Case Study: 4Elements | Ontario, Canada

An independent sustainable building design and consulting firm compares in-home energy issues with aerial heat loss imagery.

Heat Loss Maps | Validation to In-Home Energy Audit

Independent Energy Auditor finds correlation between aerial heat loss map and in-home energy loss

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Correlating Aerial Thermal Images to Home Energy Audit



4Elements company logo

Quick Stats

  • 4Elements deployed blower door test and interior thermography to conduct home energy audit
  • Home Energy Audit revealed energy loss from various interior areas that correlated to aerial heat loss image
  • 3 homes were audited ranging in size and age
  • In-home energy audits resulted in at least 4 kinds of energy loss correlating to aerial heat loss imagery

The Challenge

How do MyHEAT Heat Loss Maps correlate to energy loss observed in-homes from detailed home energy audits?” This is the question MyHEAT wanted to answer to validate and ground-truth using energy loss observed with aerial thermal infrared mapping conducted for Calgary, Alberta in 2016.

This case study is a shortened version of a more detailed report conducted by an independent thermographer.

Get all the details and high-resolution images in the full report:

Correlating Aerial Thermal Images to Home Energy Audit

The Approach

4 Elements, a sustainable building design and consulting firm conducted detailed energy efficiency evaluations of five homes in Calgary, Alberta. Each of these homes were of different sizes, ages and levels of energy efficiency.

Before starting the energy audits, MyHEAT provided detailed Heat Loss imagery for each home to Tyler Hermanson, owner of 4 Elements. Armed with this imagery, Tyler completed energy audits using a combination of blower door tests and thermal infrared (IR) scans of the interior of each home.

“The MyHEAT images provided helpful information and contributed a ‘bird’s eye view’ to assist in the review of the home’s energy efficiency. This provided important value to me as a Thermographer and Energy Advisor in providing as much accurate information as possible to the homeowner.” – Tyler Hermanson, 4 Elements.

The following examples highlight the correlation between “hotspots” detected in MyHEAT’s Heat Loss imagery and the in-home energy audit and handheld infrared images.

Example comparison exhibits

Exhibit A: 1959 Bungalow with attached garage

An aerial thermal heat loss map of a home depicting areas of high heat loss in red and low heat loss in blue
A FLIR thermal image of inside a home

Entryway

Note the band of red in the Heat Loss Map.

A FLIR thermal image of the interior of a home

Chimney

Note the large hotspot in the Heat Loss Map.

A FliR thermal image of the interior of a home

Sunroom

Note: HEAT Maps show red as hot, and blue as cold. The handheld IR images show white and yellow as hot, and purple and blue as cold.

  1. Chimney: Openings for flue and combustion air creates a very large area of thermal loss, both through thermal bridging in areas with no insulation and air leakage. This is suspected to be a large area of energy loss.
  2. Entry Way: Change in thermal pattern after applying testing pressure showed potential connection between house and garage.
  3. Heated Sunroom: Although not included in the Heat Loss Map, this area is all glass and includes an older patio door that showed strong leakage at weather-stripping during testing. Moreover, the connection of sunroom framing to the house appears to not be fully airtight.

Exhibit B: 2011 2 Storey with attached garage

A second aerial heat loss map of a home showing areas of heat loss in red and blue
A FLiR thermal image of an attic hatch

Attic Hatch

A FLiR thermal image of a garage wall

Garage Wall

Note: HEAT Maps show red as hot, and blue as cold. The handheld IR images show white and yellow as hot, and purple and blue as cold.

  1. Attic Hatch: Large leakage area noted around the attic hatch and the trim that surrounds it. This would allow large amounts of warm humid air to pass during the winter, which can lead to dampness that promotes mould growth as suspected on the insulation blocking around the opening.
  2. Garage Wall: Suspected poorly sealed connection between wall and floors that separate the house from the garage. This would result in additional energy loss and risk of durability issues.

Exhibit C: 1976 2 Storey with Attached Garage

An aerial heat loss map of a residential home showing relative heat loss on a blue to red scale
A FLiR thermal image of a garage wall

Garage Wall

A FLiR thermal image of a B-vent inside a home

B-Vent

A FLiR thermal image of a ceiling in a living room

Living Room

A FLiR thermal image of a fireplace inside a home

Fireplace

Note: HEAT Maps show red as hot, and blue as cold. The handheld IR images show white and yellow as hot, and purple and blue as cold.

  1. Garage Wall: Wall between the house and the garage is showing areas of air leakage. Under normal conditions, this warm air will travel up the plumbing and electrical penetrations, laundry vent and into the garage attic.
  2. Fireplace: Replacement gas insert showing strong leakage around the edge—indicating poor seal of new unit to the existing chimney. Combined with warm house air leaking up the chimney, this creates a greater level of heat loss.
  3. Mechanical Vent: Metal B-vent is unsealed and strongly leaking. Warm house air will rise up this chase wall, which is unsealed at the attic level. Plastic side venting furnace vents also appear to be unsealed.
  4. Living Room: Poorly fit insulation and heavy thermal bridging creates a cold area along the living/dining room ceiling. This area shows suspected air leakage after testing the air pressure applied.

The Results

In each home, a detailed Heat Loss image was reviewed while on-site. When comparing these images with the findings of the in-home audits, 4 Elements reported these findings:

  1. Overall, the MyHEAT imagery supported and reinforced findings based on the blower door testing, thermography and the investigator’s own knowledge of construction over various ages of homes.
  2. In all cases, the investigation revealed potential thermal and air tightness issues such as poorly sealed attic hatches, plumbing stacks and mechanical chases, which all appeared to match areas of high heat loss on each HEAT map.
  3. In the least upgraded homes, there was a stronger relationship between the findings of the evaluation and major indicators from the MyHEAT image.
  4. The HEAT Map provided the most relevant information on the least efficient homes.

“After working with the MyHEAT images in detail while reviewing these existing homes, it is clear that the images provide real and relevant information in understanding the performance and energy efficiency opportunities of existing homes.” – Tyler Hermanson, 4 Elements.

Conclusion

In the individual case studies for each home, MyHEAT’s Heat Loss Maps provided helpful information. They showed a vantage point not available from the ground for thermography and contributed a “bird’s eye-view” to assist in the review of the home energy efficiency. This adds important value for Thermographers and Energy Advisors in providing an accurate energy efficiency evaluation (as possible) to the homeowner.

Through the energy efficiency evaluations of these homes, a wide range of performance was assessed. The Heat Loss Maps supported and reinforced findings based on the blower door testing, thermography and the energy advisor’s own knowledge of construction over various ages of homes. Even the most efficient home of the sample benefited from the review in finding construction weaknesses that were allowing higher than acceptable humidity to accumulate in the attic.

Clearly the older, least upgraded homes have the most opportunity for energy savings. As attic insulation is typically one of the first upgrades made on older homes, an understanding of the attic insulation provides a key indicator of the overall efficiency of the home. In the least upgraded homes, there was stronger relationship between the findings of the evaluation and major indicators from Heat Loss Maps.

Energy audits for these homes were conducted by 4 Elements Integrated Design.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with MyHEAT.

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