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What Is Home Performance?

August 25, 2013 | Posted by Mitt Jones
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Dancing_house_bw_260_Digi.jpgThis is a true story: Before we decided to close our home performance company, an aquaintance asked what I do for a living, and I explained that my wife and I owned a Home Performance company. The woman lit up. “Oh, that’s fascinating! What sort of performances do you do?” As it turns out, she was involved in theater and thought we give performances in homes.

Sometimes it felt like we were setting up for a performance with all the equipment we brought into a home, but that’s not what Home Performance is all about.

House As A System

The key idea behind Home Performance is that the house is a system—not a collection of disparate parts. In contrast to traditional HVAC contractors, windows contractors, remodelers, and even insulation contractors, a Home Performance contractor uses a house-as-a-system approach to diagnose, solve, and prevent problems.

Rumor has it that when people in our country have a comfort problem, they call an HVAC contractor. I know plenty of fine HVAC contractors, but most aren’t going to solve a comfort problem except when the furnace happens to be out of order or defective or is drastically undersized. Most HVAC contractors focus on the relatively straightfoward task of replacing the box—the furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner.

Similarly, we hear from a lot of homeowners who replaced their windows a year or two ago thinking that new windows would solve their comfort problems. Or sometimes they’ve had more insulation blown into the attic without anybody suggesting duct or air sealing first.  

The problem with any siloed approach is its lack of attention to the actual problem. Remember: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Your window, HVAC, or insulation contractor may be able to address part of the problem, but what they have is a hammer, and to them your job looks like a nail.

A Different Approach

A good home performance contractor will look at your home differently from the start.  A home performance contractor will find out what your goals are for your house and will then apply building science and a house-as-a-system approach to help you achieve them. Every change affects other aspects of the home’s performance. Part of the job of a home performance pro is to anticipate and plan around those changes.

I've talked to a lot of homeowners who complained that their house feels drafty in winter. Most of the time neither new windows nor a new furnace is going to help much, though both may save significant energy. The solution usually requires air sealing and insulation, though exactly where depends on the house.

Sometimes people are most concerned about certain rooms being too hot or too cold. An experienced home performance pro will consider what makes that space gain or lose heat faster than others and what can be done about it, and he or she will have a bag full of tools, including air sealing, duct sealing, insulation, heating and cooling, windows, ventilation, and more.

Home performance contractors also focus on combustion safety—on making sure that your furnace and water heater aren’t spilling potentially hazardous combustion gases into your house. One of the core requirements of home performance is that your house is tested not only before changes are made but also afterwards, to make sure that the improvements made to your house don’t cause problems such as too little ventilation.

Home Performance Solutions

The home performance industry is set up to identify and solve problems—not to sell a particular solution that may or may not be the best fit for a given house. The best home performance companies always strive to give customers the most accurate information about what will help and what won’t. 

Ready to get started?

Call Sensible Energy Solutions at 503-928-5825 or fill out an online request form.

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