GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Allison Bailes: Blower door question

user-4405197 | Posted in General Questions on

I sometimes do Blower Door testing in Michigan where the code says a new home must achieve a level of air tightness < or = 4 ACH50.  We use this number together with the house’s volume to get a target number in CFM50 that we hope to beat with the blower door.

I was doing some reading and came across this article by Allison Bailes:

“How Much Air Leakage in Your Home Is Too Much?”

In the article he says, “I prefer cfm50 per square foot of building envelope, or better, cfm50 per hundred square feet of building envelope (sfbe). (A cfm50 is a cubic foot per minute at 50 Pascals.) The two reasons for that choice are that (i) air leakage happens at the surface, not in the volume, and (ii) it’s the best unit, in my opinion, to express what a Blower Door is really good at – measuring the amount of air moving across the building envelope at elevated pressure.”

That sounds very reasonable to me.  He then went on to mention that, “ 3 ACH50 — translates to about 0.25 cfm50 per square foot of envelope, or 25 cfm50 per hundred square feet of envelope. ”And, “ The house I built ten years ago came in at 14 cfm50 per square (1.7 ACH50).

Can anyone tell me how he calculated the 0.25 CFM50 from 3 ACH50?, and the 0.14 CFM50 from the 1.7 ACH50?

I’m just wondering because we ran into another energy rater that was using CFM50/sq ft to justify an apartment passing code for air tightness.  Is this even legal?  Because the code seems to just refer to ACH50 which references just the volume of the space.

Thanks in advance for anyone’s insight.

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    For more information on blower door units, see this article: "Blower Door Basics."

    While Allison Bailes gave some examples in his article, these examples aren't the same thing as a "formula" to translate cfm50 per hundred square feet of building envelope to air changes per hour at 50 pascals. The reason there is no formula is that different houses have different shapes. Some houses have a compact shape (making the area of the building envelope relatively small), while other houses are convoluted (making the area of the building envelope relatively large).

    To convert between these two methods of measuring air leakage, you have to do the math. The math includes calculating the square feet of the thermal envelope.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |