A well insulated New Orleans home means the air conditioning works less often. The air inside your home does...
Fontenot Insulation is not a “one a peg fits all holes” New Orleans-based insulation company. The proper polyurethane spray foam material installed to the correct thickness in the proper application by trained and certified applicators has proven again and again to out-perform all other competing insulation products in life span, performance values, over-all health of the home and energy efficiency increases. However, there are many cases when alternative insulations and methods of weatherization provide a great opportunity to reduce energy bills while potentially being a little lighter on the pocket book. Not every house or building is the same and therefore each individual building requires energy-reducing measures based on its particular needs and within the constraints of the client’s budget. The Department of Energy’s Energy Star Program offers a resource with a great introduction to the Building Science principles that Fontenot Insulation strictly adheres to and encourages its clients to get a better understanding of.
In our hot and humid Climate Zone 2 stopping air infiltration can play a much larger role in reducing energy bills. Air infiltration greatly increases our cooling and heating costs by allowing outside air to easily flow into and out of the home. Outdoor air that leaks indoor makes it difficult to maintain comfort and energy efficiency. In addition, studies performed by the Department of Energy’s Energy Star Program demonstrates that air leakage accounts for 25–40% of the energy used for heating and cooling in a typical home. Through years of testing homes for air leakage and performing recommended air-sealing strategies many of Fontenot Insulation’s clients have experienced savings that have almost cut their summer bills in half.
Why can air infiltration make up such a large amount of the energy costs in your home? Our climate zone introduces additional challenges that the majority of the homes in the United States do not experience… high humidity. Moisture, or high relative humidity, intensifies the negative results of air infiltration as it introduces a much higher energy demand – or “energy load” – than does dry air alone. Cooling the air in your home during the summer time or heating this air to warm your home in the winter uses a relatively small amount of energy in most dryer climates. However, in our environment, dehumidifying (removing moisture from the air) while cooling or heating the air in our homes poses a much larger monthly heating/cooling penalty because moisture (water particles) contains a greater amount of energy. Also, when we have difficulty cooling or heating our home many of us tend to want to purchase a larger air-conditioning and heating system which, in turn, uses even more energy. It can become a viscous cycle that causes us to keep buying more or larger mechanical items while spending more money operating them. In many drafty homes in the Greater New Orleans Area cooling or heating is far less of a problem than is simply dehumidifying the interior air to help us feel comfortable when inside.
A famous 2004 Building Science Corporation study demonstrated that in most cold climates, over an entire heating season, 1/3 of a quart of water can be collected by diffusion through typical sheetrock without a vapor retarder but 30 quarts of water can be collected through air leakage from only a 1 inch square hole. Imagine how much water vapor (moisture) is coming in through our cracks and holes in our homes during our air-conditioning season in our humid climate zone.
This moisture is responsible for a vast array of building failure including structural damage, rot, mold, mildew and poor indoor air quality. Of all the environmental conditions, moisture poses the biggest threat to structural integrity and durability, accounting for up to 89% of damage in building envelopes.
Moisture enters buildings from the outside. Moisture comes into a building by infiltrating (mass movement) through doors, windows, cracks, and other openings to the outside world. About 95% of the moisture entering a building enters through air infiltration. Only 5% of the moisture enters by diffusion through building materials. A high concen- tration of water vapor on the outside of a building forces it through walls into drier inside air.
Solutions and Benefits
As an Energy Star Partner, and long lasting members of BPI, the owners of Fontenot Insulation have been testing houses for air infiltration and duct leakage and providing energy efficiency consulting and planning for over ten years on homes ranging from new construction to old historic New Orleans masterpieces. Without testing a home’s infiltration rate and performing a visual inspection, sometimes with the aid of infrared photography, the problems of high energy bills and/or moisture and discomfort can not be diagnosed properly.
After the causes of a home’s energy efficiency or indoor air quality problems have been properly diagnosed Fontenot Insulation will set forth a plan of attack and list the necessary improvements in order or their cost effectiveness while putting health and safety items first on the list.
Experts have agreed for years that even simple air sealing through caulking, weatherstripping and spot-foaming – very basic weatherization techniques – when done properly, can play a major role in solving a home’s energy and and air quality problems.
Are there financial incentives?
Yes, if the home being insulated is an existing structure in Orleans Parish (Eastbank and Westbank), Fontenot Insulation, one of the original founding contractors of the New Orleans Energy Smart Energy Savings Program, offers rebates to homeowners or renters of up to $1,000 for reducing the air infiltration of the home and up to an additional $1,000 for sealing ductwork to below 10% leakage. These rebates to the homeowner can be used in conjunction with discounts provided by Fontenot Insulation through the New Orleans Energy Smart Program and federal energy efficiency tax credits.
The Environmental Protection Agency has performed large scale tests on hundreds of houses all over the United States. Their reports have demonstrated that in a typical house over 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is commonly lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. In separate studies, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) concluded that 25% loss of efficiency due to ductwork issues is typical. However, it is not uncommon to find leakage rates of up to or even over 50%! We’ve tested and observed it in many homes.
Fontenot Insulation has been testing, repairing, sealing leaky duct-work and improving systems for over ten years. As a leader in energy efficiency testing and verification Fontenot Insulation specializes in proper techniques, materials, and proven long-lasting methods to repair and/or seal duct-work, and provide superior weatherization upgrades. Of all the energy efficiency improvements that homeowners can pursue when making their homes more energy efficient sealing leaky duct-work is by far one of the most cost-effective improvements they can invest in with the quickest payback and the most noticeable results, yet one of the most over-looked.
Finally, although duct leakage is one of the primary reasons for high energy bills and indoor air quality problems, the condition of the ductwork may also greatly lead to these concerns. Poorly strapped duct-work, kinked and compressed supply-air ducts, sharp bends, unsealed return-air plenums, and degraded insulation wrapping will all reduce the amount of airflow and negatively effect the temperature and over-all performance and life of the air-conditioning system. Unfortunately, proper installation of ductwork is one of the most least-understood and over-looked inceptions by code inspectors.
Repairing and sealing the existing duct-work is also one of the “greenest” improvements that can be made as you are correcting what is already in place rather than tearing out, adding to and/or replacing such is the case with almost all other energy efficiency improvements.
If the property is located in New Orleans, Fontenot has created an extremely aggressive pricing structure that may actually result in minimal out-of-costs to the homeowner. Utilizing the incentives from the New Orleans Energy Smart Program, Fontenot may be able to seal the duct-work, greatly reduce your summer and winter heating and cooling costs, increase your family’s comfort and indoor air quality at a greatly reduced price.
Building a new home?
Testing duct-work performance during the construction of your new home is also the best time to learn of any potential issues that may exist and before sheetrock is installed. By learning of leakage rates and faulty duct-design early in the constructive stages.