Home Inspector Websites

Thermal Imaging Episode

Thermal Imaging for  the consumer. We use this "vision" on all home inspections.
970-586-5068
Please visit the link to the Thermal Imaging Episode at the bottom of this page. John McKenna provides a very informative, fact based explanation of how this technology can help me when I inspect your home. John is InterNachi's Infrared Certified instructor, and my instructor.

Why use thermal imaging in a home? There are many applications where my Flir B-Cam Infrared Camera can be helpful, and indispensable. The main electrical panel of a home is inspected visually during a home inspection. When I inspect a home I use my thermal camera to "look" at both the outside and the inside of the panel. What I cannot see with my eyes are temperature differences.. Faulty breakers, loose connections, too small gauge wiring, all can show an increased temperature. I would not see this with just my eyes. Heat escaping around windows and doors is another use for my Infrared camera. Infrared "sees" temperature differences. It can help me determine where insulation is missing, or has been moved. Water intrusion will often show as a temperature anomaly. The materials that have moisture invasion will leave a different temperature signature.
Infrared just adds an increased "vision" to EcoVision's inspections

Below is an informative article on true energy efficient homes.

Elements of an Energy-Efficient House

Designing and building an energy-efficient home that conforms to the many considerations faced by home builders can be a challenge.  However, at InterNACHI, we believe that any house style can be made to require relatively minimal amounts of energy to heat and cool, and be comfortable. It's easier now to get your architect and builder to use improved designs and construction methods. Even though there are many different design options available, they all have several things in common: a high R-value; a tightly sealed thermal envelope; controlled ventilation; and lower heating and cooling bills.
 
Some designs are more expensive to build than others, but none of them needs to be extremely expensive to construct. Recent technological improvements in building components and construction techniques, and heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems, allow most modern energy0saving ideas to be seamlessly integrated into any type of house design without sacrificing comfort, health or aesthetics. The following is a discussion of the major elements of energy-efficient home design and construction systems.
 
The Thermal Envelope

A "thermal envelope" is everything about the house that serves to shield the living space from the outdoors. It includes the wall and roof assemblies, insulation, windows, doors, finishes, weather-stripping, and air/vapor-retarders. Specific items to consider in these areas are described below.
 
Wall and Roof Assemblies

There are several alternatives to the conventional "stick" (wood-stud) framed wall and roof construction now available, and they're growing in popularity. They include:
  • Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)
    This is a method of using wood only where it does the most work, thus reducing costly wood use and saving space for insulation. However, workmanship must be of the highest order since, there is very little room for construction errors.
     
  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIP)
    These are generally plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheets laminated to a core of foam board. The foam may be 4 to 8 inches thick. Since the SIP acts as both the framing and the insulation, construction is much faster than OVE or its older counterpart, "stick-framing." The quality of construction is often superior, too, since there are fewer places for workers to make mistakes.
     
  • Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF)
    These often consist of two layers of extruded foam board (one inside the house and one outside the house) that act as the form for a steel-reinforced concrete center. This is the fastest and least likely technique to have construction mistakes. Such buildings are also very strong and easily exceed code requirements for tornado- and hurricane-prone areas.
     
 
Insulation

An energy-efficient house has much higher insulation R-values than required by most local building codes. For example, a typical house in New York state might contain haphazardly installed R-11 fiberglass insulation in the exterior walls and R-19 in the ceiling, while the floors and foundation walls may not be insulated at all. A similar but well-designed and constructed house's insulation levels would be in the range of R-20 to R-30 in the walls (including the foundation) and R-50 and R-70 in the ceilings. Carefully applied fiberglass batt or roll, wet-spray cellulose, or foam insulation will fill wall cavities completely.
 
Air / Vapor Retarders

These are two things that sometimes can do the same job. How to design and install them depend a great deal on the climate and what method of construction is chosen. No matter where you are building, water-vapor condensation is a major threat to the structure of a house. In cold climates, pressure differences can drive warm, moist indoor air into exterior walls and attics. It condenses as it cools. The same can be said for southern climates, just in reverse. As the humid outdoor air enters the walls to find cooler wall cavities, it condenses into liquid water. This is the main reason that some of the old buildings in the South that have been retrofitted with air conditioners now have mold and rotten wood problems.
 
