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Things you can do to make your home Greener

Post in 'The Green Room' started by elkimmeg, May 18, 2006.

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  1. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Green homes
    Why not try making our existing homes greener? The first energy related codes of 1977 required R-11 2/4 walls, R-19 ceilings and either insulating the foundations or the cellar ceilings R-11. Also required was either storm windows or double-glazing.
    As research continued so did the insulation requirements and windows and heating system improved efficiencies.
    Next codes required R-30 ceilings attic. 2/4 walls now can be insulated up to R-15 and more attention is given to cellar floor heat loss R-19
    1998 code was developed to address an envelope design Windows have to be tested and labeled to meet a U/R value in the 30’s High efficiency gas burners can reach 97% efficiencies. Even oil burners have to be at least 80 % many now approach mid 80”s % A vast improvement over the 68-72% of the 70’s. Another part of the energy code addressed hot water pipe and duct insulation. It has been found that 25-35% of energy/ heat/Ac is lost in transmission
    I will post the ResCheck formula to plug in your variables, where one can see the difference of adding insulation or replacing windows
    Things all can do to save energy, And if done this, year save you receipts for tax credits.

    R19 ceilings to R30 or 38 add R13 or R19 insulation. This may be you best bang for your $$$
    Most of are stuck with our current side walls situations, but if re siding it makes sense to add an insulation backer to improve your situation

    Replacement of upgrading to new windows: Storm windows are better than single glazed glass, but are no where as efficient with today’s low E glass This is not cheap but can be done is phases

    Add to cellar ceiling insulation if your cellar is unconditioned space. While at it, your sill and contact with the foundation is notorious for leakage stuff insulation there caulk or polystryfoam ( sp) caulk the perimeter.

    Insulate your exposed ducts and hot water pipes Today it is suggested R-5.0 which is 3/4 to 1” on your piping, 1.5” fiberglass Duct wrap. BTW Insulation also reduces noise of transmission. Again before insulating ductwork, seal all leaking seams and elbows. The best product is latex duck seal/ cement.

    At this point you have addressed most of the major DIY projects. But there is other areas to look at All exterior wall electrical outlets can be insulated using behind the cover seals.
    Changing out light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs will also save you money and conserve energy.
    These initial steps to be expanded further. When is the best time to do them NOW. I expect there will be insulation shortages in the Fall. With shortages,. will come price increases?

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  2. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Good advise Elk. I have a couple more.

    - During cold months put your hand next to all switches and outlets. If you feel cold, install the insulating sheets under the plug plates and switch plates. This really reduces unwanted cold drafts.

    - Replace all light bulbs with compact flourescent or if you really want to reduce, LEDs (but their still pretty expensive)

    - Cover any attic fans with an insulated box in the attic

    - Need I state the obvious....install (or have installed) a wood burning heat appliance.

    - Ensure door seals are in good condition

    - This was an interesting experiment I did this winter...on the french door that leads out to the deck (Anderson door part of original home built in 1988) (it's not a slider) When temps would drop below about 20 at night, I'd lean a couple peices of that pink foam insulation board up against the glass for the night, and just push 2 chairs against it to hold it in place. The difference between the exposed glass and the insulation board was amazing. Kitchen was warmer in the morning too.

    - I also had to push the insulation under the kitchen (crawl space under there) back into place. Got me wondering if I should attach some of the pink foam board insulation under there. Keep the kitchen floor warmer! Any thoughts there?
  3. Turner-n-Burner

    Turner-n-Burner New Member

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    Elk,
    Any thoughts on cellulose blown in insulation in the walls? I'm thinking of doing that at some point - definitely when I re-side, maybe sooner. I need to supplement my attic insulation and replace a few windows first...

    -Dan
  4. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Blown in wall insulation is a good way to go especially if re siding which will cover up the drill holes
    sure beats no insulation at all

    cellulose blown in the atticc is also a decent way to add to your existing insulation

    I forgot to mention buttoning up pull down attic stairs are a huge heat loss area
  5. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes, door and window seals can make a huge difference. An 1/16" crack around a door is the same as having a 10" x 18" window wide open! Add up lots of little cracks around windows and doors and there can be a lot of leakage.

    If one has recessed lighting, it's good to test for leakage there too. I've found regular gales working their way into the joist space from poor firestops or bad remodels exposing a passageway from either the crawl space or attic air into the joist spaces of the house. This is one area we are trying to fix this summer. To check, wait for a windy day and light up an incense stick or a punk. Move it close to the light, outlet or switch. You'll see the smoke change direction if there is a leak.

