearly subtractions from energy efficiency improvements in a home may be up to $1000. US Energy Information Administration predicts energy consumption per capita to decline an average of 0.5 percent per year from 2010 to 2035 due to increasing energy efficiency appliances.
“You can’t look at a house and just tell if it is leaky or not,” Columbia Water and Light Home Performance Manager Brandon Renaud said. “We’d love to get landlords on board with this program because 50 percent of homes in Columbia are rental.”
Schnelle moves through each room, using an infrared camera to spot and document unusually cold areas on walls due to potential insulation problems. Around framework and windows a smoke pen puffs smoke to show air movement, determining where air leaks inside.
“The attic is probably where we find the biggest leak factors whether it be in the duct work or insulation,” Schnelle said. “Whenever cold air is being sucked into gaps of the ductwork, heating a home becomes difficult.”
To conclude the audit, Schnelle conducted a safety inspection of the furnace and water heater as well as a carbon monoxide test. In a week Schnelle will go back to the homeowner discussing EnergyLink’s report and recommend improvements.
— Ashley Reinsch