Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comfort and a Drafty House

Insulation is definitely vital in relation to saving power in our households. With far more insulation in our walls, roofs, and foundation, much less heat escapes via conduction towards the outdoors. Insulate properly!

 Ok,  that is pretty clear.

 But insulation isn't  everything. There is also air leakage, which features a enormous impact on both energy consumption and comfort. I don't mind embarrassing myself, so let me use our residence as an example.

 When I purchased our home in 1981, a lot of work was needed. Constructed around 1785, it had been "modernized" some time in the  70s, with drop ceilings, shag rugs, fake barnboard siding around the fireplace, brushed aluminum "tiles" around the kitchen sink and stove, tacky contemporary windows, and extra partitions here and there to create extra guest rooms for the Long Island owners and their buddies coming to Vermont for ski weekends.

 The previous owners had place a good deal of money into the property - though nearly nothing at all to improve its energy efficiency, aside from insulating amongst the floor joists from the basement - and that fiberglass insulation was installed together with the facing around the wrong side so that the majority of it had long since become waterlogged and slumped to the dirt floor within a soggy mess.

 I systematically - if somewhat naively - went by the house gutting it space by space, replacing rotted sills, re-siding the exterior, insulating the wall cavities, adding a continuous layer of interior rigid foam insulation, and putting in new drywall. When I was done, the walls had been reasonably well-insulated (even though I would add much more rigid insulation were I doing the work today).

 However the home remained incredibly uncomfortable. Some years later, now married and having a baby crawling around around the floor, we had to do  something regarding the discomfort. We heated largely with wood, and using a roaring fire inside the wood stove the space might be in the 80s at the ceiling but in the 50s in the floor.

 With thick slippers, my wife and I were reasonably comfy, but when we picked our year-old daughter up off the floor, she was cold! We felt terrible - and worried about her wellness. The insulation - by early 1980s requirements - wasn't that bad, but the property was anything but comfy.

 Enter the Draft Detective

 I did some asking around and hired Dick Cartelli (a.k.a., The Draft Detective) from Putney, Vermont to determine what was going on. He came in with his "blower door" and tested the home's leakiness. A blower door is set up in an exterior door frame and turned on to pressurize the residence. By measuring just how much air is getting pushed by the blower door and measuring the pressure difference among indoors and out (employing two manometers), the operator can calculate the air tightness in the residence - typically in "air alterations per hour" at the elevated pressure of 50 pascals.

 I neglect the actual numbers, but the residence was leaky - genuinely leaky! Cartelli utilized two cases of caulk and I do not know how quite a few canisters of expanding foam sealant, built an insulated attic hatch door with foam gaskets at the edges, and implemented a great deal of other measures over a week or two to substantially tighten the old residence. By operating the blower door to depressurize the home while he worked, he was able to feel where air leakage was occurring--and seal those holes, cracks, and gaps.

 The improvement was dramatic. The delta-T (distinction in temperature) from floor-to-ceiling went from more than 20° to much less then 10°. That delta-T was further decreased when I insulated beneath our floor from the basement and also a crawl space. We no longer had to maintain the wood stove cranked at complete output to retain affordable comfort. Our daughter could crawl about around the floor and keep warm (though her earlier encounter might have contributed towards the fact that she now, as an adult, lives and works within the mild climate of San Francisco!).

 The bottom line

 Yes, we really should insulate our homes well--don't skimp on adding insulation for those who open up your wall system. But we also will need to spend attention to air tightness. Drafts cause discomfort and they drastically boost heating fuel use by carrying heated house air up and out, pulling in cold outdoors air inside the process. Adding some varieties of insulation, including dense-pack cellulose and spray polyurethane foam, can help to tighten a household, but other measures are often expected.

 Should you have a drafty residence, bring inside a weatherization contractor to measure how leaky your house truly is, and then invest in air tightening. It really is worth it!

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1 comment:

Avery Schlacter said...

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