I've been busy over the past few months performing Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) visits to homes in Connecticut that have had energy audits and follow-up energy saving improvements (mostly insulation upgrades, but also some HVAC, solar, etc) performed. The homeowners I've interviewed have given me some great feedback (both positive and negative) about their experiences and about the contractors who have performed the energy audits and/or upgrade work. I've seen some very impressive, high quality work done, but also some that are amateurish to say the least. Most jobs fall somewhere in the middle (typically good, but still missed opportunities).
So, I thought I'd share some observations, and I'm curious if anyone else has any to share (regardless of whether you're a homeowner who can speak only about a single experience with an audit in your own home, or a professional who has had broader exposure). In each of the homes I visited, an energy audit that included at least a blower door test and air sealing had been previously performed. My inspection was visual only (no diagnostic testing).
1) The area that homeowners most commonly complained of continued drafts following the energy audit was the front door. Why? Because that's where the blower door was set up, which prevented the techs from identifying any air leakage that may occur when the front door was closed. I guess I can see how that may get missed, but also seems like an obvious one to be mindful of.
2) Most concerning oversight? A rusted exhaust pipe full of holes. The pipe was connected to an old boiler that was no longer in use (and for some reason left in place), and there were large gaps where it penetrated the chimney just above the location where the new boiler exhaust pipe entered the chimney. Not only was there a high risk for exhaust gases to escape into the surrounding living space, but this was a small basement split with half wall dividers between this boiler area and the children's play area. Yikes!
3) Opened a small crawl space/storage area at the back of a closet to discover it was full of blown in cellulose insulation. The garage ceiling below had been insulated, and apparently no one noticed the open framing at the back of this storage area. The blown in cellulose shot right up the wall cavity and into the storage area, covering suit cases and other stored items. The homeowner hadn't spotted this yet, so she got quite the surprise when she opened the hatch door to show me the storage area and insulation poured out. Oops!
4) Found a home with a radon mitigation system that was not functional. I'd like to think that a home performance contractor would catch this, but not sure. At any rate, the homeowner had no idea and was very thankful that I told her so she could get it fixed right away.
5) Came across several homes with air handlers located in attics that had been insulated with cellulose. In some cases, the insulation was right against the air handler and even filled the overflow pan below the unit, and in others it blocked service access and/or access to change the filter. Really?
6) One home had a nice box built around the whole house fan in the attic to keep the insulation out of it, but there was no way to get to it to cover/uncover it once the cellulose insulation covered the floor all around it. Again... Really?
7) Inspected a new, 80% AFUE gas fired boiler. I asked the homeowner why he didn't choose a more efficient system, particularly when there are local rebates available? He said his HVAC company told him the newer, high efficiency systems where too complicated and high tech, and advised him not to go with something that would fail sooner and cost him more. They also did not tell him about the available rebates. What?! Argh! (The sad thing is, I ran into a nearly identical scenario two-weeks later with a different HVAC installer... some guys just refuse to accept or learn new technology, and the worst thing is that they still get paid while their clients lose out.)
8) 8" of loose fill cellulose in an attic floor does not equal R-49, and folding over the bottom of the depth indicators so that the top of the insulation is level with the "R-49" indicator mark is just not cool. Not at all.
9) Most impressive job observed? To my surprise, the most comprehensive and professional air sealing and insulation job was performed by an oil company. Although a few of the local fuel oil suppliers have begun offering energy audits, I have to admit that I was not expecting to be "wowed" by their energy saving measures. I'm not naming names, but this one company proved me wrong. Nice job.