Think back to last winter. During frigid February days, did you ever notice drafts seeping in? If you did, your home is probably not as airtight as it could be.

A tightly sealed home can make all the difference in how hard your air conditioner and furnace have to work to keep your family comfortable. When combined with proper ventilation, an airtight home can lower your utility bills and help reduce your carbon footprint.

So, apart from checking every nook and crevice for air leaks, how can you tell if your home performs at optimal efficiency? And if it’s not, what can you do about it?

 What is a blower door test?

A blower test procedure is a diagnostic measure that involves certified energy auditors temporarily and safely affixing a device, known as a blower door, to a customer’s single exterior door frame to determine a home’s ‘airtightness.’ Airtightness, along with proper ventilation, is crucial for keeping your home at optimal temperatures efficiently. Blower tests can be performed on both pre-existing dwellings as well as those under construction. Some states now even require blower door tests performed by professionals in all newly constructed homes, possibly starting a trend of other locales to follow suit.

At the beginning of the test, a temporary device called a blower door is affixed to an exterior doorway of your home. This device includes a large fan that powerfully sucks air out of the home. This will lower the pressure inside your home and causes a differential with the outside, forcing outside air through leaky crevices throughout the building.

How to prepare for a blower door test

To properly test your home, your house will require a little bit of prep work. Before your energy auditor arrives, you will want to:

  • Close all windows and exterior doors
  • Open all interior doors
  • Turn off your home’s thermostat, air conditioner, and fans
  • Close your fireplace doors, flues, and air intake sites and extinguish any flames

If your energy audit is happening on an older home built in the 1980s or earlier, your auditor will also need to check for deteriorating asbestos before the test can be performed. If asbestos is found in the attic or basement, it will need to be removed before a blower door test can be performed. This is for not only the safety of the energy auditor but you and your family as well.

How does a blower door test result determine home efficiency?

A properly performed blower door test will reveal drafts in areas such as doors, windows, and vents. For lighter air leaks, your energy auditor will use a smoke pencil reveal areas of concern.

Each of these air leaks is a place where outside air is getting into your home, which causes your air conditioner and furnace to work harder to keep your rooms at the optimal temperature. This increases your monthly electric bills and your carbon footprint.

Once the test is complete, your auditor will work with you to find the best course of action to make your home as efficient and airtight as possible. Suggested improvements may range from something as simple as caulking a window to more involved repairs such as roofing or other construction.

Why you should reduce before you produce

In the typical American home, 40% of your overall electric bill is spent heating and cooling your home. This is an issue year-round, whether we’re in the cold of winter or the heat of summer. So, it stands to reason that tightening up the airflow can lead to substantial savings for many homes.

Most customers we meet go solar for one of two reasons: to save on their electric bill or to reduce their carbon footprint. The great thing about reducing before you produce is it does both!

When you have solar panels on your home, your solar energy system absorbs sunlight and converts it to usable energy to power your residence. At the end of the month, when you receive your utility bill, your savings come in one of two forms:

  1. Your Solar Energy System Over-Produced – Net Metering

When you go solar, you’ll hear the term “net metering.” What this means is that your solar panels generated more electricity than your home could use. The excess energy is sent to the power grid and credited to you on your next month’s bill.

  1. Your Solar Energy System Under-Produced

Your solar panel system worked hard all month long to absorb sunlight and turn it into energy, but it was outpaced by your home energy usage. When this happens, you’ll receive a small utility bill. However, with solar, this is still typically drastically lower than without.

It is advantageous for your home to be as energy-efficient as possible before your solar panel installation in both of these cases. The less energy your home uses, the less your solar panels will have to generate before you’re in the green.

 For those concerned about your carbon footprint, take note: air conditioners are responsible for 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released in the air each year in the US. These systems are amazing for home comfort, but their intense use of electricity and refrigerants are thought to be significant contributors to overall climate change.

Midwestern summers are hot, so we wouldn’t recommend going without air conditioning. However, we can all make a difference by reducing its impact through good home efficiency practices and renewable energy sources like solar.

Smart Energy Solutions by Sun Solar

At Sun Solar, we strive to provide not only custom solar installations but energy efficiency as well. So while we work with families around Missouri and the Midwest to create the ideal solar installations for their homes, one critical part of the process is our dedication to energy efficiency solutions.

Before your solar setup, Sun Solar offers home efficiency testing through Smart Energy Solutions to identify home efficiency and moisture control issues. Resolving the problems discovered in this audit can:

  • Increase the efficiency of your home HVAC and climate controls
  • Make your home more comfortable
  • Increase the value of your property

Depending on your home’s age and needs discovered during the energy audit, our efficiency services will make your home more sustainable by performing a blower door test, as well as:

  • Installing a water heater insulative jacket
  • Upgrade lightbulbs to LED
  • Seal attic entrance
  • Air sealing and weather stripping
  • Duct repair and sealing
  • Install a programmable thermostat

If you’re ready to make your home more efficient and save on your electric bill, the energy experts at Sun Solar make the process simple. Calculate your solar savings now or request a consultation to take the first step toward a more efficient home.