- Home Performance Retrofits
- Energy Audits & Diagnostics
- Building & HVAC Design
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I'm writing this review based on an excellent experience my family had with Balance Point Home Performance. Considering that the HVAC/Home Performance space is fragmented with so many companies providing varying levels of quality, commitment, and general ethics, I feel it is important to provide information that might help others make a good decision.
The review below is quite lengthy, so if you don't want to read it all, the punch line is: Balance Point is the best company providing construction services that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Anyone looking to implement a new heating, AC, water heater, or improve the performance of their home through sealing, insulation, and science-based design should contact Gavin and Dan at Balance Point before making a decision on who to use for the project.
The Problem: We recently moved into a house in Lake Wildwood that was built in the 90's. It has solid construction, with six inch walls, dual pane windows, and insulation throughout, so we assumed it would be energy efficient. During the cold part of the winter we ended up spending over $300/month on electricity and $500/month on propane to heat the house. Even with the heat running all day we still felt cold and the air in the house was very dry. Basically it was completely uncomfortable to live in our new home, and the family members got sick multiple times over the winter (about twice as often as usual). We talked to the HVAC company who had done the work on the house (a company in Grass Valley that has a good reputation) and they told me that they had sealed the ducts several years before, and that all we needed was a "tune up" of our furnace.
The Process: Given the major problems we were experiencing we decided against a simple tune up on the heat system and instead started researching Home Performance specialists in the area. There are several who can provide an assessment of your home, and we interviewed several before deciding to do the initial evaluation with Balance Point. The reason for our decision came down to several factors:
1. Balance Point was the only company recommended by CBCPA (Efficiency First California) and CBCPA made it clear to me that choosing the right company for this work is essential due to the complexity of home performance
2. Gavin (co-owner) took the time to talk with me on the phone and thoroughly understand our situation before agreeing to work with us. Other companies seemed desperate, but Balance Point qualified the situation to ensure their services were the right fit, before asking for my business
3. References from existing local customers were exceptional
4. Price point was nearly equivalent to other providers and we felt the service would be more thorough and higher quality with Balance Point
Next the assessment was performed, which was exceptionally thorough. Balance Point tested our home for Shell Leakage, Insulation, Window Glazing, Air Delivery for the HVAC System, Duct Leakage, Duct Conduction, Static Pressure, Ventilation, Exhaust Systems, Hot Water Systems, Combustion Safety, Drainage, Crawl Space Moisture, and various other items that were focused on the concerns we had identified for their team. The test took all day, and resulted in a 31 page document (delivered that same week) which was the basis for subsequent conversations on the opportunities to improve our home. If anyone is interested in the findings, I'd be happy to share them directly, but needless to say we identified a host of problems that were contributing to the lack of comfort in our home and the high utility bills. In the end, we decided to tackle the major areas for improvement, and the safety issues, as those represented the biggest bang for the buck. This included sealing interstitial cavities and installing sealed recessed lighting, replacement of the HVAC system including all duct work, and replacement of our two water heaters with a single high-efficiency unit.
Results: The immediate benefit of this project is that our home is finally comfortable. The heating system is highly efficient and keeps our home at the right temperature all the time. We aren't losing heat (or cooling in the summer) through the duct system, or any of the holes that existed in the structure before. The new system uses a two stage heat pump and also has a hydronic coil that acts as an auxiliary heat source if the temperatures get really low. It is silent when it runs, so the heater doesn't wake me up in the night, and since it is electric, we are using drastically less propane. The new water heater works amazingly well. We have found that although it utilizes a tank, it's recovery rate is such that you can take multiple showers back to back without ever running out of hot water, and we feel much better that our home doesn't have combustion gasses leaking into the living space.
Dan and Gavin managed the project from start to finish, and it was completed exactly as we had discussed, and on budget.
Intangibles: A few things come to mind when I think about the ways Dan and Gavin (and their teams) went above and beyond. First off, every person in the crew was a good guy - always said hello to my kids, petted the dog, and just seemed to genuinely care about us as people. This was further evidenced in the way they treated our home. In every step of the process there was the potential for dust, debris, or some kind of mess in the home, and in every step the team had a way to prevent potential damage, minimize the mess, and quickly clean up as needed. Every day the team picked up their equipment, swept/vacuumed/washed up their working areas, and the house was like they weren't even there. This impressed my wife especially compared to some other work we recently had done with a contractor who was not nearly as conscientious.
The science factor can't be overlooked here either. HVAC systems have been implemented for many years based on learning passed from generation to generation, gut feel, and the thinking that these systems operate OK as is. More recently we have gained the ability to measure things that weren't being measured before and design systems based on science/mathematics rather than intuition. This was what originally made me think that Balance Point would be good to work with, and what has proven true. Additionally, Dan and Gavin were always ultra-fast to respond when I had a question or concern, even offering to come out to our house on the weekend to get something right and to ensure our comfort. These are good people who are at the top of their game, and really focus on the success of the project and satisfaction of the customer. I do not normally take the time to write up a review this thorough, however I feel like it is warranted based on how happy we are with the results of the work.