Regardless of your climate, it is important to minimize water vapor migration by using a carefully designed thermal envelope and sound construction practices. Any water vapor that does manage to get into the walls or attics must be allowed to get out again. Some construction methods and climates lend themselves to allowing the vapor to flow towards the outdoors. Others are better suited to letting it flow towards the interior so that the house ventilation system can deal with it.
 
The "airtight drywall approach" and the "simple CS" system are other methods to control air and water-vapor movement in a residential building. These systems rely on the nearly airtight installation of sheet materials, such as drywall and gypsum board, on the interior as the main barrier, and carefully sealed foam board and/or plywood on the exterior.
 
Foundations and Slabs

Foundation walls and slabs should be at least as well-insulated as the living space walls. Uninsulated foundations have a negative impact on home energy use and comfort, especially if the family uses the lower parts of the house as living space. Also, appliances that supply heat as a by-product, such as domestic hot water heaters, washers, dryers and freezers, are often located in basements. By carefully insulating the foundation walls and floor of the basement, these appliances can assist in the heating of the house.
 
Windows

The typical home loses over 25% of its heat through windows. Since even modern windows insulate less than a wall, in general, an energy-efficient home in heating-dominated climates should have few windows on the north, east, and west exposures. A rule-of-thumb is that window area should not exceed 8% to 9% of the floor area, unless your designer is experienced in passive solar techniques. If this is the case, then increasing window area on the southern side of the house to about 12% of the floor area is recommended. In cooling-dominated climates, it's important to select east-, west- and south-facing windows with low solar heat-gain coefficients (these block solar heat gain). A properly designed roof overhang for south-facing windows is important to avoid overheating in the summer in most areas of the continental United States. At the very least, Energy Star-rated windows (or their equivalents) should be specified according to the Energy Star Regional Climatic Guidelines.
 
In general, the best-sealing windows are awning and casement styles, since these often close tighter than sliding types. Metal window frames should be avoided, especially in cold climates. Always seal the wall air/vapor diffusion-retarder tightly around the edges of the window frame to prevent air and water vapor from entering the wall cavities.
 
Air-Sealing

A well-constructed thermal envelope requires that insulating and sealing be precise and thorough. Sealing air leaks everywhere in the thermal envelope reduces energy loss significantly. Good air-sealing alone may reduce utility costs by as much as 50% when compared to other houses of the same type and age. Homes built in this way are so energy-efficient that specifying the correct sizing heating/cooling system can be tricky. Rules-of-thumb system-sizing is often inaccurate, resulting in oversizing and wasteful operation.
 
Controlled Ventilation

Since an energy-efficient home is tightly sealed, it's also important and fairly simple to deliberately ventilate the building in a controlled way. Controlled, mechanical ventilation of the building reduces air moisture infiltration and thus the health risks from indoor air pollutants. This also promotes a more comfortable atmosphere, and reduces the likelihood of structural damage from excessive moisture accumulation.
 
A carefully engineered ventilation system is important for other reasons, too. Since devices such as furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, and bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans exhaust air from the house, it's easier to depressurize a tight house, if all else is ignored. Natural-draft appliances, such as water heaters, wood stoves and furnaces may be "back-drafted" by exhaust fans, which can lead to a lethal build-up of toxic gases in the house. For this reason, it's a good idea to only use "sealed-combustion" heating appliances wherever possible, and provide make-up air for all other appliances that can pull air out of the building.
 
Heat-recovery ventilators (HRV) or energy-recovery ventilators (ERV) are growing in use for controlled ventilation in tight homes. These devices salvage about 80% of the energy from the stale exhaust air, and then deliver that energy to the entering fresh air by way of a heat exchanger inside the device. They are generally attached to the central forced-air system, but they may have their own duct system.
 
