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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Lessons From a Home Energy Makeover
First you have to find the air leaks in your home

“Last month I told you we’d be learning from the Arkansas electric co-ops home energy makeover contest. The winners were Carroll and Sue Luten in Donaldson, Ark. The Lutens, who are members of South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative, were chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants to receive an energy efficiency makeover of their home. It seems to be a perfect choice — a perfect family and a perfect house for the intended purpose. Bret Curry, the Residential Energy Marketing Manager for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, had these words to say about the family.

“Carroll and Sue Luten are so excited to have won this makeover,” Curry said. “And they are so deserving. They are retired and living on a fixed income in a home that, like many others in our state, has serious energy problems. With this makeover, they can save money on their electric bills while having a far more comfortable home.”

As deserving as the Lutens are, there are many other families in need, too. I have already told Bret thanks for not having me on the committee that selected the home. But even though only one home could be chosen, the project is designed to have a far broader impact. Through the makeover, the cooperatives plan to not only make one house more energy efficient, but to also teach all of the cooperative members how to improve their own homes. That is why I think it is the perfect house. This house is much like thousands of other houses. It has energy problems, but most can be fixed fairly easily by buying some materials and using a lot of elbow grease.

To determine what energy improvements were needed, we first tested the house using a blower door test and infrared scanner. The blower door test is used to simulate the house air infiltration as it would be if the wind was blowing about 20 mph on all exterior surfaces of the house at one time, which we know never happens. The fan in the door is simply trying to remove all of the air out of the house. The instruments on the door measure the amount of air going out of the house, which means that the same amount of air is coming into the house. As you may have read in this column, that process is often called house breathing. We call it air infiltration or better yet, LEAKS.

Using a computer program, we then calculated the natural air changes per hour (nach/hr). This more accurately reflects the true air infiltration of the house. The Lutens’ house had a rate of 1.8 nach/hr of air infiltration. For the purpose of teaching, let’s round it off to 2 nach/hr. This means that all the air in this house changes twice every hour or once every 30 minutes. Are you beginning to understand why the Lutens could not afford to adequately cool or heat their home? And so many others across our state have similar situations.

With the blower door test and the infrared scanner, we were able to determine where the air leaks were and working quickly, began to seal those leaks. Once the sealing is completed, using lots of foam and caulk, additional insulation will be installed, along with other improvements. Next month, we will talk in depth about those improvements so that you, too, can learn and get some tips that will help give your house an energy efficiency makeover … even if it’s just one improvement at a time.

More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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