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Why an Energy Audit?

Are you concerned about your utility bill?

Do you wish there was something you could do to be affordably comfortable in your own home?

Have you considered a home energy audit?
You could check to see "where your energy dollar goes." Sure, your windows feel cold; maybe not as cold as outside. And; they will always feel colder than outside. Unless you really want to spend $10,000 to $20,000 or more, they should be last on your list of concerns... unless of course, they are falling out or broken... a very easy energy audit and solution. But, it is not always that easy. Homes are more complicated than that and making the wrong decision can be very costly when, it doesn’t need to be. So, where do you start? How about a Home Energy Audit!

A home energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes, and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An Energy Efficient Home provides a healthier indoor environment, reducing the health risks from mold, pollen, dust mites, radon, combustion by-products, and other contaminants.

Energy Efficient Homes prevent unnecessary pollution. That’s right!...unnecessary pollution! While homes are not often considered a source of pollution, the electricity, fossil fuels, and other energy sources they use contribute to:

  • Global warming
  • Acid rain
  • Smog
  • Other serious environmental problems

Needless to say, wasted energy pollutes the environment. An Energy Efficient home will contribute to protecting the environment... something every homeowner can do, saving the earth while saving money.

What Kind of Energy Audit?

There are few investments that pay back as well as making your home more energy efficient. Not only will you save money, but; you will also experience increased comfort, durability, and safety in a healthier home. And, the value of your home typically increases as well; and eventually, making it more saleable. Windows and solar panels are great, but; grab the low hanging fruit before you invest the big bucks.

Many contractors will sell you energy upgrades that have a low Return On Investment (ROI) like new windows or HVAC equipment. Although these choices are not bad, they are expensive and the payback is typically measured in decades, not a few years.

Regal Services provides thorough and objective information regarding the performance of your home so that you can make wise home improvement decisions. To guide this process, Regal Services offers several levels or kinds of energy audits. In large part, it will depend on your needs and your budget. Regal Services offers:

  • Home Energy Tune-uP
  • Diagnostic Home Energy Survey
    • Blower Door Testing
    • Duct Blaster Testing
    • Thermal Imaging
  • Comprehensive Home Energy Audit
  • Home Energy Rating (HERS)*

Home Energy Tune-uP

An evolutionary product developed by CMC Energy Services headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, the Home Energy Tune-uP division is part of the largest, oldest (since 1977) residential energy services company.

What is a Home Energy Tune-uP?
CMC’s Tune-uP program is designed to help homeowners and home buyers improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It is a relatively low cost screening approach to meeting your need to reduce energy costs by improving energy efficiency. No high tech equipment is used in this process. A comprehensive Tune-uP report identifies energy-efficient upgrades, estimates their costs and savings, and shows the group of improvements that everyone can afford because the energy savings exceed the costs. The Home Energy Tune-uP is not required if you wish to pursue a Diagnostic Home Energy Survey or a Comprehensive Home Energy Audit.

How is a Home Energy Tune-up Performed?
Regal services is one of more than 1,000 certified energy inspectors nationwide performing this valuable energy auditing service. There are three parts to this audit process to help you save today:

  • On-site inspection of your insulation, windows, heating and cooling systems, water heater and appliances, visually check for cracks and gaps where air may be entering.
  • Information obtained from the audit inspection is analyzed using CMC’s specialized software; and a Tune-uP Report is generated that lists recommended energy improvements with savings and cost estimates. The report explains each recommendation and discusses low and no-cost energy savings suggestions that will make your home feel more comfortable.
  • Report provides a link for obtaining contractors and a number to call for technical help or conventional financing resources. (click for Value Added)

What About Improvement Costs?
With a new financing instrument available, you can finance on your mortgage and get all the tax benefits as well. This is the FHA Streamlined K upgrade to the old 203K Renovation Loan Program. It now covers small repairs up to $35,000.

Diagnostic Home Energy Survey

This survey includes all of the provisions of the Home Energy Tune-uP. Tools used to complement a typical diagnostic home energy survey include a blower door, Duct Blaster® , and thermal imaging infrared camera. With the Home Energy Tune-uP, information about air leaks and air-tightness, and possible indoor air quality issues can be measured and a valuable report of a home’s energy efficiency needs can be developed. Use of the thermal imaging infrared camera can pinpoint and record their locations for later correction. With the aid of computer software for analysis, infiltration rate, cost of leakage, and projected savings can be estimated.

Blower Door Testing
Blower doors are commonly used for different levels of energy audits, and; in all cases for obtaining a documented, quantifiable record of how air tight the space is such as for obtaining a HERS Rating score. WHY?...

