MURRAY — The two men are at the home of Jeremiah and Belinda Johnson, where a red "blower door" has sealed the entrance to the Murray residence and a large round fan is whirling furiously.
Inside, Dave Parduhn has a hand-held infrared camera he is pointing at a corner where two walls intersect.
It doesn't look good, nope, not at all.
Where it should be red — to demonstrate heat — a raging strip of blue begins at the ceiling and travels to the floor.
The camera's image of blue represents cold air, and on this already chilly December day, it has invaded the Johnsons' domain.
"I don't know if this is cool or depressing," Belinda Johnson says, staring in wonder as Parduhn and energy analyst Courtney Christiansen systematically, room by room, reveal the home's energy-efficiency vulnerabilities.
There, above the door leading to an enclosed patio sporting weight-lifting equipment and a curious Siberian husky, Parduhn sprays a fine mist that is readily blown back to the interior of the home.
It's a draft, and the air is cold.
"This is an easy fix," Christiansen tells the couple. "Some caulking and weather stripping will take care of that."
The Johnsons have lived in this home built in 1952 for three years. Beautifully maintained with crown moulding and shiny hardwood floors, the home nevertheless has rooms that never quite get warm enough in the winter and don't cool down in the summer.
They decided to spring for an "energy audit," tapping the services of Parduhn's Pro Energy Consultants, the country's largest energy conservation auditing company with franchise locations coast to coast.
Parduhn bought the Utah franchise about a year ago and is a partner with the newly established Utah Home Performance Program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Coordinator Alex Scott said the program was launched in July with grant funding provided by the federal agency. Since then, 10 homes have gone through the entire process, with an audit first and retrofits later. Another 290 audits have been performed, he said.
This particular program offers incentives to Utahns who own homes constructed prior to 2000 and are looking to boost their home's energy efficiency by a minimum of 20 percent.
To qualify, the home first has to be subjected to an audit by a certified company like Parduhn's, which conducts a comprehensive analysis of the levels and condition of insulation, the volume of air leaking from home and entering the home, vulnerabilities in duct work, crawl space ventilation and a host of other factors that influence a home's energy efficiency.
The audit is offered at a subsidized cost of $100, but qualifying homes result in a reimbursement of that cost, as well as up to $2,000 or 50 percent of any subsequent upgrades to boost efficiency.
All homes, however, can have an energy audit, Parduhn said, which can also provide critical information in advance of the purchase of a home so prospective buyers can be forewarned.
People are concerned about saving money and being more energy efficient. "They want to know what to do, but they don't know where to start," Parduhn says. "These audits are basically an MRI of your house."
Parduhn does not sell windows, does not sell insulation, doesn't sell any product — just his services — which he says are straightforward analysis without any motivating agenda.
"If you have a windows guy show up at your house, he's going to tell you your problem is windows. If it is someone selling insulation, you're going to need insulation. Because we're not selling anything — it is what it is. We're not going to fluff it."
Parduhn says many of the ways to improve the energy "health" of a home are simple, but homeowners desperate to shave monthly utility bills often shell out wads of money needlessly.
"You wouldn't have surgery before getting the results back from the medical tests," Parduhn says, but that analogy often applies to homeowners trying to tackle a home's energy flaws.
In one example Parduhn cited, the owners of a large, above-the-garage room sank $10,000 into upgrades, when one wall simply lacked insulation.
While most homes built today are constructed with energy efficiency in mind, Parduhn says it's not uncommon in older homes to find instances where there are insufficient amounts of insulation, or no insulation at all.
Builders seldom caulk door frames and attic access panels, Christiansen said, but they are the "biggest money pit" of all, serving as a free-for-all portal for outside air to enter the home.
Even the ceiling fan in the Johnsons' bedroom revealed an access point for exterior air, with its circular base rimmed in blue on Parduhn's camera.
Ideally, a home should have an average daily air-exchange rate of eight — meaning air enters and leaves the home that many times a day. Parduhn's blower fan depressurizes the house, measuring the actual air exchange rate. Anything above eight means there are holes — or places where air escapes or enters — that need to be plugged.
"We've seen homes where it has been as high as 30 times," Parduhn said, and their gas bills are "gi-normous."
The audit includes an analysis of monthly gas and electric bills going back for a year, which are then compared to homes of similar size, construction and number of occupants.
"It shows where you stand compared to your neighbors," Parduhn says.
Energy audits typically take three to four hours, with the results made available by the next day.
The company's Web site, www.proenergyconsultantsutah.com, offers ways to determine if an energy audit is needed, and also identifies key areas of a home where "holes" may be located.
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