Monday, November 16, 2009

Insulation begins

As we've blogged in the past, we are installing cellulose insulation in all exterior walls and in the attic ceiling. This has been quite a saga. Back in the early summer, we discussed with our Energy Rater that we needed an infrared scan done to assess the condition of the insulation. This was required by Energy Star, which says we need "Class 1 grade" insulation to get our HERS rating. We don't know exactly what Class 1 is, but anyway. So in May, we paid an infrared camera operator to image our walls ($250). The results showed that the walls were effectively devoid of insulation, which ran counter to evidence that some type of insulation had been blown into the walls previously as part of a subsidized weatherization program. This surprised us, but we took the infrared results at face value and budgeted for removal of any existing faulty insulation and installation of entirely new cellulose.

Flash forward to this fall, when electrical began and walls were being opened. Each wall we saw appeared to be stuffed to the gills with old newspaper. It was like being in a ticker tape parade every time they opened a wall. So what gave?? Clearly the infrared scan had been bogus. Meanwhile, the insulator had reported for duty and begun working. He, too, noticed the copious amounts of apparently well installed insulation in the walls. He decided to install around this to fill any gaps. Angrily, we confronted our Energy Rater with the facts. He agreed to give us a free scan to check the new insulator's progress. Ugh.

Good news is almost all of the insulation is now installed and appears to be working well. The house is cozy as can be. This is also largely due to the sealing and insulation of the windows, which has made a huge difference. The insulator pulled out all of our lovely trim, then installed foam board around the cavities where the sash weights run and sealed the gaps with expanding spray foam. This added up to about an R-5 rating but more importantly it gave us a great air seal. We could literally the sky between the exterior siding before this work was done, so the difference has been huge.

Also contributing to the house's newfound coziness is the fact that the boiler has been fired up and all the radiators are working! This was a huge relief, as replacement of the boiler or radiators would have eaten significantly into our contingency. We're keeping the thermostat at 62 but it feels much warmer because of all the insulation. A great investment.

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