Man walking in the winter downtown.

Dyer: The role of air tightness testing in energy efficiency

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

The role of air tightness testing in energy efficiency

Imagine that the Okanagan is having one of it’s really cold days. You pick out a warm coat, hat and gloves, put them on and walk outside — without zipping up your coat. While parts of you are fully covered, cold air is going to continually sneak into the opening of your jacket. No matter how insulating the jacket is, if cold air gets through you are not going to be comfortable.

No matter how warm your jacket, if you don’t zip it up the cold air is going to get in

The same thing goes for your house. The walls of your house are meant to keep the weather outside in two ways: first with good insulation and then by sealing out air leaks. ASHRE standards say that homes should have a minimum of 0.35 air changes per hour (ACH). You can think of this as replacing 35% of the home’s air every hour or think of it as taking nearly three hours to completely refresh the air. Often people counter that a leaky house is “healthy” due to lots of fresh air. A typical house exchanges its air every 15 minutes, much more often than what is required for fresh air. You will actually be able to detect this current as cold drafts and you will certainly notice it when you pay your heating bills. Well insulated houses exchange a steady stream of air with the outside, while leaky houses can have rapid air exchange when it is cold and windy and less air exchanged when it is warm and calm.

READ MORE: Revelstoke working to adopt BC Energy Step Code

Since reheating the house every fifteen minutes is a waste of energy, the BC Energy Step Code has included air tightness testing into the very first step of the code. If you are building a new house where the BC Step Code has been adopted (Kelowna, Penticton and Lake Country, soon Revelstoke, West Kelowna, Vernon, Peachland, Summerland and Salmon Arm) your builder will meet with an energy advisor. The advisor will use a large fan to pressurize the house and will measure the number of air changes per hour and locate where the house is leaking. The builder then has the opportunity to fix the leaks inexpensively before the house is completed.

If you live in an older house, is it worth having an energy advisor test your house? Absolutely. They can identify the source of the leaks, some of which can be easily fixed. You can do it yourself or hire a contractor. However, the current BC Step Code only applies to new houses and buildings. There are plans in the future to write a specific step code for renovations.

Canada as a whole is due for a building code update. The National Building Code (NBC, small buildings like houses) and the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB, for larger buildings) are in the process of being updated to a step code. Unfortunately, the public comment period happened in May, while many of us were glued to COVID news. During that time the code was revised to remove the requirement of airtightness testing. This is unfortunate — not only does air tightness testing bring the energy advisor into the process early enough to improve the building, but you cannot get maximum efficiency out of a building that is actually leaking air.

You cannot get maximum efficiency out of a building that is actually leaking air.

Gerry Sawkins of 3West Building Energy Consultants says “At this time the NBC 2020 is not released and is slated for late 2021. Until it happens, all bets are off but it is a mistake if they eliminate it [air tightness testing] completely…in the long term BC currently requires testing and for NBC to not require testing is a big mistake.”

READ MORE: A new way to build

That brings us back to the coat analogy — it is not enough to have a warm winter coat. You actually have to zip it up.

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: Financing energy efficiency

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Just Posted

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

.
Princeton’s Spotlight wins two provincial awards for excellence

Publisher takes first place for investigative reporting

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read