School Is In Session! Roll call: Homeowner? Homeowner?

Quite often I step backward and look outside the badge of a BPI auditor and put myself in the shoes of a homeowner.  A homeowner whose home I’m about to pick apart.  For the most part homeowners are happy to have us there.  We’re there to help, not to sell. They expect us to make recommendations telling them what should be improved.  They expect, “Fix or replace this, and your house will be better.” What they don’t expect is the education that comes with it.  With an understanding of how these recommendations make a difference, homeowners could save thousands.P1200084

On a recent assessment of a home I was told the main interest in having an audit was to confirm the need to replace an induced draft furnace with a sealed combustion furnace.  The homeowner was replacing a sensor that was failing every few months.  An HVAC contractor suggested buying a sealed combustion furnace.  Ta Da!  Problem fixed.  Not so fast.

It should be noted that the furnace was located in the crawl space; and a vented crawl space to boot.  This was a big factor in several issues, one of which was the routine replacement of the sensor, the comfort in the rooms above the crawl space and poor indoor air quality.  The thinking was that the sealed combustion furnace would reduce or eliminate the likelihood that the sensor would need to be replaced often and that the air flow would be better to the rooms above, increasing comfort.

As you know, a new furnace doesn’t address the root of the problem.  This is where educating the homeowner is valuable.  We need to make sure they understand why we recommend the improvements we do.  We sat down to discuss why the problems existed in the first place and how a new furnace will still leave them with their current problem.

First, let’s look at the sensor problem. The dry, dry dirt in the crawl space was being pulled into the furnace housing and collecting on the sensor.  What he needs is to install a sealed barrier over the ground of the crawl space, preventing premature failure of the furnace.  More importantly, this would improve indoor air quality.  Next was to address the comfort issue in the floor above the crawl space.  With a new furnace and increased air flow to rooms, the vented crawl space would still allow cool air to directly impact the floor above.  To truly fix this would be to seal the crawl space vents, air seal and insulate the rim joist and insulate the walls.  This was an easier fix and less expensive than replacing the furnace.  The homeowner understood and agreed, then decided to pursue improving the crawl space.

In the end, recommendations for improvements are a lot more beneficial if the homeowner has basic understanding of the science behind those recommendations. Too bad there is not a Cliffs Notes of basic building science for homeowners.

Brad Smith
EnergyLogic Auditor