Other ventilation devices, such as through-the-wall and/or "trickle" vents may be used in conjunction with an exhaust fan. They are, however, more expensive to operate and possibly more uncomfortable to use, since they have no energy-recovery features to pre-condition the incoming air. Uncomfortable incoming air can be a serious problem if the house is in a northern climate, and it can create moisture problems in humid climates. This sort of ventilation strategy is recommended only for very mild to low-humidity climates.
 
Heating and Cooling Requirements

Houses incorporating the above elements should require relatively small heating systems (typically, less than 50,000 BTUs per hour, even for very cold climates). Some have nothing more than sunshine as the primary source of heat energy. Common choices for auxiliary heating include radiant in-floor heating from a standard gas-fired water heater, a small boiler, furnace, or electric heat pump. Also, any common appliance that gives off "waste" heat can contribute significantly to the heating requirements for such houses. Masonry, pellet and wood stoves are also options, but they must be operated carefully to avoid back-drafting.
 
If an air conditioner is required, a small (6,000 BTUs per hour) unit can be sufficient. Some designs use only a large fan and the cooler evening air to cool down the house. In the morning, the house is closed up and it stays comfortable until the next evening.
 
Beginning a Project

Houses incorporating the above features have many advantages. They feel more comfortable, since the additional insulation keeps the interior wall temperatures more stable. The indoor humidity is better controlled, and drafts are reduced. A tightly sealed air/vapor retarder reduces the likelihood of moisture and air seeping through the walls. Such houses are also very quiet because of the extra insulation and tight construction.
 
There are some potential drawbacks. They may cost more and take longer to build than a conventional home, especially if your builder and the contractors are not familiar with these energy-saving features. Even though the structure may differ only slightly from a conventional home, your builder and the contractors may be unwilling to deviate from what they've always done before. They may need education and training if they have no experience with these systems. Because some systems have thicker walls than a typical home, they may require a larger foundation to provide the same floor space.

Before beginning a home-building project, carefully evaluate the site and its climate to determine the optimum design and orientation. You may want to take the time to learn how to use some of the energy-related software programs that are available to assist you. Prepare a design that accommodates appropriate insulation levels, moisture dynamics, and aesthetics. Decisions regarding appropriate windows, doors, and HVAC appliances are central to an efficient design. Also evaluate the cost, ease of construction, the builder's limitations, and building code-compliance. Some schemes are simple to construct, while others can be extremely complex and thus more expensive.
 
An increasing number of builders are participating in the federal government's Building America and Energy Star Homes Programs, which promote energy-efficient houses. Many builders participate so that they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Construction costs can vary significantly, depending on the materials, construction techniques, contractor profit margin, experience, and the type of HVAC chosen. However, the biggest benefits from designing and building an energy-efficient home are its superior comfort level and lower operating costs. This relates directly to an increase in its real-estate market value.
 

17 Ways To Save Energy

by Mark H Roe
InterNACHI Home Inspector
BeSure Home Inspection

With the rising cost of energy cost, here are some easy to do tips to help lower your energy bill.

1. Get a home energy audit every couple of years from a Certified InterNACHI Home Inspector to find ways to cut costs.

2. Check with your utility company for rebated whenever you install energy-saving equipment.

3. Add more energy-efficient insulation to your attic, perferably with a resistance rating of R-21 to R-30

4. Turn down your home thermostat two degrees and save 24 -kilowatt hours a month. It might not sound like much, but it adds up.

5. Buy a programmable thermostat, especially if your home is vacant most of the day. Set it to turn on a half hour before anyone arrives home.

6. Adjust your thermostat to a comfortable temperature and wait. Turning your thermostat up or down dramatically wasted energy and increases your heating costs.

7. Lower you hot water thermostat 10 degress, but no less than 120 degrees.  You'll still get all the hot water you need and save 25-kilowatt hours a month.

8. Fix leaky faucets. One drip a second is 20 kilowatts a month. 
 
9. Invest in weather-stripping kits if you've got drafty doors, and windows.

10. Trade your standard incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs.  They are more energy-efficent, last for years instead of months, consume little power and generate little heat.

11.Turn off your computer when not in use, or use the energy-saving"sleep"mode.

