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How would your home or building perform on a Green test?

Buildings and homes rarely operate at peak performance. The sector of building and home efficiency audits,  a growing vocation in the San Francisco Bay Area and California, focuses on optimizing the comfort of buildings and houses occupants, money saving, along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving utilization of resources. Image by Avi Decorative Painting, Inc.Image by Avi Decorative Painting, Inc.

By optimizing energy consumption, improving the performance of heating and cooling systems, utilizing water efficiently, upgrading insulation, improving indoor air quality, and eliminating (or, at lest reducing) toxins and hazards in buildings and homes, everyone benefits: homeowners, residents, employees, and visitors.

Building and home audits have 10 major categories:

•    Heating, Cooling, & Ventilating Insulation (HVAC)

•    Insulation

•    Appliances

•    Air Quality

•    Natural Light

•    Electricity Consumption

•    Water Consumption & Quality

•    Interior Materials and Options

•    Exterior Materials and Options

•    Passive and Active Solar Options

 

Inspections include a few steps, whether it’s a commercial or industrial building, office or apartment building, or a home:

1. Evaluation/diagnosis – A walk-through of the building or home, listing problems, potential shortcomings and desired improvements.

 2. Test – Use of specialized instrumentation to detect problems and record results.

3. Analysis and recommendations – Considerations and solutions to maximize the efficiency of the building’s or home’s energy systems.Improvement recommendations, solutions cost and performance, implementation process and time frames.  

4. Implementation – Based on needs and budgets, it is recommended to hire certified and trained contractors to perform the projects. 

5. Measure results - Improvements in comfort and energy efficiency will be tested to verify that the condition of your building has been improved. Indoor comfort, improved indoor air quality and efficiency are measured, as well as savings in utility bills.

Typical tests may include:

1. Air quality analysis - inspection for mold, presence of asbestos, carbon monoxide, and radon may be included. Humidity testing identifies the potential for mold problems. Back drafting or gas burning appliances, such a furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and gas fire places, along with poor ventilation may cause some degree of carbon monoxide. The inspection may include combustion analysis.  

2. Identifying leak sources and determining causes of leaks. For example, distinguishing leaky walls, windows, or ducts. The inspector helps to develop strategies for temporary leak repairs and long-term remedial measures.  Indoor air leakage – Assessing air tightness in a home or office helps energy professionals determine if air sealing is needed. If the building needs air tightening, it is important to locate the specific areas that allow the air leakage. 

3. Temperature variances in the home or office - Infrared thermal imaging is used to determine temperature differences indoors. These may be linked to air leakage, insufficient insulation, or cracks.   

4. Air Ducts - Forced-air systems are found in many offices and homes. Ducts are inspected for air-leakage, mold, dust accumulation, and more. Devices called Duct blowers are used to measure the severity of duct leakage and help locate leaks. 

5. A visual inspection of attics & crawlspaces.

Resources:

For more information about building and home efficiency (and why it matters) click here.

 

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) offers energy efficiency classes in several Bay Area locations: San Francisco, San Jose and San Mateo. Classes are free, unless otherwise noted, and address new construction and existing buildings.