Leading the Way in Energy Efficient Building Design & Construction
Existing Home Performance Budget Retrofit
February 2, 2014
There are millions of homes and buildings built before 1992, when energy codes were first implemented. Sometimes we need to reduce energy consumption and increase comfort, but on a shoestring budget. No problem.
Air sealing is key
The natural upward movement of warm air inside means the top of the house is where we start. Use cans of spray foam to seal around all electrical and plumbing pipes in the attic. If you have can (recessed) lights, you can install special enclosures around them to seal tham to the drywall of the ceiling. Check for any other gaps that lead down into the living space and seal them as well. Be careful about metal chimney pipes - don't seal around them as they need space.
While in the attic, if you need more insulation, you should make sure the roof deck is ventilated with chutes (see picture). Then add as much as you can, up to a total R-49.
Portals and Hatches
Weatherstrip all attic access hatches and kneewall doors, and insulate the back side of them with rigid foam board.
Lots of Caulk
Work your way down through the house and caulk any obvious cracks between moldings and walls or floors. Pro tip: follow the caulk bead with a wet rag or sponge, then a moistened finger to shape and smooth the caulk.
Check the Basement
An unfinished basment is an energy waster. Check the spaces in-between your floor joists, along the outside wall. Usually there is no insulation there, and you can cut foam board to fit and use cans of foam to seal it in place. If you have uninsulated walls, foam board is again your best bet. Use the kind with a foil face, it costs a little more than standard foam board, but the foil face acts an ignition barrier, usually required by building code.
Check the Heating and Cooling Equipment
Old equipment isn't energy efficient, but dirty equipment is even worse. Check and replace the air filter on the furnace. Check the air conditioner coil outside - if it is clogged with fluff and dust, it can save you $$ just by washing it down with a hose.