12. Seal energy leaks. Caulk over cracks and small holes around windows and exterior walls. Look carefully around plumbing pipes, telephone wires, dryer vents, sink and bathroom drains and under counter tops.

13. Participate in your power company's special energy-saving program. Some programs shut down electric appliances for short bursts of time during peak hours. You hardly notice the difference at the time, but you will notice a difference when you get your bill.

14. Buy major appliances that sport the "Energy Star" sticker. That shows the appliance meets or exceeds standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

15. Consider a front-loading washing machine. They use 50 percent less energy and one-third less water. Plus, they remove far more water in the rinse cycle, and that translates into big savings in dryer time.

16. When building a home or replacing a roof, select a roof based more on energy efficiency than how it looks. Light-colored roofs, such a white, galvanixed metal or cement tile, do the best job of reflecting the sun, and cool quickly at night.

17. Landscaping with the right mix of trees and shrubs can lower your energy bills by blocking winter winds or the summer sun.

Now that you know about Home Energy Solutions …


What changes are you going to make?

Use the check list below to help you with your home energy audit.


Home Energy Audit Check List to Curb Climate Change


Summer

(7% of household energy is used for cooling)

ı

Use a whole house fan, room fans or ceiling fans instead of air-conditioning.

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Set your thermostat to 78°F or higher.

ı

than turning it to a very cold setting immediately

When you turn on the air conditioning, decrease the temperature incrementally rather...

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summer season arrives, use a hose to remove dirt and leaves.

Clean air conditioner filters every month and clean outdoor fans annually. Before

ı

improving the energy efficiency.

Keep your cooling system well tuned. Have it professionally maintained and ask about

Laundry


ı

block out direct sun.

Open windows and shades in the cool night time hours and close them during the day to

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Cook outside or with a microwave instead of a stove. Save money and improve comfort.

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Use a programmable thermostat for central air.

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Turn off the air conditioner when no one is home.

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Use a timer for room air conditioners.

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Dry clothes on a clothesline instead of in a dryer.

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Clean the dryer lint trap after each load. Clothes dry faster and you reduce risk of fire.

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Wash clothes in cold water.

Lighting


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Use compact fluorescent bulbs, especially in your most used fixtures and lamps.

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Use photo-eye and timer fixtures or timers on outdoor lights.

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Turn off lights when not in use.

Water Heating


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Set water heater to 120°F, this saves money and prevents scalding.

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Insulate pre-1990 water heaters, especially electric heaters.

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Install a low-flow showerhead to save your water and heating costs.

Winter

(30% of household energy is used for heating)

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Lower the thermostat at night and when you’re away (55°F lowest setting).

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Check furnace filter monthly and replace as needed to maintain furnace efficiency.

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Seal around sewer vent pipe in basement and attic to keep in heated air.

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Close fireplace damper after fire is out to stop drafts and save money.

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Have your gas furnace tuned up at least every other year.

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Let the sun in during the day to reduce heating costs.

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Close drapes and shades at night to keep the heat in, save money and improve comfort.

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couch for friends and family.

Wear slippers and sweaters at home in the winter, and keep afghans or blankets on your

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Clean and clear space around radiators, registers, and cold-air returns.

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blanket or make one yourself.

Use “draft stoppers” to block drafts under your doors. You can use a towel, rug, or

ı

possible, cover it with a thick layer of fiberglass insulation and seal with plastic sheeting

and waterproof tape to keep moisture out.

At the end of summer remove, clean and store window air conditioning units. If this isn’t

ı

radiator, to reflect heat away from the wall and into the room.

Outfit your radiator with a heat reflector. This is a thin metal sheet that fits behind the

ı

plates. These foam plates are easy to install with a screwdriver and are very low cost.

Reduce drafts behind light switches and electrical outlets with childproof caps and foam

ı

Breakdown of Where

Homes Waste Energy

Install a low-flow showerhead; saves on water and heating costs.

