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Sun, Sept. 15

Ask the Contractor: Energy audit, checkup finds hot, cold spots

Roseann Mitchell, of the Community Action Agency, checks airflow readings as part of a blower door test assessment Feb. 26, 2010, in San Francisco. (Ben Margot/AP, file)

Roseann Mitchell, of the Community Action Agency, checks airflow readings as part of a blower door test assessment Feb. 26, 2010, in San Francisco. (Ben Margot/AP, file)

My husband says he feels cold air blowing in through the vents and experiences “cold spots” in our home and he knows this is an invisible problem, he can feel it but does not know what to do. What do you suggest? — Merle and Pat, Prescott.

Air that we all spend a pretty penny to heat in the winter or cool in the summer more than likely is leaking right out of your house into the atmosphere.

Signs of this problem include rooms that are hotter or colder than other rooms, an unusually high amount of dust in your house, out-of-control allergy symptoms, energy bills that seem too high, or a musky or fume smell, according to Bryce Cox, partner with Arrowseal in Prescott Valley.

“If it was water, people would stop the leak in a heartbeat,” said Troy Koski, president of TDK Comfort Systems based in Chino Valley. “But since it’s air and they can’t see it, they don’t know where it is coming from and how to correct the situation.”

Sealing air leaks is a critical step to improving your home’s comfort and energy efficiency.

The biggest energy losses occur in ductwork, and a homeowner can optimize the air flow to all rooms when you seal the home’s leaky ducts. Almost 15 percent of cooling energy is wasted because of duct leakage and it is possible you can feel “cold spots” in a home that has leaky air ducts.

Doors and windows can be hotspots for leaks, but often more air escapes through attic penetrations, electrical outlets and lighting fixtures and air can also blow into the home from these areas.

Insulation in the attic is another area that saves energy, improves comfort and helps balance temperatures throughout the home, especially when combined with sealing air leaks.

Are you aware that cooling accounts for 40 percent of the energy consumption in an average Arizona home? Save on cooling costs by raising your thermostat by 1 degree saves 2 to 3 percent on energy cooling costs — set your thermostat to 79° and use fans to feel up to 5° cooler.

Arizona Public Service through its specifically trained contractors can diagnose a home’s leak air issues with a Home Performance Checkup for as low as $99 (a $400 value), and we have four locally approved APS contractors — Arrowseal, Banker Insulation, Moyers Heating & Cooling and TDK.

With the audit you will know where the hot/cold spots are, how to take corrective action and make your home more energy efficient, which can save you money and improve the health, safety and indoor air quality of your home.

After the home checkup, the contractor will present a customized assessment report of your home identifying energy saving upgrades.

Deciding to proceed with the recommended upgrades, could save you as much as 3​0 percent on your energy bill.

In January 2020, the City of Prescott plans to start requiring blower door and duct blaster tests on all new homes before they get a certificate of occupancy, says Laurel Collins, City of Prescott building inspector and plans examiner.

As we all know there is a big push to get energy more efficient. The EPA estimates that homeowners can save 5 to 30 percent on their utility bills by making efficiency upgrades recommended in energy audits.

Newer homes have more efficient expandable foam insulation sprayed right onto the roof, but older homes have insulation sitting on the attic floor with ductwork.

Leaks in the envelope of the home can be a huge energy loss culprit and we all need to be consciousness of saving energy.

To conduct blower door tests, auditors close all the home’s windows, exterior doors and flues. They mount a calibrated fan in an exterior door. The fan pulls air through all the holes in the building envelope. The auditor holds a smoke stick in front of suspected leaks to see if the smoke wafts away from the area.

The auditor writes up a report and, if the auditor works for a contractor, they offer a proposal to seal any major leaks. Tests after the work is done will show how much the leakage has been reduced.

According to Troy at TDK, ductless units for each room in the home are one popular option that also increases heating and cooling efficiency. Other tools in the toolboxes of these energy savings contractors includes technology to find everything from hot water leaks to carbon monoxide problems.

Not knowing when this home was built the auditors generally find substantial energy leaks in homes built before 2006 international codes were in effect.

Our local energy consultants are trained and certified through the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and are well trained in how to locate air leaks and save energy and money.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading YCCA’s Ask The Contractor. Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time twice each weekend Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130AM, 99.9FM, or 95.5FM — or on the web at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners and contractors, and so much more.

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