My Second Door Blower Test: Was It All Worthwhile?
THIS PAGE IS ABOUT THE SECOND DOOR BLOWER TEST, so logically this means there was a first one. To get the details and the background, you might want to visit my main energy audit page. The first door blower test (or is it "blower door test"?) was part of that energy audit.
I mention this in case you happened to land on my site directly by this page. (Conversely, if you've been following this story, haven't you been wondering when the second test would take place?)
The Second Energy Audit
And so "D Day" arrived and Jared MacDonald, my energy advisor, showed up on time and set up his equipment.
I appreciated the fact that Jared had done his research; from our conversation I concluded that he had read this whole website! Even the part where I warned my Canadian visitors so they wouldn't risk losing their grant as I nearly did.
Jared's diligence meant that I didn't have to explain all that I had done to the house during those nearly two years, to make it as energy efficient as I could afford.
It didn't take him long to install his equipment for this long-awaited second door blower test.
Soon he was jotting down the data that would be the basis for his final energy efficiency audit report, which would follow a few weeks later, he said.
It took him even less time to get a pretty good idea of what would be in that report...
... just look at the following pictures:
The one on the left shows the door blower set up at the first test, and the one on the right shows the same blower at the second door blower test.
Notice how, on the left, all the fan covers have been removed. This is so that all the air being sucked out by the fan has a place to escape. Obviously, that picture was taken before the house was insulated and sealed with vapor barriers, foams and caulks.
The house was so leaky that this first test detected 16.22 air changes per hour.
On the right, during the second door blower test, the fan has nearly all its rings in because now there are hardly any leaks and the number of air changes per hour has gone down to 1.9.
That's one of the things that home energy audits are meant to find out.
The second door blower test was conducted as similarly as possible to the first one; for example, the door to the basement was left open on both occasions, and on the second test it turned out that the main area of leakage was the basement, which didn't overly concern me because the door between the basement and the rest of the house has good weatherstripping.
Jared's visit included ensuring that the new windows and doors were indeed Energy Star rated and that the new toilet was a 6-litre (1.6 gal.) model, for instance. He also checked all visible insulation, such as in the crawl space and the basement headers.
Had I insulated the attic, he would have expected to have access to that space for inspection. (Otherwise, attics should be sealed as tightly as possible during a blower door test.)
A few weeks after Jared's visit and that crucial second door blower test, I received my house's final Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report.
What's In The Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report?
The report summarizes my house's energy efficiency in these words (my comments are in italics):
Your house currently rates 68. (Remember the initial report? In it, the house's rating was 37. Remember the initial goal? It was 69.)
The average energy efficiency rating for a house of this age in Canada is 57. (Yes, well, I suppose if you take into account all the small houses built in the late 50's, and you include those in affluent provinces, where folks have been performing regular upgrades to their homes – yes, I suppose in that case the average rating could be 57. However, I live in the least affluent province, where property values are stagnant, and I'm willing to bet that the average little house around here rates closer to 37 than to 57.)
Your home rates in the top 20% of this group of houses. (But according to the first report, had I reached the goal of 69, instead of 68, my home would have rated in the top 10%! So maybe it rates in the top 15%?)
Moreover, this rating is based on my house's estimated energy consumption, which is itself based on:
its general characteristics;
its energy-using equipment;
and the following standard conditions:
a complete air change approximately every three hours (achievable with an air exchanger, which I don't have)
four occupants(I live alone)
a fixed thermostat setting of 21ºC (69.8ºF) on main floors and 19ºC (66.2ºF) in the basement (my basement is unheated)
average water consumption values (I'm a water conservation fanatic)
average weather data (okay, so they got one right!)
The report goes to make some recommendations; among them:
Install and use a programmable electronic thermostat; set the heating temperature to 20ºC (68ºF) while you are at home and 17ºC) (62.6ºF) at night and when you are away. (I love programmable thermostats and when I was still a working girl, I had them in my house. However, for a lifestyle that doesn't operate on a regular schedule (like mine), regular, non-programmable electronic thermostats are a better choice. And since my house is heated electrically, each room has its own thermostat. That is the ideal situation because all you have to do is close the doors of the rooms you don't use, and turn those thermostats way down. I also turn them all down when I go away for more than two hours. Moreover, this recommendation does not take into account the fact that I depend a lot onpassive solar heating.)
