What Makes a High Efficiency Home?

Making high efficiency homes has been an upward trend for both new and existing homes in recent years. Energy Star is a great way to ensure you are following the latest practices and most up to date codes. Here’s the breakdown of what sets apart high performance homes from to code, standard homes:

They have Insulation that’s to Code or Better. Whether you’re building a new home or retrofitting an existing one, make sure your insulation is to code or better. That’s R 21 in the walls, R49 in the roof, and R30 in the crawl space or better.

They’re Tightly Sealed. Once you’ve insulated, you want to keep it that way. Energy Star, high efficiency homes stay that way by ensuring their homes are well sealed. Sealing doors, windows, fixtures, lights, especially skylights, and ducting will save you energy and money.

 Whole House Ventilation System. Once your home is made so tight and efficient you will need a way to properly ventilate it. Somewhere in your home there should be a continuous running fan for air exchange. Bathrooms need an exhaust fan to circulate air. Your attic is another crucial area to ventilate. If moisture gets trapped, it can cause serious damage.

High Efficiency Heating Solution. There are many new types of high efficiency heating solutions. If you’re on gas already, a high efficiency gas furnace may be the cheapest route. There are also many incentives for traditional electric customers to upgrade outdated systems. The best way to find which one will work best for you, we suggest talking to a local energy adviser for free, or call us about an energy audit.

There are many new high efficiency homes being built locally in your area right now, and they are taking advantage of all the latest technology at Scott Homes, who’s also touring soon.

We do always encourage everyone to visit Energy Star for codes and practices when considering how to make their home more energy efficient.

Heat Pump Water Heaters: What You Need to Know Before You Buy

By now you’ve seen ads at hardware stores and heard talks from friends about Heat Pump Water Heaters. If, and when, you’re in the market for a new water heater, you may be wondering if it’s right for you.

Here’s a breakdown of 4 main points when it comes to Heat Pump Water Heaters:

Utility and Federal Rebates, & how they work: Some utility districts will offer you a rebate. This would be in addition to any manufacturer rebate you receive. This applies ONLY when you install them in an UNCONDITIONED AREA of your home. For example, an unconditioned garage or crawl space. If there’s a federal tax credit you haven’t yet used, you may also be eligible for this as well.

Where you CAN and CAN’T put them: Some manufactures have advertised that you can put them in your closet spaces. Heat pump water heaters blow out cold air while the heat pump is in use, effectively cooling conditioned spaces in your home.

Settings: Heat Pump Water Heaters have several settings. They can switch from Heat Pump only, to Hybrid (both Heat Pump and Electric Element), Electric Only, to a number of other settings. This makes it convenient to adjust when you have in-laws come to town.

Thinking in the long term: Because Heat Pump Water Heaters work optimally between 40-90⁰, when it gets colder, you will find the system will have trouble keeping up in Heat Pump Only mode.

The other major problem is we don’t know how long Heat Pump Water Heaters will last. Any major failure may cause you serious problems. Tests done on early models showed failures within the first few years, but new models have proven to be much more reliable.

In independent studies, Heat Pump Water Heaters did save anywhere from $40-270 per year when switching from an electric water heater to the Heat Pump Water Heater.

If you have natural gas, it’s best to get a high efficiency water heater when you are ready for a new one. However, if you are on propane, any kind of electric water heater will always save you more.

“Should I replace my old windows, and if so, with what?”

This is a very common question we get a lot in the retrofitting business. For aesthetic purposes we can see why many homeowners jump to do this project first! But if you’re working to make your home as efficient as possible, it should be the last thing on your list of upgrades to do.

The cost of replacing windows is averaged to be around $12,000 with a savings on heat of about $50 a month. After paying off installation, recouping the savings can take up to 40 years! If you’re wondering why that is, it’s because having windows means there’s a break in the insulation of your home.

Let’s break down the facts:

·         U-Factor - A window’s ability to insulate is measured by its U-factor, much like insulation in your walls uses R-value. The smaller the number of U-factor, the better the insulation.

·         ≤ 0.30 - Energy Star windows have to be a U-factor of 0.30 or better for Northern climates, like ours.

·         Converting to R-value - To convert your windows from U-factor to R-value, use this formula (1 ÷ U-factor). So, if your windows are a U-factor of 0.30 (1 ÷ 0.30) your windows only have an R-value of R-3!

If your windows are damaged or have broken seals, then it is time to start replacing them. Otherwise, you’re going to see the best return of your money by investing in insulation and switching to a high efficiency heat source.

When you are ready for new windows, you’re going to find there’s not just double paned, Energy Star windows. There’s a window for every personality. Most people have heard of LowE windows. This stands for “Low emissivity” and is a thin metallic layer applied over the glass that allows short wave lengths to come in while blocking the long wave lengths.

LowE is not to be confused with tinted glass, though. Many people can get confused with the two. Tinted glass can get hot since its absorbing solar heat, and it isn’t energy efficient.

As always, we follow and recommend to our clients to follow, Energy Stars code for all of your home’s updating. Prioritizing upgrades to your home will make a world of difference to your energy consumption and your wallet throughout the year.

Northwest Infrared – Brent Foster talks about using infrared imaging on electrical circuits

Northwest Infrared LLC provides thermal imaging services for commercial, industrial and residential clients. Infrared inspections provide real-time information, detecting problems that cause heating efficiency loss, moisture intrusion, or equipment failure. Northwest Infrared’s certified thermography staff specializes in non destructive testing and diagnosis using infrared technology to benefit the owner and contractor.

Air Intrusion Evaluation Service – Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Bremerton and Communities in the State of Washington

The building code for Washington State was changed in July 2010 to include a mandatory test for air leakage, the major cause of energy loss. Air intrusion is caused by holes cut in the building envelope for lighting, plumbing and ventilation.

Northwest Infrared provides an infrared scan service, including a blower door test, that can identify areas of air leakage.

Call Brent Foster – 360.786.6858 – and learn more about infrared thermography and how you can save money on your energy usage in the future.

Brent Foster Explains Thermal Images During Energy, Moisture and other Infrared Applications

Brent Foster of Northwest Infrared in Olympia, WA is certified in several thermal imaging applications. While he knows what he sees, his customers do not. So, Brent takes the time to explain what he is going to do. Then, what he is doing. Then, what he has done.

A thermal imaging camera displays various colors representing variations in temperature. Some variations are caused by moisture trapped in a wall or ceiling, missing insulation or shoddy construction.

Call Brent @ 360.786.6850 to ask a question, or schedule and appointment.

Click here to learn more about Community Energy Solutions.

Heat Loss Performance Testing

Infrared verification of insulation in residential buildings:

Is your home cold and drafty?
Are your heating bills higher than they should be?
Northwest infrared specializes in locating missing and damaged insulation in walls and ceilings. Your house is not cold and drafty because your heating system is old. It is cold due to damaged insulation and air leaks. Infrared scanning allows the professionally trained Thermographer to take a thermal picture of your walls and ceilings to show exactly where insulation is damaged and air is coming through your walls. We have found that nine out of ten homes have multiple openings in their thermal envelope that can be repaired to reduce their energy consumption. As Thermographers we do not sell any products or offer contracting services so there is no conflict of interest. In many cases, with the information provided from our reports, the building owner can make the repairs themselves and save even more money on their energy bills each month.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find these types of flaws in the thermal envelope of your home?

More Missing Insulation

Here is yet another huge void in a vaulted ceiling = exterior wall. The blown-in insulation settled after the original installation. = Without the infrared scan, it would have continued to go unidentified and the homeowners would have continued to pay higher energy bills due to the = large gaps in the home’s thermal envelope.