Problem Solving

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Article summary

Home performance contracting involves identifying construction defects in homes that compromise comfort, building durability, indoor air quality and energy efficiency and then making repairs in order to solve problems Rarely do we find a home that doesn’t have issues. To diagnose and resolve problems we rely on basic building science principles, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment along with our experience in repairing homes and getting feedback from our customers. At Advantage Home Performance we have a long track record of successfully helping our customers improve comfort, lower energy bills, reduce dust accumulation, mitigate radon and prevent mold, eliminate condensation and implement noise reduction strategies.

The cause of problems: construction defects

Construction defects that negatively impact comfort, efficiency and indoor air quality are more common than you think. For decades the majority of new homes were constructed with HVAC systems that were poorly designed and installed, mediocre air distribution systems, missing and poorly installed insulation as well as variety of other less obvious issues. A builder’s focus on lowest bid price has often been at the expense of quality. Building inspectors, superintendents and builders were not paying attention to the HVAC systems, insulation, air barriers, moisture control systems … that when neglected create a host of common complaints.

Common problems

Construction defects lead to a variety of problems. This is a list of the common problems we are routinely called on to investigate and repair.

  • High utility bills
  • Uncomfortable rooms
  • Uneven temperatures throughout the home
  • High level of allergens
  • Heavy dust accumulation
  • Noisy HVAC system
  • Condensation on windows
  • A wet crawl space
  • Rotting rim joists
  • Elevated radon level

The magnitude of the construction defect often determines how much of an impact we can have on improving the indoor environment. The bigger the problem we find, the bigger the impact we can make on improving your home.

Tunnel vision and contractors

The majority of contractors suffer from tunnel vision. Most contractors only know what they sell. You have heard the old adage, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” They don’t understand the basic physics of heat flow, air flow and moisture flow, so they can’t connect the dots. Ask an HVAC contractor, insulation contractor and a window sales person the best way to improve the comfort of your home you most likely will get three different answers. Each subcontractor or trade offers the solution they sell, regardless if it actually addresses the actual problem in a home. There is a rush to judgement and to make a sale without first accurately determining the cause of the problem.

Often it is a combination of factors creating a problem in a room or a house. For example, an uncomfortable bedroom might be a result of too much heat loss or heat gain due to missing insulation in the attic. A disconnected duct, duct leakage or an undersized duct could also be the culprit. It could also be that a chase (framed cavity) in the attic that is adjacent to the bedroom is not capped and air sealed, so attic air now migrates into interior walls. It may be the lack of solar control on east or west facing windows. Your salesman, estimator or auditor must be able to think beyond the narrow confines of one trade in order to correctly diagnose home performance problems.

The whole home approach to solving problems

At Advantage Home Performance we understand that the comfort and efficiency level of your home is determined by the interaction between the mechanical system, air distribution system, insulation, air barrier, solar control, etc. The comfort, efficiency and indoor air quality are all dependent on how these systems work together. This is why we examine your whole home before we recommend a strategy to solve a problem.

After our inspection our goal is to provide you with a quote and a realistic expectation of how much difference we can make in reducing, eliminating or mitigating your home’s problem.

The benefits of problem solving

Repairing a comfort problems, will often improve energy efficiency and often indoor air quality. For example, the missing insulation over your living room not only compromises your comfort, but also increases your utility bill. Sealing up an air distribution system not only will reduce your utility bill, but it can also improve comfort, reduce dust accumulation and enhance indoor air quality.

Another benefit of our work often occurs when you sell your home. When we replace mechanical equipment, seal ducts and repair insulation a home inspector cannot call out these construction defects in their reports. Home inspectors are paid to find problems that then become the negotiating points for the buyer when you sell your home. What potential home buyer wouldn’t be glad to know that you the seller had invested in energy, comfort and indoor air quality improvements?

Budgets and decision making

Budgets play a big role in how much progress we can make in improving the indoor environment of a home. We realize there are a lot competing demands on household budgets, so our hope is to come up with a solution that provides the best improvement at the best price. Our goal is to set realistic expectations as to what we can accomplish in improving your home.

We pride ourselves on helping our customers make good decisions within the context of their budgets. For example, we tell customers that installing an R- 49 insulation is not going to save that much energy over an R-38. We sometimes council our HVAC replacement customers who are on a budget that they might be actually better off investing in single-stage HVAC equipment, versus two stage or modulating equipment, and combining it with an insulation, air barrier and duct sealing package. A single stage unit with envelope upgrades may actually be the ultimate ticket to enhanced comfort and efficiency at the right price.

We also realize that the best solution is sometimes simply out of reach financially. For example switching the blown attic insulation in your home to unvented attic with cathedralized foam insulation and putting a new AC system is very expensive. This might be the ideal way to reduce dust, reduce noise, improve efficiency and comfort and yet the price may be out of reach, so we do our best to work with our customers and come up with alternative solutions to mitigate problems.

Setting realistic expectations in existing homes

We want our customers to have realistic expectations in terms of what we can accomplish in their homes. Our goal is to reduce duct leakage, air leakage, radon, noise, dust to levels to levels where they are not a nuisance or within national standards. It is impossible to eliminate radon or dust, but we can reduce these to levels which would be considered normal and not offensive to most people. Our bids reflect this reality.

Delivering Results

Our goal is not to perform any work on your home without having a high degree of confidence that our proposed solutions will have a beneficial impact. Everyone loses if we set out to mitigate a problem and we don’t produce the intended results. We have cultivated valuable insights into problem solving over the years by correctly diagnosing problems and delivering repairs that make a big difference in our customer’s homes.

The value of in-house crews for repairs

Advantage Home Performance is a single source provider for most home performance contracting services. Our in-house crews provide the following services: audits, heating and air conditioning, air barrier work, insulation, spray foam and indoor air quality solutions. We don’t subcontract out the audits or the repairs because our crews know our standards. We genuinely believe this single vendor approach gets the best possible results. It is also convenient. Our customers deal with one company, one job coordinator and one company culture.

Fee for service: radon, dust and moisture

We charge a diagnostic fee to inspect homes for elevated radon levels, moisture problems and houses with heavy dust accumulation. The way to produce results is to thoroughly understand the problem before repairs start. The reason we charge this fee in order to slow down our inspectors. We need to do a complete a thorough assessment in order to understand your home. We charge a fee ranging from $200 to $400 for inspections regarding radon, dust and moisture. The fee is based on the size of the house and the number of mechanical systems in the home.

Why Advantage Home Performance

At the heart of quality home performance contracting is the culture and core values of a company. Is there the commitment to getting it right? We know most consumers don’t inspect our work after we complete it. At Advantage Home Performance we have an intense resolve to perform the best work in our industry. Please take a moment and watch the short video titled “Our Customers Say it Best” on hour home page.

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