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How to Improve Your Home's Energy Efficiency: An Interview with Dwayne Borkholder of Borkholder Buildings & Supply, LLC

By Dwayne Borkholder

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are a design and supply company that designs wood structures and then supplies the materials package to an authorized Borkholder Building or New Energy Home dealer. At this point, the dealer has sold the building or home and will then construct the new structure. We offer a quick pricing program, design and engineering service, submittals to state agencies, and marketing assistance for their business related to the two categories.

Can you briefly explain what a home with ideal energy efficiency is like?

The ideal home would be a home that has very little or no energy consumption, and therefore has virtually no impact to the environment or to the owners ongoing budget. It will have addressed all 3 forms of heat transfer ? conduction (R-value), radiation and convection. It will have a very comfortable environment due to stable temperatures created by the right combination of materials used.

What are some steps that a homeowner can take to "diagnose" their current energy use and conditions?

The obvious signs are the amount of dollars that are paid per month to heat and cool their current structures, how quickly the temperatures swing so as to activate the HVAC, and whether there are hot and cold spots throughout the house. Using a thermal camera is very useful to identify the problem areas, since you typically can't see what the cause is for many of the previously listed issues.

What are some of the most common energy-related issues that you've seen in Illinois homes?

A typical problem with many homes being built today, and not just in IL, is that there is a dependence on using the old way of building. We need to think through better and more energy efficient techniques that will create a structure with more value without additional cost. Another common mistake is a dependence on solely what the R-value of a product is and not on the composite structure of the entire wall or roof structure, which ignores some very significant energy losses that can occur through the natural migration of energy.

Are there any simple fixes that people can use to start saving money on their utility bills? What are the more long-term fixes that a professional contractor can help them with?

There are a few simple and inexpensive things that can be done immediately; such as removing trim around windows and doors and foaming the cavities if air flow can be detected, wrapping hot water pipes and heat ducts if in unconditioned spaces, and weatherizing and protecting your entry doors. Using a thermal camera will identify many of the problem areas, whether that means hiring someone that offers that service or purchasing a camera yourself if this is a long term trek. It can then be used after the fix is done to determine whether it was effective or not. There are a few other solutions to preventing the radiant heat migration through the roof or the sidewalls that are not very expensive, but will typically require a contractor to do the work. As roofs are replaced and exterior surfaces are changed, real change is seen. Think through the alternate options of the "cool roof" paint systems, thermal barriers on the wall surfaces, changing windows, HVAC changes, and integrating solar systems into the equation.

What is home performance contracting and can you talk about some of the typical results homeowners can see with this?

Home performance Contracting is a company who will come into your home and through a series of tests and a thermal camera, will identify most of the problem areas. Through their audit, the homeowner will be able to see how severe the problem is and discuss some possible solutions. They will be able to obtain references to contractors who specialize in those areas. It is often an excellent place to start if you know there is a problem but have no clue where to begin.

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