What’s the first thing you do when you want to improve the comfort of your home and save money on your monthly utility bills? Like most people you start with Google to get more information. You get unlimited details, plans and suggestions on what to do, how to do it, what products to use, and companies to hire or DIY (do-it-yourself). If you happen to mention your project to friends, family or coworkers, you automatically get their advice and experiences. I am not saying homeowners should not do their homework before spending good money, but I sometimes wonder what they were thinking?
The following are snapshots of projects I’ve seen in homes and hope you can learn from these mistakes.
A common mistake – In homes with fireplaces, more times than not the damper in the fireplace is left open year-round. This allows heated air to flow up and out the chimney causing a significant heat loss in the winter, drafts and making the home dry in the winter, and humid in the summer. When not in use, close the damper.
Dead air space –A thin insulation batt was installed in the wall cavities, and a one to two-inch air gap was intentionally left between the insulation and drywall because the homeowner heard dead air space was a good insulator. When using my infrared camera, it looked like there was no insulation. Dead air spaces are NOT good insulators!
New home, high utilities – A well-built home going through its first winter had 2×6, foam-insulated exterior walls, insulated basement walls, and geothermal heating and cooling. Great so far, then I got in the attic. There was poorly installed R13 fiberglass batt insulation installed on the attic floor – in Illinois you should have R49. I asked the homeowner when they were going to finish insulating the attic. He proudly told me that he was done and he insulated the attic himself. The person at the “Big Box” store told him that having more than R13 in the attic was a waste of money!
Dry home – The home was really dry in the winter, so I was hired to determine the problem. When I arrived at the home on a cold December day, one window in every room was open at least an inch, a cold mist vaporizer was running in each room, plus a whole-house steam humidifier was installed on the furnace. They told me that they liked the fresh air in the winter. I told them
about minor recommendations and they were happy to know there wasn’t anything else they could do short of closing the windows to add more humidity.
Bags of insulation in the attic – In the attic, I found dozens of huge garbage bags stuffed full of batt insulation sitting on the attic floor and little insulation installed on the floor beneath them. The homeowner told me he brings the insulation home from work and puts it in the attic for insulation. I told him he would need to remove insulation from the bags and install it on the attic floor. Currently, the heat is flowing up and around the bags of insulation.
Makes me smile every time – I was called to a home where I did an energy evaluation a few months earlier. The owner told me he insulated the attic but wanted to show me. When we got in the attic, there it was, one new bag of cellulose insulation still in the bag sitting in the middle of the attic floor. I asked where the other 79 of 80 bags were he was to blow into the attic? He misunderstood.