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Adventures in Blower Door Testing

Posted by Macie Melendez on May 23, 2013
Adventures in Blower Door Testing
Steve Mann of Home Energy Services successfully makes his way through yet another blower door.

When Steve Mann (of Home Energy Services) asks you to come along for the first blower door testing in a LEED for Homes, DOE Challenge Home, Passive House, net-zero energy aspiring home, you say yes. Lucky for me, I was asked this very question just a few weeks ago, and was able to take a first-hand look at something that I often only read about.

Earlier this week, I visited The Equilibrium House, an impressive 4-bedroom, 5-bath home located in San Francisco. The home was originally built in 1912 but is in the process of a gut remodel, headed by Ewen Utting of Enu Construction—a man that’s passionate about all things energy efficient. (Seriously, he even shared his vision of making a Passive Playhouse that travels around on a truck bed to elementary schools to teach kids about how homes can be constructed more efficiently.)

The home has big goals, and the passion that came out of the mouths of both Mann and Utting throughout the morning was exactly what makes me love this industry.

While a day inside a soon-to-be efficient home may seem ordinary to some of you, it was the opposite of ordinary for me. Surrounded by tools and unfinished walls, floors, and nonexistent windows, my journalistic instincts told me to do two things: listen carefully and take as many photos as possible.

Here is my journey.

front

The front of the home proudly shows a LEED for Homes sign.

lights

Lights are a big decision for this builder who showed me that you don't really know what a light bulb is going to look like until it's plugged in and in the room you want it in. Not all of the lights he's got in now are the same, but he ended up choosing can lights that will soon be Energy Star certified.

door

Here Mann and Utting are figuring out how to set up the blower door in a home that doesn't yet have an actual door.

steve crawling through blower door

As all energy experts know, sometimes you've just got to crawl through a blower door. (I had the pleasure of doing so upon my exit.)

actual blower door reading

After a re-taping of the plastic on the front window, which couldn't handle the depressurization on the first round, the blower door test showed a result of around 800 CFM at 50 Pa. For this home to meet Passive House standards, it will eventually need to be a little more than 300 CFM.

 IR camera

Once we got the blower door result, we then went on the "where is air leaking" hunt.

checking for air leaks

As Mann tested with an IR camera, Utting followed closely using the good old-fashioned (and very reliable) "can I feel air with my hand" technique.

I had to leave before the all of the air leaks were discovered, but I got the report that most of it was small items that could be easily fixed with additional air sealing and/or insulation.

We plan on checking back on the progress of the home, so stay tuned!

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