Insulation Project: Free Energy Audit

7 09 2008

At our request, an experienced and knowledgeable auditor from National Grid (formerly Keyspan) came over to do a free energy audit.   We walked through my entire house and reviewed all the potential for saving money through weatherization.  I learned a few interesting things.

Basically NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development Association) has money available for very low-interest loans (they’ll write down up to 6% of the loan) and rebates up to $750 for weatherization work.  The problem is that not enough New Yorkers are taking advantage of these programs so they launched this free energy audit program to promote participation.  You can find out more information at www.getenergysmart.com

The general principle of weatherization is: Seal up air leaks and insulate the entire house.  Start from the top and work your way down. Based on the visit, I changed the plan of the work I want to do in our house.

The original plan was 4-fold:

1. Roof: The area below the roof and above the 2nd floor ceiling is called a cock-loft. It is currently uninsulated and unvented. I want to blow in insulation and vent it to prevent mold build-up and heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.  The Auditor confirmed that this is definitely the highest priority.  I want to get this work done soon before the heating season arrives.

2. Exterior Wall: We have an approximately 800 SF of North-Facing wall which faces a community garden. It is brick construction with a layer of stucco, now cracked in many places. There are 3 windows on the wall which will need to be dealt with carefully. Our idea is to insulate the wall and paint it so that it can receive a mural painted by a community group.  Surprisingly, the Auditor said that this was much less important in terms of heat loss and heat gain.  Good thing because this work would be the most expensive of the bunch.

3. Basement ventilation: We installed a fan a few years ago to ventilate the Basement. Unfortunately, due to a mis-communication with the contractor, we ended up with the kind of vent that has a cover manually controlled by a chain which basically means we have an 8 inch diameter hole in the Basement wall.  Yes, this is something the Auditor agreed we should do.  It is important to remove moisture to prevent mold and mildew build-up year round.  He also pointed out that we need better Fresh Air Intake for our boiler.

4. Boiler Room: The boiler room is located adjacent to the exterior wall and is completely uninsulated. The plan is to insulate the room as well as the boiler, hot water heater and all exposed pipes.  The Auditor said that the amount of heat we are losing through the wall to the outside is negligible and since the Boiler Room is located at the Basement, most of the heat migrates out to the occupied rooms in the Basement or up to the main living floor and can be used.  It would be somewhat difficult to install sheetrock at this wall anyway because there are pipes and valves adjacent to the wall which would interfere with the studs and there really isn’t any available insulation you can install in a boiler room that is fire resistant without being enclosed in sheetrock.

Remember how excited I was when we installed a jacket at our hot water heater?  Turns out we didn’t really need it.  If you put your hand on top of the hot water heater and it feels cool, you don’t need to add insulation, it is internally insulated.

5.  When we ask the contractor to install the insulation at the attic space, I’ll also ask him to insulate the walls and ceiling of our front room and kitchen which were built years ago as additions to the original house and are really cold and uncomfortable in the winter.

One very interesting thing I learned is that it is extremely inefficient to install high-hats (recessed lighting fixtures) at the top floor of a house because each one acts as a little chimney, pulling heat away from the living spaces and into the attic or directly out of the house, even if you have CFL’s in them.

In all it was a great visit, and we got 2 free compact fluorescent bulbs to boot!

For all the posts about the Insulation Project, click here.

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One response

16 09 2008
nycgarden

I think those high hats are not efficient because people often use the kind you cannot place insulation near, in addition to the heat of the bulb creating an updraft. Use IC (Insulation Contact) high hats that can be covered with insulation in the envelope of the building. Internal ceilings can have the cheaper non-IC hats.

Have you done much research into on-demand water heaters?

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