At first glance, neighbors might think it’s an airplane engine temporarily installed in your front doorway.
The circular engine whirs like a plane taxiing on a runway, and the air comes sucking out of your house, creating a pressurization effect that reveals tell-tale drafts as air pours back through cracks and crevices. As it does, the Grays Harbor PUD technician performs a thorough thermal-imaging scan with a hand-held device. It clearly highlights where the entry points and trouble spots are.
“You have a leaky home,” says PUD Energy Adviser Jacob Henry.
The pressure exacerbates the impact the wind might have as it hits your home, Henry notes, but the entry points are easily distinguishable and can be bone-chilling on a cold winter’s day.
“That’s the whole point,” adds Rick Jackson, energy specialist for Greater Grays Harbor Inc. “Where you feel the drafts coming from is where all your heat is leaving, and essentially giving away heat is money. So all your money is leaving.”
For a limited time, the PUD is working with Greater Grays Harbor Inc. to offer the extensive home tests for a below-market cost of $95 (normal cost is about $300). An energy adviser certified by the Building Performance Institute conducts a Home Plus Energy Audit, which allows homeowners to use the results to rank their homes among similar homes in the area. It also is a base to begin home-energy savings projects.
A rebate to offset the initial $95 cost is available to homeowners who implement a qualifying energy-efficiency project recommended by the energy audit. In addition, energy efficiency projects may be eligible for PUD rebates or low-interest loans to help make energy efficiency improvements more affordable.
A Home Plus Energy Audit requires between 2-3 hours for an in-home visit by a BPI certified energy expert. Diagnostic testing and non-invasive visual inspections are performed to quantify the home’s current energy performance in comparison to similar houses.
The end result is an Energy Performance Score, much like a miles-per-gallon rating on a new vehicle.
“Not only does it give you the current performance score for the home, but also shows the potential for improving the score with related estimated energy and cost savings associated,” said Liz Anderson, the PUD’s director of government and community affairs.
The audit consists of thermal-imaging scans, pressurization tests of the home and duct work, and then all the information is input into an energy software program that gives a calculated performance score.
“It’s comparing a house to other buildings of the same size and seeing if it’s above or below average,” Henry said.
A good score can be a good selling factor for homes on the market, and it helps to conserve energy and lower utility bills, he said.
The first home to be tested in such a fashion was last Friday, and the two teams that perform them can potentially do two to four inspections a day. The process begins with a homeowner orientation and visible examination of the exterior, or “drawing out the home — creating a map of the home,” Henry said.
Then there is what is called the blower-door test and the duct-blaster test, which give the hard numbers used in the final scores.
With the blower installed into the doorway, you can feel the drafts pouring through the basement heat ducts and even in the electrical sockets.
The PUD also continues to offer free energy audits to customers, which provide home and business inspections and energy saving tips, but do not include the diagnostic tests provided in the new program.
An energy audit and pre-approval by the PUD is required for the PUD’s weatherization and heating system rebates and low-interest loans.
“All projects require pre-approval, so this would be part of that process,” Henry says.
The new program is on a first-come, first-served basis with the available grant funds. To schedule an audit, call Jackson at (360) 532-7888. For more information online, visit: http://bloggraysharbor.com/