Firm uses infrared technology in home energy audits

Kathy Uek

Hearing the demand to reduce escalating energy costs for homeowners and small businesses, Flemming Lund three years ago added infrared energy audits to his home inspection business, Apex Home Inspections.

That service has since become a company, Infrared Diagnostic. The Sudbury firm now conducts five energy audits for every home inspection Lund performs at Apex.

"I saw the need, got the training, purchased new equipment to detect insulation defects and holes where air enters the home and that got the ball rolling," said Lund.

Some of the air leaks - such as in recessed lighting - surprise some clients, including a Lincoln homeowner.

"Because of the opening to the outside, air rises out through the leaks," said Lund. Infrared Diagnostic performed the audit on the newer Lincoln home with 75 recessed lights.

"The house was like a sieve because there were so many penetrations in the ceiling," said Lund. "The homeowner could not keep heat in the house. He knew he had a problem, but he couldn’t figure it out. You can have two feet of insulation but if there is a possibility of air coming in, it penetrates right through the fibers."

Causes of other air leaks include plumbing penetrations, such as a vent stack that goes through the roof or a pull-down stairway in the attic.

Lund conducts the infrared energy audits and recommends contractors, who do the work. In addition to reduced energy costs, Lund said there’s another benefit to the audits.

"Once the suggested work is completed and drafts are eliminated, customers gain an increased comfort level in their homes during the heating and cooling seasons," he said.

Many Infrared Diagnostic clients chose an energy audit to get the best return on their investments when trying to reduce their energy costs. For example, a family requested an energy audit for a local home built around 1880. Cost of the audit on the 3,300-square-foot home: $525. Estimated savings on utility bills: $1,500 to $2,500 annually. The cost of energy audits are based on the age and square footage of the home.

"It’s a huge savings compared to the audit," said Lund, who is also an electrician and certified home inspector in Massachusetts. "Installing insulation and correcting air leaks gives the biggest return on investments - bigger than windows."

With every energy audit, Infrared Diagnostic provides a report with recommendations that often result in 15 to 25 percent energy savings annually. "Windows are expensive to replace, but in most cases they are not the main problem," said Lund. "Air leaks are. Many homeowners are not aware of how small the investment is to see a decrease in their utility bills."

The energy audits, Lund said, are more comprehensive than others because of the equipment he uses - a blower door test for locating air leaks and an infrared camera for detecting missing or defective insulation.

Jan Hackman called the energy audit conducted on his Hudson home "priceless."

Infrared Diagnostic performed the audit on Hackman’s 3,200-square-foot L-shaped ranch, built in 1963 with an addition put on in 1989.

"We wanted to know why we use so much energy," said Hackman. "A previous energy audit we had done left us with many questions. They told us the windows lost a lot of heat, which was not the case, Flemming’s audit showed. I wanted someone with expertise to start me on the path to get the best return on my investment.

"In the infrared audit, the windows turned out to be pretty efficient and Flemming found problems with air leaks, insulation and the like. For me, it was an eyeopener - here are the cold hard facts. Now we can start doing something about them."

Infrared Diagnostic’s report included a series of digital and infrared photographs with an explanation of different problems, including air leaks in the cathedral ceiling. "Apparently the insulation, where it touched the rafters, must have been pushed aside," said Hackman. "In one case, it showed a temperature of 39 degrees."

Infrared Diagnostic also detected leaks by the chimney in the attic, in the basement where the foundation meets the frame and in the recessed lights in the kitchen, said Hackman.

"The audit, which cost about $300, gave us a blueprint on what to do and where to go next," said Hackman. "The house will be a lot more comfortable."

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The MetroWest Daily News