ENERGY AUDIT SAFETY
Before undertaking any audits, you should become familiar with the elements involved in protecting your personal safety while on the job. The following guidelines should be followed to prevent both minor and major injuries that could occur while auditing a building. Above all, use common sense and caution in dealing with potential problems, during an audit, you may find yourself checking areas of a home that are used infrequently. The range of potential dangers will vary in the likelihood of their occurrence according to the type of home visited and the area in which it is located.
While conducting an energy audit, you should make the resident aware of the audit procedure and what it involves. They can often be helpful in warning you in advance about hazards such as low hanging pipes in the basement or risky steps in the stairs.
It is of particular importance that you do not damage anything while in or around the building like plants, collectibles, musical instruments etc. Before doing anything such as moving furniture or changing thermostat settings, ask for consent of the resident.
The safety of the homeowner or building occupant is most important. There is nothing you can do to guarantee that residents will be safe in following your suggestions, but you can make them aware of the potential hazards in certain energy conserving improvements as follows:
-Reducing the exchange rate of inside-outside air through caulking/weather-stripping insulation improvements may increase concentrations of existing pollutants in a home. Under certain conditions, this could have adverse effects on the building occupants.
-Residents should be urged to buy only those insulating materials that are in compliance with DOE safety standards. The flammability of exposed polystyrene, polyurethane, and polyisocyanurate insulation is critical. A finish material with an improved fire rating of not less than 15 minutes when tested according to ASTM must be placed between the board insulation and the interior of the home. A one-half inch thick layer of gypsum board is often recommended.
-Insulation must be kept a proper distance from the exhaust vents of furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, and other heat producing devices in order to prevent a potential fire hazard.
-Some unconditioned areas are warmed by heat, escaping from conditioned areas. When insulation is added between them, these unconditioned areas will be exposed to lower temperature sin winter. The amount of heat escaping from conditioned areas to unconditioned basements, rooms, or attics is significantly reduced by the insulation. Therefore pipes located in such unconditioned areas should also be insulated, in order to prevent freezing.
-Insulation installed on free-standing gas-fired water heaters with out a vent damper should not cover the draft hood or the pilot light air intake opening. Insulation on oil-fired water heaters should allow for proper clearance around the oil burner and the draft regulator. Improper installation of insulation on these water haters could interfere with the air/fuel mixtures needed to support combustion. In addition, ventilation of exhaust gases to the outside could be affected, leading to serious complications for building occupants.
-Vent dampers installed in vent pipes to control the exchange of furnace room air with the outdoors, should not be installed by uncertified individuals. A malfunctioning vent damper could prevent adequate ventilation of exhaust gases from a furnace or hot water heater to the outside. Vent dampers should bear the approval of a recognized national testing laboratory, and should be installed only by an experienced, certified technician. These devices should be inspected regularly.