Gulf Power Residential Energy consultant Chris Vick performs a blower door rating test at a home in the Rivercamps subdivision in Panama City Beach.

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Florida – Anyone who lives in Florida knows that during the hot summer months open doors or windows let out precious cool air that your air-conditioning unit has worked to create. It’s the same for air leaks around the home — big or small — that can let conditioned air leak out or unconditioned air leak into your home.

To help control air leaks in new homes, Florida is mandating a change in the state’s building code that will require a blower door test on new single-home construction beginning July 1 to make sure the home is more energy efficient.

“Gulf Power has been conducting blower door tests for many years as part of our EarthCents Home program,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “A leak-free home is more energy efficient. The test can show where unwanted air, or infiltration, is coming into the house so it can be sealed, making your home more comfortable and keeping money in your pocket.”

According to DelaHaya, the test takes about 30 minutes to complete from setup to finish, and depending on the size of the home. Exterior doors and windows are closed, interior doors are open with the air conditioning system turned off and filter removed. The blower door de-pressurizes a home, exaggerating the home’s air leaks, and making leaks easier to measure and locate.

“Basically, we are sucking all the air out of the house,” added DelaHaya. “The test measures the airtightness of a building by changing the building’s pressure with respect to the outdoors and recording the amount of air flow required for that change. The greater the air flow required to change the difference between the inside and outside pressure, the greater the total size of the cracks and holes.”

The new building code states that for a home to pass the test, the number of air changes must fall within a range of three to seven per hour. A test was recently conducted at a new home in the RiverCamps subdivision on Panama City Beach. It was tested at 2.2 changes, well below the new state requirements.

“This home falls well within the range,” said DelaHaya. “Had it not, the builder would have to go back and seal up any holes or cracks. But while less leakage is typically considered better, a home that is “too tight” can also cause poor indoor air quality.”

The test results pleased builder Richard Koehnemann, President of Koehnemann Construction, who has been working with Gulf Power for the last 20 years, building certified EarthCents homes. EarthCents home are more efficient than homes built to standard building codes, helping the homeowner save money and energy. An EarthCents new home has been tested using the national standard HERS (Home Energy Rating System) protocol, meaning the home will be substantially more efficient than a standard home.

“We’re excited to be working with Gulf Power,” said Koehnemann. “We built this home as a demonstration for what you can do to become more energy efficient, including spray foam in the attic. That alone saves at least 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. The blower door certification adds to the testament of how energy efficient this home is.”

Even though the test will be required for new residential homes built after July 1, DelaHaya said there are measures existing home owners can take to make their home more energy efficient.

“Simple things like increasing attic insulation and switching to hybrid water heater go a long way to decrease your energy consumption,” DelaHaya said. “Installing a programmable thermostat can save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs. So, there are many ways to help curb your costs.”

Visit Gulf Power’s website for more energy-saving tips or to learn more on EarthCents certified homes.