While students were away for the holidays, Mallory Jenkins coordinated an energy audit for the new location of her host site, The University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability. Her site supervisor, Carlos Ochoa, is an Energy Corps Alum so he understands the value of obtaining data to measure the impact of energy efficiency.
Energy audits are an easy way to tell what needs to be done to make a building more energy efficient. Home Energy Rx, an Arkansas energy consulting firm, sent William and Gary to conduct tests and give their expert opinions about the energy efficiency of the house. The audit showed us exactly how much room for improvement our new office has.
First, they performed a blower door test. The blower door depressurizes the building to accentuate leaks from windows, doors, walls, and other areas. It is basically a big tarp with a fan in it that stretches over the doorframe. The people present at the audit were able to walk around and feel air streaming in from doors and windows. From this test, we now know what places need to be sealed to keep air from going in and out of the building.
Energy audits not only check for energy efficiency, but also aim to maintain occupant safety and make sure appliances meet certain standards of upkeep. Appliances that can have big impacts on buildings are water heaters, furnaces, and air conditionings. William and Gary tested the water heater for back drafting. Water heaters need a dedicated space (separate air tight enclosure) for combustion air to prevent the exhaust gases from permeating the area. They used a special tool to “sniff” for combustible gas under different conditions. Since our water heater is exposed to the rest of the basement, they recommended we swap it for a water heater with fan-assisted draft.
At the end of the audit, we were able to look at our walls and areas with the infrared thermal camera. The camera showed exactly where the lack of insulation and leaks are. If there is a big jump in temperature between an interior wall and an exterior wall, then it is safe to assume that there is no insulation.
Now that we are aware of the house’s problem areas, we can set to work on weatherizing! Stay tuned for an update about the weatherization.
Mallory is serving at the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability. Born and raised in North Alabama, she graduated from Auburn University in Environmental Design with a Sustainability minor. She is an artist and musician passionate about the environment and people. Mallory recently received her LEED GA accreditation and will be participating in Campus Conservation Nationals and RecycleMania. Her main duties will be educating about energy usage and conservation, including conducting energy audits at the fraternity and sorority houses.