If Your Not Testing, Your Just Guessing!
I met with a homeowner earlier this fall who told me that due to Covid, an insulation contractor she spoke to said they would simply drive by her house and then get her an estimate for the work they thought she needed. Needless to say she was less than impressed with that level of customer service.
This homeowner had reached out to insulation contractors because she had concerns about smoke smell getting into her townhouse due to the neighbor smoking on the patio next door. This was a problem that was negatively impacting her quality of life. After speaking with her about the issue I ran a blower door test with thermal imaging. This testing revealed that she had air infiltration coming through band joists and electrical outlets low on the second floor. The use of the blower door test, along with pressure pan testing made it quite obvious that the air leakage she had, which would bring the smoke smell into the home was entering at an exterior wall and not at the common wall between the units.
It turned out that the smoke was most likely getting into a vented soffit that was over the front of her garage and was getting pulled in through the second floor band joists due to air leakage into the attic caused by stack effect. This could likely be remedied by either air sealing the attic or by simply sealing the areas where the air was coming through the band joist and getting into the home around the trim at the windows and at the floor.
Not only were we able to determine where the air leakage is coming from we were also able to eliminate areas where it was not coming in. These basic testing procedures, along with many of the more advanced tests that we use on occasion can be a very precise and almost surgical way to determine what the issues with a homes performance are.
While she did have a need for air sealing and insulation in the attic, her main concern was the smoke smell getting into her unit. My testing revealed that she had air infiltration in some areas that she could remedy herself as she was somewhat of a do it yourselfer.
With even the most basic of infrared scans I can see the condition of the whole attic from below and determine insulation levels, thin spots and other deficiencies all of which a homeowner can see themselves. Many of these things would not even be visible or apparent by simply looking in the attic access hatch
While many of our competitors do a good job and take their work seriously there's an astounding number of insulation contractors who do not even have the most basic of tools, or knowledge of building science that are needed to accurately solve very common home performance problems. They are willing to make recommendations and have you spend your hard earned money based on the use of only a ladder and a flashlight.
If you are getting an estimate for home performance work to solve an issue that has a negative effect on your lifestyle, make sure that your contractor is making his recommendations based on sound building science principles and through the use of proper testing. One easy way to tell if an insulation salesperson is qualified is to ask if they can do a blower door test for you. If they say they do not have the equipment with them, or they do not know how to do one then you know that they are simply a salesperson rather than a home performance professional.
Oh, one more thing. Make sure they are willing to actually get out of the truck!