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The benefits of high-performing home appliances, systems, and fixtures are always a treat, but too many homeowners don’t implement them until they encounter at least one unfortunate trick, like unexpected utility costs or glitching HVAC equipment. So how can you get the most upside out of your home’s performance while avoiding some of the most common — but still scary — problems? In the spooky spirit of Halloween, take a peek (if you dare!) at five home performance pitfalls that leave homeowners shrieking — and how you can get ahead of them today.

When Good Insulation Goes Bad

Improving the insulation in your attic is generally the best starting point for improving your home’s overall energy efficiency and resilience. But that’s only true if the installation process is handled properly. Otherwise, you just might be doing more harm than good.

What makes that prospect particularly scary? It depends on the type of insulation. For example, improperly installed spray foam insulation can off-gas, a process through which potentially harmful chemicals are released into the air in your home. According to the EPA, the chemical components of spray foam insulation can irritate your skin, lungs, and eyes and cause asthma or other respiratory irritation. Fiberglass insulation, if installed improperly, can come with similar issues. And there are approximately one million homes that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates still contain vermiculite insulation tinged with asbestos, a known carcinogen.

But the workaround to all this is simple: Don’t cut corners where home performance improvements are concerned in general — that’s a good rule of thumb in pretty much every scenario— and be especially careful in the case of attic insulation.

To avoid a disaster, ensure that your contractor is qualified and trusted. The easiest way to do that is to download Green Door, connect with one of the vetted, local contractors from the Pearl Network, and keep the specter of these and other health risks from haunting your home entirely.

Related Post: The Ins and Outs of Insulation

Shocking Energy Bills

Sky-high utility bills sometimes happen, but what if the story isn’t as straightforward as a spike in home energy usage? What if your energy consumption hasn’t dramatically changed, but your monthly bills have?

For homeowners in this position, unfortunately, carrying out accurate root-cause analysis might be difficult, since virtually everything else about your home — from its HVAC system to the quality of your building’s shell — could be contributing to your higher-than-average energy bills as well. Or, in the event that you’re also seeing persistently flickering lights around the same time, an outdated home electrical panel might be to blame.

The solution, once again, is simple: Bring in a licensed professional, in this case an electrician, who can safely run the necessary diagnostic tests and determine what the underlying problem is. Bear in mind that, if upgrading your home electrical panel is a necessary next step, you should be able to at least partially offset the cost thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022.

Related Post: Guide to Electrical Panel Upgrades and IRA Incentives

Fiery Failures from Home Battery Storage

Residential battery storage comes with major benefits to homeowners who have solar capabilities: Namely, the option to keep the surplus power you generate for yourself and to use it when you want or need to.

However, homeowners should be aware that the lithium-ion batteries that make this energy storage possible — and older batteries, especially — are also low-level “thermal runaway” risks. That is to say, these batteries can, in rare instances, enter into an uncontrollable self-heating state, and when they do, it can result in catastrophe: fire, extensive home damage, and worse.

But don’t let this scare you away from solar and batteries. While statistics about home battery fires are scarce, among large grid-storage batteries (not the ones meant for home use), just 2% are likely to experience “major safety-related” incidents,” and most of those happen within the first two years of operation.

Fortunately, by sticking to two straightforward battery-maintenance basics, you should be able to keep your own backyard horror situation at bay and reliably benefit from the upside of home battery storage:

  • Routinely inspect all batteries for visible signs of damage: cracks, leaks, wear and tear, and similar. If anything looks suspect, shut down your battery storage capabilities immediately and bring in an expert — it’s the only safe way to understand your relative level of risk. From there, you can decide what to do next.

  • Monitor your battery's temperature, as well as its voltage levels on an ongoing basis — some models include remote monitoring capabilities to make this even easier. If you start seeing sudden fluctuations in this department, again, it’s best to shut it down and bring in an expert, as changes like these may indicate larger troubles to come.

Related Post: Guide to Home Battery Storage Upgrades and IRA Tax Credits

Cobwebs and Dark Passageways

Given the documented link between indoor air quality (IAQ) and serious health issues — respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer, and more, according to the EPA — it’s safe to say you don’t want to run the risk of having a critical home ventilator suddenly out of whack.

But how would you even know if that was the case?

Fortunately, spot inspection — a simple eyeball test — can go a long way here: If you’re seeing, say, visibly dirty ductwork, then that’s probably something you should clean and address. Just be sure to hold on to the owners’ manuals, as doing so will help you keep a schedule for when ventilators require maintenance based on the manufacturer’s specifications. You can even upload a PDF version of the manual to the Green Door app and set maintenance reminders in the app to ensure you keep your ventilation systems in top shape.

Quick fixes aside, of course, you might feel more comfortable having an expert on hand to deliver an ongoing solution. Consider arranging to have a licensed contractor comprehensively pressure-test your end-to-end system, for example, and identify issues and replace parts as needed. As an added bonus, a pro can help ensure that your system is properly sized and balanced, too.

Related Post: Put Your HVAC at the Top of Your Cleaning List

Chills up Your Spine

Ever feel as though, no matter how much you fine-tune your thermostat, the temperature in your home is always either too hot or too cold — but never just right? It’s actually a relatively common phenomenon and definitely not one that’s just in your head.

Root causes include:

  • Blocked passageways in vents

  • Improperly installed or inefficiently operating ductwork

  • Air leaks located near windows and/or doors

  • Out-of-sync or unbalanced HVAC systems

There are solutions, of course, but as with most of the other catastrophes discussed so far, you might not have the training to effectively troubleshoot this situation on your own, especially since many of the possible culprits are nearly invisible to the naked eye — think leaks the size of needleheads on or around your doors and windows, for example.

Long story short, you’re going to need hands-on help from a professional, including a blower-door test, in order to get to the bottom of this one.

Related Post: First Step to a High-Performing Home: The Blower Door Test

Next Steps

For homeowners, nightmares don’t just happen on Elm Street (unless that’s where you live). In fact, they’re all within the realm of possibility for most homeowners, so be sure to keep monitoring the upgrades you’ve undertaken so far and take action where required.

For more detailed insights into home performance upgrades, including best practices and hands-on guidance, download Green Door, the free app from Pearl Certification. You can use it to access up-to-date information about rebates and tax credits in your area, connect with experienced local contractors who can ensure the quality and safety of your installation, and set maintenance reminders for yourself so you never have to endure the disasters above.

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