Energy Audit Equipment
*Note* This is searched often enough that I’m copying the post and sticking it in the nav bar.
I thought I’d put together a list of energy audit equipment. This is all the equipment I use during energy audits. Not all of these are used during every audit or aren’t essential to investigating the house. I’ve separated the lists into essential and useful items and will write a bit on each item.
I’ve included links in the titles and images to entries at Amazon (except for the blower door; this model is only available through the Energy Conservatory). These are the actual models I use. There is energy audit equipment with more or better features (for example, higher end infrared cameras can have more memory, higher resolution or USB ports). This list gives you a good starting point for those issues that come up (like moisture levels) or one’s that need to be covered as part of an audit (like monitoring CO levels).
Energy Audit Equipment – The Essentials
I’ve written about blower doors extensively (see this article) and how they help evaluations during different projects. While the common thermal bypasses are well known, the blower door can starkly show the extent and size of air leakage problems.
Surprisingly, I would almost put infrared cameras in the ‘Useful’ category rather than the essential. They’re very helpful for locating air leakage, moisture issues, thermal bridging or insulation irregularities that can lead to poor effective R-values.
However, they’re astonishingly useful in visually demonstrating building problems to homeowners.
The pressure gauge is integral to the blower door testing but is very useful on its own. Zone diagnostics (aka poking air tubes into rooms and framing cavities) can be extraordinarily informative.
While most everyone knows where the big air leak and thermal issues are, pressure gauges can more finely detail the heat loss and air leak pathways.
The pressure gauge is also used for flue gas pressure testing and worst case depressurization testing of the CAZ.
Natural gas and propane heating systems are not as common in Maine as in other states. However for those homes that do have them, a gas leak detector is essential for testing gas lines.
Carbon monoxide levels need to be monitored during an audit. The heating system is checked with the combustion analyzer and this monitor tracks atmospheric CO in the house through out the audit.
The combustion analyzer tests the efficiency of heating and hot water systems. This is a more basic model but it does the trick, testing flue gases for O2, CO2, heating system efficiency and carbon monoxide. It can also double as a CO detector.
I avoid smaller LED lights as sometimes you need some serious light. Crawling through dark attics isn’t the time for a dim little beam.
Also, this isn’t an expensive, high end flashlight…that way I don’t regret it if something happens to it.
Like the flashlight, the digital camera is essential but I opt toward reliable but less expensive models.
It’s almost a truism of energy auditing: If the house needs insulation, it probably needs electrical work too.
That means fairly often, grounded electrical outlets are hard to come by. It’s important to have a 25 foot extension (and a two prong adapter) close at hand.
As a note, I find longer extension cords unnecessary since you’ll only be plugging in the blower door and your laptop.
Sensing a pattern here? All the energy audit equipment is either heavy duty or easily replaceable. Like any contractor can tell you, crawling around basements and attics adds some considerable wear and tear.
Drills are a less obvious but definitely necessary piece of energy audit equipment. Many times the heating system exhaust doesn’t have an access drilled yet for the combustion analyzer probe (and for bleep sake make sure it’s not a concentric vent before drilling) or you need to check inside a wall cavity (with the homeowner’s permission).
Attic access hatches are often tucked away and hard to reach. A full ladder might not fit. A heavy duty (and I’m around 250 so I mean heavy) telescoping ladder will make snaking through a clothes closet to the attic hatch that much easier.
Energy Audit Equipment – The Useful Stuff
Technically called a ‘hygro psychrometer’, this meter allows you to quickly read several moisture measures, including relative humidity.
While no substitute for year round metered data and observation, it is incredibly useful for gaining a sense of moisture levels in a building. (Tip: a less sexy but less expensive piece of energy audit equipment would be a $10 humidistat from Lowes. Place a few around the house at the start of the audit and get the final readings when you collect them.)
Borescopes are a perfect example of the great but maybe not essential piece of energy audit equipment.
Borescopes allow you to look inside wall cavities, sealed crawlspaces, duct work. They’re incredibly useful for figuring out what’s happening in the building shell.
Very useful for testing sill plates or other structural elements you suspect may have moisture issues.
A pinless moisture meter is special situation tool: not used often but indispensable when needed. When testing moisture in finish wood, trim or other surfaces you’d rather not jam two pins into, the pinless meter is quite handy.
Very often you need to test for live wires. Knob and tube wiring also comes up with all the time in audits (at least in Maine). Testing whether they are live is important as insulating near or over live knob and tube is a potential fire hazard.
Energy Audit Equipment – The Helpful Stuff
Sometimes it is much easier than the rolling out the ol’ tape measure.
I wouldn’t use this for precise measurements but it’s fine for measuring a building perimeter.
A Wizard Stick smoke creator is useful for tracking air flows when the blower door is running. It creates a pretty arresting visual when the smoke is sucked through a crack no one suspected was a problem.
You’ll never appreciate this more than when you’re trying to write something down while jammed between some attic trusses.
*Whew* That took a while. There are a few other less exciting items I use (like a plastic darning needle to poke around behind outlets) but that covers all the major energy audit equipment.