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Anyone ever get an energy assessment or inspection to get increased heat efficiency?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by tickbitty, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Well, I've been approved for a NYSERDA energy audit.
    Can anyone recommend a "Participating New York Home Performance with ENERGY STAR" contractor?

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  2. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    Just wanted to share my experience. Shortly after I moved into my well-built 1973 home, I had a door-blower test performed by a friend. So not a full work-up, but we walked around and felt all the drafts. The previous homeowner was somewhat of a DIYer, and had done a good amount - sealed the rim joist with thick beads of serious caulk. Added r-19 to an r-19 cellulose attic (r-38 total). Good weatherstripping. Etc.

    So we found moderate leaks. All the cans/recessed lights leak like crazy - I'm going to build custom foam boxes to put around them and seal to the top of the drywall for those. Gives them airspace inside the foam, but makes the cans air-tight and adds some extra insulation around them. Simply take a piece of thick foam and cut it into a ~10x10x10 box pieces. Caulk the pieces together. Then put it over the can in the attic. Then caulk the bottom to the drywall. Then lay your fiberglass on top of that. Takes maybe 10-15 minutes per can.

    Improved sealing to the attic and main wall spaces.

    But what I missed from that test was the very broad amount of air being lost through the baseboards. Which has now been fixed via additional caulking and a foaming and tyveking of the entire exterior. Simultaneously, the entire house got a thermal bridging break through the addition of 3/8" fanfold foam put under the vinyl siding.

    One thing I'll add to that is that most people don't know what their house is currently sheathed in. I had cement fiber siding. It was attached to the house via furring strips. Which were mounted on the original house sheathing - treated external sheetrock. Well, after 35 years that sheetrock was crumbling and full of holes. So all my rooms had air gaps coming in up under the cement fiber boards (which had 1/2" gaps under them) then up around sheetrock, down the walls, and through baseboard trim.

    One other thing was that the main vent pipe running through the attic was completely unsealed. Probably 1 cubic foot around it. Was just stuffed with insulation. Massive heat loss spot right in the center of the house and since it's a main pipe - it's getting massive stack effect. A simple foam board cut-out, some more caulk, and the air is either eliminated or massively reduced.

    What I notice now is that if I close my master bedroom door, even with a ceiling fan on (but not the central air/heat flow), the air gets stagnant. It's uncomfortable.

    What this is telling me is that my interior air-flow is now getting vastly decreased. Probably to the point I want to stop air-sealing - since in the winter I might have my furnace AND wood burning stove on at the same time.

    Next then is radiant heat. For me, that's the garage which butts up against conditioned space on 3 sides - my main living space on one side, a bedroom above it, and my foyer area butts the back of the garage.

    I don't know if I can get away with it, but I'm planning on using some sort of foam sheathing there to add r-6 insulation + vapor barrier + thermal bridging.

    Anyway, I noticed a marked decrease of my A/C bill this year and my siding was doesn't until August. What this tells me is that these things are already making a marked difference.

    We'll see how my heating does this winter - I've made alot of large investments, so it's time for them to start paying off. :)
  3. sesmith

    sesmith Member

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    There's a list on line. Where are you located?
  4. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Ooops, I forgot, I'm in the Albany, NY area.
    I didn't get a chance today yet to look at that list, but a recommendation from someone would be nice, I thought, if possible.
  5. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for sharing Joe. You make me feel like there's hope for my house yet. I'd love to get to the point where the air seemed stagnant. I'd gladly install an Energy Recovery Ventilator to get some fresh filtered air in.

    I've made an appointment to have an energy assessment done next week. The cost is $350 for blower door and infrared imaging. The State of Virginia is offering a rebate of $250 which I've reserved.
  6. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    Joe, Nice work.
    I still need to get into my attic to check things out. I've been working in the basement insulating the hot water pipes and began sealing around the rim joist. I hate that "Great Stuff" expanding foam insulation. It works well, but no matter how careful I am, I always seem to get it on my skin and nothing takes it off. I bought another brand at Lowes that is supposed to be water clean up. I don't think it expands nearly as much as the "Great Stuff", but should be good for sealing the rest of the air leaks in the basement. I also need to get outside and caulk around the windows. They are original to our 1973 house.

