With this year’s first heat wave finally passed, there are many people, no doubt, wondering how to make their homes cooler for the summer months. Sadly, many more aren’t even taking this simple step and are running off to the nearest discount appliance store to purchases air conditioning units and fans that will always run up the electric bill. At my home, we have no air conditioning and yet we have had no need to turn on a fan all summer. Our house, thanks to some inexpensive energy upgrades I put into it last winter and fall, is not just a roof over our heads; it has become a building that performs for us. A good building is not measured simply in square feet; a good building is measured in terms of performance, quality of materials and craftsmanship, and size. Here’s how we did it.
1. The first step we took, as those who have read this blog know, was to perform an energy audit. Refer back to the archives of this blog for September
2. The most important step was insulation and weatherization. Previously, our attic was insulated with R-19 fiberglass placed in the bays between the attic floor joists. Since our attic is unconditioned and unused we were able to close it off after the new insulation. We began by cutting away two feet of the fiberglass from around the perimeter and then sealed off the envelope with caulk and foam, while also foaming into place proper vents for good ventilation. The two foot cut out sections were then filled with National Fiber dense packed paper cellulose and after that, 14 inches of loose blown paper cellulose was blown over the fiberglass and the perimeter creating an r-value of 66.6 (r-19 fiber glass + [r-3.4 paper cellulose x 14]). Additionally, a new, air tight and insulated ceiling hatch was created and screwed into place. (Quite often, attic hatches are like an open chimney creating a highway of heat transfer between hot and cold.) The cost for all this, professionally installed: $2200 The cost of 3 window mounted air conditioning units: anywhere from $400 to $1200
In addition to insulating the attic, we also insulated the rim joists between floors and properly sealed off the interior spaces from the drive under garage.
3. In the spring we installed insulating & light filtering cellular shades by Comfortex in all the south and west-facing rooms. During the day, we close all the windows and the shades in order to trap in cool evening air and prevent infiltration from hot day time air. In the late afternoon or evening we open the windows and shades. Entering the house in the middle of the day or when getting home from work the air temp often feels air conditioned. Friends and neighbors unaware of our efforts have also commented on the same feeling. http://www.seacoastgreenovations.com/products/home-supplies-furnishings.aspx
I can’t say how much energy we save compared to the amount we would use if we installed air conditioning units. We bought the house last August and have not experienced it with such equipment. I can say that late last August (we moved in on the 25th) the upstairs rooms of our house reached the 90’s at night. Now, with our massive heat shield in the roof we go to bed with temps of 70 degrees.
Also, our insulation work, coupled with the solar hot water system on our roof, cut the heating oil consumption from 800 gallons the previous (warm winter) year to 425 gallons this last (cold) winter.
If you’d like to learn more about insulating your home, contact the store and we’d be happy to share our knowledge and offer our services.
*Owner Christopher Ring is a certified installer of National Fiber Cel Pak insulation.