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Home Performance & Energy Audits
‘Home Performance’ contracting is all about making existing homes more comfortable, safer, healthier, more durable and energy efficient. BPI GoldStar Contractors use proven building science to examine the whole home and how different systems within it interact. These systems include the building envelope (shell), heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, and the occupants themselves.
Home Performance projects start with a comprehensive energy audit of the house to identify problems and trace them to their root cause. The technician may use an infrared camera to visualize temperature differences in different areas; conduct a “blower door” test to assess air leakage in the building envelope; and test for leakage in the duct work of your heating and cooling system. They may also perform other safety tests on HVAC equipment, including carbon monoxide and combustion appliance back-draft testing. Then the contractor prescribes and prioritizes improvements—from must-do to nice-to-have, that fit your budget. These repairs may include:
- air sealing the building envelope, including compartmentalizing the attic or basement from the conditioned living space
- weather-stripping doors and/or windows
- adding insulation
- sealing ductwork
- tuning-up HVAC equipment
- upgrading to energy efficient HVAC equipment
- upgrading ENERGY STAR® rated appliances and lighting
Yes. In fact, that’s one of the primary reasons to get an energy audit. Drafts, uneven temperatures (including hard to heat or cool rooms) and extreme (too damp or too dry) or inconsistent humidity levels are all problems best solved with a whole-home approach that examines and improves the interaction between different systems in the house.
Yes. The house-as-a-system approach to improving the performance of existing homes is proven to reduce homeowner annual utility bills by as much as 20 percent or more. (U.S. EPA, U.S. DOE, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Brochure, EPA 430-F-09-001, January 2009)
Click here to find incentives that include whole-home assessments and Home Performance improvement projects.
BPI GoldStar Contractor
Training is administered by a coast-to-coast network of independent training organizations, including private companies, community colleges and local not-for-profit agencies. Individuals hoping to become BPI certified professionals learn the house-as-a-system approach that focuses on the relationships between different components within the home, how to identify problems at the root cause and prioritize and provide solutions that improve energy efficiency while enhancing important safety functions such as mold prevention, indoor air quality and carbon monoxide testing, as well as combustion appliance safety checks. After they are certified, they are required to participate in ongoing continuing education requirements to keep these specialists on top of emerging issues, technologies and best practices.
Beware of imitators! Only current BPI GoldStar Contractors with full credentials are listed on the BPI website. If a contractor claims that they are a BPI GoldStar Contractor, but is not listed on BPI's Contractor Locator, they are not up to date. Don’t see the answer you need here? Use our Ask an Expert tool!
Common Building Problems
Yes. One common problem Home Performance retrofits correct is uncontrolled air leakage through the building envelope. Warm, moist, conditioned air passes from the living space though the walls on its way outside. When that warm air reaches the cooler temperatures within the wall cavity or inside a window frame, it drops the moisture on condensing surfaces, which can help contribute to mold. The American Lung Association® Healthy House® guidelines require homes to be more airtight to improve unplanned moisture movement. Although some stories in the media attribute indoor air quality problems to houses being built too tightly, the reality is that homes need proper mechanical ventilation to ensure clean air is coming into the home where it is supposed to.
Your BPI GoldStar Contractor will locate where air leakage is occurring during the energy audit. Then, as part of the retrofit project, they will air seal and ensure your mechanical ventilation system is working as it should to draw clean air into your home.
There are some aspects you can probably tackle alone, but whole-home energy audits are best performed by a qualified technician for two reasons:
- Properly diagnosing home performance problems and prescribing solutions requires a building science specialist background that most homeowners do not have.
- The job requires special (and often expensive) diagnostic tools, such as a pressurization blower door and infrared camera, that are not likely to be found in the average homeowner’s tool kit.
Here's what you can do to prepare for an energy audit:
- Make a note of potential home performance problems. Walk through your house and look for clues. Are there damp spots? Is dust collecting or is the carpet looking dirty near the baseboards? Is the snow melting in a weird pattern on the roof? Does the furnace make a funny noise or produce a strange smell when it’s running hard? Is one room particularly hot or cold? Which windows seem to carry the most condensation?
- Make a list of any work that’s been done and when it was done recently, and when it was done.
- Pull together all your energy bills for the last year.
Meet the Leets. See how well their home performs.
"Watch out for: Fly-by-night companies — 'blow and go' is the industry term — who charge a hefty fee for an audit, promise major upgrades, then disappear.