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Get The 'Biggest Bang For Your Buck' When Adding Insulation

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Oct, 04, 2017 @ 11:10 AM

If you decide to add insulation this fall, focus on your attic or roof line and thenBiggest_Bang.png reducing air leakage in the basement and/or crawlspace. Especially, where your foundation meets your floor joist.

Access to your walls is not really a good option because you're not going to remove the drywall unless you're doing some remodeling. If you're planning to remove your siding and re-side the house, there are some measures you may want to consider at that time to improve the insulation.  

REMINDER: R Value – Fact or Faulty Myth R-Value in the lab just doesn’t cut it in the field when it comes to the real-world. Most consumers are familiar with the term but have no concrete understanding what it really means other than it has to do with insulation and energy efficiency. The problem is the understanding stops there and crowds out the important information and science necessary to realize/achieve the results your hoope for. Unfortunately, in the construction world r-value is the “pink” standard.

The problem IS "R-values can be misleading! To use a quote from an ultra energy-efficiency engineer, “if both insulation materials have the same R-value, they should perform the same,”  ask yourself this question, “would you rather pour hot coffee (which is served at around 180 degrees) over your lap into a thin foam cup or into 1″ of fiberglass insulation (which is about the thickness of your furnace filter)?” Does one inch of foam truly perform the same as one inch of fiberglass? No! You get the idea!

All insulation materials (except for urethane foam) are going to test out at between R-3 and R-4 per inch. In fact, if air can penetrate the building materials(like fiberglass) the effective R-Value is ZERO, no matter how deep you stack it.

So before you add rolls of fiberglass insulation or blow more cellulose in your attic, make sure you seal any air penetrations in your attic floor

To get the 'biggest bang for your buck' when adding insulation, focus on your attic or roof line and then reducing air leakage in the basement and/or crawlspace. Especially, where your foundation meets your floor joist.

Hope that helps!


Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Attic Insulation, Basement Insulation

When My Furnace Isn't Running, I Feel Cold, Why?

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Feb, 12, 2016 @ 15:02 PM

Does this sound like you? "I'm feel so cold when the heat isn't blowing," Snuggie-blanket.jpg"my fingers and feet get pretty cold sitting, typing on my computer even though the thermostat is 'happy'." (It turned off your furnace because it reached the temperature setting)

The furnace can put out plenty of heat, but your house feels cold unless the furnace is running; the heat doesn't seem to end up in a place that keeps occupants comfortable. How can I fix this?

Buying a Snuggie may or may not be the right solution for you. 

What is a very common occurrence in many homes, is the warm air coming from your registers is collecting at ceiling height, where it can be 13 F° warmer than it is at floor level. If the thermostat is set at 68°F, a homeowners feet could be in 59°F territory. If you could reach up and touch the ceiling, it would be 72°F degrees.  

You have to accurately identify the problems in order to find the right solution! The heating problems: blame the "stack effect".

Martin Holladay, a building scientist says it's an open-and-shut case. The reason for the stratification is almost certainly air leakage driven by the stack effect. The stack effect is the movement of air in a building upward, from basement to roof, caused by air leaks. Warm air rises to the top of the house and is replaced by cooler air coming in through leaks in the bottom of the house. When air leaks are sealed, air doesn't tend to stratify.

Martin says, "the solution is to track down the source of air leaks and missing insulation, then perform air-sealing work in your basement and attic". He suggests, "concentrate on the leaks in the basement and at the ceiling plane of the first floor, be sure to investigate the air-tightness of all plumbing stacks, flues, and electrical chases, too. Air could be convecting straight through to the attic from the basement, bypassing the first floor but chilling off the basement with the infiltration."

Sometimes cold first floors can be caused by band-joist leakage into the joist bays of an unfinished or finished basement ceiling. They usually have pink fiberglass insulation stuck in them. Behind the pink stuff can be big cold air leaks, especially on a cold windy winter day. Frost or ice can form on the band joist!


How To Seal The Band Joist In Your Basement.

