Hiram College

Old Tree House
…and it’s making a hole in your wallet!
An energy analyst joined us at the TREE House recently to conduct some of the initial steps in our energy audit.

First, we conducted a “blower door test.” This entailed blocking off the front door and creating a semi-vacuum in the house. All doors opening to the outside had to be shut and all inside doors and cupboards had to be open to allow air to flow through the house properly.  While a fan, inserted into the plastic blocking off the front door, began to pull air out of the house, we SEEDS watched intently, praying that our eyeballs wouldn’t be sucked from our heads by the vacuum. 

As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about.  The pull was much less dramatic than we imagined.  When the fan was switched on, it began to pull air in from the outside through small (and some no-so-small) openings in the walls and windows, yielding a number that indicates how hard the fan has to work to maintain a vacuum. These figures then provide a sense of how leaky the house is—which turns out to be VERY LEAKY. In fact, Pam will have to return for a second test involving TWO FANS to create the necessary vacuum for a more accurate reading. In the end, it looks like we’re in for some serious draftproofing .

Next, we used a thermal imager, a space-age looking device that detects cold areas on the inside of the house. In the thermal images, cold areas appear as cooler colors green, blue, purple while the warmer areas appear yellow, orange, and red. Many of the images look similar to the one pictured below, showing us where cold air is seeping into the house: mostly around windows, in corners and in small empty spaces in the walls. The thermography helped us locate the specific places we need to pay attention to when draftproofing and insulating the house.

thermal imaging

Finding leaks and cold spots is just one of the many steps in our pursuit of an energy efficient household. But it’s an extremely important one.

According to the EPA, homeowners can cut 20% of their heating and cooling bill (or 10% of their entire energy bill!) by stopping leaks and properly insulating.  While these financial savings might be great, they also mean less greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere and a house that’s more comfortable to live in. In other words, strategies like this are good for multiple reasons.  They can benefit your family, your wallet, and the environment.