Second Opinion Magazine
Q&A: Updating the House
Questions and Answers with Ron Welsch, Heritage Builders Inc.
Q: I want to invest some money in something that increases in value. What do you recommend?
A: The first thing would be a home energy audit by Focus on Energy auditors. A 2-3 hour home energy inspection will: determine the rate of air loss from your home, discover areas responsible for air leakage, determine how your combustion appliances are working, and offer several recommendations to improve your home’s performance.
Besides being educational in nature, Focus on Energy also provides some financial reimbursement for the work done, depending on the effectiveness of your technician.
Q: Do you mean I should plan to add insulation?
A: No. Adding insulation may be necessary depending on the levels of insulation you have, but before adding, it is more important to air seal. Air sealing is the craft of finding and sealing the air leaks in your home. Air sealing MUST precede any insulation project; unless your audit shows your home is very tight already.
A: All of those things you did are very good. But they probably did not address the Air Transport System in your home, which is at work 24-7-365. Even though your home shows no cracks in the drywall, there is a continuous air leak between the sheet rock and the wall framing–at the top of the wall, the bottom of the wall, and at all penetrations in between. Also, there are frequent errors in framing, which function as major air ducts into your attic.
Q: So what can you do about it?
A: Well, we know that warm air rises, right? Your heated air rises toward the ceiling. So outside air is drawn in at the lower levels and escapes at the upper levels. This system is what causes you to feel cold drafts in the winter. It causes condensation in the attic and ice dams on the roof.
So, to stop your expensive heated air from escaping, we actually crawl in your attic, push the insulation away from all penetrations, and caulk or foam the gaps. Then we reset the insulation and blow a repairing cap of cellulose over your existing insulation.
Q: How much money will this save me?
A: You know, this is the only home improvement I get that question about. You don’t wonder if the whirlpool will pay you back, or the big screen TV. Yet, the investment required to make your home energy efficient does NOT depreciate. And you can’t lose it in the stock market. And it WILL reduce the amount of energy you need to buy to stay comfortable. Actual costs and actual savings vary widely with the home itself and with how the home is used.