Knowledge is power in energy efficiency game

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Thursday, January 3, 2008
— When potential bad news is on the horizon, most people head another direction.

Rick Kubly knows it’s human nature.

And being human, it was my nature when Kubly’s company, IR EnergySavers, showed up with a blower, infrared cameras and an array of equipment to check the energy efficiency of our 40-year-old home.

“I know this house leaks like a sieve,” I mumbled to no one in particular, figuring that Kubly was going to do his thing, state the obvious and present me with an energy efficiency improvement plan that probably would require help from the Federal Reserve.

Over the course of two or three hours, Kubly turned off the furnace and installed a door fan that sucked air through the home at the equivalent of a 20 mph wind hitting from all sides. He took airflow measurements and then set off with an infrared camera to scan virtually every nook and cranny for air leaks. Thermographic and digital photos documented problem spots.

As figured, those problem spots were fairly predictable: Most of the home’s original windows and doors weren’t sealed properly, can lights and outlets were airflow holes and air was seeping in between the home’s three levels and flowing up and down walls.

But other findings weren’t expected: An attic insulation project a couple of years ago was well done and is providing efficiency benefits, while a plumbing chase for a shower showed up on Kubly’s infrared camera as dark blue, which means really cold.

During the winter, that’s also really bad, and it no doubt explains our struggle to get sufficiently hot water to the shower.

“It really wasn’t all that bad,” Kubly said in his overall assessment of our home, which included a detailed written report and pictures.

Not bad, I suppose, if we can get past the fact that the air leakage in our home—if consolidated—amounts to a 66.8-square-inch hole that we’re fighting to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

Completely plugging that hole is not possible, but we’ll be able to make it considerably smaller without the help of the Federal Reserve, Kubly said.

If not replaced, the windows can be sealed with low expanding foam and tape. Different bulbs can be used in the can lights, which can be sealed from above. The outlets already have been sealed with insulating patches available at any home improvement or hardware store.

With a little more work, the plumbing chase can be sealed with insulation and foam, and an offending attic fan vent already has been caulked and sealed with standard window insulating plastic.

The air seepage between the floors is a little more problematic, Kubly said. We could have been dollars ahead, however, if the Tyvek wrap that went under our new siding a few years ago had been properly sealed with tape. The untaped Tyvek seams showed up on Kubly’s infrared camera as blue lines running in 4-foot and 8-foot lines around the exterior walls.

“People can say they’ve got Tyvek on their walls, but if it’s not installed properly, you might as well have saved the money,” said Eric Richards of Richards Construction, which uses IR EnergySavers on the front end and back end of all its new home construction.

While that’s a no-brainer now, I wish I’d thought of it the day the Tyvek was going up.

Knowing what I know now, I would have contradicted human nature and headed in the direction of the contractor.

Last updated: 3:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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