Canada To Offer a Million Free Blower Door Tests

A worthwhile Canadian initiative.

Blower door test
A blower door test on my front door.

Lloyd Alter

Like every country, Canada has a big economic hole to climb out of and has just issued an economic statement which includes close to C$100 billion ($77 billion in US dollars) to jumpstart the recovery. Included in it is C$2.6 billion for a program of home energy retrofits, noting that "helping Canadians make their homes more energy-efficient can support our environmental objectives while making homes more comfortable and more affordable to maintain. And will create good, middle-class jobs in their communities. The energy efficiency sector accounted for more than 436,000 direct jobs in 2018." But what is most interesting about this is where the money is going. According to the statement, the government will...

"...help homeowners improve their home energy efficiency by providing up to 700,000 grants of up to $5,000 to help homeowners make energy-efficient improvements to their homes, up to one million freeEnerGuide energy assessments, and support to recruit and train EnerGuide energy auditors to meet increased demand."

One of the first tasks in an EnerGuide energy assessment is a blower door test, where all the windows and doors in the house are closed except one (in the photo above, it's the one with the big red plastic insert stuck in place). Then a fan pumps the air pressure inside up to 50 Pascals of pressure, and they can measure how much air is leaking out. It's like doing a blood pressure test on your house and is the first step in draft-proofing.

tweet discussion about draft proofing

Twitter

Just the day before the budget statement, I was complaining on Twitter about how everyone had fantasies of small nuclear reactors and fancy new batteries when what we really needed was just a bunch of insulation and bikes. Architect Sandra Leigh Lester went for even lower hanging fruit, which is pretty much what the government has proposed.

Efficiency Canada's Executive Director, Corey Diamond, told Treehugger how this would actually work. Unlike past programs where they just threw grant money out and it got sucked up by the replacement window salespeople, this program starts with an audit by Energuide.

"The blower door test is free, and the auditor provides a list of priorities to improve the performance. You take that report and follow the priorities."

The EnerGuide website provides greater detail. After they do their report, the homeowner can apply for the grant of up to $5,000 to do the work that the audit recommended.

"An energy advisor will assess your home from basement to attic. This will give you an EnerGuide rating for your home. You can also get an energy efficiency report to help you make decisions about doing retrofits or upgrades... The energy advisor will take measurements and notes on your home’s mechanical equipment, windows and insulation levels and do a blower door test to measure your home’s air tightness."
EnerGuide Label

EnerGuide

The EnerGuide advisor uses energy simulation software to find a home's current and potential energy savings. Once the recommended upgrades are done, they come back and provide a label. Diamond is also excited about what we will learn from so many of these.

"Imagine, one million assessments! What we can do with these data points. We will have a much stronger snapshot, we can use the label to shift the market."

After I made my usual complaint about window replacement, Diamond said that we should look at the bigger picture.

"Every house is different, you have to treat it as a system, not just look at the furnace or the windows. Where is it leaking? What needs to be fixed? What gives the biggest bang for the buck?"
reading the results of blower door test
Greening Homes does a test on my house.

Lloyd Alter

We have argued for years that the caulking gun is the best weapon in the war against energy waste, but even before you get out the gun, you have to do the blower door test. These cost a few hundred bucks, and Diamond notes that people often don't want to pay it. But as Sheri Koones noted in an earlier post,

"Anyone thinking of buying a house or building one should consider having a blower door test performed. Results of the test can determine if there are unsealed cracks and openings in the house’s shell that should be sealed. Infrared cameras are used to locate every leak which can then be amended. Properly sealing a house will increase comfort, reduce energy costs, and improve indoor air quality."

And in Canada now, the first million blower tests are free.