Find home energy efficiency experts through the Minnesota Building Performance Association

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Minnesota Building Performance Association

Members of the not-for-profit Minnesota Building Performance Association (MBPA) are leading experts working to ensure your home is safe, healthy, comfortable and efficient. We caught up with Becky Olson, president of MBPA, to find out more.

Joel Haskard: Tell us a little bit about the Minnesota Building Performance Association.

Becky Olson: We are a professional association with members that have knowledge on advanced level energy diagnostic testing of homes using the “House as a System” philosophy. All of our voting members are Building Performance Institute (BPI.org) or Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) certified as Home Energy Raters (HERS). We also have Associate Members including home performance contractors, educational institutions, utilities, and non-profits. Our membership collectively has decades of experience in the field testing and upgrading buildings.

Joel: What are some of the services your members typically provide?

Becky: MBPA consultants provide comprehensive Advanced Energy Auditing which includes extensive diagnostic energy testing and recommendations for reducing the energy use of a building.

Diagnostic tools that are used by our members include pressure gauges, balometers (for measuring air flow), hygrometers for measuring relative humidity, Blower Doors for measuring building air leakage, infrared cameras to document thermal images, and combustion analyzers for checking safety (carbon monoxide) and efficiency of the heating systems. A report with specific recommendations and analysis is provided to the owner with documentation of existing conditions.

Blower door for measuring air leakage The Advanced Energy Audit takes the entire home into account, views the “building as a system” and is beneficial for the owner who is serious about moving on an energy efficiency project. Common problems that prompt an inspection are ice dams, comfort, moisture/mold, high cost, remodeling or anyone considering an energy efficiency project.

Especially during remodeling projects, our members can do a pre-work test to determine what energy savings opportunities are available during the remodeling process. It is always better to have this done ahead of time instead of at the end when the project is completed. We then do a post-work test to make sure that everything is working safely and installed as designed. We strongly encourage a “test-in and test-out” strategy.

Additionally, some of our members provide Home Energy Ratings (HERS) or an energy scorecard for a home. This energy score can be performed and used as verification for an Energy Efficient Mortgage, LEED certification, Energy Star and other certifications.

Joel: Do your members provide services to other building types beyond residential single-family?

Becky: Yes, some of our members work on multi-family and commercial buildings providing energy efficiency services. You can find our members and what type of services they offer on our web site.

Joel: One of the many services that some of your members provide are blower door tests. Can you explain this?

Becky: A blower door is a tool that will measure and quantify the air infiltration of a building. That is, how tight or leaky it is. This is an important piece of information for energy efficiency since air leakage is a large indicator of how a building will perform. Air sealing is the most cost effective measure in most buildings and the blower door can measure the effectiveness of work that was done on the building.

Joel: Last year we had a lot of ice damming problems. Do your services help determine the cause of them? What kind of help can MBPA provide?

Ice damming is a common problem during Minnesota winters Becky: The diagnostic testing listed above can locate warm air leaks into the attic, the main culprit in the formation of ice dams. This is done with a combination blower door test and infrared camera to “see” and document the location of the air leaks. This documentation can also be used to verify that the work was completed with a post-work inspection.

This winter this type of problem was not a main concern due to the relatively snow free season however if ice dams have been a problem in the past the situation has not corrected itself. This process is the best method to find the problem to fix the cause, not the symptom.

Although ice dams and winter heating bills are not on our mind this time of the year it is actually the best time to start your project. We can diagnose the problem using the heat in the attic as a temperature difference for our infrared cameras. Also, insulation contractors are not as busy right now and can sometimes offer a more competitive price. Last, it is human nature to wait until the last minute but then winter has already arrived and contractors are booked out months.

Joel: Any final comments you would like to share with CERTs readers?

Becky: Not all energy audits are the same. It is important to know what type of energy diagnostic services you are getting and what problems you are looking to solve. Often advanced diagnostic testing is required to get to the root of the problem and prevent an undesired effect.

I want to come back to our contractor members for a moment. We have some excellent home performance contractors who are members of MBPA, and I want to stress how important it is to find a contractor who understands the building as a system, understands diagnostic testing and supports third party verification. You can have the best energy audit but without a contractor that understands the issues, it is hard to have a great outcome.

We provide a listing of our members on our website, and it’s a great place to start if you want to find a good contractor to help you with energy efficiency work in your home. You can click on your region in the map we provide (to the right) to see MBPA members that serve your part of Minnesota.

Visit the Minnesota Building Performance Association website to learn more >>

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