Becoming More Green And… Shiny?
We recently had an Energy Specialist come into our house for an evaluation of how efficient our house is and what we can do, if anything, to improve upon it.
The man, let’s call him Tom (mostly because it is his name), spent about two hours on the evaluation. He started in the basement and worked his way up to the attic, checking for specific things and using a thermal imagery video camera to highlight “areas of opportunity” (that’s a phrase I learned back at MCI in the late 90’s; it means “problem”, but sounds nicer on a performance review).
The analysis report took a few weeks to turn around. When it was finally ready, Tom provided us with an 18 page document, replete with color photos and descriptive text of problem resolution. It started by indicating the overall efficiency of our house. We have an air leakage rate of 0.19 air changes per hour (the ideal rate is 0.35), which is like the equivalent of having a 10” x 10” opening in the side of our house, 24 hours a day (but one the cats can’t get through). He said that was pretty darn good, considering some people have air leakage rates that are equivalent to a 10’ x 10’ opening (!!!).
I was not completely surprised by these results. The existing efficiency of our house was one of its main selling points for us. Still, it is nice to hear it from a professional.
The document also showed us the primary areas of heat/cold exchange and indicated how we could make improvements to increase efficiency. Interestingly enough, he cautioned us about making the house too efficient, which would require us to figure out ways of occasionally exchanging the air in the house with fresh air.
We had some of the usual suspects, like:
Seals on exterior doors…
… outlets in exterior walls…
… attic access doors…
… and the fireplace chimney.
One interesting item was an HVAC return that was pulling hot/cold/dirty air in from the attic space where the return connected to the top plate of the wall.
Most of these leaks were easily addressed with some manual labor, a good amount of silicone caulk, and expanding spray foam insulation. We also replaced two of our bathroom vents (which were so old they were venting absolutely zero air) and insulated the duct work for the vents to prevent condensation in the attic space. We replaced wooden floor registers with metal ones that did not restrict the air flow and added little directional caps to some of the floor vents to prevent them from just blowing air up into the curtains.
One of the Secondary Priority Items Tom recommended doing (which would also make my workshop in the basement more comfortable, thus bumping it up to a Primary Priority Item) was to insulate the top half of the basement walls that were above the frost line with Dow Thermax insulation panels.
I went ahead and had him do this, along with some of the items that involved work in the attic. He was finally able to stop by this last weekend and get that insulation added. I was out of town with Finley, so I didn’t get to see the finished work until later that night. But… I guess I didn’t really think about what that might look like when it was done.
THAT was unexpected. I suppose it could be worse. Tom said I could paint it or cover it with contact paper, though that would slightly reduce its effectiveness. I don’t know; I’d almost rather leave it the way it is than paint it. So after three days of pondering, I’ve come up with a couple ideas:
- Add some UV lights to my ceiling and tan while I work.
- Purchase two dozen rolls of plaid contact paper and make this place a swanky 1970’s BBC sitcom workpad.
- Pick up a set of the Millers Falls Buck Rogers-style tools and start wearing rope lights while I work.
- Start taking up donations of scrap PSA veneer and slowly create a Studley Workshop.
What do you think? Anyone out there have any ideas? Good or bad.
(Oh, and as an aside, I am in the process of working on a write-up of the Hand Works event. I also have two book reviews to work on, some information on the Stanley #3 I’m restoring, a saw bench to make, and I need to spend some time with my new Gramercy saw vise so I can review it, as well! But I have a lot of other stuff on my plate right now, so I’ll have to fit them in when I can.)