Insulate the first two metres (6 feet) of the hot and cold water pipes with insulating foam sleeves or pipe wrap insulation. By doing so you will save on your water heating costs and will reduce your water consumption. (Ha! What about the water heater itself?See how I took care of this.)
Install a timer on your pool pump.(Excuse me?)
Therefore, dear Canadian government, and dear New Brunswick government, thank you for the grants, but if you don't mind I will take my EnerGuide rating with a very large grain of salt!
How Did This Translate Into Energy Efficiency Grants?
A few months after my final Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report was issued, I received a cheque for $2,286 from the federal government. I didn't have to do anything about applying for this: the application for the Canadian government's EcoENERGY Retrofit Grants and Incentives Program is sent directly by the energy advisor's office.
And a few months after I had submitted my application to Efficiency NB – this one you have to look after yourself: you fill out a simple application form and attach a copy of all eligible receipts –, I received another cheque. That one was for $2,000, which is the maximum amount allowable under that program; it represents 20% of a maximum of $10,000. Simple. But if you have any questions, the folks who run the program are very nice and helpful on the phone.
I hope that other provinces have equally helpful people running their energy efficiency grant programs.
My total grants amounted to $4,286.
I hope that this good news will encourage those who have been following other Canadian blogs where the homeowners express their disappointment with the program. Yes, some of the rules are a bit extreme. Yes, some of the conditions are a bit hard to meet. Yes, some of the grants are insufficient. No, the program is not perfect.
For information about energy audits in general, and about these and other Canadian federal and provincial grants and rebate programs, I have put up all the links that I know of on my Energy Audit page. Scroll down to the bottom.
There is also a link on that page for some United States programs.
MOVE THE STAIRS Moving a staircase? It's easy! Watch this step by step stair project how-to from top to bottom. (All puns intended!)
PILE ON THE INSULATION Looking for ways to save energy? Home insulation should be high on your list of priorities. Get the facts.
ANOTHER STAIR STORY We took out the stairs to the second floor, so now how do we get up there? A folding attic ladder supplies the answer.
TAP THE EARTH FOR WATER We prospect for water by ancient means and lo! water appears. See it happening, step-by-step.
DOWNSIZE YOUR LIFE Are you serious about reducing your impact on the environment? Start by downsizing your home! See how I did it -- and why.
LEARN ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY If you thought solar energy was only about solar panels, think again... and read this article by solar energy expert Michael Martinez.
...I clicked to your site and found a great wealth of information. I'm about the least tool oriented person there is around, but I'm passionate about many of the topics you write about. And I find the writing to be very well done and informative even for a non-handy person like me. Well done.
Dean Prague, Czech Republic
I would just like to thank you for maintaining this resource. It's essential that information about environmental issues are easily and broadly accessible.
Steve United States
Thank you so much for sharing your exquisitely well-told stories! I have spent the last 2 hours reading the whole saga, and I appreciate all of the detail that went into your decision making. I hope you are enjoying your green home with cozy surroundings and energy efficiency.
Candice Unites States
Thank you for taking the time to write down your experiences. It is truly a valuable service.
Rajiv United States
Thanks for all the info on this site, it is very thorough.
Marie United States
Very well documented and I appreciate the work and the effort you have put into this.
Hey! Just wanted to compliment you on your site! I'm a new, first time homeowner, with a dirt crawlspace and have searched for hours on how to set it up.
Living here in Montreal, and the conditions aren't easy on a house and this site sure helped to answer some questions.
Thank you for displaying your work and experience!
Have to say I absolutely love your site. Really complete, well thought out, and has me clicking from page to page...
A few years ago, I bought this fixer-upper for $10,000.
It had been vacant for six years, had no water supply, needed a new roof, and was likely to conceal an unsuspected number of nasty flaws.