Building or remodeling?

You have to love our weather. As I’m writing the June column, the weatherman just reported that we set not one, but two record low temperatures for May. Many of you were still running the heat pumps and furnaces well into the month of May. It appears we may have one of those years where we transition from the heating season to cooling season overnight.

Building_the_Home_of_Your_Dreams copy 1So, by the time you receive this issue, the summer season will officially be near. And with its arrival, heat does an about-face and will move into the homes we are trying to cool. This movement of energy during summer months is called heat gain. Plus, as the outside temperature rises, so does the amount of energy required to cool your house, which, as you know, equates to a higher utility bill.

Recently, I have received some calls from folks who are planning to build new houses or remodel their existing homes while interest rates are still near record lows. If you are considering building a new home or remodeling please contact me first or pick up a copy of “The Illinois Touchstone Energy Home – Building the Home of Your Dreams” from your local electric cooperative. Do so before you start construction.

The reason I’m putting an emphasis on before is because most energy efficiency components and measures must be installed during the early construction stages. Most generally, I can assist with every energy efficiency component if you contact me before you begin construction.

It’s disappointing when I get a call from my readers only to learn their construction project is under way and energy inefficient methods have been implemented. Oftentimes it’s too late to make any changes unless they want to invest in an expensive job change order.

For example, recently I received a call from a man who is building a new house. He told me that he was employed as a welder and wanted his house built from steel and insulated with open-cell spray foam. His home was 1,600 square feet and on a slab.

Hearing these preliminary details was music to my ears. Then I asked him, “What can I do for you?” He answered that a friend told him that he might have a moisture problem. I told him that we had been involved with several steel-framed house projects that included foam insulation. None had any moisture problems.

That’s when he told me the house was almost completed and he had already installed 9 inches of foam in the exterior walls, 3-inch batts at the roofline and 11 inches of foam in the wood-framed ceiling joists.

I also learned that the ductwork for the heating and cooling system was installed and a four-ton heating and cooling unit was on order. The music in my ears faded to the pit in my stomach.

I am very proud of this homeowner. He had great intentions of building a super-efficient building envelope for his new home. However, there was far more insulation installed than required for our climate zone. Plus the heating and cooling system was incorrectly sized (oversized) for the extremely efficient dwelling. Both conditions equated to unnecessary additional construction costs and, most likely, will attribute to comfort and moisture issues.

As the homeowner and I were discussing the situation, I calculated the heating and cooling load to be about 1.5 tons. While I commended the homeowner for being so energy conscious, the current situation left him without very many solutions. The obvious solution was to install a properly sized heating and cooling system, or deal with uncomfortable consequences of an oversized unit.

As our call ended, the homeowner understood the nature of an oversized unit and chose to install the proper equipment. But the situation could have been avoided if the homeowner would have called the energy advisor at his local electric cooperative or me, before construction began.

Folks, if you are planning to build a new house, I have two recommendations for you. Call me at my office at 501-653-7931 for help, or contact your local electric cooperative for a copy of the “The Illinois Touchstone Energy Home – Building the Home of Your Dreams” booklet. The earlier you do this, the more we can help you.