My First Energy Audit…Part Uno

by Erik North on January 2, 2013

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I thought I’d start the new year by looking back: My first (paid) auditing gig.

My first energy audit was a few months after I’d completed Maine State Housing’s Auditor certification program. It was a two week program, one week of class work and one week of field training. Just enough learning to make you dangerous (and I’m only being a little facetious; uninformed auditor recommendations can have dire consequences). I had done three practice audits on the homes of friends and family and observed at three others. However, this was the first paying audit largely on my own.

I say largely because the audit was through MSHA’s low income weatherization program and one of their liaisons would be there. A little background … the low income weatherization program insulates and weatherizes homes of folks who qualify for heating assistance. MSHA evaluates the houses and tackles the ‘worst’ ones (those which use the most BTUs per square foot per heating degree day). Then they apply their limited budget to insulating and weatherization the building.

Eventually this program moved to the CAP (Community Action Program) agencies in the local counties. At the time, auditors evaluated the house and independent contractors bid on the work. The bit that probably got glossed over just now was the part about ‘the worst homes’ in Maine. That’s a bit unfair but they were terribly inefficient homes, as we would see.

My First Energy Audit – The House

The house I was assigned turned out to be a classic, very large 19th century farmhouse. It was located toward the end of one of the innumerable peninsulas that spike out from Maine’s coast. The Colonial farmhouse had a large main section and two enormous wing additions.

The first whiff we got that there would be issues was when the owner warned us about a rotten spot in the floorboards. “Careful with this spot; your foot will go right through.” A harbinger of things to come.

The foundation was double brick/rubble construction, with the brick wall above grade. The double brick wall (a two wall construction where the exterior wall is load bearing and there’s an insulating two-inch dead air space sandwiched with the interior wall). The interior brick wall was collapsed and crumpling in many places. The floor was wet sand with many pools of standing water, stretching into crawlspaces beneath the additions.

The windows and doors were almost all original to the building and loose would be an understatement. They were lovely, wood-framed single paned windows with sash weights…and the frames were so badly out of square I could often see outside around the frames.

The walls were balloon framed, the interior finished with old horse hair plaster and lathe while the exterior was finished with ancient clapboards coated thick with white lead paint.

The main house and two additions had distinct but connected attics. Each one was filled with various owner keepsakes nearly to the rafters. All told, a picturesque, full New England classic needing some TLC.

Next: the audit, recommendations and the work

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