Leaky buildings get costly

With winter weather looming, Vermonters have been tightening up their homes to reduce energy costs.

Efficiency Vermont, a local energy efficiency utility company, has programs for residents to perform audits by licensed professionals who perform a bowler door test to measure the cubic feet of air displaced from a leaky home.

One licensed firm, Common Sense Energy (CSE) has been doing energy work for over 20 years. Allan Bullis, Certified Energy Manager at CSE, performs these tests weekly.

The blower door test is performed to make sure no appliances are giving off carbon monoxide and taking a baseline pressure. All interior doors are opened and windows are closed and locked. 

The next step is to set up a doorframe covered in a sheet where the blower door will be placed. The front or back door is opened and this frame fits in. The blower (or large fan) is placed in the bottom center of the frame and air is pushed outside. A monitor connected to the fan assesses the air loss.

In 2010, during an infrared scan report of UVM buildings Bullis was able to analyze the heat loss of many UVM buildings and energy consumption. 

He looked at everything from cabinet heaters running in Harris Millis in an already heated hallway, to the showerheads in Chittenden-Buckham-Wills that used twice the amount of water than necessary a minute, he said.

At the end of the report a savings calculation is made. Approximately $258,000 can be saved at UVM if recommendations by Bullis were made and could save over 1,420 tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Behavior of students and faculty will depend on the energy savings. Increasing energy costs have increased interest in energy audits and therefore have been saving electrical generation and oil transportation to homes, according to Efficiency Vermont.

“Living in the Greenhouse my first two years, I’ve been exposed to energy efficiency,” junior Emily Gluckin said. “U-Heights, Aiken and the DC are built with this in mind, whereas the older buildings are not designed in a way that saves any energy.”

When the fan is running, a thermal imaging camera is used as a visual to see where air is leaking through walls, recessed lights, electrical outlets, windows/doors, etc. 

“The blower door is the tool to assess the inefficiency of the home and is the first way to approach tightening up your home,” Bullis said. “A lot of homes in Vermont were not designed to withstand the cold winters and we [CSE] make the necessary steps to lowering heating bills, as well as cooling in the summer.”

A mix of insulation or new appliances can be used to effectively reduce the energy bill.