Author Topic: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources  (Read 645 times)

jc4

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 79
We just moved into 1930 home and it doesn't hold heat well. Namely, it sucks at it.

Relevant details:
1150 sqft
on crawlspace
no wall or crawl insulation,
very limited and old (blown ??rockwool??) insulation in the attic
original, single pane windows
90's era gas furnace with questionable ductwork

Known steps:
1. Air seal
2. (Possibly) insulate
3. (Possibly) service / upgrade ducts or furnace

I don't expect insulation to help while there are large gaping holes with cold air flowing in. I've been trying to find these, and seal them, but (1) they seem never-ending and (2) I'm sure there are a lot more openings from the crawlspace into areas like behind the walls or under the cabinets. I know I still have some work do do sealing around pipes that go into the crawlspace and electrical outlets (but I have no idea how to handle this). Another problem, the chimney has about a chute buit around it of about 2 feet of airspace from the crawl to to attic. I could climb down into the crawlspace from the attic, if I wanted. I also don't know where there are air leaks into the attic b/c/ I can't see under the light insulation. The windows / doors also don't seal well. It goes on and on.

Requests:
1. Where do I look / how can I find all these pesky air leaks?
2. What are good materials / products to seal with. I've seen crawlspaces with a blown foam insulation across the whole subfloor. Should I get some of that (or normal spray foam), and wade through the crawlspace shooting every hole I find?
3. I'm basically looking for people who went through, and made improvements. What did you do? What was worth it and what wasn't.

Note: I'm looking for mustacian options here, not spendypants. Our worst month, gas was $80. Maybe we can cut that to $50. Save $30*4 months*4 year_payback= ~$500, I'm up for spending here. We were still cold, but we value voluntary discomfort*.

*http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/11/11/get-rich-with-the-position-of-strength/
Things I use:
SimpleCharity - http://www.simplecharity.net/
CharityWater - https://www.charitywater.org/
Mint - https://www.mint.com/
DIYTax - https://www.freetax.com/
Betterment - 
Chase Freedom - https://www.referyourchasecard.com/2/B0XXB4BJKU

Things I DON'T use:
comcast.net

Jon Bon

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 286
  • Location: Midwest
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 07:53:07 AM »
Ok first of all.

Not sure where you are, but in my area your gas bill comes with a fixed charge of $30, usage is on top of that. So if you have ZERO usage in a month you still get to pay $30 a month. So that being said going from a gas bill that is 80 to 50 is acutally a huge reduction. The usage would be 50 down to 20, so a 60% reduction.

1. Buy a temp gun, they cost like $10 bucks on amazon and are a generally useful tool. They come with a laser pointer attachment so you can get exact readings. If you want to get really fancy have an enegry audit done. My utility offers them for $50 bucks and I think they give you a bunch of free stuff (LEDs thermostat etc) so the cost is about zero.

2. Heat loss is largest in ceiling, then walls, then windows. So target those things first. Blown in insulation is about the cheapest and easiest thing you can do. I MIGHT take you a day to do and im including time to pick up and return the blower.  Crawlspaces are not fun to insulate, but it can be done. I would get rolled insulation or rigid foam. Prepare to get dirty and spend a bunch of time in awkward positions! Weather stripping around doors and a caulk gun is also very cost efficient.

Windows are nice to replace, but not a big winner in the energy savings department. What IS nice about new windows is the fact they all have screens, open, shut, lock, etc easily and reduce outside noise. So they are nice to have but dont expect huge enery savings. I have done windows twice, I did not regret doing them, but the energy savings were simply not there.

You can also blow insulation into wall cavities but you have to have a 3 inch hole every 16 inches, and that makes for a lot of patching and painting.  You can also get a professional to do it, but that's gonna be 5k in labor and 1k in materials.

YMMV, good luck out there!

lthenderson

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 970
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 08:41:03 AM »
If you want to get really fancy have an enegry audit done. My utility offers them for $50 bucks and I think they give you a bunch of free stuff (LEDs thermostat etc) so the cost is about zero.

Great advice from Jon Bon. I wanted to add that I would call your utility about an audit first. Mine will do it for free if you haven't had one in the last five years at that address plus give you free stuff to boot. Don't get burnt out trying to do it all at once. Just start picking the low hanging fruit and do a little at a time. Eventually you will get to a point where the return isn't worth the effort and you can move onto other things.

alanB

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 61
  • Age: 30
  • Location: PA, US
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2018, 09:26:50 AM »
Through my local energy company I was able to get and almost free audit, which included a blower test and all the LED bulbs the guy had in his truck :).  He said most people don't take that many... but they are free!!  Anyway, once they hook that huge fan on your front door it is super easy to find the gaps and cracks. 

