email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Insulation Project

Home insulation work is messy!  Its sure not like having a plumber come in replace a faucet, LOL!  First, I had to take everything out of the attic and move everything away from most of the basement walls.  That was bad enough.  But then the contractor went to work...

The attic wasn't bad.  They only had to add a duct from a bathroom exhaust fan to the outside, add baffles against the roof edge to direct fresh air in toward the roof ridge vent, spray a foam sealant along all the edges, joists, and around all the pipes that came up through.  Then blow 13" of fiberglass insulation around levelly.  Oh, and they added a removable insulation cover over the attic staircase opening.

The messy work was in the basement, both inside and out.

They used more foam sealant around all the edges.  And to properly fill the wall cavities, they had to drill holes in the paneling.  Mostly, they could do that above the suspended ceiling tiles I installed.  You can see the wooden plug they tapped in afterwards.
But along one wall they had to seal the top edge and then drill access holes below the ceiling tile.  My fault, because of the way I attached the framing studs.  They could have lined up the holes better (see the row of plugs?) but I was watching someone else at the time the holes were drilled.  Well, I can stain them to blend in better, and it IS just a workshop.  Its not like they did that in the living area.
Here's a picture of an unplugged hole showing the pulverized newspaper filling.  Yeah, those newspapers you recycle come back to you sometimes.  Some of that insulation may even be MY old newspapers!
Then they went to work on the outside of the basement.  The front of the house hangs over the foundation 2'.  Which looks rather nice and adds some living space above, but is terrible for insulating.  The only insulation that was there was 1/2" plywood sheathing.  No wonder the initial energy auditor's infra-red camera showed the entire front side of the living area of the house as being  hot!  A better builder would have insulated that.  So these guys did!  They removed the vinyl soffit and sprayed foam insulation into all the edges.
Then they drilled holes in the plywood sheathing, and blew it full of pulverized newspaper and plugged the holes.   Then, of course, replaced all the soffit panels.
It was a bit messy...
They were about to vacuum it all up afterwards, but I told them not to.  Its untreated newspaper, so it is just fine as mulch.  And I KNEW they would thrash that vacuum hose all around through my plants.  So I just swept it gently off the plants with a broom after they left.

I wish I had had this done right after I moved in.  But the electrical company only started advising users of how THEIR usage compared to their neighbors last year.  Until then, I had no reason to think my usage was any different from my neighbors.  Seriously, have you ever visited a neighbor to compare electric bills?  Maybe you should!

Besides, when I started getting notices about my electrical usage from the supplier, I assumed it was because I was retired and home all day.  I was using hot water more often, opening doors to go in and out all day,  cooking more meals at home, watching TV, having lights on, etc.

I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation today based on the expected reduction in my electrical bill.  I'm estimating that the poor-quality job the builder did has cost me about $25,000 (allowing that electricity used to be a lot cheaper) and will save me about $1,000 per year (so the payback is 3-4 years).  And more in the future as energy costs rise...

If your electrical company has a subsidized insulation improvement program, take advantage of it!  My initial subsidized energy audit cost only $100 (and they gave me $100 worth of compact fluorescent bulbs so it was really free).  The company that partnered with the electrical supplier had an A rating on Angieslist, and guaranteed a 20% reduction in outside air leakage (I got 41%).

Give it some thought.

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