Interview with Jason Black of Artisan Signature Homes & Eric George of Building Performance

What does it take to make a modern, energy efficient, comfortable home these days? Louisville luxury home builder Jason Black of Artisan Signature Homes invited our Eric George to be a guest on his weekly podcast series all about luxury and custom Louisville homes.

In this podcast episode, Eric describes some of the questions he asks builders about insulation, window type, heating and cooling. He enters the information into his computer to determine whether the house will comply with legal codes or not. For builders, this data can be very useful. “It will tell me what the heating and cooling load for the building will be, so you can size your HVAC equipment properly,” says Eric. “It’ll also tell me what the projected utility cost for the building should be, given a bunch of different factors, and what the projected energy rating will be for the house.”

Building Performance can also assess how different variables will change the home's energy score – such as comparing spray foam to fiberglass insulation – which will aid builders in their decision-making. “We look for proper air sealing,” Eric George explains on the podcast, “the framing needs to have proper blocking between condition space and attic space. We make sure the duct system has been sealed properly, bath fans and other exhaust vents have been run properly outside so they’re not bent or restricted.”

His group adheres to a standard checklist of inspection items and takes pictures of all areas inside the house. They then meet with the builder to discuss any issues they find. Lastly, there is a final inspection, which includes daignostic tests like the air leakage test with a "blower-door", which simulates 20 m.p.h. winds hitting the house from all angles at once to see how tight the house is.  Other tests are done on duct leakage and the exhaust ventilation airflow, and a visual inspection of the attic and foundation insulation is done as well.  

If everything looks good, the builder receives an energy code-compliant sticker and a confirmed energy rating for the new house (called a HERS rating). The HERS rating scale goes from 0 to 100, with lower numbers being more efficient. In Climate Zone 4, which includes all of Kentucky, most homes Building Performance inspects end up in the 60 to 80 HERS score range, with an average score of 75. By comparison, older existing homes average around 130.

To get closer to that "perfect" score of zero, the home would typically need to operate by Geothermal heating and cooling, include mechanical ventilation to provide fresh air to the occupants, and include some solar PV to produce as much energy as the home will consume over the course of one year.

So far, the best HERS Rating Eric has given in the area is a 34 on a Geothermal home with spray foam insulation and mechanical ventilation. Listen to the full podcast on energy efficiencyto learn:

  • What impact does Geothermal have on a home’s energy rating?
  • Do homes with “tight” ventilation make people sick?
  • What constitutes “mechanical” ventilation?
  • How can a consumer get a $500-$600 energy bill down to $200-$300 a month?
  • Which energy investments pay back the quickest?
  • How much will switching to LED or CFL bulbs save on an energy rating?
  • Which type of water heaters are most efficient?
  • What is the most cost-effective type of spray foam?