...10% to 35% of a homes energy loss is through poorly sealed air leaks in different parts of the home. The best method for detecting the overall magnitude of your homes' air leaks and identifying the location of each leak is by using a blower door.

What is a Blower Door?
A blower door is a large, calibrated fan that is temporarily mounted in an exterior doorway to measure the "leakiness" of the space. A modern blower door is a calibrated, variable speed fan system designed to automatically adjust the pressure in the space. The fan is mounted into an adjustable frame assembly that is fitted into the doorway to form a tight seal. In order to measure the "leakiness" of the space, the blower door measures both the air flowing through the fan and the pressure difference between the inside space and outside.

Does the Blower Door Find the Air Leaks?
No. The blower door only measures, quantifies, and records how much air is leaking out. That said, many air leaks in homes and small commercial spaces are obvious, such as around windows, doors, and electrical outlets. But others, like those in attics, around chimneys, and through recessed lighting fixtures are often the more significant sources of energy loss. The best and quickest method used to locate air leaks is with a Thermal Imaging camera. Besides being relatively quick, a thermal imaging or infrared camera records where the leaks are for a permanent record and so that they can be easily found for correction at a later time. Verification of the effectiveness of air-leak mitigation is performed with another blower door test.

Duct Blaster® Testing
A Duct Blaster® is used to directly pressure test the duct system for air leaks, much the same way a plumber pressure tests water pipes for leaks. The Duct Blaster® fan is connected to the duct system; and the remaining registers and grills are temporarily sealed closed. The calibrated Duct Blaster® fan is turned on to force air through all holes and cracks in the ductwork. A precise leakage measurement is made from which estimates of efficiency losses are obtained. Typically, a non-toxic fog is injected into the duct system to visually demonstrate the location and extent of duct system leakage.

A Duct Blaster® test is required for all HERS Rater testing which may involve an Energy Efficient Mortgage, the ENERGY STAR homes program, or to meet energy code compliance where applicable.

Why a Duct Blaster® Test?
There are more than a million miles of ductwork in U.S. homes. Industry experts estimate that more than two-thirds of them are leaky enough to justify sealing or repair. Leaky ducts can significantly increase air conditioning and heating bills, dramatically reduce equipment capacity and performance, and result in potentially dangerous indoor air quality problems.

Leaks in forced air duct systems are recognized as a major source of energy waste in both new and existing houses and commercial spaces. Studies indicate that duct leakage can account for as much as 25% of total house energy loss, and; in many cases has a greater impact on energy use than air infiltration through the building shell. Just as important, duct leakage can prevent heating and cooling systems from doing their job properly, resulting in hot or cold rooms and humidity problems. Worse yet, duct leaks can create air quality problems by pulling pollutants and irritants directly into the house or commercial space.

Problems Resulting from Duct Leakage

  • Expensive conditioned air dumped into the attic, crawlspace, or garage instead of the home.
  • Leaks pull outside air (hot in summer, cold in winter) into the duct system, reducing both efficiency and capacity. In humid climates, moist air being drawn in through return air duct leaks can overwhelm the dehumidification capacity of air conditioning systems causing homes to feel clammy even when the air conditioner is running.
  • Heat pumps particularly susceptible to comfort complaints from duct leakage, especially during the heating season. Duct leaks can cause air coming from heat pumps to feel luke- warm or even cold during the winter. Leaky ductwork found to greatly increase the use of electric strip heaters in heat pumps during the heating season.
  • Leaks draw air into the house from crawlspaces, garages, and attics bringing with it dust, mold spores, insulation fibers, and other contaminants.
  • Household depressurization from duct leaks and imbalanced duct systems can cause spillage of combustion products (from furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces) into the house.

Thermal Imaging
A thermal imaging infrared camera inspection is either an interior or exterior survey which uses infrared scanning to detect defects revealed by the difference in surface temperature in a building envelope. Regal Services will determine which method would give the best results under certain weather conditions. Interior scans are more common because warm air escaping from a building does not always move in a straight line. Heat loss detected in one area of the outside wall might originate at some other location on the inside of the wall. Also, it is more difficult to detect temperature differences on the outside surface of the building in windy weather. Because of this condition, interior surveys are generally more accurate... they benefit from reduced air movement.

When to Use a Thermal Imaging Infrared Camera?
Infrared scanning is accomplished using a high-tech thermal imaging camera. Infrared film used in a conventional camera is not sensitive enough to detect heat loss.