    LED lighting isn't there quite yet. Compact fluorescents are good for continuous duty usage, but not that practical for short term. Switching them on and off frequently shortens their life. Better to use incandescent for that usage and turn them off. (Follow my brother-in-law through his house and every light is left lit behind him, even if it's a closet light.) One interesting development in LED lighting is marine use, I plan on looking into them to see how well they have developed.

    http://www.cetsolar.com/energylight.htm
    http://www.yachtlights.com/cat--LED...ource=google&gclid=CI2zqo_1hIUCFSB-CwodiRduGQ
  7. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Warren the high R ridged insulation foil faced is about R-7.2 per inch. I think the pink foam is less. If you can get something under that kitchen, it will make a big difference. Always reducing heat loss areas is helpfull
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We are hoping to finally insulate our entire first floor over our currently uninsulated crawlspace. It seems like there are several approaches and methods What really works best? Assuming we finally have the rodent permanently out of the crawlspace, do we:

    1) staple up fiberglass between the joist spaces, then cover the entire underside with a plastic barrier that is sealed at penetrations for pipes, electrical and ductwork?
    2) insert ridgid foam between the joists and caulk the edges?
    3) spray foam in all the joist cavities?
    4) Insulate the entire perimeter wall of the crawlspace with foam, creating a sealed space and then create a slight negative pressure in the crawlspace with a 50 cfm muffin fan blowing out? (we have dry sandy soil, excellent drainage.)
    5) other ideas ???
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    My vote is 4, although I'm not sure why you need a fan.
    I don't think you need to cover the foam in an unoccupied crawl space, but I'm sure someone else will know. :)

    On the subject of fans in basements, the better half is talking about mitigating the radon which is high in the basement (12+) but low on the first floor (<1) - we have two electric radon monitos. The fans typically used take a suction on the underslab. I wonder how a muffin fan would work, say in the basement window.

    Has anybody toyed with the idea of burning biodiesel for heat? Not cheap, I guess.
  10. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    What I did was build R-27+ side walls 2/6 studs R-19 filling the cavity. Sheath with 1" high R 7.2 styrofoam then, covered with plywood for siding purposes. The styrofoam walls start at the sill all the way up to the roof line. Which takes care of what you are wondering.
    Your cheapest way to do an exposed crawl space is to use fiberglass bats moisture barrier facing towards the heated area. Plastic under that would create a double vapor barier, unless real close to the ground. I would lay plastic on the ground
    and stake it or use cement blocks, that would prevent the ground moisture rising into the josit cavities. Under the floor joist, I would install cheap plywood, could be 1/4" to seal the cavity and to prevent the batts from falling out also a rodent determent.

    Next most expensive would be ridged styrofoam. you could double up for twice the thickness 2" would equal about R-15. Very easy
    to do,if you have working space, hang it off of nailes sticking out of the floor joist. The sticking out nails will act as hangers holding it in place, then if you desire caulk it in.

    Filling the cavity with poly insulation, still requires plywood underneath and will cost the most money but may be the best r-value. Forget the blower fan idea.
  11. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    You have your own electric radon detectors? I thought the good ones were outrageously expensive and the cheap ones were somewhat undependable. I'm having my house retested in the next couple weeks. My fan has been down for the count a couple years now and I want to know the current radon level. A relocation firm was involved in a previous sale of my house. I think they sometimes put radon mitigation units in just to mitigate possible future radon legal liability. Replacement fans are around $250, so if I don't really need one, I'm not going to replace it.

    The guy that is testing my radon is independent. He doesn't install mitigation systems. He advised caution if the firm testing your radon levels thinks they might have a chance to sell you a system. An obvious conflict of interest. If they are the only people available to do the test, he says to make it clear that you will not be buying a unit from them (whether you actually plan to or not). He claims radon readings are sometimes hit and miss, even with the expensive equipment, and sometimes have unexplainable variations from one test to another, even with the same equipment. There is even a new school of thought that purports small doses of radiation may be good for us. Sometimes I think radon is just something someone dreamed up to start the business of radon mitigation installations.

    I watched someone install a mitigation unit in the brother-in-law's house about 5 years ago. It was frightening to watch. He didn't think about things much before he stared drilling holes in the foundation, floors (2 stories with a basement), ceilings, out walls, through garage roof, and... Oops... where did that window on the second floor come from. :( Cut a couple more holes. String some more pipe with a couple elbows, and voila!

