Grading Spaces - Home Inspection and Performance Analysis

Energy Efficiency Testing

I'm very excited to be working with Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program. The programs within Focus are designed to help home and business owners make educated energy upgrade decisons. Whether constructing a new home or upgrading an existing one, Focus is a great resource. As a Focus consultant, I have received training in the building science techniques that I will use to improve your home's energy efficiency.

For Existing Homes

Home Performance With Energy Star

Home Energy Evaluations are carried out on existing homes to help homeowners pinpoint areas where energy efficiency could be improved.

During an evaluation I will:

  • Visually inspect the entire building to determine its insulation values and find any details that are leading to inefficiencies.
  • Use advanced diagnostic tools to quantify air flows and energy losses in the building. The main tools used are a blower door and infra red camera.
  • Perform a combustion safety test if needed to check for proper drafting of these types of appliances.
  • Test any installed exhaust fans to make sure they are functioning properly.
  • Provide a written report that outlines the work that will be needed to make the building more efficient.
  • Prepare and submit the relevant paperwork to Focus on Energy so that you are eligible to receive the relevant cash back rewards.
  • Return (one time) to check on the work you have chosen to follow through on so that you can then receive the rewards from Focus.
  • Consult with you and your contractor as needed to help get the work done effectively.


Ratings are more detailed than evaluations and are used to help certify that buildings meet the Energy Star standards for energy efficiency.

Ratings can be carried out on existing buildings but are more commonly done on new construction where the margins of effective work can be tweaked prior to beginning construction. Improvements on existing buildings are generally fairly obvious once the visual and blower door inspections are done and don't need the detail of the computer.

The same diagnostic procedures are used as in evaluations but, in addition, calculations are made using RemRate, a nationally recognized energy analysis software system.

The home receives a score between 1 and 100, depending on its relative efficiency when compared to a "reference" house. This reference house is of an arbitrary performance level but one that is representative of typical main stream efficient building practices. The level attained by this home is regularly reviewed and adjusted as average performance in the housing stock improves.

An estimate of the home's energy costs is also provided in the report. The home's energy rating is then equated to a Star rating ranging from one star for a very inefficient home to five stars for a highly efficient home.

For New Homes


Jan, 2011: Focus on Energy New Homes Program is your assurance of greater energy efficiency in your new home. Replacing the previous Wisconsin Energy Star Homes program, the new standard pushes the threshold for what's considered "High Performance" in Wisconsin and the Nation's building industry.

The Tools

Blower Door for Efficiency Testing

The Blower Door

A blower door is used to depressurize the home (gently!) by pulling air through a calibrated fan. A computerized pressure meter hooked up to the door is able to calculate the amount of airflow through the fan. Using this number we can determine the relative "leakiness" of the building. Air leakage can account for about 1/3 of a building's inefficiencies so sealing up these holes is always a priority.

Pressure Gauge for Efficiency Testing

The Pressure Gauge

The DG700 is a state-of-the-art pressure gauge that can read two channels of relative pressure simultaneously. This is useful when doing a combustion safety test where we compare the pressure in the flue relative to inside and then the pressure outside relative to inside. The gauge can also, among many other things, automatically calculate the CFM (airflow in cubic feet per minute) through the blower door fan.

Carbon Monoxide Tester

A CO tester is used in conjunction with the pressure gauge to determine if the furnace or water heater is drafting properly and burning efficiently. This is not a full-blown combustion analysis but more of a guide line to see if further work on the appliance is needed. Often, the way an appliance drafts can affect the way that the fuel is burned. Poor combustion always results in elevated CO production (but there can be other reasons for this too).

Infra Red Camera

Infra Red Camera

The IR camera is a very useful tool that helps us to see where energy is being lost inside wall and ceiling cavities. It is most effective when there is a big difference between inside and outside temperature. If there are air flows inside the cavities, the camera will show the surfaces next to these as warmer or colder (depending on the air temperature). It's great for showing where insulation has slipped or been missed entirely as well as where air sealing will be needed or even water intrusion problems.

Ice dams: a case study (of my own home)


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