Imagine leaving a window in your home open 24 hours a day; through rain, shine, winter, and summer. As you might have guessed, the heating and cooling costs in a home like this would be extremely high. Most people would agree it is absurd to leave a window open all day when heating or cooling systems are running, yet when a building is not airtight, this is essentially what happens.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the average home has enough air leakage to equal a two-foot-square hole. That is just one home; imagine an entire building. The DOE states that commercial and residential buildings represent 40% of the total energy consumption in the United States and that air leakage in commercial buildings accounts for 1.14 quads of energy per year.
The Approach to Energy Efficiency
When it comes to lighting and HVAC systems, efficiency has rapidly improved, but the key to achieving efficiency at all levels should include the building envelope. Air leakage in the walls, mechanical penetrations, and other areas of the building envelope are the main areas of inefficiency. They can lead to increased heating and cooling costs and air moisture imbalances that can lead to mold or a less comfortable working environment.
The building industry is making progress on requiring airtightness compliance, including air leakage statements in the newest building codes and energy programs. An optimized building design appeals to building owners because it means a lower cost due to lower energy consumption and a lower risk for moisture damage.
Building energy performance can be improved if it can be measured. Blower door testing uses fans to gauge the amount of air pulled out of a structure to evaluate the level of airtightness. The data collected is crucial to passing energy audits for those looking for specific ratings or performance certifications like LEED. Some municipal building and energy codes may even require it, depending on the type of structure.
Our commitment to delivering quality airtightness evaluations on all facets includes blower door testing. Blower door testing offers the potential to understand energy savings by assessing air leakage issues. Our background in building performance testing drives us to conclude that airtightness testing with the door blower method is an integral part of a building energy audit and code compliance.
Blower Door Testing: What You Need to Know
What is a blower door test, and how does it work?
Simply put, a blower door test quantifies the amount of air leakage through its enclosures to find unintentional leaks.
A calibrated fan is installed in a sealed door or window while all other openings to the exterior are closed. This creates a vacuum throughout the entire structure. Once the fan is turned on, it creates a pressure difference between the inside and outside. The test equipment can then measure two things:
- How much air is moved into the building.
- The corresponding pressure difference acting across the building enclosure.
When higher air pressure outside is flowing inside through unsealed openings or cracks, the measured airflow will exceed the standard, and the whole building undergoes a forensic investigation. Sometimes gaps are apparent, and possible to see, hear, and feel where the air is entering. For not-so-obvious air leaks, Z6 uses certified thermography equipment and heatless smoke tools to find and assess the cause of a leak.
Why is airtightness important?
Airtightness targets are an essential part of designing a building. In the beginning phases of design, airtightness targets are used in energy calculations to establish quantitative expectations for building enclosure performance.
These targets indicate that the building process is being executed correctly and provides the opportunity to address problems before it is too late.
Information about airtightness is essential because:
- When lost air is conditioned air, the leak is consuming energy.
- Testing identifies exact data about how “leaky” a building is, which is often more than expected.
- Leaks can cause hidden and obvious condensation, leading to mold, damage, and health issues.
- Air leaks exchange conditioned air for polluted outdoor air in untested buildings.
When should a test be administered?
Test as early as possible but is often done near the after the paint, insulation, doors, and windows are in place. If testing is done early in the building process, it is easier to address issues and make necessary changes. It can also be done during construction or remodel. It If an existing building needs to be redesigned or requires updated energy efficiency, a blower door test should be performed before making changes. The test is also most effective when conducted throughout the entire building.
Blower door test results aid builders and owners in the decision-making process. It helps determine:
- How much effort should be spent on sealing air leaks in comparison to windows or insulation.
- How much mechanical ventilation is needed to create good indoor air quality.
Z6 Blower Door Testing Services
Z6 is a leader in implementing innovative solutions that focus on creating and maintaining better building envelopes. Our team of in-house professionals takes care of all your needs, including blower door testing.
We tailor every service to meet your requirements, performance goals, and budget. Learn more about our testing services and how we can help you achieve your goals today.