*For most test takers, the field portion of the BPI exams is the most challenging, and it can certainly be intimidating to have a proctor observe your every move. When you are reasonably prepared, however, and have done a few practice field exams to boost your experience, you will be able to simply view the field exam as an opportunity to validate your skills and capabilities before going out into real audits . While your proctor is prohibited from letting you know your exam results (Pass/Fail) right after the field exam, you may glean a few helpful suggestions from your proctor at the end of the exam that will only help you perform audits more competently and efficiently. If this kind of job training is important to you, let your proctor know at the beginning of the exam that while you understand that he or she cannot help you through the exam, you would appreciate any advice at the end of it.
Blower Door Tests
Professional energy auditors use blower door tests to help determine a home’s airtightness.
These are some reasons for establishing the proper building tightness:
- Reducing energy consumption due to air leakage
- Avoiding moisture condensation problems
- Avoiding uncomfortable drafts caused by cold air leaking in from the outdoors
- Making sure that the home’s air quality is not too contaminated by indoor air pollution.
How They Work
A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings. The auditors may use a smoke pencil to detect air leaks. These tests determine the air infiltration rate of a building.
Blower doors consist of a frame and flexible panel that fit in a doorway, a variable-speed fan, a pressure gauge to measure the pressure differences inside and outside the home, and an airflow manometer and hoses for measuring airflow.
Preparing for a Blower Door Test
Take the following steps to prepare your home for a blower door test:
- Close windows and open interior doors
- Turn down the thermostats on heaters and water heaters
- Cover ashes in wood stoves and fireplaces with damp newspapers
- Shut fireplace dampers, fireplace doors, and wood stove air intakes.
The following tips will also help you maximize your chance of passing the field exam:
- Notes – you are allowed and even encouraged to use notes in the field exam – unlike the written exam, where you are only allowed to use the BPI standards. You should practice with a detailed set of notes that you get either from your test prep company or online, with your own personal annotations. Always do the components of your practice audits in the same order, and always use your notes as a guide, not a crutch! You should know them well enough before test day that you can go through them without having to read them word-for-word – this wastes valuable time and annoys proctors! Another related tip: use a clipboard to keep your notes in order and prevent you from nervously scattering your notes on the ground!
- Equipment – auditing equipment should always be provided by the proctor (at a minimum, this will include a blower door and manometer, gas leak detector, combustion analyzer, and in most cases a duct blaster and/or pressure flow hood). However, if you have your own it’s always best to use it so as not to waste time learning new equipment on the job. (One exception might be if the blower door is already set up from the previous test taker). If you don’t have your own equipment, we recommend borrowing or renting ahead of time so that you can be as prepared as possible. It can be tricky trying to learn Retrotec equipment on the spot if you’ve only ever encountered Minneapolis Blower Door, or vice versa. Finally, don’t waste your time bringing infrared imaging, moisture meter or other specialty tools into your field exam home even if you have them – these aren’t required parts of the exam and won’t get you any bonus points.
- CAZ (Combustion Appliance Zone)— most people who fail BA, fail on CAZ. Because of the important health and safety aspects of CAZ testing, the proctoring standards are (rightfully) more stringent in this area. Don’t go into the exam until you can explain all 5 components of 5-point CAZ testing and do them in under 30 mins! For EP you should also be thoroughly comfortable with 5-point CAZ testing in the event that your proctor asks you to perform it – although anecdotal experience suggests that most proctors assume that EP testers can already do CAZ testing and breeze them through it.
- Your Proctor — this leads us to our last heading: remember for the field exam, most of your score depends on you, but some does also depend on your proctor. The test is supposed to be objective, but there is inevitably a huge subjective component – your proctor may be hungry or in a bad mood when your testing slot happens to roll around! If you fail and it’s not because of an obvious gap in your knowledge, don’t be overly discouraged – simply try again with a different proctor.
Finally, do remember that most proctors are looking to give you credit, not take it away (this is how the scoring is structured), but they can only give you credit for what you say or do, not what you are thinking! It always helps to look your proctor in the eye, and make sure that what you are saying is registering that way you wanted it to. Sometimes you can even catch your errors this way and correct yourself. Throughout the field exam, talk constantly to show what you know. If you are doing a thorough job, your field exam should almost never last shorter than an hour. But on the other hand, remember that proctors are typically paid by the exam, not by the hour, so be very careful not to exceed the allocated two hours!)