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The Changeout Law: HERS Testing to Save Energy and Money

Why have your Ducts Tested?

As a homeowner, there are certain rules and regulations that must be followed—and doing so can offer great value to your standard operating procedures as well as your pocketbook. In a state like California where most home energy expenditures go toward air conditioning and heating, the more help we can get with those utility bills, the better.

In this article we’re going to talk about the Changeout Law. Passed in 2005, this California law requires homeowners who are installing or replacing a ducted air system to have them tested for efficiency. And as we know, with great efficiency comes great savings.

What Exactly Does This Law Contain?

Number one: savings for the homeowner. This law requires that homes and office ducts are tested for leaks when a central air conditioner or furnace installed or replaced, and homeowners or contractors must commission a permit before beginning work.

For those homes where the entire system is replaced including all of the ducting, leakage cannot exceed 6% when tested. When only part of a system is replaced ducts cannot leak more than 15%. And that means that the efficiency of your home will improve, and your HVAC costs will be reduced.

What Is a HERS Rating?

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) measures the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling system for one. HERS rating can also apply to your entire home by measuring its overall efficiency.

How is a HERS Rating Conducted?

Once your contractor is finished installing equipment and sealing ducts, you must choose an approved third-party HERS rater to test your system and make sure the proper forms are completed. Many trusted HVAC contractors, like Bob Jenson A/C, partner with HERS raters to make the process quick and easy for their customers.

The rater comes to the home, many times on the last day of the installation, seals all of the registers where the air comes out and pressure tests the system. If the system leaks too much, a fogger is used to find the leaks, seal and retest. Once testing is passed the final forms are filled out and submitted to the local building departments. A local city inspector finalizes the project and signs off on the permit. Although duct testing and sealing is an additional cost, the resultant energy savings far exceed the amount.

What are some Best Practices when Having Ducts Installed?

Duct Connections – You can ask your contractor how they will make and seal the duct connections. Proper connections include using zip-ties to strap ducts to metal collars, using approved tape to seal the ends to the collars and cans and applying a painted on duct sealant that will keep air from escaping and be flexible in hot and cold temperatures.

Prevent Kinks before They Happen – Ducts should be strapped out of the way and run in a way to avoid kinks. Each duct should be just long enough to make smooth turns and proper connections.

Duct System Design – A duct system is sized based on the total system capacity and the size and heat load of individual spaces duct will terminate into. Improperly design duct systems lead to higher energy bills, uncomfortable hot and cold spots within the home, humidity problems, system strain and unwanted noise.

By choosing the right contractor to install and seal your ducts properly and having them HERS tested, you can improve your indoor air quality, save money, improve the safety of your home, help reduce pollution, and remain in compliance with the California Changeout Law.

How Energy Efficient Is Your Home?

Energy Efficiency – How Does Your Home Stack Up?

When we consider energy efficiency we usually think of our individual appliances like our air conditioner or refrigerator. Realistically, when we combine all the things that use energy in our house we are now thinking about our homes total efficiency. More people are focusing on their homes efficiency as a whole, especially when considering adding a renewable energy source like solar. Here’s a fun infographic to show how different homes rate:

How Energy Efficient Is Your Home?

Lowering Energy Usage

There is a lot you can do to make your home more efficient even before considering solar. Your old air conditioning and heating system can use up to 40-50% of the energy in your home. It’s usually the biggest offender of wasted energy. At Bob Jenson A/C, we help people consider efficient replacements for systems that are reaching 10, 15+ years of usage. Installing a new, high efficient comfort system can pay itself back in a few years and raise the value of your home, just to name a few. Give us a call today and we’ll come out for free to give you some options to help you start saving energy right away!

What is HERS Rating and Is It a Good Thing?

What is HERS Rating?

Energy efficiency has come to the forefront in the past few years, but even with all the recycling, composting, and LED bulbs, it’s hard to really figure out how effective your efforts are. That’s where the Home Energy Rating System—HERS, for short—index comes into the picture. What is the HERS index? Is it a good thing?

Back to Basics

The Home Energy Rating System is a linear scale that measures a home’s energy use compared to an imaginary home called the HERS Reference Home. The reference home is essentially the same size and shape as the home being rated, except that it meets the basic standards for energy use, so a score of 100 on the HERS index means that your home uses the same amount of energy as the HERS Reference Home.

The index takes into account everything in your home that consumes energy—heating, cooling, lights, electricity, water heating, and appliances. Some specific variables that affect the rating include:

  • Roofs and ceilings
  • Windows and doors
  • Vents and ductwork
  • Exterior walls
  • Attic and crawlspace
  • HVAC
  • Your thermostat

It throws all of that into a complex equation (which can be found in the HERS handbook) to give you a HERS number.

The Numbers Guy

So all that number stuff sounds complicated, but it’s not really. The HERS Index number is a lot like your golf score. You want to aim low. The lower the number, the greater your annual savings and the lower your carbon footprint.

Ideally you want to be at or below 100. It’s a percentage game, so a home with a HERS score of, say, 70 is 30 percent more energy efficient than the standard reference home. The HERS Index tops out at about 150, at which point you’re using 50 percent more energy than the standard new home, your carbon footprint is at its max, and your home actually costs more to function normally. Anything above 150 and you’ll need to improve your home.

A home with a score of zero is considered a Net Zero Energy Home, which means that the home is producing as much energy via renewable resources—solar panels, windmills, water wells—as it consumes. The carbon footprint is nonexistent.

Then there’s a matter of comfort. Oh, yes—comfort is as important as your utility bill and your carbon footprint. The closer your home approaches net zero, the greater your health and general comfort. A Net Zero Energy Home greatly reduces any fluctuations in temperature, which means staying indoors will always feel nice. Compare that to a home with a HERS score of 150, where summers feel blazing hot and winters are freezing.

The Reference Home

The main problem with the HERS process is the HERS Reference Home. It’s meant to be stand-in for your home if it was completely new. The R-values for insulation, U-values for heat loss, HVAC system efficiency, and other variables that go into the reference home are defined by the HERS standards that are tied to the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code Supplement with some variations based on the 2006 IECC.

So it’s been a good 7 to 9 years since the standards for the HERS Reference Home have been updated. Things have advanced, so the reference home may be a bit outdated.

Furthermore, although some values rightfully change based on climate zone, others stay arbitrarily the same. For example, the reference home always has a window area comprising 18 percent of the conditioned floor area, but the R-values associated with wall insulation change based on location. The experts certainly have their reasons for changing or not changing values, but it’s all very difficult for the average person to pinpoint.

The important thing to remember is that it is just a reference. Changing your reference point so frequently would potentially render a lot of your findings invalid, though it stands to reason that the experts might want to reevaluate their standards several decades from now.

HERS and Ours

Overall, the HERS Index is a valuable tool that could truly help homeowners create a more comfortable, eco-friendly living space. More and more homes are getting HERS ratings each year, and the first affordable Net Zero Energy Home was recently unveiled in Utah.

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