Defects in home insulation are symptomatic – homeowners can feel the effects in every part of the home and from season to season. In some cases, there may be defects in the existing insulation, while in other cases, the installation itself may be defective. For the homeowner, it means rooms that are uncomfortable; heating bills that are high; and air conditioning that just doesn’t cool.
Symptoms or not, the best way to confirm a home’s energy efficiency and the performance level of the insulation is to do an energy audit. A comprehensive energy audit will accurately assess how the home is using energy. And while suggested improvements are aimed at remedying the defects, the actual retrofit work must be planned and expedited to ensure optimum results.
A professional energy auditor uses various tools and techniques to evaluate the air tightness, insulation value, and energy efficiency of a home. Quite often, thermal imaging cameras are used to provide important data: like areas of inadequate insulation; air leaks through walls, ceilings, and roofs; and moisture accumulation around plumbing and ductwork. Results are accurate.
Amongst other tasks, energy audits are designed to identify pockets of missing insulation, while isolating areas of heat loss. Both of these indicate that insulation is insufficient. In fact, the results of a thermal image can actually determine where additional insulation is required or if existing insulation is installed inadequately. The findings are vital to making necessary improvements.
In some homes, an energy audit can be quite revealing, showing serious heat loss where a roof meets the attic floor. Here, substantial heat loss may be a result of deteriorated insulation or even inadequate sealing of the roof cavity. Whatever the reason, the insulated attic is not preventing air leakage and is therefore allowing heat to escape in winter and creep in during the summer.
Another common finding during an energy audit is gaps and openings that allow for air to flow in and out of the “building envelope”. This is where effective sealing is suggested as a remedy, and where spray foam insulation is highly recommended to do the job. A spray foam application will seal every crack and crevice, providing maximum airtightness wherever the foam is applied.
Energy auditors also find homes where blown insulation has settled and lost some of its R-Value. This is not uncommon in older houses, and may be common in newer homes where the materials were just poorly installed. Although adding more insulation may be a viable remedy, some audits suggest improvements to the overall ventilation of the space (more vents or better locations).
Interestingly, energy audits often show that the HVAC system (heating/air conditioning) is not performing at peak. And although this may well indicate equipment problems, many insulation contractors find that once the “building envelope” is better sealed, better insulated, and better ventilated, the equipment performs better when heating in winter and cooling in summer.
The real benefit of a good energy audit is the prospect of making improvements. And the results will quickly show in energy savings throughout the year.