I agree 100% with Jon Bon's advice, just wanted to add that caulk and weatherstripping are basically free (>100% ROI and low upfront cost), so I would personally start there.  I am assuming you are somewhere where it is very cold right now so you will have more fun putting in insulation in the spring time.  I had some big gaps around a few poorly installed windows that I filled with backer rod, probably better to insulate the cavity and properly trim and caulk it.  Be careful with spray foam around window frames as you can blow up (implode?) your windows.

Other places to check: baseboards (maybe lift and see if there is anything behind it, and caulk top and bottom gaps), attic access panel (I once read that a 1/4" gap around pull down stairs will lose as much heat as an extra bedroom!), light fixtures.

If you can access all the duct work, find the leaks and seal with duct putty.  Taping the leaks helps, but it will not last forever.  I guess you could insulate the ducts as well, I have no idea whether this is cost effective though.

Replacing windows may or may not be worthwhile depending on how cold your climate is, cost of replacement in your area, type of windows, how long you will live there, etc.  If you can DIY it is more likely to pay off.  I have one small single pane window that occasionally ices up in the coldest winter nights, then melts in the midday sun... the water pooling up around base could eventually rot out the frame, so that is something else to consider.

Fishindude

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1574
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2018, 10:10:14 AM »
First stop the air leaks.   Make sure all the doors have good weather seals and storm doors if possible.   If windows are old and drafty and you can't afford to replace them, cover them with plastic during the winter, it does wonders.   Go around the exterior perimeter of house and make sure you don't have any unnecessary gaps in the foundation, etc. that are letting cold air in, seal them off if you find anything.   If your crawlspace has vents, you could get away with closing those off during the winter.   I used to just secure a piece of foam board over mine every winter.

Now it's time to evaluate your insulation.  It's quite possible you have no exterior wall insulation, in which case the easiest solution is to have a contractor blow the stud cavities full of new insulation.   Not as good as tearing open the walls and starting from scratch but it's the best option in many cases.   You can typically add another layer of insulation right over your existing attic insulation very easily, just be careful that you don't block off any of the attic venting system.   6"- 8" Of new blown in insulation is pretty economical.

Another thing you can do is have an insulation contractor spray foam the inside face of the crawlspace walls from underside of floor to below ground level.   Foundation walls typically have zero insulation and this leads to cold floors.

All of the above will do more to improve comfort and efficiency than replacing the HVAC equipment.

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2507
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2018, 08:11:25 PM »
In addition to the above - bubble wrap on the windows. Better than just plastic.

I sympathize - 1919 house. Warm clothes, thick socks, and slippers. Blankets. Robes. They'll help keep you warm regardless of what's going on with the house. It takes time to do all the little things, but an extra sweater is immediate.

misshathaway

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 327
  • Age: 60
  • Location: Massachusetts
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 06:14:38 AM »
3. I'm basically looking for people who went through, and made improvements. What did you do?

1960 medium size house in New England, no wall insulation, thin attic fiberglass insulation between floor studs.

I had the utility co. free home audit and then they recommended blown-in cellulose insulation with a steep discount. I can't speak to the other options and I did not do it myself. Had it done spring 2017.

We are 1/2 way through a cold winter with a few single digit weeks thrown in. The inside of the house has been above 65 every day. That was impossible in previous winters regardless of the thermostat setting. Oil fillups are below last year. It is the best home improvement for quality of life I have ever made.
Passed ER second year anniversary

Linda_Norway

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2275
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 06:54:55 AM »
My frugal BIL and his SO have such a house. They have added a new insulated floor on top of the single layer of floor planks. They have also insulated the outer wall that existed of a single layer of brick with an insulated wall on the inside of the house. They have added a wood stove, I think it was sponsored by my parents in law. They can chop firewood on root for a low price somewhere in the nearby forest.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2877
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 08:09:20 AM »
Like Linda I wonder if re-siding the house with a layer of insulation below the new siding would help. It might aid with air leaks, too.

I know what the problem is in my 1910 house: the original front door. But my wife loves it.

Sun Hat

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 286
  • Location: Canada
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2018, 07:01:52 AM »
I'm in the process of improving the insulation and reducing the air leaks in my old house. In my climate, this has a big payback - plus I'm Mustachian, so I hate the idea of wasted energy. I don't have a crawlspace, but my other steps might give you some ideas:

When I moved in, I replaced the worst windows. Now I have one left that leaks badly. It's presently sealed with a layer of shrink-wrap plastic. I'll replace it within the next year or so.

I added blown-in cellulose to my attic, increasing the R value from 20 to 61 (the inspector from my utility came yesterday to measure). This cost me $470 CAD (I'll get most back as a credit to my account). It was very easy, and quite fun, though filthy. Imagine a fire hose that sprays lint. Use goggles and a good breathing mask.

