Blower Door Test 0.5ACH50

Friday after the insulation was complete Ken did a blower door test.  It’s taken me 2 years of research to get to under stand what XX ACH50 means, and what tight mean for a house.  For those who are just learning I’ll try to explain.

You start by closing the house up tight, windows & door closed, plumbing vents, sump vents and so on are taped shut.  A box with a fan is mounted in the front door.  See photos.103 Blower Door Test (4) 103 Blower Door Test (2)

The fan is run to depressurize  the house to 50 Pascal’s. The fan is controlled by a device that measures the difference in pressure of the outside to the inside of the house.  It was having trouble holding on the 50 Pascal’s,  note the black disks in the holes around the fan.  Ken had to add a couple more to get the fan to settle down.  My guess that is because the house is so tight.

There are many articles online about house tightness and blower door testing.  As a reference for you,  the 2015 Code will require all house to achieve a “3 ACH50” .  That’s 3 full house Air Changes per Hour at 50 Pascal’s of depressurization.  NJ has adapted the 2015 code effective March 2016,  but not the 3 ACH50 requirement.  Pulte the 4 largest builder in the US has announced they will build a High performance model in CA this spring with a 3.5 ACH50 target.  It is the future, but the future isn’t here in a big scale yet.

Our reading Friday was an 0.5 ACH50.  I think that is about as tight as a house can get. That means the fan can only suck half the full volume of the air of the house in an hour. Here is the gage.  It shows at    -50.1 Pascals the fan is sucking out 401 CFM, the full house volume is 46,251 CF. All I can say is success.  That’s 600% better than code.    ( and one builder told me I’m reading to much)   🙂

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Insulation Complete

On Friday the insulation installation was complete.   WOW that’s a hole lot of insulation.   Well insulation is key to the performance of a high performance house. It both help seal and does the insulation.  Ken packed in extra tight the cellulous into the corners and areas we suspected leaks.  Packing the cellulous tight lowers the R-Value a little but resists leaks .   Here are some phots of the house with the insulation done. Remember the cavity between the back of the sheathing and the drywall is 10″ .   The house really holds it temperature.


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Porch Roof

A quite week.  The insulators had other work scheduled but got in a couple hours to clean up Monday, they are coming back Friday to finish the insulation installing. And do a prelim blower door test

Got through the Framing Township inspection.  Had a major error, a beam was 3′ out of place. That’s all fixed and when the insulation inspection is complete it’s drywall time.

I’ve been cleaning window seals in prep for the NJ Zero Energy Ready Homes program official blower door test.  We noticed a number of the exterior window seals were knocked out of their track. And I noticed there was lots of building debris on the seals.

Last week the roofers did the cooper roof.  See photos below:


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Finding air leaks

Build Tight –  Ventilate  Right

One of the most important thing in building a Energy Efficient house is building it Tight”. The tightness of a house in measured in Air Changes Per Hour.  This measurement is done by depressurizing house to 50 Pascal’s.  A Pascal is a measurement of vacuum, it used to me measured in inches of water in a column.    It is accomplished by putting a big fan in the doorway and sucking the air out of the house until you get to 50 Pascal’s then measuring the CFM of the air leaving the house..

The 2015 building code calls for 3.0 ACH50 to give you a reference point.  We test our house at 1.0 ACH50 last week after the closed cell foam was sprayed.  I was hopping for less, maybe a 0.5 ACH50 or lower, but as I said in another posting my design with the roof angles and changes didn’t help.

I think we are at 99% sealed at 1.0 AC50,  but I’d like to get to 100%  I asked a few people for tips on finding the leaks.  The best suggestion was to warm the house to apx. 20 degrees above the outside temp. displeasure the house to 5 Pascal’s and using a thermal imaging camera to see the cold air leaking in. Using the torpedo heater I was running up the temp waiting for Ken to come.   I got the idea to use my laser thermometer   see if I could see a temp different any where that may show up where the leak was.   It worked.  Where we suspected the leaks were I saw a 3 to 5 degree difference is wall temps with in a foot circle. In other words, the wall temp was 65 and moving just 6 to 12 inches it would drop to 60 to 62.  The only place this happened is where we suspected a leak was, no where else.  Ken had a plan to fix the leaks so I just told him to proceed.

We will do another blower door test when Ken completes the cellulous installation.


Just a couple photos of the outside painting done. Well almost done, I’ll get the bilco door painted this week.  These photos show the brown trim, the white porch columns and beams.  Plus the cooper porch is almost done.99 Painting done (2) 99 Painting done 3 99 Painting Done


Most people have never seen windows like these.  European style, tipple pain, argon gas filled,  no thermal bridging,  R-8 for the opening windows. German Passive House certified.    KlearWall windows, the North American branch of Munster Joinery and are made in Ireland.    Here is a thermal image of the windows performance. Out side air temp 15 and inside temp 65.


How they work:   First the handle, when down the window is locked. Then, when at 90 degrees the top tilts in for ventilation.  Lets air in but keeps the rain out.  Also secure enough to leave open while your gone.

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In the up position the window swings in.  Wide open.  The Europeans say they only do this for cleaning.   A friend in a passive house says the same thing. He says the tilt opening is more than enough ventilation.

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Note the latching mechanism.  The windows latch in 4 different location to ensure an air tight seal.

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Finishing up the Exterior

The siding is about done, they just finished up the porch columns, and the porch roof.  On Saturday the painters started the exterior trim. First getting the dormer windows done so the roofers can finish the porch roof. They got a coat of paint on the columns and big family room windows.  It rained Sunday and today so no more painting till tomorrow, or the next day.

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Blower Door Test

Once the closed cell foam was applied the house should be tight, so we could do a blower door test.

The front door is blocked and a fan in installed.  The fan sucks the air out of the house to a difference the house pressure at negative 50 Pascal. Pascal is a measure of pressure.   A typical existing home might leak at the rate of 15 air changes per hour at 50 pascal.   Our test It came out 780 CFM at 50 Pascal or 1.0 ACH50. That’s 1 air change an hour at a negative 50 Pascal.  That’s tight, but……I was hopping to get it lower, a 0.5.

To achieve a Passive House rating 0.7 ACH50 is the target.   I’m not shooting for a Passive House certificate but I’d like to get to a 0.5 ACH50.  But most Passive Houses are box on box construction. My house is far from a box on box.   In going over the house it was easy to see how all the roof lines make it extra hard to seal the house as if it were a box on box.

Finding leaks is more art than science. The fan is reversed, pressuring the house. We then look at likely places for leaks hold a smoke wand in the area looking at how the smoke behaves.  We found some small ones but no big holes.  We are going to do some research and give it another try before the cellulous is installed.