    Joe, you also mentioned about insulating the garage. Around here and probably in your area everything on a common wall in the garage has to have a fire rating. Which it sounds like you already know. I tried to find rigid foam that is fire-rated and can't seem to do so. I've been looking at fire rated paint, which will satisfy the code. It is available, but its about $60 / gallon and covers roughly 100 sq. ft. I may try to get this done before winter as well. I only have 1 wall to cover, so the expense will be limited, probably about $200. Nice to do things to the house that you know will save you a few bucks.
  7. sesmith

    sesmith Member

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    You're just a little too far from me to use the guys I used. Maybe someone from the Albany area will have a recommendaton for you. The energy audit is a worthwhile thing to have done. It'll help pinpoint the areas that are most worth spending your money on.
  8. sesmith

    sesmith Member

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  9. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    Yeah, dow makes a aluminum embossed foam insulation that is fire-rated (I believe it comes in both vapor barrier and somehow non-vapor barrier, but I could be wrong). I'm not too concerned with vapor barrier in the garage - the walls can dry inwards since I have no interior vapor barrier.

    Anyway, I couldn't find a local dealer of it in 15 minutes so I never followed up on it. I'm guessing it's righteously expensive, but at the same time you can use the dow product as the finished surface - you can rip down the drywall, put up new fiberglass if you want, and then install the dow panels as the finished surface. No fire-rated paint, no drywall, no mudding. If you find how much a panel costs, let me know.
  10. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Getting the air sealing done so well that air feels stagnant is a good thing. In the winter when you are burning wood you will have a much better chance of maintaining humidity levels in the home. What you want is controlled ventilation through ventilation devices vs. sloppy contruction leading to uncontrolled air losses of "good" air along with the old air.
  11. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    I called the Dow company about the Thermax a week or so ago. Customer service told me that the Thermax does have a fire rating, but not for a garage application. You will notice on their website that the fire rating is for crawl space, basement, and attic applications. Therefore, it might not satisfy local code. I suppose it is better than other rigid foam insulation, but if an inspector wanted to be a stickler, they could probably make you tear it down

    http://msdssearch.dow.com/Published...foam/pdfs/noreg/179-07942.pdf&fromPage=GetDoc
  12. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    Never heard that before - and I hate the feel of stagnant air. How do I retroactively install a ventilation device?

    I will say that the previous owner apparently cracked the small (10" tall) window in the furnace room in the winter to supposedly help draw fresh air in for when the furnace was running. That's in a basement in it's own room which was also insulated (though not sealed). But I don't want to run the furnace alot.
  13. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Lots of ways. Some even allow you to recover heat from the ventilated air and filter out the dust and pollen. The last thing you want is uncontrolled ventilation allowing all sorts of cold, contaminated, dry air into your home whether you like it or not.
  14. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Look up "Heat Recovery Ventilator" or "Energy Recovery Ventilator"
  15. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    Ouch! Not cheap!

    All this air-sealing just to have to spend $500+ bringing in better quality air? Ugh! :)

    Maybe I'll just crack a window...

    All kidding aside, I think my main issue is going to bringing in fresh air near the stove so that the stove room provides significant heat, and BLOWS fresh air through the rest of the house. Similarly, so the stove can draft in a tight house.

    My stove room has 1 sliding glass door and 2 casement windows. Casement windows are kinda hard to crack just a tad, but it might be worthwhile for me to crack the one closest to the stove just a tad. It might cool off the stove room, introduce a little humidity, provide better draft to the stove, and also help push fresh air to the rest of the house (Along the very heated ceiling conveyance of air moving away from the stove).

    I love the concept of the HRV - but I'm wondering if it's right for me since the house wasn't designed for it and it may not be financially wise.
  16. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    So yeah, airsealing below ~0.3 ACH (in the winter) requires either degraded IAQ or an expensive HRV/ERV, giving low ROI. (enough acronyms in that sentence?).

    I have airsealed down to maybe ACH = 0.3 at winter temps. Its where I will be quitting for now.

    0.3 ACH is the right amount of fresh air _when_ I have the stack effect driving the flow. In the mild seasons, my air changes would be a little smaller than I might like, so I was going to install a blower to draw outside air, through a near-HEPA filter and discharge into a 'great-room' type space. I was sizing it to give 60 cfm (through the filter), and figured I would turn it on in april, and turn it off in november.