In a few days I'm having a company insulate the wall cavities (my house is 97 years old and has never had wall insulation... in Manitoba!) This is pricey and not the best bang for your buck. I'm doing it because of a utility rebate that will cover 1/3 of the cost and because I plan on staying here for a very long time and would like to be warm.

To reduce the little air leaks, I went around my basement and sprayed expanding spray foam into every crevice and perforation. Where wires come in, where the foundation meets the joists, around and in disused vent pipes (they seem to need to make new holes every time that you change a furnace, and in a century house, they add up. A can of Great Stuff goes far, but make sure that you know where you'll go before you start, since the can is single use.

Since my house isn't perfectly square any more, there are air leaks around my exterior doors. I installed bottom sweeps and weatherstripping. This is a $20 project and very worthwhile.

Like you, I'm unwilling to remove all of my attic insulation to see all of my perforations into the attic (before I added the cellulose, I did go up with a can of Great Stuff and sealed around the plumbing vent stack and bathroom fan). Fortunately, my house doesn't have wall cavities that are open to the attic, so I'm going to remedy the gaps from below. Today, I'm going to turn off the power, remove my light fixtures and seal around the junction boxes from inside. I'll also seal around the plumbing stack from below since I'm able to access it via a closet. Again, the cost is a can of Great Stuff for about $10. Edit to update: Wow, was that a pain in the butt! While totally worthwhile on gaps around my plumbing stack, bathroom vent fan and in my attic hatch, it was a nightmare maneuvering the little hose nozzle into the little holes in and around the light fixture junction boxes. In hindsight, I should have just put a bead of silicone caulk around the fixtures.

Since starting my insulation/air gap project  I've spent less than $600 (other than the initial window purchase, which I factored for when I bought the place) and it's made a world of difference. Good luck!
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 11:36:15 AM by Sun Hat »
"You need a little bit of insanity to do great things." ~ Henry Rollins

jc4

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 79
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2018, 02:39:19 PM »
First, thanks all for the input. This is exactly what I was looking for.

Current list of priorities / ideas:
1. Research having an energy audit done / get a temp gun.
2. Air seal w/ spray foam around the crawlspace. Fix / create vent covers for the crawspace.
3. Inspect air ducts for leaks while in crawlspace
4. Air seal around the chimney.
5. Check for rebates from energy company on improvements
6. Consider addl. blown in insulation in the attic (best value for really buying new materials)

I'm not sure about the plastic on the windows. It sounds like a favorite, but it sounds trashy. I may give it a try in our bedroom, since that's where we benefit the most from heat.
Things I use:
SimpleCharity - http://www.simplecharity.net/
CharityWater - https://www.charitywater.org/
Mint - https://www.mint.com/
DIYTax - https://www.freetax.com/
Betterment - 
Chase Freedom - https://www.referyourchasecard.com/2/B0XXB4BJKU

Things I DON'T use:
comcast.net

TheWifeHalf

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 141
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2018, 07:46:50 PM »
Like Linda I wonder if re-siding the house with a layer of insulation below the new siding would help. It might aid with air leaks, too.

I know what the problem is in my 1910 house: the original front door. But my wife loves it.

In our 1915 house (in Ohio):
We wrapped the exterior with Tyvec, put on some foam insulation, and then sided it. On the inside we added to the wall studs so we had 2 x 6 walls, more insulation.
Replaced all the windows with double panes, with Argon gas.  The original windows used to leak so the curtains would flutter.
6 inches of fiberglass insulation in the attic, topped with another 6 inches going the other way.
This was a really long time ago (27 years) and I think I remember putting plastic all over, inside.
The way the house is set up, we have a front gas forced air furnace, and a back one. Since the kids have moved out, the front, in the winter, is usually set 4 degrees cooler than the front. All are turned way down at night.

Sun Hat

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 286
  • Location: Canada
Re: COLD - Old House - Not air sealed - No insulation - Ideas / Resources
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2018, 07:02:53 AM »
You're right about the window film, it looks trashy. Ideally you get it tight enough that you can't see any wrinkles, so it can't be seen from the outside, but in practice that's hard to do. An alternative to reducing drafts from around the windows is to caulk between the glass and frame, and the frame and house. If you're keen, you should take the trim off and seal the window casing to the house frame, as there's sometimes quite a gap. If you aren't keen to do this in winter, you can just caulk the trim to the wall for now. A $7 tube  of caulk can make a big difference with drafts.

For casement windows that open, you may also have to add a strip of foam or felt to the frame, so that it creates a seal when it closes. Hanging and sliding windows are harder to seal - the one that I have plastic over is a slider where the gaskets have all but come off, so the wind comes right through - hence the ugly plastic until I have it replaced.
"You need a little bit of insanity to do great things." ~ Henry Rollins