Insulation: What's your preference?

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Endo Rockstar
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Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby Endo Rockstar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:36 am

The real estate agent thread I inadvertently revived has brought house stuff back into front of my mind.

I had the pleasure of removing the old insulation from the attic in my 100 year old house over the last two weekends and have been doing some poking around and minor repairs before we blow in the new stuff. I'm leaning towards blowing in cellulose and bringing back my R Value up to the mid 40's which seems to be the about right for our part of the state.

Do you guys and gals have a preference on cellulose vs. blown in fiberglass? Depending on which rebates are going on, they both seem to be in the same ballpark price wise, both are fire retardant. Fiberglass supposedly doesn't settle as quickly, but cellulose seems to fair better getting into nooks and crannies.

The only other thing I can think of is a lot of the pipefitters and steamfitters I have contact with are convinced it won't be long before fiberglass is classified the same way asbestos is as a hazardous substance. I think they're right -- and its probably going to be one of those things in 30 years that prospective homebuyers are going to think people today were nuts for filling their attics with something that tears your lungs to hell.

Thoughts?

Dan Motor

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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby snoqueen » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:00 pm

I had an energy consultant go over my entire house (was this the "Green Madison" program? I can't remember the name but it was terrific.)

They did the blower door thing to find air leaks, used an infrared camera to find cold spots, crawled all over, and issued a complete report with recommendations. (If you need more details ask and I will look it up when I get home.)

This was well worth the money because while I've been a homeowner for decades, technology changes all the time.

I was advised to have foam in place insulation put around the top of the foundation in the basement and in behind the attic knee walls and under the roof. The idea is to block the flow of air up from the bottom of the walls, between the studs, and out at the top under the eaves.

You want dead air in there, not a stream of air.

For one thing, this should (and did) much reduce or eliminate ice dams on the roof, which are caused by warmer air melting the roof snow, which then refreezes, makes an ice dam, and does all the damage you get with the melt/freeze cycle.

Under the middle part (the peak) of the attic roof (there is a room up there) they had to blow in insulation (not foam but cellulose particles) because they couldn't get the foam nozzle that far. Everything else is foam in place, which hardens and looks weird as hell but no one has to look at it.

I was concerned it would have a chemical smell and be an environmental hazard but the advice and research I did indicated this is not an issue with the materials in use today.

If you have a cold attic (no living space up there) you do the same thing to the bottoms and tops of your side walls but instead of insulating your attic roof, you insulate the attic floor. They will advise you as to whether you need a vapor barrier and where.
In that case your entire attic stays cold in winter, and this also prevents the thawing that causes ice dams.

My house is WAY less drafty, my heat bill went down, and it is noticeably quieter to boot.

Because each house is different and because any remodeling over the years probably introduced places where different materials meet poorly with air leaks in between, I think a professional consultation is the place to start.

They did not recommend blanket insulation (mineral wool, whatever) at any point, leading me to believe there are better alternatives for almost any situation. In fact, they pulled out and threw away quite a bit of it before installing the new stuff.

Endo Rockstar
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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby Endo Rockstar » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:27 pm

If you could look that info up, Sno, I'd appreciate it.

I did some serious venting out my eaves to work on the ice dams. They weren't a huge problem in previous years, but previous owners had packed denim insulation into the rafters that extend out the eaves and reduced the airflow to nothing for cool air to escape.

I put these in so I can blow in the insulation to the level I need while not blocking the airflow out the eaves.

Menards has these vents under the name "duravent"

I'd like to look into the foam insulation for the other areas in the walls and basement. That sounds like a great idea. For the attic though we're going to do it ourselves. Now that its vented properly and the old garbage is cleared out, the attic should be a pretty simple job.

As a side note for anyone else who's thinking about doing this, if you rent one of those giant insulation vacuums for 250 bucks a day, I'd recommend spending a couple days up in the attic with garbage bags and a shovel first -- you wouldn't believe the amount of non-insulating debris we had to bag up and haul out before we could run the vacuum without sucking up other crap and clogging the hose. We could have saved a lot of time by doing this.

As a reward for all the hard work up there we did find one of the house's original 5-panel doors buried under the old insulation. Its too narrow for most of our current openings, but I might use it as a closet door in our bedroom.
Image



-Dan Motor

nutria
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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby nutria » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:39 pm

Hey Dan -- sno is right, the name of the program is Green Madison. We had the same service provided on our place, which sounds similar to yours: about 100 years old, has had some professional remodeling done, and some not-so-professional work. I'll echo sno's comments that they were excellent, and gave us thorough and useful, actionable information. Also similar to sno, we got advice on specific places to fix drafts and add in insulation, and the house was way more comfortable last winter, with no additional gas/electric costs.

One additional note, when we did this (maybe two years ago?), GM had some partnership with a federal program, which had a deal like: "if you get x% increase in energy efficiency buy doing these repairs, we'll underwrite a certain portion of your cost." This ultimately ended up with us getting about half our costs reimbursed. This deal may have ended by now, but I can ask the missus when I get home.

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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby snoqueen » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:23 pm

Clicking the Green Madison link, I find the information the program closed at the end of September because a grant from the US Dept of Energy ran out. This is too bad -- the program offered a lot of help to homeowners, saved energy, and provided work to local contractors.

I found the name of the energy consultant I worked with on the program. He has an independent home improvement business. I thought he did a fine job analyzing my house's energy use and was helpful and pleasant to deal with.

http://wholehousesolutionsllc.com/

I don't see any reason not to deal with him separate from the Green Madison program if that's the direction you want to go. You won't be eligible for the rebates nutria and I got, but you could still find out where to best spend your energy dollars.

After I got my home energy analysis, I picked the highest priority items, got two or three bids on each one, and went ahead. Unfortunately, the list of Green Madison approved contractors (insulation companies, doors, etc) is gone along with the rest of the program so you'll be on your own choosing contractors, unless it all turns out to be stuff you can do on your own.

According to MG&E, my gas usage is 63% less than the average Madison house and my electric usage is 92% less than the average Madison house. The latter is more of a lifestyle thing since I don't have electric heat, hot water, or an electric clothes dryer. However the former world be directly related to energy efficiency. So I think the improvements have paid off, or will over time.

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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby gozer » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:16 pm

i like to get blown on general principle . . .

but i must say that i find owens-corning to be the tastiest insulation. it goes great with a glass of a nice riesling or graševina and a couple of lines of bolivian marching powder.

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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby jonnygothispen » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:16 pm

Endo Rockstar wrote:...

As a reward for all the hard work up there we did find one of the house's original 5-panel doors buried under the old insulation. Its too narrow for most of our current openings, but I might use it as a closet door in our bedroom.
Image

-Dan Motor
I had old 5 panel doors like that, but they were so coated with paints and varnishes I put them at the curb and bought 6 panel solid core doors at the ReStore for $15 to $30 each. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the owners of Stalzy's Deli took the doors, restored them at 3 hours each, and installed them in the Deli holding up the counter...

I don't know which is best, but I prefer Cellulose in the attic because it's R-rating is is quite a bit higher than fiberglass for the same thickness...

snoqueen
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Re: Insulation: What's your preference?

Postby snoqueen » Sun Dec 08, 2013 5:19 pm

http://www.ownerbuilderonline.com/blown ... ation.html

That's a pretty good discussion of the advantages of cellulose, along with some cautions.


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