High Performance Building
Here at the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) we have a dedicated High Performance Building team that guides residents and builders through the process of energy efficient building for renovations, additions, and new building projects.
Our team looks at blueprints and plans and guides builders and contractors along to help them reach their energy efficiency goals. This process also often helps them secure money-saving rebates on energy efficient equipment.
We perform a variety of tests on every energy-rated home to determine its level of energy efficiency. One of these tests is called a blower door test, which tests the tightness of a home’s envelope.
Blower Door Tests
All homes have air leaks which are typically found around floors, walls, and ceilings. These leaks waste money and energy and make homes less comfortable. If a home is really leaky, a lot of the air that has been treated by the home’s heating system will escape, causing more energy to be used heating more air and more money to be spent on heating bills. Leaks also increase drafts in homes during colder months which can make your living space uncomfortable.
In order to keep your heating bills down and keep your home comfortable, it is important to have a well-sealed home, and this is one of the main goals of energy efficient builders. Energy efficient homes are typically more tightly sealed than a standard home and the best way to test for this tightness is with a blower door test.
To perform one of these tests, an energy rater will set up a temporary cover and a powerful fan in an exterior door of the house. They will then run the fan which will push air out of the home, thereby decreasing the air pressure inside, which forces more air in through existing leaks in the home. This makes it easy for energy raters to spot these leaks and measure their impact.
Building an Energy Efficient Home
Nathan McCarthy called CET in to assist him with the building and energy rating process in his new energy efficient home. He was happy with the results, “We are amazed at how insulated it is,” said McCarthy. “We can drive up the temperature of the house just by using the stove. In the summer months, we are amazed at how cool it will stay all day long even on extremely hot days.”
McCarthy also noted his satisfaction with his builder (Lukas Schwartz), his architect (Chris Vlcek), (“Without their contributions, experience and honesty, I don’t know if we would’ve made it through with our minds intact” said McCarthy) and the comfort that his well-sealed energy efficient home provides. “Time will tell whether the return on investment is worth it from a dollar’s perspective but from a ‘is our house comfortable?’ perspective, it is amazing,” said McCarthy. “It’s very eye opening to visit another home and notice the difference.”
McCarthy also added some advice for people thinking about building an energy efficient home, “Building a home is probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever actively decided to do,” he said. “If I were to do it over again, I would probably try to find homes I could look at beforehand and ask questions of those owners—if you’ve never lived in an energy efficient home, it’s almost impossible to realize how some of the decisions you will make will play out. My experience with homes has always just been ‘normally constructed’ homes, and things like how radiant heat performs in our new home is vastly different than what my experience had led me to believe. Either way the energy bill is crazy low!”
McCarthy’s experience has been shared by many other customers who have built energy efficient homes. The upfront cost of the home is higher, but the energy and cost savings really add up over the years and energy efficient homes, like McCarthy’s, are noticeably more comfortable and less drafty.
Visit our website to learn more about our High-Performance Building team and the benefits of energy efficient building!