To test, or not to test, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Protocols,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of Air Infiltration,
And by opposing end them: to vanquish Ducts, to repair them
No more; and by testing, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand dollars
That testing for is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To test to analyze,
To recommend, perchance to Dream; Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of testing, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect,
To test or not to test that is the question
Obvious and poorly done rip off of Sir William Shakespeare
It is interesting when one is presented with new information that causes us reexamine our viewpoint.
I have taken the time effort and expense to put myself in the position to test homes. Recently on Home Energy Pros there was a discussion on this subject started by Thomas Price called Multi Family Auditing.
While the discussion took many dips and turns as good lively discussion do. I took the cause of testing armed with my blower door and various certificates but one comment by Thomas Price gave me pause
“My job is to take the data collected and figure out what makes sense from an economical point of view to do in order to save energy. I see a lot of funds going toward doing multi-point blower door tests, and I struggle to get funds for things like duct sealing. This is frustrating for me”
Wow, point well taken.
What’s the point of testing if this soaks up the funds for action? What are the real goals of our Industry? To brow beat folks with expensive tests and leave them with no room for repairs hardly seems like a long term solution.
If all funds are used for testing then what really is the point?
I think all of us have taken a visual and have a good idea of what we are going to find. For instance on first observation an on a Single Family 3 bedroom two bath home 1500 square feet from 1972:
15 non at/ic can lights,
a platform return with high and low make up vents in a closet in conditioned space.
metal ducting with thin insulation and visable duct taped joints
blown insulation in insulation blown away from duct joints
Insulation missing from close proximity of all the soffit vents
Do we really need our blower door to tell us that we are going to have about 2000 to 2500 cfm 50
Do we really need our duct blaster to tell us we are at about 25 percent more of leakage
Do we need a smoke pencil to see the air moving up the can lights and electrical outlets during pressurization?
When we see a rusty supply grill in the bathroom do we really need our flow hood to tell us that the bathroom fan is either inadequate or never turned on?
I have read where Michael Blasnik basically agrees with Thomas that money is better spent fixing the obvious rather than testing.
Then is all this for nothing? All this training, equipment and testing is it really worth it?
As far as the training I would have to say I could not make that quick visual inspection and be spot on without the training and experience. Some will say testing is a colossal waste of time and there is no reason for it. They might be right… some of the time. Especially on Multi Home government projects.
I would say if testing is soaking up all the funds within a government program and leaving little or no room for repairing we need to reexamine our goals. Certainly there can be a balance point of how much money should go toward testing and how much go toward actually repairing. The tests that are performed should have real significance toward occupant safety. There should be a focus on repairing if we can visibly see a broken system. I would not be in favor of throwing testing away but streamlining and minimizing the tests and evaluate their value for that specific project.
I think the single family home is different. Testing fees should not be soaking up the budget as the cost of repairing should be far more than evaluation. Your mileage might vary
I think it is important to remember energy efficiency is rarely simply bought and must be sold. Testing can be that bridge that provides the homeowner the motivation toward action. Our tools and reports are far more than a sales tool. I do not care who performs the work after an analysis. Good audits are stand alone valuable information that easily translates toward action.
Why has not more been done to fix the aging housing stock? Our industry’s testing can give customers empirical data to take forward to improve living conditions. This combined with the peace of mind that the actions for comfort and optimally savings will enhance occupant safety. The test in and test out method is valuable. I think we need to keep plodding along and work to gain market awareness and ultimately projects.
Our industry is an exciting place to be. We might not always agree on how to get from F to A but we all agree that we want our customers to have an A. There is work out there if we can convey our message and the value of our services.
To test or not to test
How about analyzing energy bills to see how much benefit the homeowner could realize by performing the recommended actions? If the homeowner is already in the bottom 30% of energy use compared to their peers is there any point in doing an expensive audit?
Blower door and duct blaster does not add significantly to an audit in time and expense. If you have time to evaluate insulation levels, power bills, heating systems, ventilation systems, appliance efficiency, doors, windows, shower heads, etc. What's a few minutes more to throw up a blower door? Maybe we need to have blower door and duct blaster competitions - like a timber carnival. If people pay to see who can cut a log the fastest, maybe they would pay to see who can set up a blower door the quickest.
As we often test for more than just energy who is to say that that efficient house is not too tight and in need of ventilation?
or that CO is spilling into space? Bills give us a important piece in the cog but are not the entire gear.
Don I agree that blower door and duct testing should be done on any audit, my post was in reference to government funded programs where the testing is soaking up the funds and therefore work cannot be completed as per the Thomas Price thread.This seems unacceptable and we are in need of a workaround if that is the case.
I am in favor of testing. I would lose the BD DT competition so I would prefer to judge
I would just say that I agree with all of your points. I think that testing can be very useful, especially in single family homes, but the priority should always be on saving energy (safely). I work at a research facility, so the more intensive testing that we do has multiple purposes. I'm happy to say that, thanks also to many of the comments on this forum, we are working to develop a much less labor intensive method for the testing of multifamily buildings.
We've tested over 500 units in low-rise multifamily buildings over the past couple of years, so we have a lot of data. By the end of the year, we should have test-in and test-out data for all of these units. The hope is to identify the variables which impact infiltration and be able to come up with a reasonable estimate of envelope leakage, in addition to a more accurate estimate for a target reduction after air sealing. If we can simply measure the envelope area and apply a reasonable estimate of leakage, one person can handle the task instead of 8. Since we only test about 10% of the units in a complex and assume the rest are the same, and since we can only guess at the target reduction as we calculate an SIR, the end result for the test-in should only be slightly less precise, if at all, using an envelope permeability factor as opposed to a blower door test.
I want to add that I believe that testing out is very important to making sure that the indoor air quality is acceptable and that proper controlled ventilation is doing its job, especially where combustion appliances are involved. We're also thinking about tests that use a single blower door and measuring pressures in adjoining units to calculate the total leakage to the outside.
Thanks for all of your thoughts and comments.