Because of the advanced infrared technology, there are many applications where infrared scanning can be performed. A few of these are:

  • During Blower Door testing as an addition to the energy audit to quickly and precisely locate and document air leaks. The blower door helps exaggerate air leaking through defects in the building shell. It appears as dark streaks in the infrared camera’s viewfinder.
  • Checking the effectiveness of insulation in the building’s construction. A thermo-gram can help determine whether a building needs insulation; and where in the building it should go. Because wet insulation conducts heat faster than dry insulation, thermal scans of roofs can often detect roof leaks.
  • Electrical and mechanical systems benefit from thermo-grams to reveal poor electrical connections creating high resistance temperatures on a terminal or increased wear shown as excess heat build-up, making thermal imaging a valuable tool for preventive maintenance.
  • Before selling or purchasing a house; even new houses have defects in their thermal envelopes.

Comprehensive Energy Audit

The Comprehensive Audit includes an evaluation, performance testing (diagnostic survey), and proposed treatments for improving an existing home. The evaluation will include a review of the data collected from any previous energy audit or audit survey, any further required measurement and performance testing, combustion appliance testing, and a computerized simulation analysis of the home’s energy performance.

Home Energy Rating (HERS)

Regal Services is a certified HERS Rater* recognized through the RESNET® accredited nationwide rating program.

The Residential Energy Services Network's (RESNET®) mission is to ensure the success of the building energy performance certification industry, set the standards of quality, and increase the opportunity for ownership of high performance buildings.

RESNET®’s standards are officially recognized by the U.S. mortgage industry for capitalizing a building’s energy performance in the mortgage loan... and by the federal government for verification of building energy performance for such programs as federal tax incentives, the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Program.

RESNET® HERS Raters are recognized for "Green Building" certification under the Leadership in Environment and Energy Design (LEED) for homes program and contributing their services to Habitat for Humanity affordable housing program.

What is a Home Energy Rating?
Home energy ratings provide a standard measurement of a home’s energy efficiency and its potential for improvement. Ratings are used for both new and existing homes. A Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is a system for collecting and processing the data needed to produce a home energy rating.

A HERS rating results in a score that is based on national standards developed by RESNET®. A HERS index of 100 is what a standard, built-to-code home would score while a net zero energy home would score 0. Older, existing homes may score a higher number than 100 as they were not built to modern day building codes. From the chart on the right, it is shown that the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program requires a score of 85. LEED for Homes starts at a HERS score of 85, then additional points are awarded for every HERS point better than 85. Federal tax credits for builders require an approximate HERS score of 60, but the requirements are not tied directly to a HERS score.

In new homes, ratings verify energy performance for the ENERGY STAR homes program, Energy Efficient Mortgages, and energy code compliance where applicable. Homeowners who want to upgrade their home’s energy efficiency can use the energy rating to evaluate and pinpoint specific, cost effective improvements.

For existing homes, the comprehensive report received by the homeowner lists cost-effective options for improving the home’s energy rating. This rating may be used to apply for an Energy Efficiency Mortgage for an energy efficiency upgrade, allowing the homeowner to increase the safety, comfort, and value of his home.

How Do You Get a HERS Rating?
The HERS rating is achieved using a process which will defer depending on whether the home is being constructed as compared to a home that is finished or existing.

New home under construction... a three-phase process

  • Phase 1. Regal Services develops a projected rating based on an analysis of the building plans and specifications.
  • Phase 2. Perform pre-drywall inspection to confirm the quality and thoroughness of the installed insulation. We also carefully inspect the quality of air-sealing to ensure the anticipated air tightness of the structure will be achieved.
  • Phase 3. After the final finishes are installed in the house, Regal Services performs a blower door test to determine how tightly the house was actually built. If there was ductwork installed for heating and cooling, a Duct Blaster® test will also be performed. This will determine how well sealed the ductwork is. The result of the final evaluation and testing provides a confirmed rating.

Existing home
Obtaining a HERS Rating for an existing home is much like the Phase 3 process used in a newly constructed, finished home. A blower door test is performed; and if there is a duct system for heating and cooling, a Duct Blaster® test is performed.

Whether it is a new home under construction or an existing home, the data gathered by Regal Services from these tests using specialized computer controlled equipment is entered into a RESNET® accredited software program and translated into a rating score.

Using proven building science methods and specialized equipment, Regal Services can also analyze your home or small commercial space to determine sources of excessive energy and water consumption, drafty spaces, uncomfortable temperatures, and poor indoor air quality. Regal Services will make recommendations based on our findings and help you identify qualified contractors to fix the problems. Once the analysis is completed, we can guide you in qualifying for an Energy Efficient Mortgage as part of a refinancing transaction that could pay for the cost of building improvements.

Energy Star

Regal Services is proud to be selected as an Energy Star Partner* as a certified HERS Rater*. The Energy Star program which was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992 provides, the means by which new and existing homeowners can improve the energy efficiency of their homes and help qualify for tax incentives. Energy Star is now a worldwide program. The qualification of an Energy Star home is determined by its HERS Rating score.