Okay, show of hands:
Who else would like to lower their electric bill, especially in summer and winter?
Most of us, right?
The fact is, an effective approach with proven results already exists – but is often overlooked:
Energy audit with thermal imaging camera.
How To Lower Electric Bill with Energy Audit
With a thermal imaging camera, you can easily pick up patterns of energy loss which the naked eye cannot see. Resolution of such energy loss can bring about a significant reduction in your electric bill.
The heat patterns observed during a thermal survey or audit are nothing but electrical energy converted to thermal energy. This is in conformity with the first law of thermodynamics which states that in a closed system, energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can only be transformed from one form to another.
Recommended read: 9 Thermal Imaging Home Energy Audits that Save Big Money.
The implication of this is that rather than being utilized efficiently for electrical uses, the converted or transformed electrical energy is instead wasting in the form of thermal energy.
Below are some critical areas that you should look at to improve energy efficiency, avoid energy waste, and thus lower your electric bills:
1. Missing Insulation
Inefficient insulation can be a major reason for energy and heat loss in a building.
Unless you have eco-friendly house like these 15 brilliant energy efficient home designs –
Chances are, proper insulations can become damaged or inefficient with the passage of time, thus highlighting the need for periodic thermal inspections or audits which can help save electric bills.
Yet to mention, even a newly constructed house may also have loads of inadequate insulation issues, as shown in the new home inspection audit below which was conducted with a FLIR E75 thermal camera:
Research by FLIR Systems and PE Energy Solutions Ltd for the UK market indicates continuous increases in the cost of heating a home and that energy waste due to heat loss during winter amounted to £7 billion (£363 per household).
The survey also identified improper insulation of walls as the biggest reason for energy loss, accounting for some 36 percent of all wasted heat while noting that almost half of the energy users saw winter energy bills as a big concern.
In this video, Jason Cameron shares how to use Flir One thermal camera to check a house for missing insulation, in which it is easy enough that average homeowner can DIY:
2. Air Infiltration and Air Leakage
Infiltration refers to the unintentional entrance of outside air into a building, usually via cracks or openings in the building envelope as well as through doors windows. It has been identified as the cause of around one-third of HVAC energy consumption in modern US homes.
Infiltration (and exfiltration) can sometimes occur because of poorly designed and/or constructed buildings, which allow air to either come from outdoors or to escape from such buildings. The leakage routes can be complex and confusing, whilst it can be very hard to capture without a thermal imaging camera.
Once identified, infiltration can be addressed by closing cracks observed in a building’s envelope. Air retarders are also helpful, especially during new constructions and building renovations. To reduce infiltration in buildings with forced ventilation, HVAC designers can also adopt slight pressurization.
In this video, thermal camera is used to identify the exact location of air infiltration in a house:
The following video shows another case study, whereby thermal camera revealed air infiltration of the building envelope, alongside insulation deficiencies. After such issues are detected, building owners can significantly reduce cooling/heating costs with simple fixes, which will also lead to a more comfortable environment.
3. Old Construction Design with Building Envelope Penetration
Certain constructions such as floor slabs that extend outside the interior of the building can be sources of heating or cooling losses. Such losses are usually facilitated by conduction through the slab.
There may also be losses from door/window frames and seals, chimneys, pipes, conduits, and other penetrations/connections around the building envelope.
Like in the other cases above, these energy-wasting constructions and penetrations can be detected with a thermal camera and addressed appropriately.
Related read: 15 Old House Insulation Case Studies Packed with Awesome Tips
4. HVAC / Air Flow Problem
A common cause of airflow problem is the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system of commercial buildings and residential homes.
Inconsistent air flow may lead to uneven cooling and heating throughout the building, and impose a huge increase on your electric bills.
Examples of HVAC system problems include blocked or leaky ducts, obstructed condenser unit, blocked vents and registers, and more.
The following video shows a large duct leak within a residential wall cavity. This type of issue leads to significant wasted energy and high energy cost for the homeowner.
In another thermal imaging inspection conducted by Robb Hill, it was detected that a supply duct was covered with drywall, resulted in loss of conditioned air:
5. Condensation and Humidity
Condensation is another energy-saving challenge that can be spotted via thermal inspections.
It is a condition that results from contact between when warm, humid air and a cold surface. Improper ventilation and some forms of heating can be contributory factors for condensation.
It is prevalent during winter and usually leads to undesirable outcomes like damp, mould, and others which can impact negatively on a building.
Recommended read: Easy Tips and Hacks to Save Electricity and Energy in Winter
Note that humid or wet air brought about by condensation is more uneconomic to heat than dry air and that the higher the humidity, the colder the building and therefore the more the tendency for folks to adjust their thermostats to higher levels, implying higher energy bills.
Such humid conditions can be eliminated by a dehumidifier, and can thus help to reduce energy charges.
In this video, Bryan Hindle demonstrates the use of thermal camera and hygrometer to reveal condensation happening in real time:
Convection can simply be defined as the transfer of heat over varying temperatures by the movement of either a gas or a liquid.
In a home, drafts generated by air infiltration and exfiltration can cause people to increase their heating levels thus increasing both energy consumption and bill payment.
The story is the same in industrial processes. For example, when the brick refractory in a heated process container becomes thin or falls out, the energy which ought to heat the process to a certain temperature is subsequently wasted and ends up heating the outer section of the container instead of the process.
Both instances mentioned above can easily be detected by thermal imaging, after which adequate solutions can then be found to reduce energy bill.
This brief video gives a bit of idea as to what convection gain and thermal currents may look like, through a thermal imaging camera:
7. Water Ingress
Water ingress occurs when water enters a building from any direction such as through windows, roofs, cracked walls, improper plumbing, etc. It usually arises due to poorly constructed buildings as well as malfunctioning or worn-out materials. It can also be caused by rains and floods, among others.
Water ingress can, among other problems, lead to damp, heat loss, mould, and severe damage to electric hardware and installations all of which can make a homeowner incur considerable costs.
With the help of a thermal imaging camera, sources of water ingress in any part of a building can quickly be identified and resolved. After fixing the problem, it is necessary to keep the building watertight so as to ensure energy efficiency and cost savings.
Recommended read: Top 10 Benefits of Using Thermal Camera in Home Improvement
Start Lowering Your Electric Bill with Thermal Camera
In order to reduce your electric bill, it is crucial to find out where you are losing the energy, and why. While any house and building can face some of the common energy efficiency problems as shown in the videos above —
You can consider to invest in a thermal imaging camera to help achieve better energy efficiency and long term utility cost saving, regardless if it is a new or old property.
Need more convincing?
Here are some energy audit related government programmes:
Due to the 1973 and 1979 oil crises, Canadian authorities invested heavily in infrared technology to ensure that government edifices are properly inspected so as to detect patterns of energy loss. The subsequent fixing of identified loopholes led to a substantial reduction in energy costs.
Similarly, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) of the US government has helped poorer households achieve higher levels of energy efficiency resulting in lower electricity bills. Funds allocated to the programme are invested in highly advanced technologies (such as thermal imaging) and home inspection protocols.
The programme which operates under the auspices of the US Department of Energy benefits about 35,000 homes low-income homes and reduces their yearly energy bills by about $283 or more, on average (18 percent yearly savings from the use of heating and 7 percent yearly savings from electricity usage).
So it is easy to see:
Energy audit can be some of the best money you’ll ever spend, with thermal imaging camera can pay for itself in a short time.