    Judging by the trouble the install folks go through (and that is required by code) to keep the exit pipe a distance from any opening window or door, I'd say they would likely advise against depending on such a rig as your muffin fan solution. But it's certainly priced right, and if it works, you're better off than you were before you started if the readings get lower.

    I saw a guy on my favorite green energy TV program saying he used a kerosene heater with a mix of about 80% biodiesel to 20% kerosene. He said that was the best he could do. I'm not crazy about kerosene space heaters myself, but I guess you could also burn biodiesel in place of heating oil if you knew what you were doing. I'd guess it would be about half as much price-wise as standard heating oil. But it is something of a commitment as far as I can see to start making biodiesel one's self. I hope to try this one day when I live somewhere else. I've been studying up on it. One little problem lately is that Red Devil Lye has apparently stopped making caustic soda lye (sodium hydroxide). This was required in one of the most popular recipes I've seen for biodiesel. I've seen another method, but it involves a lot more ingredients, including kerosene, unleaded gas, diesel clean, and a special additive that was proprietary, or at least they were keeping secret (and selling). The new recipe does have the advantage of not requiring 24 hours to separate the glycerin from the oil though. It's ready to burn immediately, but a bit more expensive to make (from what I could calculate in my head).
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions Elk. I wish I could be building new! There will be a 10 mil plastic vapor barrier on the ground regardless of what method I use to insulate. We are lucky to have a very dry crawlspace no matter what the weather is. The main reason for sealing the joist space containing the fiberglass bats with a plastic barrier or caulking after foam panels is to create a wind proof seal. Our house is pretty exposed to weather and it is not uncommon for it to blow at 30 knots for a day or two with higher gusts.

    What I don't understand is the last provision. If one sprays polyurethane foam in the joist cavities, why would one need a plastic or plywood barrier? My experience with that stuff is that it sticks like glue and seals everything.

    PS: We are putting in a new foundation with the intent of creating a rodent proof wall all around. This will be a continuous pour. If rodents still get in, it better be through the front door (or cat entrance).
  13. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Yup, I was at the BORG today and saw the stuff your talking about... about 10 bucks a 4x8 sheet...I figure about 200 buck to do the under side of the kitchen, but I think the comfort factor may be worth it.
  14. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    how would you contain it from falling out as it is being installed? would it not drip and fall out. I admit my experience is limited to using spray cans. I have not hired a contractor to do the spray in and I have not seen it in action.

    I did not follow all your post but are you saying you are pouring a foundation under your crawl space? If this is the case using poly vapor barrier on the floor ( dirt). One could use fiberglass bats with aviation wires to hold it in place. For permancy staple up chicken wire to the joist to prevent sagging and the bats from falling out or use the High R- sheathing. I wish I saw what you are intending so I could give better advice. I think I have a brother in law not far from you. Are you near Katona? the Harvey school?
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Spray polyureathane sticks like glue. When it comes out of the nozzle it is still in liquid form. It can be sprayed on overhead surfaces just like spray paint. Come back 2 hrs later and it will be 2" thick. Come back several hours later and it will have a hard outer shell. This is used a lot in big fish processing boats too.

    We are pouring a proper, concrete perimeter foundation. There will also be concrete support pads poured in the crawlspace for support posts. Code requires the vapor barrier so it's going in.

    Regarding fiberglass insulation, locally, they support the bats with nylon string. It is easy to put up quick in a zig-zag fashion and can be held in place by heavy duty staples. But that doesn't stop wind infiltration, thus my original question. Spray poly will cost a lot more, but seems the best to create an airtight insulated barrier. But I am wondering if there are any caveats.
  16. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    the only plan I see beyond additional cost, is better have all wiring and piping done first. You will no be able to get at them again.
    If you have a drain trap burried in that stuff could be a problem. If a pipe springs a leak and is embeded, It will cost more
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good point Don, worth a thorough check before deciding.
  18. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    The units I have are these: http://www.radon.biz/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=985
    Supposedly EPA approved.
    Good thing is I can see changes as I do stuff (which of course I haven't since I have to put in a paver walkway, which I haven't started because I haven't fininshed splitting and stacking the wood!)

    You can buy brewed biodiesel in more and more places now. One local heating dealer has it. Alas, no pumps in my area for my Beetle TDI (not that I'm a little leary of putting it though my engine).

