Diagnostic Tools for Energy-Minded Remodelers
Applying building science in the field can help to deliver safer, healthier, and more energy-efficient projects.
Synopsis: For most remodeling contractors, a toolkit contains a fairly standard assortment of hand and power tools, but with more homeowners wanting to tighten their houses to save money on utility bills, it might be time to expand those toolkits a bit. Writer Don Jackson offers an overview of the sorts of tools and devices remodeling contractors can add to their arsenals to allow them to have greater success in offering energy-savings updates to existing homes. Among the devices that can be used to chase air leaks, Jackson recommends a blower-door kit, used to depressurize a building to find the source of air leaks; smoke puffers, used to trace air leaks; and thermal imagers, used to determine missing insulation and thermal bridging. The combustion-safety devices Jackson recommends include a gas-leak detector, for checking propane and natural-gas lines; a personal carbon-monoxide monitor; and a combustion analyzer, used to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in the exhaust of natural-draft combustion appliances.
The past several years have seen a flurry of activity on the home-energy front. Federal tax incentives and dozens of rebate programs have focused attention on cutting residential energy consumption. Energy audits are now common in many areas of the country, and building codes have stepped up insulation and air-sealing requirements, and are even beginning to require blower-door testing and duct-testing on new construction. Homeowners are more aware than ever of these trends, with more and more wishing to tighten their houses so that they can save money on their utility bills.
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for remodelers, many of whom already participate in programs that require third-party energy auditors to verify that a project is meeting reduction targets. With most programs, there’s typically a blower-door test before work begins and another one at the end of the job. Unfortunately,…