Home Performance Upgrades

We have the ability to cost-effectively reduce a home's energy consumption
25% to 75%, without expensive technologies and, in many cases, with a fast
payback of your investment. Of course, some of the improvements we can make
give more bang for the buck than others, so it's easier and cheaper to get the first
10% than the last.

Many home performance upgrades are not visible like new granite countertops. But
they may have a much more dramatic effect on your quality of life and your expenses in
operating and maintaining your home.

You can go a long way along the green building curve by simply building or remodeling to
improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.  Basic elements of such construction are
straightforward, involving:

We use building performance test equipment to measure the actual performance of a home's energy efficiency features. When we test, we can find the location, nature and magnitude of opportunities for savings in the various categories (air leakage, windows, insulation, furnace, ducts, etc.).   Then we can set priorities and can either implement just the energy efficiency upgrades that are the most cost-effective, or we can do a more complete home performance retrofit to capture most or all of the savings.  Green Building Solutions evaluates all the possible opportunities in each building to create a comprehensive report with specific recommendations.

Our report documents the building performance through numerous measurements, observations and tests. We measure the building envelope performance with a blower door (also known as an infiltrometer).  This pressurizes the building, and measures how much the structure leaks through the various cracks and gaps that exist—most of which are not visible.  We can use a smoke generator to see where there are air currents that reveal leakage, or an infrared camera to see where air leakage causes temperature differentials. After the work is done, we measure the leakage again to document the improvement.

We also measure the leakage in the heating/air conditioning system in a similar fashion, pressurizing it to measure the leakage and then possibly blowing smoke into the system to see where it leaks.  We also record the age, capacity and condition of the system.  In some cases, we may measure the amount of air coming from each of the supply registers and going back into the return, to see how balanced the system is overall.  We may further evaluate the system by measuring temperature stratification throughout the house and/or calculating the heating/cooling requirements of each room, to help us better understand the system performance and its deficiencies. Comfort issues often result from problems with the heating/air conditioning system installation.

Comfort issues also result from insulation deficiencies. Poor installation of insulation in walls and attics can cause drafts that make rooms uncomfortable, and/or make rooms colder or hoter than the rest of the house.

Lighting the interior rooms as well as the exterior consumes significant electricity. Many people are not aware of how much electricity they are using.  Simple measures like replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents can save energy—but you can save even more by replacing them with LEDs, which are now coming down enough in cost to be an option.  Installing timers and motion-activated switches can help too.

The various electric appliances in the home, such as refrigerators, washers and dryers, vent fans, some stoves and ovens, TVs, etc., consume a lot of electricity, especially if they are older.  You may be surprised to find that replacing some of these will pay for themselves—and you'll have the pleasure of new appliances.

Swimming pool/spa circulation pumps are real electricity hogs.  We evaluate that usage, and can usually reduce it quite a bit.

We'll also look at the windows.  Many older windows cause higher energy use because they may leak air. Also, their glass is likely to transmit heat into the house in the summer to increase the air conditioning load, and allow heat to escape at night and in the winter to increase the heating load.  These conditions can also cause drafts and comfort issues.  Replacing windows usually does not give a lot of bang for the buck, but may be desirable for aesthetic reasons.  In some cases, weather stripping may be the most cost-effective solution.

We also look at the doors, since they are subject to the same air leakage as windows, and some heat/cold transmission.  Installed weather stripping (if present) may be worn and not functioning well.

Not too long ago, houses were built without insulation.  Today's standards require insulation in walls, floors, and attics.  Older insulation (especially the insulation in in attics) may be failing due to settlement, displacement or compaction from workers, or it may be contaminated by animals.  Even newer houses may have defective insulation installations, because if insulation is not 100% properly installed, it can loose much of its effectiveness. Adding attic insulation (after sealing the building shell) is one of the most cost-effective energy upgrades.

Water usage in Los Angeles consumes a large amount of energy (about 25% of the state's total energy usage).  Cutting down on water usage can be painless but yield substantial benefits, both financial and spiritual.  We evaluate the opportunities to reduce water usage overall, as well as hot water usage.

We check combustion appliances—furnaces, water heaters, stoves, cooktops, ovens—to make sure they are operating safely, both before and after the upgrade work.  Proper ventilation for these appliances is essential, and we make sure that when the building envelope is tightened, adequate ventilation is still available.

In this way, we identify upgrades that can lower utility bills, ensure uniform temperatures throughout the house, result in fewer drafts, provide enhanced ventilation, and give better temperature and humidity control, while maintaining or improving related safety issues.  We prepare a comprehensive proposal detailing these specific remedies and their costs, and can implement it for you—making sure it is done right.

Our professional society membership requires that we submit information on each job we do, and the group does spot audits on our work to make sure our work is of high quality.

Money Saving Tip:

Tune up your heating and air conditioning system.
Regular maintenance can lower your operating costs and
extend the service life of your equipment. And do you
change your air filters regularly? Use a programmable
thermostat? Taking small steps such as these can
make your wallet as well as your home greener.
Get Tax Credits Now

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