No Need to Fear: One Homeowner’s Journey

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We can give you all of the facts and statistics to prove why your home needs to be insulated, but hearing stories from actual homeowners will make you a believer in insulation’s importance. Recently, a New Englander decided to insulate his home. Luckily, this New Englander’s son, happens to be an expert on energy efficient homes.

David Posluszney’s father has lived in the same house for many years, and was nervous that hiring a company to insulate and air seal would mean drastic changes to his beloved home. Drastic home changes could lead to drastic lifestyle changes—along with an empty wallet. Quelling his father’s fears, David explained that the newly insulated and air sealed home would still be the same home that he knows and loves.

Starting from the top, the house desperately needed attic insulation. Since each home is a unique system that has demands its own customized solution, attic insulation varies from home to home. Therefore, it is hard to determine the overall “ideal” attic insulation regulations.

The “right” amount of attic insulation depends on the type of insulation. Different insulating materials have different R-values and K-factors. The R-value measures the insulation’s overall ability to stop heat transfer between your home’s interior and exterior. You want the R-value to be a relatively high number. The K-factor measures the material’s specific ability to conduct heat. You want this number to be as low as possible.

The R-value and K-factor vary with the amount of insulation in the attic. In David’s dad’s home, David installed 18 inches of loose fill cellulose insulation. He recommends loose fill cellulose because it reaches every inch of the insulated area—it fills the cracks. The 18 inches in this attic offer an R-value of 60.

David’s dad gave up his attic storage space to accommodate the insulation. If a homeowner is neither able nor willing to give up this storage space, we can move the thermal boundary to the ceiling of the attic rather than the attic floor. This means that the attic must be included in the heated and air conditioned space of your home; thus creating more air to regulate. There are benefits to each of these choices:

  • if you submit your attic to insulation, then you will have less area to heat and cool, but
  • if you extend your thermal boundary, you will keep your storage space.

In both cases, the new insulation will create an effective barrier between your home and outside.

The attic was the only space that David insulated in this retrofit home. He air sealed the entire home, but only installed insulation in the attic—overall, a minimally invasive procedure.

Along with insulating and air sealing, this retrofit home installed a 2-ton carrier heat pump. This pump heats and cools while using less energy than the standard heat pump. Most heat pumps use an average of 180,000 BPUs but this energy efficient pump only consumes 24,000 BPUs. The home previously had a forced hot air furnace to provide heat, and a separate air conditioner unit. The new heat pump conveniently reused all of the same ductwork.

To bring this retrofit home closer to net-zero energy usage, David installed an electric hot water heater and an electric stove. He also switched all of the lighting to LED lights.

David’s father’s home is an example of a project that will pay back in the long term. Insulating the attic alone typically has about a four-year payback rate, where the savings outweigh the original price. This particular home has a little over a seven-year payback period due to all of the different energy conserving measures. Although the payback period is a few years longer, David’s father is currently saving about $4,000 a year compared to his un-insulated home.

When we asked David what he felt were the biggest setbacks to a project like this, he replied that you need to allow contractors into your home, you may need to give up your attic storage, and you need to resist cranking up your heat in your insulated home. David’s dad had so much confidence in his new insulation that he raised his thermostat. Just because an insulated and air sealed home will hold in your higher heat, you are still paying for those extra four degrees—you’re just not losing them to the outside air. Insulation provides more comfort at your same thermostat setting.

Installing insulation might sound scary for your home. You may picture us ripping apart your walls and ceilings—but that is not the case. As this retrofit home demonstrates, a valuable insulation and air-sealing job does not need to be invasive. Contact Dolphin to find out more about how you can easily save and be more comfortable.