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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    17

    Default National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    Hi,

    We had the National Energy Audit company check our Massachusetts house's ('79 modular ranch 1,200sq ft) efficiency and what can be done to improve it.
    After the blower test and some other checks, they determined that what needs to be done to better insulate our house are 3 things:

    - Basement (unfinished):
    - insulate the rim joist in the basement (currently they are insulated with either nothing or fiberglass bats) / we have a 1-car under garage so basement is ~960sq ft

    - Attic (AC unit is in the attic):
    - blow (on top of our old R-30 bats) additional cellulose insulation
    - add radiant barrier

    The total cost quoted for all of the above: $2773.50 (possible 30% discount)

    Additional info:
    We have field mice in the attic during winter and despite last years' extermination looks like we still have some carpenter ants (likely both basement and attic)
    We are planning to finish up the basement in a few years but before we do that we are thinking about hiring professionals to do water proofing and radon mitigation system.

    With all of the above here are my questions:
    1 - Does it make sense to blow insulation on top of old bats in the attic (considering we may have ants and/or mice in there)? (We were told that that foam deters pests)
    2 - Does it make sense to seal anything in the basement before doing radon mitigation and water proofing? (Our basement gets mostly damp, we don't really have a serious water issue)
    3 - Should we consider checking how the garage is insulated? (two bedrooms are in good part over the garage)
    4 - Is it a good price?
    5 - What else have we not considered but should have?

    Thanks a bunch!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,731

    Default Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    Did they use a thermal imaging camera? Sometimes a large amount of energy escapes through very small areas. If you just add more insulation, you could be putting a lot of money where it won't do any good. Charles Wing said in his book, "From the Walls In" that the insulation in most houses is like swiss cheese. People add more swiss cheese and can't figure out why they aren't saving any money. A thermal imaging camera will show you the holes in your swiss cheese.

    Insulating the rim joist is a good idea. As for the attic, swiss cheese concept not withstanding, you would be hard pressed to make money here. You didn't tell us about your wall insulation, but if you have a typical r-11 wall, then you may be loosing less than 20% of your heat through the roof. In fact it could be a lot less. Adding another r-30 will only cut this loss in half. Remember, heating is not your total utility bill so your anticipated savings could be a lot less than you imagine.

    The rim joist could save you a lot more. Preventing heat loss through the rim joist will actually heat up your whole floor. Warm air from the basement will rise into the floor cavities where it will be trapped by the insulation in the rim. That will stratify to keep your floors warm and prevent heat loss downward. It would work better than insulation in the floor joists.

    Keep the basement ventilated and work on the walls, windows and doors. More potential there.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    17

    Question Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    Thank you for your response.

    They did use the thermal imaging camera. The walls weren't too bad (likely due to the fact that this is a modular house). Where there was heat loss was in the corners and where the walls meet...

    We had replaced all windows (except for the slider)... We do keep our place relatively warm (electric baseboards) but for 1,200sq ft a $400 bill in the heating season seemed a bit much...so we felt there is a problem.

    To repeat some of my original questions:
    1 - Does it make sense to blow insulation on top of old bats in the attic (considering we may have ants and/or mice in there)? (We were told that that foam deters pests)
    2 - Does it make sense to seal anything in the basement before doing radon mitigation and water proofing? (Our basement gets mostly damp, we don't really have a serious water issue)
    3 - Should we consider checking how the garage is insulated? (two bedrooms are in good part over the garage)
    4 - Is it a good price?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    The only thing that I can comment on is the cost. If you call around too contractors you will be able to see what the going rate for work performed is and will then be able to make an informed decision.

    Good Luck

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    hey dmshep99,

    It sounds like you had a thorough audit performed.

    1 of the best things you can do for your home is to seal the rimjoist. You will notice a difference instantly due to the amount of air loss in this location of your home.

    In regards to adding the cellulose, it is a smart upgrade. You really want to have an R Value of 49 in your attic. Blowing the cellulose on top of the batt or rolling another layer of R19 or R30 batt in the opposite direction is a great application. Make sure that the top plates (if applicable) are sealed off too. I am sure that National Energy Audits offers this install. It is simple and affordable. You want to seal the top plates with the same spray foam they are using in your rim joist.

    As far as price goes, any weatherization package under $3,000 is a great deal depending on the work. Are you eligible for the tax credits? The difference between using some "Joe Schmo" contractor and a national company for such work is the guarantee they offer. If something does not come out right, fall through your ceiling, cellulose is spotty in an area etc... will "Joe Schmo" come back to your house? Probably not. Once he is paid, he is gone. I have gotten burnt many times using local handymen, carpenters and no longer do so. I always go with a national or statewide company for this fact. Insulation is not expensive, so a caprenter at most can save you $100??? is it worth it? Does he have the latest equipment? Buyer Be Ware.

    Good luck with your weatherization?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    17

    Cool Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    Thanks guys!
    The company came out one more time to address our concerns and questions.
    The second guy discovered that the insulation on our basement ceiling has been installed upside down (the paper/vapor barrier was facing the basement and not the heated space above). So the previous owners, house inspector...no one noticed it.
    That would explain it looking somewhat droopy and dark...and possibly the ants...since it is nice and moist in the fibre glass.
    Gotta love it. We added it to our package.
    Thanks again guys!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Eastern MA
    Posts
    75

    Default Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    Hot air rises and usually the most heat loss is through the ceiling. The problem is air leakage. Fiberglass does not stop air leakage. Adding more fiberglass will not help you. A radiant barrier will not help you in Massachusetts .

    As a spray foam contractor in Massachusetts, I have done quite a few attics with spray foam and have made big differences in comfort and heating bills. I spray the underside of the roof. This brings the air conditioner inside conditioned space and the AC works much better.

    The next most important place to seal is the rim joist. You can either do it with rigid foam and be sure to completely seal the edges with can foam to stop air movement, which fiberglass will not. I think it is easier to spray closed cell foam

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,731

    Default Re: National Energy Audit - second opinion request

    Quote Originally Posted by RJordan View Post
    Hot air rises and usually the most heat loss is through the ceiling. The problem is air leakage. Fiberglass does not stop air leakage. Adding more fiberglass will not help you. A radiant barrier will not help you in Massachusetts .
    Actually in most single story homes with a flat ceiling, 20 to 30% of the heat lost is through the ceiling. Doors and windows are the largest energy losers. The ceiling itself stops most air leakage, but sometime a significant amount of air can be lost through the gaps around the ceiling fixtures. A can of minimal expanding foam is good to plug these.

    I do agree that adding more insulation in the attic will probably not generate the return on investment (ROI) expected. Sealing around the fixtures may actually save as much or more than the extra insulation but at a much lower cost. If the ceiling joists stick up above the current insulation, then there may be some payback by bringing the depth of the insulation to about 2" above the joists. Exposed joists act like radiator fins.

    I think you oversell foam a bit. I am a believer in its superiority to fiberglass, but not quite as much as you seem too.

    I do agree 100% about the rim joists.

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