Henbogle Energy Audit

Blower test door device

Using thermal imaging device to find leaks

Dan and I decided we needed some advice about the next project to tackle at Henbogle House.  Many, many of the home improvement projects here at Henbogle we tackle ourselves, but sometimes you need some help.  Heating oil consumption is one of the areas we would like to improve upon, and we were stymied about the best next step to take to cut our costs and increase our overall comfort, so we called in the pros, Sustainable Structure, Inc., for a home energy audit.

The night before the audit, we completely opened the house up, every screened window and door cranked wide open, to cool the house as much as possible.  The next morning at 6 am we closed every door and window to both to keep it as cool as possible until the audit began, and in preparation for the blower door test.

The blower door test is used to identify areas of air infiltration, i.e. drafts, where the cold air sneaks into the house.  The door is covered with a airtight gasketed fan set-up, and the air is blown out of the house to create negative pressure, drawing air into the house through those drafty areas.  And yes, there were plenty of drafty areas, but actually it was not as bad as I thought it would be, although it sounds awful — air leaks equivalent to a 24×24 inch window.  Actually, while not good, it is not as bad as many old houses, or so Curry, our auditor, told me.

thermal imaging device

Our house is an 1881 Cape, which during its lifetime had a shed added, then converted into living space; a second shed added to the first shed; and a barn added to the second shed.  In the New England vernacular, it is the big house middle house backhouse barn layout, or Cape with an ell with an ell with a barn.  All those add-ons were opportunities for air gaps.

Using a smoke machine to find air gaps

While it sounds like we have a huge gaping hole, really it is more a case of 2000+ really small holes — death by a thousand cuts as it were. The knee walls on the second floor of the cape need more insulation, most of the joints between additions, and the cold basement walls, a mix of brick, fieldstone, granite, etc. are all places where we can tighten up.  As part of the audit, we will get an estimate for tackling various pieces of the weatherization picture, and we got an opportunity to talk with Curry and get his opinion on a number of concerns we have about various house projects.

We haven’t even seen the report yet, but this process has been really helpful to our planning for some of the big projects that lie ahead of us — siding replacement on the front of the house, a complete bathroom renovation, finally completing our laundry room, and replacing our worn out front door.   We were really having trouble deciding how to prioritize the projects, and were unsure how to decide whether to replace wooden siding with wooden siding, or opt for vinyl siding.  As a result of the audit and discussion, we were able to decide to repair the wooden siding and to begin working on that fairly simple project ourselves.  Look for a post on that project soon.


11 Responses to “Henbogle Energy Audit”

  1. nruit Says:

    Wow. That is impressive data. Glad to hear that you are not overwhelmed at the end of the day!

    • Ali Says:

      Well, I didn’t say we were not overwhelmed, ’cause believe me, we are. Got a spare $40K?

  2. Robin Says:

    We plan on doing a blower door test when we are finished insulating our house. I guess we will get to see how good of job we did as we are basically starting from scratch. That is pretty cool that you had it done to your house!

    • Ali Says:

      Robin, If you are gutting your house and insulating as you’ve shown in your posts, I’m not sure a blower door test is needed. Some of the other tests might be more useful, like the CO tests of appliances/furnace, or basement moisture/radon/mold, etc.
      I mean, our place is old old old, a previous owner did some gutting and insulating in the early 70s, and we are at the low end of the good range. With what you are doing, you can’t be any worse!

  3. meemsnyc Says:

    What a great idea to have an energy audit. We’ve been concerned with heating costs too. So we got foam insulation blown into our attic. http://ilovecatnip.blogspot.com/2010/06/foam-insulation.html

  4. jeannie177 Says:

    It sounds as if you two have everything undercontrol.

  5. Sara Says:

    Very interesting. We are soon at the point of replacing a fuel oil furnace (yes, they still use them in the midwest) and need to do some research into the best options. It sounds like this is a good way to help you prioritize projects, always useful for DIYers.

    • Ali Says:

      Yes, very useful! We will have to replace our boiler at some point. One thing we hope to get an answer on is whether solar might be an option for us for both heating and domestic hot water. I hope so, but suspect we will be stuck with our hot water baseboard heating oil system.

  6. Laura Says:

    What a neat coincidence! We have been pondering the energy audit thing and may be ready to pull the trigger. Were you pleased with the company that did it? Would they come to Yarmouth?

    • Ali Says:

      We felt like we learned a lot from the company, Sustainable Structures. I don’t know if they would travel as they are based in Hallowell-Whitefield area, and seem to be pretty busy. Good luck!

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