Home Energy Audit With a Hole in the Wall

Why is there a heating register 4 feet up on the wall?

by Don Ames,   www.detectenergy.com

In my last article, I spoke about a home energy audit and the hot tub on the back deck. Remember, it was a manufactured home with a great deck overlooking a roaring hillside stream. Next door, the neighbors were the countryside recyclers, at least I suppose that's what they might call themselves.

Personally, I think I would call them by a more descriptive term, like shameful polluting junk pile recycler's. Somebody, someday will need to clean up the mess, and I bet it will not be the people ( business ) that made it. Maybe the price of metal will skyrocket and the junk pile will actually be worth something besides demonstrating how pollution can leach into the ground.

Anyway, last time I wrote about this home, I got stuck on the hot tub. I think the reason the hot tub got my attention was because the homeowner was working on it after a  thunderstorm had knocked out the control panel. This hot tub is a reminder that we should protect our home electronics during periods of lightening.

Surge Protector & Kill a Watt

During  lightening, electronic devices can experience an overload which can ruin the device. A surge protector is a great appliance and can protect electronic equipment against overload. Personally, I have a hard time trusting a surge protector and will unplug my electronics about the time the lightening hits the evening forecast.

Let me share a few thoughts ( energy related ) as I get acquainted with this manufactured home. This is a double wide home with a two room addition attached at the back door. You have to go through the addition to reach the backdoor to the home. There are a few signs that the homeowner constructed this addition without contractor help.

A few things about Energy Conservation.

1.  The Two Room Addition:

The two room addition is a great idea, but when it is homeowner constructed it is often not finished. I find that insulation, air sealing, and trim work is something that has been waiting to be finished. In this case, there is insulation in the ceiling area but not under the floor. It is a shame too, air sealing and insulating a floor is usually much easier during construction than afterwards.

Two Little Energy Wasters

2.  Two Little Cute Doggies:

Well, here's an indication of things to come. Hopefully, the presence of little dogs means there are little dogs and no big dogs. I don't trust big dogs in other peoples homes. The little dogs live inside most of the time, this means I can expect an abundance of animal hair in the heating ducts and on the furnace filter. I also expect to see the weatherstripping on exterior doors in less than sterling condition. At least their short legs will not allow the destruction of door weatherstripping too far up the door casing.

3.  Grandma's Freezer and the Garage Sale Refrigerator:

One nice thing about a two room addition attached to the back door is now there is adequate room for the freezer that you have inherited from your Mom's home and the nice blue refrigerator you picked up for $5 at a garage sale. I immediately get out my electric meters and attach one each to the two, less than new, appliances.

Experience tells me one or both of these appliances could be a real energy hog. I also know, that one or both could be really efficient and doing just fine. Only way to know for sure is to test them.

Heat Register

4.  Extra Hole in Living Room Wall:

Well, here's a new one. There is a floor style register on an interior wall in the living room. It is on the wall at the start of the hallway. Down the hall is the thermostat, above the register is several family pictures. The register is a nice wood stained register with class. Perhaps to the untrained eye, it would not even seem out of place.

But to the trained, "energy auditor eye", this register needs some explanation, some good reason for being there, some connection to either energy efficiency or energy waste.

First, Some System Background information.

As with all manufactured homes, the furnace is located in the home, not in the garage. Usually the furnace is in the utility room near the back door, the furnace shares a space with the washer & dryer, or perhaps the water heater. A manufacture home uses the home itself as a return air duct. All the conditioned air, distributed throughout the home by the underfloor duct system, finds it way back to the furnace without a return air duct.

In this case, warm air entering the master bathroom through the floor register, powered by the furnace fan, must travel from the bathroom through the bedroom and out into the hallway, down the hallway to the living room, through the living room and around the corner to the kitchen, through the kitchen to the utility room and then back to the furnace.

By the time conditioned air makes it's trip around a Manufactured Home, it at least might be getting a little dizzy.

Wood Stove Hot Spot

Why is There a Heating Register on the Living Room Wall?

1.  This home is often heated by a wood stove that sits in one corner of the living room along the outside wall. When used to heat the house, the wood stove creates a hot spot in the living room.

2.  The hole with the register is located on one side of the wall and the furnace cabinet is exactly on the other side of the wall.

3.  The register is a return air short cut. By turning the furnace fan on without turning the furnace on, the fan uses the short cut to better circulate the wood stove hot spot throughout the rest of the home.

4.  The home has an electronic air cleaner installed just on top of the furnace cabinet, with the fan running, the wood stove cooking, and the short cut hole in the wall, the warm air gets to the furnace faster and still gets filtered and cleaned.

Mystery Solved.

It is more common in a stick built home with an attic space to install an additional return air register and duct in the ceiling above a wood stove. This moves the warm air that concentrates at the ceiling above a stove into the heating delivery system and on throughout the house. This is an appropriate and effective way to use the available heat produced by a stove to better heat the other rooms in the home.

With country folks having ready and economical access to firewood, this additional return air register becomes a great way to make the wood stove delivery system more effective. If the homeowner harvests his own firewood, heating costs are kept low.

If you heat with a stove, whether wood or natural gas, etc. I would encourage you to look into the possibility of arranging for a short cut return air system. Be sure to check with local building codes before you cut that hole in the wall or ceiling, there is probably a few important fire restrictions concerning how close the short cut can be to the heat source.

Look for my next article, I will be discussing the results of the duct blaster and the blower door test. I will make specific recommendations to the homeowners about where to spend about $3,500 that will save them the most energy and provide a more comfortable and efficient home.

Thank you for stopping by Detect Energy, hope to see you again soon, but I won't leave the light on for you...

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Tags: air, audit, conservation, energy, insulation, save, sealing, weatherization

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