Monday, August 26, 2013

Attic Insulation

My current goal for projects is to utilize the space we have more efficiently. We have a second floor we barely use because it is uncomfortable without the AC/Heat on. And when the AC/Heat is on, the money in our wallets pours out.

Our upstairs has more than just a loft. It qualifies as a bedroom because it has a closet.

And we also have the bathroom up there. It’s a really nice space, and we love to hang out up there, but we can’t do it in the Summer or Winter.

I had an energy audit done on our house, and the house as a whole is very energy efficient (First floor only). The problem that we wanted fixed was the comfort level on the second floor. We never let the thermostat stay on up there. If we did, it would never shut off because it worked too hard to keep the temperature correct.

Looking in the attic at the insulation that was there, it was not sufficient.

Our home is Tudor style, which means the roof is high-pitched.

There was so much unused space up there.

We are seriously considering adding a room and closet up there.

The majority of insulation was blown-in style. The audit said we had R-28 currently in there. Department of Energy recommends R-30 (minimum) to R60 in our climate zone.

The trey-ceilings, cathedral ceilings and the walls to the second floor have a rolled-out insulation (batt style). This fiberglass does not stop the attic air from pushing through to cause comfort issues.

One option we had was to air seal all ducts, recessed lighting, registers, etc. Then add blown in insulation to get our level up to R-47. To air seal, would cost $650. To put in R-19 worth on blown in insulation would be $1300.

The solution we came up with was to encapsulate the roof. This meant a spray foam  (Icynene) would be sprayed to the underside of the roof. In areas such as the garage and back porch, foam was sprayed on the floor of the unfinished attic space (the ceiling of the finished room below). This eliminates the need to A) Air Seal every ceiling hole, B) add more ceiling insulation and baffles C) no need for duct sealing. All holes and vents currently in the roof and eaves would be patched up and foamed over. The attic would now become part of the ‘envelope.’ Our air handler and ducts would not have to work as hard because they would be inside a conditioned space measuring 85 degrees versus 140-170 degrees in the summertime. This extends the life of the unit because it eliminates stress.

Doing this method required us removing the current blown-in insulation. This type of insulation only works when it trapped in a 6-sided configuration. We wouldn’t need this insulation on the sheetrock to the first floor. The company we used offered to remove the insulation for us, but a $2250 price tag was too much to swallow. He asked a silly question if I was a DIY type of person and if I was, I could do it myself. I set a goal to remove some an hour a night.

This did take some time. We had to remove all the stuff we were storing in the attic and then we started removing the insulation. It felt so intimidating at first! We learned a rhythm and became efficient. We’d start by raking the insulation into bags with our hands and get as much as we could. Then we got the scraps with our shop vacuum.

When we used the vacuum for the majority, it filled up too fast. It felt like we were filling it and bagging it a lot. We could do more in a short time by doing it by hand.

Then we got in a rhythm of one person getting the big handfuls with the other person following behind to get the scraps.

I will say, seeing the clean boards was pretty to me. There was something about it.

We had 27 bags of insulation for the garbage men after one week. This was about half of the insulation.

We put out some the night before and the storm blew some down the street.

I had to go pick them all up before the neighbors noticed.

In hind-sight, I should have offered the insulation to my neighbors to beef up their attics. oops.

In total, it took us ten nights to completely remove all the blown-in insulation.

The next step was for Heating and Cooling specialist to come install the mechanical ventilation. 

Because the attic is being sealed off, the furnace needs fresh air to pull. The mechanical ventilation comes through a hole in the roof and gets the system the fresh air it needs.

Buddy, came early on a Saturday morning. He was great!

We had four fresh air vents installed.

This only added four little doo-dads to our roof.

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