Better Building Institute

A non-profit organization created to help homeowners:

(1) Save money by improving home performance, safety and energy efficiency with audits and consulting.

(2) Build indestructible, zero-energy new homes.

(3) End our dependence on fossil fuels, stopping climate change.


Energy-use breakdown of the typical Saint Louis-area home

Energy Audits in the St Louis Area   

   No matter what you're planning to do to your home - add new windows, doors, furnace, air conditioner, insulation, solar panels, even paint - you owe it to yourself to get an energy audit first. If you don't, you may be wasting money on improvements you don't really need, doing the same thing twice, or even making your home's safety, comfort and efficiency worse than before!

   The cost of a BBI energy audit is small compared to the money you'll save every year for as long as you own your house, just by following our suggestions. Listed below are the most important steps of an energy audit.  Just Remember:

You can't fix what you don't know,

And the cheapest, safest and cleanest energy is the kind you never use!

Step #1:  Thermal Imaging Scan

Using an infrared camera, a picture is taken of the cold and hot areas of the home's exterior, indicating air-sealing or insulation deficiencies.

One-half of this duplex has had weatherization work done;

the other half hasn't.  Can you tell which is which?

(Hint: Bright colors are warmer than darker ones,

and the outside temperature is 20 degrees)

Step #2:  Home Safety Inspection

Next, a search is made for gas and carbon monoxide leaks.  If any are found, the whole audit is shut down until the utility company gives the all clear. Electrical, plumbing and building integrity are also checked during the remainder of the audit, as well as the presence of Radon gas for a small additional fee.

This house and the one next to it were leveled

by an explosion caused by a detectable gas leak.

Step #3:  The Blower Door Test for Air-Tightness

A blower door is set up in the front door frame to measure the amount of air pulled out of the house by its fan. This is equal to the replacement air coming in through all the leaks. At the start of the test, all inner doors should remain open; outer doors, windows and fireplace flues are closed, and ventilation, exhaust and HVAC fans are turned off.

Step #4:  Finding & Fixing those Leaks in the Building Envelope

While the blower door fan is running, the air leaks are found by the auditor and owner working together, with suggestions on how to seal them yourself - have a notepad handy.  Typical problems are the basement rim joist and ceiling and wall fixtures, usually shown in the thermal images.  Attic and other insulation is also checked, as well as the condition of the roof.

A cold attic in the winter is actually a good thing.

If it's warm then you either don't have enough

insulation or there's an air leak in the floor, or both.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

Step #5:  Air Sealing & Insulating

For professional help, a list of trusted contractors is provided, along with recommendations on where, what and how much air sealing and insulation is needed.  BBI can be present during the procedure at a discounted rate, or afterwards to re-audit the results.  Remember, BBI works for you, not any contractor!

This is spray foam, which you CAN apply yourself, but it's NOT recommended.

Toxic to the skin and lungs , it can also be applied improperly,

causing damage to the home.

A Note about Working with Contractors:

Whether it's someone from our list or your own choice, Buyer Beware!  Most contractors are professional and honest, but don't take any chances. Never pay anything up front, always request a free, written estimate, and don't leave strangers alone in your house, at least for the first time they're there (Another reason to have us there to monitor their work if you can't be).