DTE Energy put out this video which in the last minute covers what to do. Most homes built in the last 50 years have a basement and typically have what they call a band joist. It's where the wood joists that make up your first floor, set on top of the poured concrete basement wall.

A lack of insulation also means a lack of comfort, because the human body can sense the temperature of walls and flooring through radiation, as well as feeling the air temperature.

Another important recommendation: Make sure your above-grade first-floor masonry walls are insulated

One completely uninsulated wall in the basement can make a major contribution to your cold-floor problem. When it's 20°F outside and 55°F in the basement, every square foot of above-grade foundation is losing 35 Btu/h, and the below-grade portion is losing something like half that. 

If there's 2 feet of above-grade foundation x 30 feet wide that's 60 square feet, and 2,100 Btu/hr of heat loss, and you're probably losing another 2,500-3,000 Btu/hr out the below-grade section. Even one uninsulated basement wall in a 55°F is the heat loss equivalent of a decent-sized insulated first-floor room." It can be a primary source of cold air in the house. The air near the walls is cooled by the cold walls. 

Insulating the remainder of the basement and getting serious about chasing down air leaks will probably cut the whole-house heat load by a solid double-digit percentage, and raise the temperature of the basement (and first floor floors) by 3 to 5 F°, possibly more." 

Start by fixing the cheap and easy stuff, like the uninsulated part of the basement and chasing down the remaining air leaks, both of which are very good from a bang-for-your-buck perspective.

This all equals MORE comfort and LOWER heating costs year in and year out!

Topics: Comfort, Building Science, Basements, Basement Insulation

Energy Efficiency Tips For Basements and Crawlspaces

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Dec, 19, 2014 @ 16:12 PM

If you're thinking about taking on a home improvement project before winter, the weather in Battle Creek seems to be cooperating a little longer. Maybe you've got your Christmas shopping done and you GreatStuffremember how cold last winter was. I thought I'd do a 'what-to-do-next' article after covering what to do in the attic to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home.

Again, I want to promote some of the highlights of the information from the folks at EnergyStar.

They say:

Once the attic has been addressed, the basement or crawlspace is usually the next best place to seal and insulate to reduce energy use and control drafts from below.

Second to the attic, the basement is one of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. By sealing and insulating your basement, you can prevent cold floors and reduce drafts from below to keep your home comfortable.

If your home experiences any of these problems, it might be a good candidate for a basement/crawlspace insulation project:

  • Cold floor in the winter
  • Hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; uneven temperature between rooms
  • High heating or cooling bills

Sealing Your Basement or Crawlspace - Look for common locations of air leaks in basements and crawlspaces:

  • Between rim joists and under the sill plate
  • Around windows
  • At wiring holes
  • Around plumbing pipes
  • Around the door to crawlspace, if attached to outside of house
  • Around foundation at the sill plate, if not sealed properly


Step 1. Seal any gaps or cracks in basement wall, ceiling or floor. It is best to seal up the top and bottom of the inside of the rim joist cavity. This is especially important at areas such as bay windows that hang off the foundation. Use caulk for any gaps or cracks ¼ inch or less and spray foam for anything larger. It is also very important to seal any holes for wires, pipes or other service areas that may lead to other floors of your home.

Step 2. Cut insulation and insert accordingly. Insert and secure all insulation between holes in rim joists. If using batts, cut the insulation to fit and place against the rim joist. If using rigid foam insulation, foam around the edges to hold the insulation in place. After installing the rigid foam insulation or fitting batts into rim joists, seal any remaining holes and cracks to make your basement airtight.

Caution4Combustion Safety

If you have an appliance like a furnace or hot water heater that uses oil or gas, consider having them tested to ensure they are properly drafting combustion gasses before and after sealing your home. Sealing in some cases can cause naturally venting combustion appliances to backdraft gases back into your home, creating unsafe conditions.

This may also be a good time to schedule a furnace tune up!

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Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Sealing, Basements, Basement Insulation

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