For more information about the Cool Cities

campaign visit

For questions about the Home Energy Solutions

power point or other materials contact

www.coolcities.us.

cool.cities@sierraclub.org


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 1 of 7


10 Steps to Save

Energy in Your

House


By Ben Gromicko


Online videos: How to maintain your home

http://go.nachi.tv/home-maintenance

Sealing

home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks;

determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure

your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the

environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year.

Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and

doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes,

however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are

the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air,

which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold

air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the

basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under

your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with

appropriate materials.

An inspector who is certified in the thermography and building science can help find

these air leaks. To find a certified inspector go to

and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make awww.inspectorseek.com.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 2 of 7


STEP #1 Getting started


Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a

much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is

accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can

usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe

working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring,

recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct

these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen

cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet

the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.


STEP #2 Working in the Attic


Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.


Use personal protective equipment

coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an

OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

. To work in an attic, you need kneepads,

Be safe

worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you

need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 3 of 7


Watch your step

be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head - there will

STEP #3 What You Will Need


rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes

Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of

Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags

Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)

Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)

chimneys

Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and

Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe

Tape measure

Utility knife and sheet metal scissors

Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place

Plastic garbage bag

STEP #4 Plug the Large Holes


The biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the

attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the

attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls.


Look for dirty insulation

insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out

of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities

have been plugged and the soffits covered.

. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the

Dropped soffit

foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or

adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and

staple or nail it in place, if needed.

. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective

Under a wall

the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam

also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the

sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into

. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 4 of 7


these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate

air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling

under the floor of the finished space.


Flue.

major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes

usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys)

to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with

lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk.

Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum

to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes


Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming

from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold

weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air

condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find

water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the

around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires

cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation

back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it

back into place.

openings. When the foam or caulk is dry,

STEP #6 Attic Access


Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid

foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic

access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar

manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door

like an exterior door to the outside.


STEP #7 Ducts


Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for

leaks - seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used).

Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these

with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated,

seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 5 of 7


sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct

tape. It is available at home improvement centers.


STEP #8 “Can” Lights


Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home

less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted

airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from

the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams.

Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks

into the attic and causes moisture damage.


Warning

properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming

in contact with any electrical components.

: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney

drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated

by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold

outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced

air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing

attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is

Basement air leaks

top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top

of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where

the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray

foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal

penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes

for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the

furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your

house will no longer act

. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets thelike an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 6 of 7


STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look

is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your

floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may

have enough. There should be no low spots.

. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic

R-Value

insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal

performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or

about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that

currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets,

and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no

paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation

between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will

help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of

NEVER

insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated

Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around

the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 7 of 7


Rafter vent trays

you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into

the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves

Additional Information


For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as

combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit:


http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals

protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the

wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit

.

http://www.energystar.gov


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 1 of 7


10 Steps to Save

Energy in Your

House


By Ben Gromicko


Online videos: How to maintain your home

http://go.nachi.tv/home-maintenance

Sealing

home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks;

determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure

your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the

environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year.

Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and

doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes,

however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are

the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air,

which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold

air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the

basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under

your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with

appropriate materials.

An inspector who is certified in the thermography and building science can help find

these air leaks. To find a certified inspector go to

and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make awww.inspectorseek.com.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 2 of 7


STEP #1 Getting started


Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a

much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is

accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can

usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe

working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring,

recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct

these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen

cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet

the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.


STEP #2 Working in the Attic


Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.


Use personal protective equipment

coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an

OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

. To work in an attic, you need kneepads,

Be safe

worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you

need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 3 of 7


Watch your step

be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head - there will

STEP #3 What You Will Need


rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes

Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of

Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags

Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)

Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)

chimneys

Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and

Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe

Tape measure

Utility knife and sheet metal scissors

Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place

Plastic garbage bag

STEP #4 Plug the Large Holes


The biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the

attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the

attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls.


Look for dirty insulation

insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out

of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities

have been plugged and the soffits covered.

. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the

Dropped soffit

foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or

adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and

staple or nail it in place, if needed.

. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective

Under a wall

the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam

also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the

sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into

. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 4 of 7


these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate

air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling

under the floor of the finished space.


