Do you know if your home is energy-efficient? Have you ever asked your neighbors what their electric bills run? How do you determine if you are paying too much for electricity? Are you breathing toxic air?
I had a discussion with someone yesterday who had just finished having a house built for their family. He started by telling me he did not have enough money for “all that fancy stuff” in reference to my comment that we should insulate with a particular product. He had a good understanding of the basics of energy efficiency and thinks his house performs really well. I began to ask questions about his home and how he achieved his energy efficiency. He built a traditional home with wood studs and fiberglass insulation. He told me that he spent days with a caulk gun. It was sounding good, like he had done his homework and built an efficient house on a tight budget. So then I asked if he had ducted his fresh air into his HVAC system….
He said he did not need to because the doors and windows were not installed right so there were gaps that you could see through around them….
I wonder how many other people who know a little about building science or have watched HGTV there are counting on gaps around windows to provide the fresh air for their children to breath. Building science is a complicated subject and indoor air quality is a very big part of it. You cannot simply build an energy-efficient home and hope that you have enough make up air coming through the random holes left from construction. You cannot possibly have an energy-efficient home with gaps and cracks around the windows. I struggled not to continue to tear apart his description of the home – since this usually results in creating an enemy. I did tell him that he really REALLY should hire an energy auditor to test his home to see if it is too tight for a healthy environment. I wish he had called an expert to help him understand the very expensive machine he built and is now living inside of with his family.
As for the “all that fancy stuff” comment: it has been shown in countless studies that building a home that is energy-efficient and healthy reduces your monthly expenses, provides a positive ROI, and reduces the number of times your family gets sick, again saving you money. Is there any chance that we will stop assuming that architects are just overpaid drafters. We are building scientist that can help you save money, live healthier, and reduce your impact on the environment. You don’t ask your waiter to cook your dinner to avoid the cooks fee, why do you count on a magazine or a builder to design your home to avoid an expert that is trained to save you money?