What is Building Science?
Building Science in the broadest terms is the physics of how your home works. More specifically, it is a blend of disciplines from chemistry and physics to climatology and ecology to architecture and engineering to develop a deep understanding of how heat, air, moisture, energy, and occupants effect the performance of a building. Building scientists work to ensure that a building is built to maximize the lifetime of the materials, withstand weather conditions, and perform efficiently while also satisfying the needs of those using the building.
What is Weatherization?
Weatherization, also called weatherproofing, merely means protecting a house from the elements like sun, rain, wind, and snow. But, with the development of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in the US, weatherization has grown to now be defined as modifying a building to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency. This is mostly achieved through air sealing, duct sealing, and improving insulation.
What is Home Performance and a Home Performance Specialist?
Home Performance is the science of maximizing the efficiency, comfort, lifetime, and health of a building, built on a foundation of building science. Home Performance Specialists work with a project from start to finish, to diagnose the problems and determine the solutions, as well as, developing a budget, finding contractors if necessary, and getting the work done. They also follow-up once the work is complete to ensure the problems were solved and why.
What is an Energy Assessment?
An Energy Assessment, also called an Energy Audit, is a method of examining how much energy your home consumes and what measures can be taken to improve energy efficiency. A proper Energy Assessment should consist of a very thorough room-by-room examination, as well as examination of the attic, crawlspace, HVAC system, water heating, lighting, appliances, safety, indoor air quality, and durability. Once an Energy Assessment is complete, you should have a clear understanding of the problem areas in your home and the corresponding solutions, and a comprehensive plan on the best method to implement these solutions.
What is the difference between an Energy Assessment and an Energy Audit?
An Energy Assessment and an Energy Audit are the exact same thing. These terms are used interchangeably.
How is an Energy Audit different from a Home Inspection?
Both Energy Audits and Home Inspections are a full-scale examination of your home, but the examinations differ in their main goal. Home Inspections identify problems and potential future problems that will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of repairs, improvements, and maintenance in your home; whereas Energy Audits focus on the home's performance and where improvements can be made to reduce energy usage. Energy Audits are not a replacement for a Home Inspection (which should be carried out by a Licensed Home Inspector) but are a great tool in combination with a Home Inspection to improve your home in the best ways possible.
Why isn't just adding more insulation in my attic enough to improve the comfort of my home?
Although having a thick, even layer of insulation in your attic is an essential part of comfort and energy efficiency, simply adding more insulation to the attic in an existing home is not a good solution to improving the comfort. Discomfort in a home, whether it's being cold in the winter or hot in the summer, is mainly caused by air leakage—air traveling through tiny gaps, cracks, and holes in the walls, ceilings, and floors—and sealing the points of leakage is the most effective step to improve comfort. Air leakage through the attic is especially important to seal because in the winter heated air rises and is able escape to the outside through these air leaks, and in the summer the reverse happens where hot air in the attic is pulled into the conditioned space through the same air leaks. Adding more insulation without sealing the air leaks is like patching a wall with water damage without fixing the leak that caused the problem. Not only did you not fix the root of the problem, you concealed the problem and will only have to go back in the future and fix the wall again.
Why is there condensation on my ducts?
Condensation occurs when warm air meets a cool surface which causes the air to cool and release moisture, because warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air. This is why it is more humid in the summer than in the winter, because the air just has the ability to hold more moisture. So, if there is condensation on your ducts, it means hot, humid air is coming into contact with the cold surface of your ducts and releasing water vapor. This is most common in the summertime when the hot, humid outside air meets ducts with cold air conditioning running through them.
Why is my bonus room so uncomfortable?
Bonus rooms are a common problem area in many homes. These rooms are usually surrounded by unconditioned space on almost all sides of the room, including the floor since bonus rooms are typically over the garage. This inherently makes the room more difficult to keep comfortable compared to the remainder of the house. Bonus room walls and floors are not always insulated, and we often find that when they are it is not done effectively. Bonus rooms being surrounded by unconditioned space also creates more opportunities for air leakage, the biggest contributor to discomfort.
Why are some rooms in my house more comfortable than others?
There are several reasons why one room or area of a house is uncomfortable while the remainder of the house is quite pleasant. One common reason is that the uncomfortable room is surrounded by more outside spaces so there are more opportunities for air leakage and the HVAC has to work harder to heat/cool the space. Another common reason is an unbalanced HVAC system where some rooms get more air flow than others.
What is wrong with recessed can lights?
Recessed lighting can be a practical and attractive design feature but are an issue when it comes to making your home efficient and comfortable. Recessed can lights are light fixtures that are recessed into the ceiling, which means the fixture sticks up into the attic. These fixtures have holes in them which provides an easy pathway for air to travel into the attic. Recessed can lights can also reach extremely high temperatures, especially with incandescent bulbs, which is a fire hazard and, in the summer, adds undesired heat to your home. We've measured can light temperatures upwards of 275°F! There are several solutions to improve recessed can lights from covers to replacement kits and we can pick the solution that is best for your home.
How much insulation should I have in my attic?
Current building code for our area of NC requires R-38 insulation in the attic, which to the average homeowner probably has little meaning. R-value is a measure of how resistive a material is to heat flow, so the higher the R-value the better the material is at insulating. Building codes have also changed over the years with each revision typically requiring more insulation than the last. The thickness of your insulation also depends on the type of material used, but typically at least a foot of insulation is required to reach R-38.
We were very happy with the work by ERS. From the initial evaluation to the completion of the work, Paul Swenson and his crew were a pleasure. We learned a lot about our house in the process, and feel confident that we'll head into this winter with a much more energy-efficient home. I recommend ERS without hesitation.