    I had been reading some on basement insulation while I was waiting for the house closing. From what I read on the web, below grade insulation is somewhat controversial from the moisture view. The current thinking seems to be to insulate the walls in a closed crawl space. Also fiberglass really doesn't like moisture, but rigid foam can take it easily. Foam is not cheap though, and if not in a crawl space I think requires a fire barrier such as 1/2" sheetrock.

    The new system advertised by Owens-Corning (I think) for finished basement uses (again, I think) rigid fiberglass sheets with no moisture barrier.
  19. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    In a crawl space it make no sense to insulate the walls just insulate the joist cavity Fiberglass bats will work just fine
    Rigid styrofoam floats in watter. it does not readily absorb water. The High R is foil faced and the foil also resist water

    This brings up a very vaild point and concern. How flamable is the sprayed in poly? Does it give off a deadly toxic gasses?
    ( when ignited)
    Code does address covering up highly combustiable surfaces. Even the paper faced fiber glass insulation is very flamable.
    It's make up has an oil based tar in its composition
  20. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    In Virginia, it is code to insulate the crawl walls with at least 2" foam board (R10) in "conditioned crawl" applications.

    I only build conditioned crawls now, because of moisture issues. Mold is a big issue around here.
  21. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Went over to my son's soccer coach's house yesterday to give him a lift to the game, and got a look at his house and in progress new addition. Original house has masonry fireplace (his wife referrs to as the winter air conditioner!) and a big Catalytic VC stove for heat, passive solar, radiant floor (Propane fired). New addition: (a guys dream here...a vehicle lift in the garage) Passive solar design, roof covered with PV panels so he claims his meter runs backward a total of 50% of the time, and relevant to this thread, SPRAY IN FOAM insulation. It's all been shaved down to stud and ready for....What? 2" thick foil lined board, with poly sealant, then sheetrock. Total insulation value in walls is expected to be r30, ceilings r60. Very impressive, lots of other neat features too.
  22. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Here is what I would have to know say a 15 Amp 14 ga wire is overloaded. This happens even in new homes when too much is plugged into one curcuit. The wire get hot enough to melt the casing. and a fire can start. What happens when it is encased in poly spray. I know years back debate about using PVC vent piping when burned gives off a deadly toxic fumes. Part of the reason PVC is not allowed in comercial use here in MA in plumbing. (Can be used in residential uses)

    Point is every situation should be thought out the poly spray may have fantastic r values but deadly. This is not the first go around for this produce a simmilar product was used in the 70's got banned for emitting toxic fumes. the last thing one wants to hear boy his house was insulated well but if he used fiberglass fhis familly would have escaped the fire in time before the toxic fumed consumed them,. I'm not well versed on this spray method I could be wrong. But check out all the ramifications before using it
  23. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the great info. The PDF is a nice resource and covers a lot of my questions. I've saved it for rereading.

    Re: fire issues, etc. I appreciate your concern, there were some toxic mixes early on that could outgas badly, especially if they weren't mixed correctly. Our last house had it sprayed in foam insulation when we bought it. Fortunately it was a good job and passed the test for outgassing. Latest products are much better. This is not your father's urethane foam. From one company: TIGER FOAM Insulation has NEVER contained Octa or Penta BDE's or VOCs, CFCs or Formaldehyde. (http://www.tigerfoam.com/) Fire safety seems to be no more than other blown in insulation. A fire retardant is added. From the safety data sheet it says: Cured foam is organic and, therefore, will burn in the presence of sufficient heat, oxygen and an ignition source. Main hazards associated with burning foam are similar to burning of other organic materials (wood, paper, cotton, etc.) and precautions against exposure should be taken accordingly. - I'd hazard a guess that the foam in one's furniture may be more toxic if it burns.

    As to foam's flamability, it takes intense heat to get foam burning, especially high density foam. However, once burning it burns hot and quick. Here are two interesting articles:
    http://www.monolithic.com/foam/fire_barrier/index.html
    http://www.monolithic.com/foam/fire_hazard/index.html
  25. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    As I admitted I have not researched or used the product. It seems they addressed many of my concerns.
    Not all that long ago we thad the night club fire in RI the Station night club Over 100 died in the fire cause Poly insulation for sound purposes ignited extremely quick got out of contriol in seconds gave off a deadly gas with intense smoke and extreme heat

    http://tinyurl.com/qc7j6
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