Energy Retrofit – An Ongoing Process

This winter has been an excellent opportunity to study the challenges, processes and benefits of doing a green remodel retrofit to our homes thermal and energy systems.  We began with an energy audit that provided guidance for thermal improvements already described in this blog.  After that, we decided to take advantage of the federal tax credit for solar systems and installed flat plate solar collector system that is already impressing us with 140 degree temperatures on 20 degree days.  And in December we upgraded the insulation in our attics to passive house values with paper cellulose insulation.  As well, we insulated both rim joists (basement and 1st floor) and air sealed the house.  The results have been very noticeable.  Our roof is not melting the snow at all.  We still have about three feet of fresh stuff sitting up there.  And when our furnace busted (prior to going to work in the morning, though we didn’t know it) we had the confidence to wait until the following morning for a repair.  Overnight the temperature dropped to six degrees.  By morning, the house still held a temperature of 57 degrees.  That’s more than 24 hours without heat and 57 degrees.  Pretty darn good for a retrofit that hasn’t yet upgraded the walls.  (Greenovations offers insulation services.)

As I said, however, the project is an ongoing experience.

Just an hour ago my wife called to tell me that water is leaking into our den around the window trim.  I called our insulator at Greenovations and he came right out to the house to investigate.  He brought along his infrared camera and remembering a conversation we had a week before, investigated the closet in the bedroom above the leak.  We had complained that his room was cold and that the closet seemed to be the location of the problem.  And we were right.  The temperature on the knee wall that meets the sloped roof was 52 degrees while all the others were 65.  There was no insulation in this spot.  As a result, the heat loss there was melting the snow and causing an ice dam.  Let me say it again as I have many times on this blog….oh if I could have a word with the man that built this house!  Clearly, this has been an ongoing problem for the house.  The flower shaped rust spots on the radiator near the leak were clear evidence of it.  A minute of work during construction could have prevented this.

The good news: we know exactly how to cure the cold problem in our son’s bedroom.

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