As home performance contractors we seem to be running into a common theme with homeowners that have already added insulation to their homes. The theme is that they have hired a company to upgrade their insulation, and that company does not understand how insulation works. They may be a handyman, they may be a general contractor, or they may be an outright highly experienced insulation company. What mistakes are these companies that have years and years of experience making when they are adding insulation to homes?? They are not air sealing before they are insulating.
Imagine for a minute that you went outside in the middle of winter with a wool sweater on. You would be very cold, because the wool sweater cannot block airflow. It can’t keep the cold air out or the warm air in. However, if you were to put on the thinnest windbreaker you could find, you would be able to block the heat from escaping and block the wind from blowing right through your sweater. Your Insulation is like your sweater, air moves right through it. However, York Home Performance has completed hundreds of energy audits, and not one home who had insulation upgrades had the area air sealed. Let’s take your attic for example, below are two Infrared pictures of the attic standing in the hallway that leads to the bedrooms.
One picture is of an attic that has 20 inches of insulation, and the other is of an attic that has 5 inches. Notice anything? They look the same right? It comes back to the fact that insulation will not stop airflow. It wouldn’t matter if an attic had 4 feet of insulation dumped into it, it will look the same as the one with 5 inches.
York Home Performance has upgraded the insulation levels of home’s all throughout York County, and we always air seal the attic or any area before adding insulation. It is the most important part about adding insulation. It is also what takes the majority of the time. It is the “prep work” to adding insulation to a home. Also see the blog post Air Sealing
Have you recently added insulation to your home and not notice any difference. Do you have the same cold and hot rooms, same high energy bills, no real difference? Call York Home Performance and receive a home energy audit. We’ll be able to properly identify whether or not your attic was air sealed before the insulation was upgraded. Or, if you’re interested in upgrading the insulation in your home, have an energy audit first. We’ll make sure that your investment goes further.
Remember insulation is like a wool sweater on a cold windy day…..
Meet Mrs. Gauntlet, she owns a nice home in the suburbs of York, Pa. Her home is a quaint cape cod with original 1967 single pane windows. The windows have been well maintained (caulked and painted) over the years and still look great. However, her home is drafty, has high energy bills, and she assumes the culprit is her original single pane windows. The windows are old, and she has several rooms in her home that are cold in the winter time, and warm in the summer. Mrs. Gauntlet needs to replace her windows right? No! It’s mainly a myth that you have to replace the windows in your home to achieve lower utility bills and comfortable rooms.
We told Mrs. Gauntlet, like we tell all homeowners, the culprit is not your windows, and no, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars replacing them. We continued on with the energy audit to find evidence of extreme convective heat loss, that made certain rooms very cold and very warm, but it wasn’t the windows. Windows are mainly aesthetics. They help make your home pleasing to the eye, add character and provide natural light and scenery.
We do hundreds of energy audits a year, and the average savings from going from the worst single pane window, to a high efficient double pane window are $4.10-$12.30, depending on your heating source. Let’s do the math: Avg. Window Installed $400 Annual Energy Savings $12.30 Payback= 32 years “…..But I have had many window companies tell me how much money I will save if I replace these old original windows!” They lie. Did they even look at your energy bills? Mrs. Gauntlet avoided an $8,000 mistake. If you are considering replacing your windows, have an energy audit completed first.
You can avoid costly mistakes like Mrs. Gauntlet. It is the only way to properly diagnose a home’s current performance. York Home Performance uses scientific equipment to diagnose the issues in your home and the knowledge and experience to fix them.
We provide thermal imaging for all energy audits that we perform. The thermal camera allows us to see how air moves throughout your home. Where does cold air come into the house? Where does heat escape? Although each home is different, each one is the same. The picture here from the Department of Energy depicts how air moves throughout your home. Notice the blue arrows; this represents cold air coming into your home. And the red ones, they represent heat escaping. It’s not by chance that all the blue arrows are at the bottom of the home and the red arrows are at the top, for this is what we in the building science field call the stack effect. Although there are areas of the home where simply caulking and weather-stripping can go a long way, it is only a small piece of the puzzle.
The large air leaks in the bottom of your home come from the sill plate (board above foundation) and rim/Band joist. Lines are run through your band joist including electrical, hvac and cable just to name a few. Furthermore, Crawlspaces whether closed or open, should be isolated from the home with a continuous air barrier. Your attic plane is the largest source of heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. If your standing at the top floor of your home, when there is only attic above you, is where we are referring to. There will be leakage through top plates, electrical penetrations (every electrical socket you see, has a hole through the top plate for the wiring. ) plumbing penetrations, chase ways and chimney bypasses, just to name a few.
”But I have insulation in my attic, so that it stops all the heat loss right?” NO! Insulation does not stop air flow. It is a product that stops conductive heat loss. Air sealing your attic plane will stop convective heat loss—strait air movement. And allow your insulation to do its job. If you have not already read the blog post, “Nothing But a Sweater On a Cold Windy Day” please do, it will add insight to the topic. What’s the big picture? These areas of leakage into the home bring dust, dirt, pollen, allergies, moisture and everything else that moves with air. These areas of leakage are primary issues in a home and lead to mold, excess dust, cold and warm rooms, allergies, poor indoor air quality and of course, HIGH ENERGY BILLS. Take the next step and have a home energy audit completed by York Home Performance. We have the tools and knowledge to not only find the air leaks that cause these issues, but solve them as well. Call Today!
One would assume if you have updated your old windows, from say single pane windows to an EnergyStar double pane low e and argon gas window, they should be performing well right?
Not necessarily! For instance, York Home Performance performed an audit in East York, Pa recently and found exactly that, new windows that were performing poorly. The homeowner had the audit performed to help gain a perspective of why his new windows, that had been replaced just 2 years ago, still felt cold and drafty. Why were they failing you may wonder?
The short answer, the windows were not installed properly. During the thermal imaging scan of the home it was clear that the contractor who installed these windows failed these homeowners. The windows were not air sealed around the rough opening. The window was level, plumb, and opened and closed with ease. The mistake came during the finishing stages. The contractor had sporadically shoved fiberglass insulation into the rough opening. They then proceeded to wrap the exterior in aluminum, and place shoe molding on the interior to cover the holes and nailed it to the trim. It looked great, but leaked like a civ. In fact, the new windows, leaked worse than the old windows.
Remember, the window will always be smaller than the hole that it goes in, this is what is revered to as the rough cut out or rough opening. When installing windows, making sure that the rough cut outs are air tight is one of the most important factors. The contractor at this home thought that if he put fiberglass insulation in that would be sufficient. Wrong! Fiberglass insulation will not stop air flow. Fiberglass insulation in porous, and therefore, should not be used to stop air. Low expansion spray foam was manufactured for this specific reason, which is why we use low expansion spray foam on every window we install.
We helped this local homeowner without much hassle. We had to gently remove the shoe molding, and take out the fiberglass batt insulation. We proceeded to use low expansion spray foam to completely air seal and insulate the windows. We then put the shoe molding back on and re-caulked the interior. They now looked, operated and performed very well.
Avoid these types of mistakes by having your new Energystar window installed by York Home Performance. We make sure that your windows look good, operate effectively and perform efficiently.
Before you break the bank, have an Energy Audit performed!