Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blower Door - Slight Disappointment

Ok, we had what was supposed to be the second and LAST blower door test, but I am not happy with the result and I may have Dean Benton of Benton Green Energy come again after I have fixed some problems. 

Blower door reading on August 6, 2014

You may recall that a blower door test helps determine how much air leakage you have through the building envelope. The test involves putting a fan in an outside door frame and depressurizing the home to accentuate the air leaks. The house is depressurized to a level of 50 pascals which is about equivalent to the force of a 20 mph wind on the home. There are 2 main values that you get from the test - one is directly from the manometer as shown above and one is calculated based on the volume of the house. This article, Blower Door Basics by Martin Holladay on Green Building Advisor (GBA) explains it much better than I ever could.

Blower Door Set-up while we were at the rough-in stage. 

The number shown on the manometer above is called cfm50 or the amount of air that moves through the home at 50 pascals of pressure. The other number is ach50 or air changes per hour at 50 pascals.

Our previous reading was 98 cfm 50. The above reading is 235, but I think it leveled out at 220. In any case, the number has more than doubled - 2.4 times greater than the last blower door.

What happened??

Well, I have some ideas.

What do you think about this dryer vent? Do you think that there is some leakage around this pipe?

Dryer vent through the wall, not sealed around the vent pipe. This was installed AFTER the first blower door test.

What about the vent cover for the kitchen fan? Do you think that those little plastic louvers seal out air?

This flimsy plastic piece covers one of the fan vents. A similar cover was on the dryer vent. 
Now the photo below may show a less important air leak. This is the inside view of the Lunos e2 - a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that exchanges outside air for inside air. It does go through the wall in large tube. We did seal the tube to the sheathing inside and out before the walls were closed in. Still it is designed to move air through the home. You may wonder why we go through all the trouble to seal up every possible hole in the building envelope and then deliberately install a fan to exchange air. Well, when you have a very well air sealed home, you need to move more fresh air through for the inhabitants, but it needs to be filtered, conditioned air, not random leaks. That's what the HRV provides.

Lunos e2 Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)
The reason I did not calculate the ach50 is because I am confused about the volume of the house. The house is a Cape Cod design with kneewalls and sloped ceiling upstairs so I don't really know what counts as the house or not.

For example, the space above the bathroom and the bedrooms is not really sealed off from the rest of the house. It is within the thermal envelope of the building. Do I count that? I think so, but I am not sure. I am going to post a questions on Green Building Advisor to get their advice.

Area above the bathroom. You can see the Intello Plus smart vapor retarder from 475 High Performance Building Supply. The ceiling joists are insulated with dense pack cellulose. There will be a small door that fits in the opening. It does not set tightly to the frame, however. Is this within the thermal envelope?

So, the big change from the rough-in stage to almost completion (I know, almost completed at 18 mos later - crazy ) is the vents. We taped cardboard over the area where the vents were during the first test, but I don't know if you tape over vent covers when you go for the final test. That's another question for the knowledgable people at GBA.

I'll let you know more later. Thank you for visiting here. 


  1. Lucy - Any feedback on how well the Lunos HRVs ended up working? Thanks

  2. Mike,
    I hadn't updated this blog in a long time, so I didn't notice your comments from May. My brother is very stubborn and often resists my advice. He does not understand the need for the Lunos e2. He won't turn it on. And maybe it's ok because he keeps the AC so low in the summer that there probably is adequate air exchange for his house. I doubt that is true in the winter though. He just does not understand the need for the Lunos so I really can't tell you about how well it works.

    My brother drives me crazy sometimes.

    I am thinking about using the 2 way Lunos eGo for a bathroom fan since the fan in my bathroom ceiling just goes into the attic and not ducted out of the attic. That renovation is about a year away.