Winterization/Weatherization
Attic Bypass Sealing
Attic Bypass Sealing
Attic Hatch
Attic Hatch
Finished Cellulose Insulation
Finished Cellulose Insulation
Appliance Efficiency Test Stove
Appliance Efficiency Test Stove
Appliance Efficiency Test H20 Heater
Appliance Efficiency Test H20 Heater
Bacharrach
Bacharrach
Winterization and Weatherization are terms that are used when talking about Home Performance. The Three Pillars in the home that drive Home performance are:

1. Thermal Boundary (Insulation & Air Barrier)
2. HVAC
3. Baseload

This is what you get when you boil it all down to the simplest terms. Simply put, these three “Pillars” are the driving forces in home performance. Everything in the home that has anything to do with energy usage can be neatly put into one of these three simple categories. If we organize our efforts in this manner, it will be easy to develop a plan of action to increase efficiency. Once you have fully inspected and addressed these issues, you will be well on our way to saving energy and money.

Thermal Boundary (Insulation & Air Barrier)

We need to start by understanding a few fundamentals.
Heat transfer is the key player. Heat is transferred in 3 ways: Conduction, Convection and Radiation.
  1. Conduction - Glass and metals are excellent conductors of heat. Other materials like wood and drywall have slightly more resistance to heat transfer. Insulation products like Fiberglass, Cellulose and Spray Foam are excellent resisters of heat flow because they have many tiny air cells that take more time to exchange the heat.
  2. Convection- Convection, or air movement, is another major contributor to heat movement. Unwanted airflow from conditioned space into unconditioned space can cause big problems when it comes to energy efficiency.
  3. Radiation- The sun’s rays (radiation) produce heat as well. When sunlight passes through a window, it warms the surface of whatever it touches.
You need to consider all three factors to some degree when you are looking to save energy, make your home and buildings more comfortable, and do your part to help protect the environment. Some easy solutions like air sealing and proper levels of insulation are a great place to start. Making good use of the sun’s rays in the winter and proper shading for the summer are also effective ways to control the temperature in the living space of our buildings. First, you need to take a look at the building’s Thermal Envelope (shell). The thermal shell is the barrier that separates the conditioned space from the unconditioned space, such as the floors, walls and ceilings. This thermal shell needs to be airtight and well insulated. Once you have taken a good look at the thermal shell, you can move onto the insulation.

To address unwanted heat transfer you need to make sure we have a continuous air barrier and plenty of insulation. Lets start at the ceiling plane.

Insulation

a. Attic- The ceiling of the home is the leading source of unwanted heat transfer through the thermal envelope. Eighty percent of the home’s heat loss travels through the attic. Unless your home was built with energy conservation in mind, it is probably under-insulated. The Department of Energy recommends that we build to a total of R-49 or R-60 for attic insulation in this region of the country. In many homes, this will be an increase of 100% or more insulation in the attic and it will have a major impact on its effectiveness. We offer several different insulation packages, including Fiberglass, Cellulose, Cellulose + and our Hybrid Insulation system. Blown in Cellulose insulation is the most commonly used. It has air-sealing characteristics and is very affordable. We also install Blown in Fiberglass for some applications.

b. Walls- If the walls of the home are not insulated, don’t worry, there is hope. The walls of an existing home can be insulated by using a drill and plug method. First, you need to confirm that the walls are un-insulated. You can drill a ½” hole in an inconspicuous place, such as in a closet or behind a cabinet. All four walls should be checked. Once you have determined that there is a wall cavity and it is indeed un-insulated, you are set for the next step, which is to determine the best way to install insulation. Drilling through many building materials and installing insulation can be messy, so the preferred entry point would be from the exterior. The siding can often be removed to allow access to the sheathing material. Several holes will need to be drilled into each wall to access all wall cavities for thorough coverage. If exterior access is not an option, you can insulate from the interior.

Using cellulose to insulate the walls of your home will not only give you a better R-Value, it will also seal up a lot up cracks and voids and stop infiltrations, offering a great solution to problems like drafty rooms and pipes that freeze.

