November 11, 2013
It was another first for Hawthorn Builders this week! Rob Mazanesse, the homeowner of Old Farm Road made the request for a “Blower Door test” on their new home construction. Upon recommendation, we booked the service of Michael Browne at Advanced Building Analysis LLC, who specializes in Energy Code testing.
I was told that this was going to be a “cool” test, and to my surprise, it didn’t take long for me to see that between the high-end technology, energy enthusiasm and pure intrigue of Rob, airtightness tests are actually an up-and-coming trend that may help in lowering your home energy costs.
Upon arrival at the construction site, which is currently only insulated, both Rob and Browne were sealing the house shut. From there a strong fan with pressure taps and calibration blew out all the air from the house/inside to make it tight. We got our baseline reading of 8,340 CFM and began our work to lower the reading to the ideal base of 5,000 CFM–that’s when the fun began. Equipped with infrared detectors and cameras, Rob, Mike and I went around the home looking, or feeling, for streams of air coming through possible leaks. What we wanted to find were “gushers,” large and obvious areas of air leakage. This was quickly detected on an unfinished area under the stairs. After patching this, we went around trying to detect other outlets where cold air could come in or warm air could escape. The solution to some of these findings was easy; simply using extra spray foam and caulking ensured the areas were properly sealed.
In further discussing the background of the test, Mike Browne was a wealth of information. He was clearly passionate about his company’s mission to help improve the construction of high performance homes, while optimizing energy plans. For homeowners this test is helpful when choosing the proper insulation; from fiber glass to spray foam. On most homes Hawthorn Builders uses spray foam insulation, which according to Browne is the best option on the market for insulation. Areas most suited for this kind of superior insulation are attics, basement and garages. Interestingly enough, Browne told me that sealing a garage is often overlooked but should be a top priority given the leakage of car fumes and gasoline. Additionally, hard to reach areas in attics or behind vents, are extra important to test for draftiness. To give you an idea, by sealing a 1/2 inch circle of leaky insulation, can save you $4 year.
The idea of a “net-zero home” is interesting and certainly relevant. Many builders are implementing thermal testing and according to Browne by next year these energy efficient tests will become mandatory on all new home construction. If you are interested in finding out more about this process or would like to schedule your own energy-code test, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a comment on our website.