Habitat for Humanity houseCHICAGO — Two years ago, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley was only able to supply six houses a year for at-risk families in Washtenaw County, Mich. Today, by renovating vacant, foreclosed homes, instead of building new ones, its volunteers have been able to offer home ownership to more than 15 families since the beginning of the year, while creating safe neighborhoods out of run-down areas. By conducting comprehensive home energy audits and whole house energy efficiency retrofits, the homes were able to achieve Energy Star certification. Each house is thoroughly tested for energy performance by a HERs Rater under Priority Energy’s RESNET Providership.

Habitat for Humanity has made a commitment that each of their houses will be as energy efficient as possible and adhere to and pass the Energy Star certification. Using state-of-the-art equipment and construction practices, each house has been renovated with energy saving features, such as exterior rigid foam insulation, dense pack cellulose wall insulation, spray foam roof decking, insulated foundations, duct sealing, and energy efficient HVAC systems and appliances. This combination of energy efficiency retrofit work, in these 1,100-1,300 square foot houses, ensures the homeowner’s annual utilities will be only $800-$1,000 per year, less than $80 a month.

“In July, however, we had a particularly difficult house to fix,” said Rob Nissly, housing director at Habitat. When, after three to four days of repeated testing, patching, and wasting manpower, and one house still would not pass the Energy Star test, the group contacted Priority Energy of Chicago.

Priority Energy is an energy solutions company that provides home energy audits, training, and Aeroseal duct sealing services throughout the Midwest. As soon as Nissly discussed the air leakage and testing results with the firm, it was agreed that Aeroseal would be the best solution. The sealing solution is administered as a non-toxic mist and is designed to stop leaks anywhere within the duct system. With the Aeroseal technology, the ductwork was sealed in just one day. The process did not disrupt the family and was not destructive to their home. The comfort, air quality, and efficiency was immediately improved. The house went from an unacceptable air leakage rate of 690 cfm to a total leakage of 104 cfm, an 85 percent reduction in heating and cooling loss.

Rob Schildgen, owner and founder of Priority Energy said, “Habitat of Huron Valley is doing an amazing job; all of the homes we’ve reviewed so far have been extremely well insulated and air sealed and have high-efficiency furnaces. And now, by virtually eliminating duct leakage with the use of Aeroseal, these houses are some of the most efficient homes we’ve seen. We applaud them for their efforts in making energy costs as low as possible for these families.”

Publication date: 09/19/2011