Viewing Spaces Through Thermal Imaging
Finds Soft Spots in Energy Efficiency
As an energy advisor, I am amazed at how thermal imaging technology can make our ability to diagnose problems easier.
Case in point.
Recently, I arrived at the home of a retired couple living in a mobile home to investigate why their usage had more than doubled in a two-month period this spring. They didn’t have a central HVAC unit, and used two window units to condition their home.
So, I knew something else in the home was running. The only other item in their home that could raise their usage that much could be their water heater, I thought. The homeowner took me to the water heater, and I could feel a little vibration like it could have been running. I used the FLIR ONE ® thermal imaging camera to look at his breaker panel. The breaker labeled water heater was glowing red, meaning power was going through it. I then went out and took a reading on his meter. It was showing about 8 kWh going through the meter.
The homeowner said he and his wife had not used any water in the home since breakfast that morning. We proceeded with the rest of the energy audit, which took another 30 minutes or so. When I finished up I rechecked the water heater breakers and the usage on the meter with the same results as earlier. This proved the water heater was continuously running due to a leak or mechanical issues. A plumber confirmed the water heater had a mechanical issue, and the faulty unit was replaced.
All in a day’s work.
United auditors are equipped with infrared scanning, and this is included in our FREE comprehensive energy audits. The use of infrared is great for detecting thermal defects and air leakage in a home. Thermography measures the surface temperatures by using infrared video. Our auditors come equipped with the new FLIR ONE ®, which attaches to a smart phone.
The camera can see heat signatures that are not detectable by human eyes. The ability to see these temperature differences helps our energy experts determine if an area of a home may have a deficiency in its energy envelope.
The best times to perform an infrared scan is when there is at least a 10 degree difference between outside and inside temperatures. This camera can show where a wall may be missing insulation or the HVAC is experiencing a ducting issue, such as a hole or detached duct. Thermal imaging also can uncover possible slab leaks or abnormally hot electrical connections/components.
Infrared investigation doesn’t just apply for residential energy audits. Many commercial and industrial businesses can use thermal imaging to find overheating of electrical and mechanical components. This helps eliminate potential hazards and costly
Blower Door Test
United provides another service for our members to determine the air tightness of a home. Having a leaky home contributes greatly to inefficient energy consumption.
At the same time, having too tight of a home can increase the risk of indoor air quality issues. Consider this prior to implementing all air sealing improvements. To determine our member’s home airtightness, we use a blower door test. The benefit of using a blower door test is our experts can identify the inefficiencies and breaks in the envelope of the home. Identifying these issues is the hardest task. Once identified, most issues can be corrected easily by the member with little upfront costs.
WATCH THE VIDEO IN THE RIGHT-HAND COLUMN!
How It Works
Our energy expert will place a frame and canvas over and seal an exterior door opening. This frame has one opening to the outside that include a large fan. The fan will pull air out of the home, depressurizing the home.
This in turn causes the higher air pressure from outside the conditioned area to infiltrate the home through any unsealed cracks or openings. The fan is connected to a computer recording data from the home. This system measures the amount of air movement through the fan with specific house pressures.
While the system is doing its calculations, the auditor will use the infrared camera to detect air leaks throughout the home. They also have special equipment that attaches to the computer to get readings from a specific area in the home.
Some of these areas include the light switches, plugs, air vents, and recessed lights. Once this process is complete, auditors will discuss energy saving solutions with the member. The energy expert will also put all the information and infrared pictures in a report to be emailed to the member.
This will give the member an idea of what improvements need to be made to become more energy efficient. For members who are curious how tight or leaky their homes are, this is a great eye opening diagnostic tool. United Cooperative Services charges our members $75 for this service, while most other companies charge in excess of $250.
Members may never know what defects exist in a home’s infrastructure. Some of the defects may have happened during the building of the home or may have happened over time.
Almost every home will shift many times during its lifespans. Getting an energy expert to come out to locate such areas is a great way to eliminate silent energy-consuming monsters.
To take advantage of these programs, please contact your local United office or visit our website to sign up for a free energy audit with our online webform.
Watch the Blower Door Test!
This test finds all the leaky places in a home's energy envelope!