Energy Efficiency’s Role in Green Building
If you’re not testing, you are guessing.
That’s the message stressed by representatives of The Green Building Pros to attendees at the Clean Energy Network Meeting in Trumbull County on Tuesday, November 24. The Clean Energy Network in Trumbull County is a regional affiliate of Green Energy Ohio. Michael Hein and Jason Clark explained the steps involved in a Home Performance Assessment, often referred to as an Energy Audit.
Energy efficiency is the start of any good Green Building program, according to Michael and Jason. They claim that the average homeowner can reduce current energy expenditures by 35%. A 15% reduction from baseline energy use is usually gained by the low-cost, high-payback retrofits identified by the audit. As examples, they showed pictures of an exhaust fan that blew attic insulation and can lighting that allowed moist air from the home to condense on colder attic surfaces. Such situations not only waste energy, but they can lead to mold and winter ice dams. Energy efficiency not only reduces the need for costly fuel and the production of harmful greenhouse gasses, they also can lead to more healthy buildings by reducing mold and VOCs (volatile organic compounds found in auto exhaust and paints). Proper ventilation can prevent the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.
In order to achieve energy savings and a safer and more comfortable home, Michael and Jason explained the components of an energy audit or home performance assessment:
1. Gather information about the building. They observe a home inside and outside and gather data from utility bills and the residents.
2. Blower door test. The allows for air pressure to be slightly lower inside the building, and air infiltration can be identified easily.
3. Infrared photography. A thermal imaging camera can help identify areas where infiltration occurs.
4. Duct testing. Leaky ductwork can waste warm air in winter and conditioned air in summer.
5. Combustion testing helps identify dangerous gasses produced by furnaces and appliances, gasses that may be entering the living space.
6. Energy modeling
7. Reporting, so the customer knows where energy dollars are going
8. Proposal for remediation, with an analysis of those steps that have the best and quickest payback
Michael and Jason explained that a home performance assessment should be driven by facts, not assumptions. The used an example of a recent audit where the homeowner was considering the installation of new windows. The audit found that savings from air sealing and insulating the basement would pay the homeowner back in three years, while new windows would take more than 18 years to pay off the replacement cost. The use of assessment data helps identify the “low hanging fruit” of energy efficiency.
So what is Green Building? Michael and Jason explained this cannot be defined according to any set standard of criteria. It is a unique activity engaged in by the client and the contractor. It includes:
• Standardized programs such as LEED and Energy Star
• Methods of building including natural (passive solar gain) and high tech (solar, wind)
• Materials that are from sustainable sources and are recyclable when no longer used
Contact information for The Green Building Pros