    If I didn't have hay fever, I would just crack a window during those months.

    The real question, is your ACH really 0.3, or do you have some source of indoor pollutant??
  17. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    I don't really know - to make matters more complicated, I don't know if the air is truly stagnant or not. It FEELS stagnant to me, but i'm extremely sensitive. My wife feels fine. And the time when it feels the most stagnant to me is at night, with the door open, and a ceiling fan on - i.e. plenty of ACH in the room. And we're the only people in the house, and it's a large house. So at a time where we're doing the least amount of exhalation, I feel the air gets the most stagnant feeling.

    I'm not sure how my indoor air quality is. I have a finished basement which smells OK - basementy, but otherwise ok. It has a dehumidifer which runs alot and keeps it at 45% down there. My forced air system runs clean filters. We hav eno pets (except a turtle) and are extremely clean people. No kids either. The house is kept clean and the areas of ventilation kept open.

    1-2 ceiling fans are kept running at all times as well, year round (I need the feeling of fresh/moving air to be comfortable).

    I think I still am gonna go ahead and air-seal 2-4 potlights that are quite leaky and I'm gonna finish doing all my baseboard trims (for bug prevention)....but I think I'll stop after that and focus on areas of insulation.
  18. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I don't really think 'stagnant feel' is good way to know when you are 'done' with airsealing from an ROI point of view (i.e. at the point you would need an HRV if you went further). I guess a blower door test can help.

    Our smallest bedroom gets 'stuffy' according to sensitive guests who stay there and sleep with the door closed--I run my air handler on 'on' (30% cfm at 100 % duty cycle) when I have guests as opposed to 'circ' (30% cfm at 30% duty cycle) which I run at all other times.

    I have been painstakingly estimating my natural airflow ACH by a variety of means, including how much bang I get from my humidifier and a painstaking heat demand model, and get consistent (but still pretty uncertain) numbers. When I am done (after this heat season of compulsive 'data'), I will do a blower door (if I can find a cheap one), as well as a radon check and, of course, check my boiler and insert draft with all my exhaust fans running simultaneously.
  19. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Let's clear up one thing... in the winter, when you let cold outside air in through a leak or open window or whatever, that air has very low humidity once it is warmed up to room temp. Outside air leaks will dry your home which is typically a bad thing in the winter. Most houses get very dry in the winter and sealing the air in allows humidity to come up from water sources such as people, cooking, showers, etc. Every time you open the door you let heat AND humidity out.
  20. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    This "energy nerd", as my wife calls me, would be glad to have to install an HRV and buy the electricity to run it just because my house was that tight. Heck, I'm still plugging holes to keep critters out. There's bugs getting into the room I'm in and I still haven't found out how.

    At least if it was tight I could install a filtered inlet and at least have some control over where the entered and how clean it was. My family would love the allergen control.
  21. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    I could totally be wrong about this, but from what I've read a tighter house with less stack effect from the basement on up SHOULD result in lower radon levels - as less air is stirred from below grade. Am I wrong about that?

    I wonder because my radon levels when I bought the house were 3.4 (4.0 is limit here for radon mitigation requirements, but supposedly even at mid 3s you can have effects).
  22. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    I am definitely making my house tight - since the tyveking, the indoor bugs have decreased dramatically (considering it's summer time). We'll see in the next month or so as it cools off if they flood indoors.

    So now I'm wondering - how should I introduce fresh air in the winter? Opening a window will dry out my house (unless I humidify, which I might do anyway). An HRV system is too expensive...
  23. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    the greenbuildingadvisor website. They've got some great articles on this.

    Here's one: http://e.greenbuildingadvisor.com/a/hBOcRSmB7W8pUB8dcgrNsgcdy.B7W8pUPQ/gba17-0
  24. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    We don't bother. Opening the doors seems to be sufficient. If you feel all clostrophobic and cabin feverish from being stuck inside then go skiing, or take a walk or something. I suppose some people are ultra sensitive to old air vs. new air. That sensitivity comes with a price tag.
  25. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    I think it's gonna be fine. Even with all the tightening, I can have the furnace run in the winter intermittently, ceiling fans, crack a window, etc.....

    I have a window directly behind my 40" Samsung LCD anyway which sits about 8' in front of the stove. Might be good for it to have some cool air running along it's backside :)

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