Flue.

major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes

usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys)

to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with

lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk.

Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum

to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes


Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming

from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold

weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air

condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find

water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the

around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires

cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation

back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it

back into place.

openings. When the foam or caulk is dry,

STEP #6 Attic Access


Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid

foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic

access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar

manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door

like an exterior door to the outside.


STEP #7 Ducts


Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for

leaks - seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used).

Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these

with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated,

seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 5 of 7


sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct

tape. It is available at home improvement centers.


STEP #8 “Can” Lights


Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home

less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted

airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from

the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams.

Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks

into the attic and causes moisture damage.


Warning

properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming

in contact with any electrical components.

: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney

drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated

by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold

outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced

air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing

attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is

Basement air leaks

top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top

of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where

the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray

foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal

penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes

for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the

furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your

house will no longer act

. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets thelike an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 6 of 7


STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look

is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your

floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may

have enough. There should be no low spots.

. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic

R-Value

insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal

performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or

about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that

currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets,

and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no

paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation

between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will

help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of

NEVER

insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated

Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around

the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 7 of 7


Rafter vent trays

you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into

the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves

Additional Information


For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as

combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit:


http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals

protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the

wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit

.

http://www.energystar.gov


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 1 of 7


10 Steps to Save

Energy in Your

House


By Ben Gromicko


Online videos: How to maintain your home

http://go.nachi.tv/home-maintenance

Sealing

home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks;

determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure

your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the

environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year.

Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and

doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes,

however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are

the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air,

which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold

air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the

basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under

your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with

appropriate materials.

An inspector who is certified in the thermography and building science can help find

these air leaks. To find a certified inspector go to

and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make awww.inspectorseek.com.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 2 of 7


STEP #1 Getting started


Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a

much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is

accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can

usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe

working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring,

recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct

these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen

cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet

the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.


STEP #2 Working in the Attic


Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.


Use personal protective equipment

coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an

OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

. To work in an attic, you need kneepads,

Be safe

worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you

need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 3 of 7


Watch your step

be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head - there will

STEP #3 What You Will Need


rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes

Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of

Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags

Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)

Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)

chimneys

Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and

Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe

Tape measure

Utility knife and sheet metal scissors

Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place

Plastic garbage bag

STEP #4 Plug the Large Holes


The biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the

attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the

attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls.


Look for dirty insulation

insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out

of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities

have been plugged and the soffits covered.

. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the

Dropped soffit

foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or

adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and

staple or nail it in place, if needed.

. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective

Under a wall

the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam

also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the

sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into

. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 4 of 7


these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate

air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling

under the floor of the finished space.


Flue.

major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes

usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys)

to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with

lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk.

Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum

to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes


Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming

from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold

weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air

condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find

water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the

around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires

cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation

back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it

back into place.

openings. When the foam or caulk is dry,

STEP #6 Attic Access


Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid

foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic

access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar

manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door

like an exterior door to the outside.


STEP #7 Ducts


Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for

leaks - seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used).

Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these

with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated,

seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 5 of 7


sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct

tape. It is available at home improvement centers.


STEP #8 “Can” Lights


Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home

less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted

airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from

the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams.

Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks

into the attic and causes moisture damage.


Warning

properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming

in contact with any electrical components.

: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney

drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated

by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold

outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced

air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing

attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is

Basement air leaks

top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top

of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where

the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray

foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal

penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes

for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the

furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your

house will no longer act

. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets thelike an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 6 of 7


STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look

is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your

floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may

have enough. There should be no low spots.

. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic

R-Value

insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal

performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or

about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that

currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets,

and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no

paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation

between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will

help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of

NEVER

insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated

Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around

the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 7 of 7


Rafter vent trays

you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into

the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves

Additional Information


For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as

combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit:


http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals

protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the

wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit

.

http://www.energystar.gov


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 1 of 7


10 Steps to Save

Energy in Your

House


By Ben Gromicko


Online videos: How to maintain your home

http://go.nachi.tv/home-maintenance

Sealing

home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks;

determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure

your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the

environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year.

Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and

doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes,

however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are

the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air,

which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold

air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the

basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under

your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with

appropriate materials.

An inspector who is certified in the thermography and building science can help find

these air leaks. To find a certified inspector go to

and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make awww.inspectorseek.com.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 2 of 7


STEP #1 Getting started


Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a

much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is

accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can

usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe

working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring,

recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct

these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen

cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet

the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.


STEP #2 Working in the Attic


Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.


Use personal protective equipment

coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an

OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

. To work in an attic, you need kneepads,

Be safe

worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you

need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 3 of 7


Watch your step

be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head - there will

STEP #3 What You Will Need


rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes

Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of

Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags

Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)

Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)

chimneys

Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and

Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe

Tape measure

Utility knife and sheet metal scissors

Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place

Plastic garbage bag

STEP #4 Plug the Large Holes


The biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the

attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the

attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls.


Look for dirty insulation

insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out

of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities

have been plugged and the soffits covered.

. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the

Dropped soffit

foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or

adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and

staple or nail it in place, if needed.

. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective

Under a wall

the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam

also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the

sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into

. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 4 of 7


these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate

air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling

under the floor of the finished space.


Flue.

major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes

usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys)

to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with

lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk.

Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum

to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes


Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming

from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold

weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air

condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find

water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the

around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires

cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation

back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it

back into place.

openings. When the foam or caulk is dry,

STEP #6 Attic Access


Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid

foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic

access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar

manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door

like an exterior door to the outside.


STEP #7 Ducts


Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for

leaks - seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used).

Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these

with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated,

seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 5 of 7


sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct

tape. It is available at home improvement centers.


STEP #8 “Can” Lights


Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home

less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted

airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from

the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams.

Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks

into the attic and causes moisture damage.


Warning

properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming

in contact with any electrical components.

: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney

drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated

by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold

outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced

air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing

attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is

Basement air leaks

top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top

of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where

the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray

foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal

penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes

for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the

furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your

house will no longer act

. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets thelike an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 6 of 7


STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look

is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your

floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may

have enough. There should be no low spots.

. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic

R-Value

insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal

performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or

about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that

currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets,

and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no

paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation

between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will

help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of

NEVER

insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated

Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around

the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 7 of 7


Rafter vent trays

you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into

the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves

Additional Information


For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as

combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit:


http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals

protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the

wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit

.

http://www.energystar.gov


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 1 of 7


10 Steps to Save

Energy in Your

House


By Ben Gromicko


Online videos: How to maintain your home

http://go.nachi.tv/home-maintenance

Sealing

home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks;

determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure

your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the

environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year.

Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and

doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes,

however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are

the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air,

which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold

air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the

basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under

your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with

appropriate materials.

An inspector who is certified in the thermography and building science can help find

these air leaks. To find a certified inspector go to

and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make awww.inspectorseek.com.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 2 of 7


STEP #1 Getting started


Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a

much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is

accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can

usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe

working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring,

recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct

these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen

cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet

the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.


STEP #2 Working in the Attic


Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.


Use personal protective equipment

coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an

OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

. To work in an attic, you need kneepads,

Be safe

worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you

need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 3 of 7


Watch your step

be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head - there will

STEP #3 What You Will Need


rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes

Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of

Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags

Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)

Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)

chimneys

Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and

Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe

Tape measure

Utility knife and sheet metal scissors

Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place

Plastic garbage bag

STEP #4 Plug the Large Holes


The biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the

attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the

attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls.


Look for dirty insulation

insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out

of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities

have been plugged and the soffits covered.

. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the

Dropped soffit

foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or

adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and

staple or nail it in place, if needed.

. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective

Under a wall

the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam

also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the

sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into

. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 4 of 7


these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate

air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling

under the floor of the finished space.


Flue.

major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes

usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys)

to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with

lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk.

Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum

to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes


Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming

from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold

weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air

condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find

water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the

around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires

cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation

back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it

back into place.

openings. When the foam or caulk is dry,

STEP #6 Attic Access


Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid

foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic

access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar

manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door

like an exterior door to the outside.


STEP #7 Ducts


Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for

leaks - seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used).

Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these

with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated,

seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 5 of 7


sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct

tape. It is available at home improvement centers.


STEP #8 “Can” Lights


Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home

less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted

airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from

the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams.

Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks

into the attic and causes moisture damage.


Warning

properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming

in contact with any electrical components.

: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney

drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated

by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold

outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced

air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing

attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is

Basement air leaks

top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top

of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where

the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray

foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal

penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes

for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the

furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your

house will no longer act

. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets thelike an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 6 of 7


STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look

is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your

floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may

have enough. There should be no low spots.

. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic

R-Value

insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal

performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or

about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that

currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets,

and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no

paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation

between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will

help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of

NEVER

insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated

Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around

the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 7 of 7


Rafter vent trays

you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into

the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves

Additional Information


For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as

combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit:


http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals

protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the

wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit

.

http://www.energystar.gov

......

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 1 of 7


10 Steps to Save

Energy in Your

House


By Ben Gromicko


Online videos: How to maintain your home

http://go.nachi.tv/home-maintenance

Sealing

home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks;

determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure

your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the

environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year.

Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and

doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes,

however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are

the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air,

which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold

air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the

basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under

your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with

appropriate materials.

An inspector who is certified in the thermography and building science can help find

these air leaks. To find a certified inspector go to

and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make awww.inspectorseek.com.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 2 of 7


STEP #1 Getting started


Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a

much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is

accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can

usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe

working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring,

recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct

these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen

cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet

the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.


STEP #2 Working in the Attic


Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.


Use personal protective equipment

coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an

OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

. To work in an attic, you need kneepads,

Be safe

worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you

need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 3 of 7


Watch your step

be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head - there will

STEP #3 What You Will Need


rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes

Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of

Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags

Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)

Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)

chimneys

Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues and

Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe

Tape measure

Utility knife and sheet metal scissors

Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place

Plastic garbage bag

STEP #4 Plug the Large Holes


The biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the

attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the

attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls.


Look for dirty insulation

insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out

of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities

have been plugged and the soffits covered.

. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the

Dropped soffit

foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or

adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and

staple or nail it in place, if needed.

. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective

Under a wall

the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam

also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the

sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into

. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 4 of 7


these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate

air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling

under the floor of the finished space.


Flue.

major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes

usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys)

to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with

lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk.

Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum

to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes


Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming

from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold

weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air

condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find

water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the

around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires

cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation

back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it

back into place.

openings. When the foam or caulk is dry,

STEP #6 Attic Access


Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid

foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic

access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar

manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door

like an exterior door to the outside.


STEP #7 Ducts


Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for

leaks - seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used).

Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these

with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated,

seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct


Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 5 of 7


sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct

tape. It is available at home improvement centers.


STEP #8 “Can” Lights


Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home

less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted

airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from

the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams.

Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks

into the attic and causes moisture damage.


Warning

properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming

in contact with any electrical components.

: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney

drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated

by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold

outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced

air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing

attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is

Basement air leaks

top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top

of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where

the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray

foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal

penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes

for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the

furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your

house will no longer act

. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets thelike an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 6 of 7


STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look

is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your

floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may

have enough. There should be no low spots.

. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic

R-Value

insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal

performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or

about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that

currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets,

and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no

paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation

between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will

help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of

NEVER

insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated

Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around

the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

By Ben Gromicko

Copyright © 2010 Ben Gromicko


http://www.bengromicko.com


Page 7 of 7


Rafter vent trays

you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into

the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves

Additional Information


For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as

combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit:


http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals

protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the

wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit

.

http://www.energystar.gov

.

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