Evaluating, Air Sealing, & Reinsulating a Home with The Build Show

IDI Teams Up With The Build Show’s Matt Risinger For A 5-Part Video Series

When you get a call about adding more insulation, do you run out and give a bid, or do you grab your testing equipment and evaluate the home? Which one gives better results? Better yet…Which of these makes you more money? That is exactly what we are doing in the new IDI video series filmed on location with Matt Risinger and The Build Show.

If a home has a comfort issue, shouldn’t we try to find the problem?

Here’s a fun fact: The Department Of Energy found that when a homeowner is shown infrared pictures of a problem, they are five times more likely to take action and have you fix it. That’s right, it makes the job bigger and more expensive, and… they are FIVE times more likely to do it. Talk about a closing ratio booster that has nothing to do with price! Using a blower door and infrared camera will boldly highlight problem areas. We all know comfort is king. But, I would add to that; every queen wants to be comfortable in her castle. Once a homeowner sees hard evidence of the problem, they normally want it fixed.

While discomfort gets them to call, a lack of attic insulation may not be the real culprit. In order of magnitude, air sealing is and always will be first in terms of comfort and performance. The DOE, and others, have tried to estimate energy loss based on air leakage rates, but every building is different. The most cited references say that up to 42% of energy loss is due to air leakage or infiltration (buildings.com, buildingscience.com).

Why you should be testing

One of my favorite lines has always been, “if you’re not testing, you’re guessing”. Mostly because it is true. You can’t actually fix something unless you know what is wrong with it. Homes are much the same. More importantly, what pays more, an air sealing job that requires adding baffles and reinsulating, or just adding a few bags of insulation?

When homeowners are having comfort issues, they want to spend as little time, and money, as humanly possible to make the problem go away. But think about a checkup at the dentist. You go in just wanting a cleaning, but instead, they force you to chomp down on those plastic X-ray gum destruction devices and dig around with sharp objects. They need to know if something is really wrong. When they do find something, normally you get it fixed.

Evaluating a home with Matt Risinger and The Build Show

Getting to work on The Build Show was a great opportunity and allowed IDI to create a 5-part video series on evaluating, air sealing, and reinsulating a home. Matt provided a great house to do the series, so the videos cover a lot of fundamentals. The first three videos are here and the other two will be soon to follow. These will be great tools to train your crew and your sales team. Part I to the series features setting up the blower door and getting ready to test. Part II focuses on using infrared and the blower door to find the air leaks and missing. Part III provides tips and tricks on the removal process and keeping your vacuum in good working order.

Step one is to test the house. Once you have discovered how much and where the air leakage is, and uncovered any missing insulation, it’s time to evaluate the attic. Be sure to check the perimeter of the attic. Look for thin or bare spots along the edge. This is called wind washing of the insulation. Many older homes were insulated without vent chutes at the soffits which can allow wind to blow the insulation out of place creating uninsulated areas. Most newer homes have baffles, but only over the soffit vent itself. The problem with this is that when the wind blows around these lone vents, it often pushes the insulation away from the cavities on each side.

Why is this a big deal?

Missing insulation, even just having an unsealed and uninsulated attic hatch, have a major impact on the R-Value of the ceiling plane. So much so, that online calculators were created years ago to demonstrate the problem.

As an example: A homeowner has an attic insulated to R-38. If they have 1000 ft² attic and only 70 ft² of it has had the insulation blown away from the edge, that means they have 930 ft² at R-38, and 70 ft² at R-1 (the sheetrock gets an R-1). Put that into your handy calculator, and you’ll find that the R-38 attic is now R-11. Talk about an energy penalty!

When you need to explain issues like wind washing to a homeowner, take pictures of the problem and then take them to the RED website and show them what is happening. You’ll need to use a parallel path R-Value calculator to demonstrate the effects of uninsulated areas on a structure.

Taking all of this into account, visually demonstrating to a homeowner that they have a problem motivates them to fix it. It also makes better buildings, better contracts, and better referrals. So, on the next house you get called on, go the extra step.

Be sure to watch for next month’s follow-up blog and the last two videos in our 5-part video series. Our goal is that these videos and trainings help your company grow more profitably. For more information on the tools or products in these videos, or on our trainings, reach out to your local IDI branch or any of us at IDI, where we look forward to earning your business every day.

Learn more from Matt and The Build Show on his YouTube channel.


Written by Ken Allison, Business Development and Building Science Consultant at IDI Distributors.
Learn more about energy-efficient insulation and tips for closing the sale when you attend one of our regional training events for applicators and contractors.