The One-Hole Method is where one hole is drilled approximately 2/3 the wall up the wall, and the insulation is pumped in.

The Two-Hole Method insures better coverage because 2- 1/8” holes are drilled at 1/3 and ¾ the height of the wall. So if you have an 8’ wall to insulate, we would drill at approximately 2’-3’ and at 6’-7’. This allows for thorough coverage throughout the wall cavity.

Dense Pack Method is where one larger 2 ¾” hole is drilled at approximately 1’-2’ from the bottom of the wall. The technician will then install a hose into that hole and slide it up to the top of the cavity to begin installing the insulation. As the wall cavity fills, the technician will pull the hose out of the hole a little at a time until the entire cavity is densely packed to a total of 2 ½ lbs per cubic feet. Now that your walls are insulated, a plug is installed into these holes and the wall is ready for finish work or reinstalling siding.

Wall insulation is a big job, but the return on investment makes the work worthwhile.

c. Foundation- Band Sills are one of the most under insulated areas of the home. The band sill is the area at the top of the foundation wall in the basement or crawl space where the floor joists meet the rim joist. This area, which is also referred to as the sill box, is riddled with joints and penetrations that allow unwanted airflow. Many homes simply have a piece of fiberglass batt insulation filling the space that does not do an adequate job of insulating or air sealing. Spray foam is an excellent solution to this problem because it has both air sealing and insulating characteristics. Properly applied, the 2-part foam (2” or R-13) will fill all of the cracks and voids and provide enough R-Value to eliminate the unwanted heat transfer problems in this area. For newer homes the same principles and applications apply.

Foundation Wall Insulation, whether in a basement or in a crawlspace, is typically hard to insulate and therefore another problem area in many homes. Spray foam is a great solution for under –insulated and leaky above-grade foundation and crawl space walls. Properly applying 2”-4”(R-13-R-25) of 2-part foam will create an airtight seal and the desired R-Value.

d. Floors- Floors are another hard-to-insulate area. Spray foam installed at a thickness of 4” (R-25) is an excellent way to achieve the desired R-Value, proper air sealing of the penetrations, and also provide an excellent sound barrier. Dense packed fiberglass is a cost effective method to insulate a floor.

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Air Barrier (Infiltration/ Exfiltration)

Air sealing the attic is equally as important as building up the insulation level to the recommended R-value when it comes to conserving energy in the home. Without air sealing you will see a diminished return on investment, meaning the money you spent on improvements will not come back to you in energy savings. When planning your air sealing measures, you should start at the ceiling, address the basement next and focus on the living area last.

a. Attic- Check the entire attic for bypasses and then air seal them before you insulate. You can air seal with caulk, foam board, and expanding foam. Heat sources such as a chimney flue or an exhaust fan should be air sealed and blocked with fire-rated materials. A barrier must be installed around heat sources so that the insulation does not stop the heat from dissipating. Use of expanding foam insulation in combination with loose fill insulation will produce the greatest results. See our Cellulose + and Hybrid Insulation packages.

b. Basement- Check the entire basement ceiling for penetrations and then air seal them with the appropriate materials. Look for electrical, plumbing and HVAC penetrations. You can use caulk, polystyrene foam board, expanding foam or sheet metal to seal the openings. Be sure to use fire rated materials to seal around any heat producing penetrations like the flue pipe. Many times these penetrations are connected to unconditioned space, like the attic, through the homes interstitial cavities.

c. Living area- Homes often have draft issues with windows and doors. Although these leaks are not the leading contributors to heat loss, they do lead to comfort issues and can be addressed through air sealing measures like weatherstripping and caulk.

Windows are also a significant source of solar heat gain. This can be an advantage during the winter heating season and a major disadvantage in the summer.

When the time comes to replace your windows and/or doors, look for the EnergyStar label.

Affordable Comfort can help. We service all kinds of windows and doors. Many affordable solutions are available for the various problems you may have, and we can help you understand the different choices and help you make the right decision for your home.

