Friday, February 18, 2011

Energy Audit of a Shelter Home - Part I

By Gaius Hennin, P.E.
Shelter recently hosted a class taught by Aaron Despres from Energy Solutions For Maine and Up-Country Building Inspectors, Inc. Aaron is a native of Harpswell, Maine and holds a Masters degree in Geology. He is certified as a Building Analyst Professional by the Building Performance Institute, #4380 * ASHI Associate, # 248862 * Member of MeCHIPS

In addition to the class, Aaron performed an energy audit of the Tipton home, which we've mentioned previously on our blog. (You can also read about the Tipton's home and their goal of building a near net-zero home on their blog, Simple Living, where they describe the process of designing and building their home as well as the energy performance of the house.)

Shelter Design Build was responsible for the shell of the Tipton's home including the timber frame and structural insulated panel enclosure (from R-Control), Marvin doors and windows, and McElroy hidden fastener metal roof.

In this first installment, we'll describe Aaron's class, and in a later post, we'll share the results of Aaron's energy audit of the Tipton home.

Aaron started the energy audit class by describing three levels of home energy audits:

A level-one audit might be performed by a representative from a big box store (who might also be trying to sell you weather stripping and insulation), will likely only inspect the tightness of the shell, and will not provide a report of the findings.

A level-two audit will delve further into the efficiency of the house, perhaps checking the heating and cooling appliances, and may or may not provide a report of findings.

A level-three audit takes a holistic approach, treating the entire house as a system, while recognizing that a change to one system (for example, making the building envelope tighter) will have an impact on other systems (for example, starving combustion appliances from necessary oxygen). A level-three audit looks at all the systems within the house that affect energy use, stresses occupant safety and provides a detailed report containing performance data for the home and suggestions for improvements.

Shelter Institute has been teaching house construction and taking the ‘system’ approach since 1974, so we feel that the ‘house as a system’ energy audit is the only worthwhile approach. (I state this overtly in case my biased description of the three levels left any uncertainty.)

In our next post, we'll share the details of Aaron's audit of the Tipton home. Stay tuned.

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