The more I study about “green”, energy efficiency and “high performance homes” the more ways I have discovered for making serious upgrades to existing homes. While you may not be able to attain a LEED rating for your Lake Norman home, you can make significant improvements today!
Evaluating the Existing Structure
The very first thing a homeowner should do is hire a professional to evaluate your home in the following four areas:
- The Thermal Envelope
- The Moisture Barrier
- Mechanical Systems
- Structural Defects
The Thermal Envelope
Basically, this assessment involves testing the drywall, ceilings and floors for leaks using such methods as the blower door test which depressurizes your house and calculates how much air leakage there is and where. Common solutions include sealing cracks and gaps and leaks in the air barrier by caulking or adding spray foam insulation. Leaks in the thermal envelope allow conditioned air to leak out and allow excess humidity to leak in or out depending on the time of year.
One consideration, especially if you are remodeling, would be to essentially relocate you thermal envelope by sealing the crawlspace and the attic.
The Moisture Barrier
The moisture barrier includes everything that keeps water from getting into your home. The tester will check roofing, flashing, gutters, downspouts, siding, windows, doors and the foundation/crawlspace.
Testers will evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing mechanical systems to make sure that the existing systems adequately condition your home. HVAC sytsems will be checked to make sure they were installed correctly and operating properly. A duct blaster test can be done to check for leakage in ducting which is a significant cause of ineffective heating and cooling of homes.
The most common cause of structural defects is water which can be the cause of rot, settling, mold and damage to the interior.
Home Audits, Ratings and Evaluations
There are various levels of evaluations you can have done to your home from having a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating, an energy audit or a comprehensive evaluation including all four categories above.
To find a certified North Carolina (HERS) home energy rater: North Carolina Energy Star Homes Website
If you are building a home or planning efficiency upgrades, Southern Energy Management is one of a growing number of companies t0 “Energy efficiency design, consulting and verification for buildings of all types and sizes.” They also do Energy Star evaluations and offer “customized efficiency plans/programs for builders and developers”. They are available for the greater Lake Norman area.
Want to have a little fun? You can go to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website and use their Household Emissions Calculator to get a “rough… estimate of your personal or family’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
Finally, the National Association of Home Builders provides a “Green Scoring Tool” on their website to help educate homeowners and give them ideas on how to work with their builder to improve their green score.
Whether you are building a new home in our Lake Norman area, remodeling your existing home or merely looking to learn more about how to make your current home more energy efficient, now is a great time to learn more about “green” housing!