Affordable Comfort installs Albany doors.

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HVAC (Heating,Ventilation,Air Conditioning)

a. Heating system- Heating cost is likely the largest contributor to energy cost in our region of the country. With the help of the latest technology efficiency ratings for a new furnace can far exceed that of an older model. A Natural gas or propane furnace manufactured say 25 years ago may have an efficiency rating of 70% (lower in some cases). This means that for every dollar spent in fuel 30% or more is wasted right up the flu pipe. Not to mention the waste from leaky duct work. More recently furnace manufacturers started producing furnaces that have an efficiency rating of 80%. Again we have a waste factor of at least 20%. Now they make furnaces with efficiency ratings of up to 96%. Thats a savings of about $25 of every $100 spent on heating cost. The payback ratio will make sense in almost every situation.

Servicing your furnace on an annual basis will not only help avoid disaster, (Imagine its the day before the big event and the outdoor temperature is below zero when the furnace is working its hardest and the thing goes out) It also keeps it running at peak efficiency. Preventive maintenance will pay off.

One of the highest payback items in the home is a well sealed and insulated duct system, especially when the ductwork runs through unconditioned space.

b. Cooling system- We spend a ton of money each year to cool the house as well. The same holds true for modern cooling systems when it comes to energy efficiency and with a preventative maintenance schedule.

Because the Furnace air handler also drives the air conditioner making sure it is maintained has an effect on the cooling efficiency. Air sealing and insulating the duct work helps for the heating and cooling.

c. Ventilation- Based on the square footage of the home and the number of bedrooms, we do some calculations to figure out what the ventilation requirements are for that house based on ASHRAE 62.2-2010 standards. A healthy home needs about 7.5 cfm of fresh air for each occupant, so there is such a thing as too much insulation.

After we have a target number, we do the blower door test to see how much air sealing is needed. If the house is below the healthy house standard for airflow, we will need to evaluate the need for mechanical ventilation. Once the home is nearing completion there will be a need for diagnostic testing with the blower door to make sure the house has the proper amount of fresh air to be safe for the occupants. There may be a need for a mechanical fresh air exchanger that will introduce fresh air into the home without losing valuable conditioned air. ASHREA 62-2-2010 standards apply. It may seem strange to add mechanical ventilation, but without the proper amount of fresh air sealing, occupants can become ill, have trouble sleeping, and experience general discomfort.

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Baseload

a. Lighting- Lighting accounts for 10% of the home's annual energy cost. Installing energy efficient lighting can reduce this cost by 75%. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs are a popular choice and readily available for purchase. The advancements in technology have improved the light produced by them. They are now also manufactured for many different applications like outdoor flood lights, mini candle and recessed light fixtures.

LED’s may be a better choice in some situations because their life cycle far exceeds any other product. They also produce high quality light. The downside is that they are a bit expensive.

b. Appliances- Advances in technology have made newer appliances much more efficient. Look for the energy star label when it is time to replace your old equipment.

c. Water- Water heating accounts for 15% of your energy bill. This is no surprise when you stop to think about the fact that stand by water heaters keep 40 gallons of water hot 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

There is a lot we can do quickly and easily. First, check your temperature setting. Often, the setting is too hot. Turn the temperature back a few degrees and adjust the hot and cold water mix to compensate. We can also install an insulation blanket to help keep the hot water hot. Low flow shower heads and faucet aerarators use 40% less water, that is 1.5 gallons a minute. It may also be a good idea to check your toilet tanks to make sure they are not leaking into the bowl. Drop a few drops of food coloring into the tank and if you see the water in the bowl change colors you know you have a problem (likely the flapper and that is very easy to change)

d. Electronics- Many electronic devices draw power even when they are powered off. This is called phantom energy drain. They suck up electricity. A typical entertainment system or computer set up will draw 30 or more watts of electricity even when powered off. A good solution is a smart power strip. These reduce the phantom power loss down to 2 or 3 watts. Coffee pots , cell phone chargers and radios among other things can also be draining power a little at a time but will add up.

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