14 August 2010

Free Energy Audit - The Attic

Last month we called SCE&G about a free energy audit they were offering. We had been meaning to so something like this, but we were procrastinating and companies who do this professionally charge around $400 - so we opted for the free one. The inspectors came and looked around our attic and our crawl space. They inspected our A/C unit and water heater. We also discussed our windows.

The inspectors spent most of their time in the attic. Currently we have R-11 insulation between the joists. Their recommendation was to increase the R-value to R-38. The closest level of insulation to reach that goal is R-30. They recommended either blowing insulation or to get unfaced rolls and lay it out perpendicular to the joists, which would raise our attic to an R-value of 41. (By doing this, we would be eligible for a rebate of $6-per-100-sqft of R-30 insulation we added to the attic. Before doing that, they said we should use the spray foam insulation to seal all the holes between the attic and the conditioned part of the house, which mostly includes where the wiring has been run.

The next day, Robin and I went to Lowe's with the intention of buying spray foam insulation and pricing rolls of unfaced R-30 insulation. The inspectors recommended using insulation without a vapor barrier, which the insulation between the joists already has. I had priced it on the internet and it looked like it would cost a little more than $16 per roll, which is 31.25 square feet. That was almost exactly what we found at Lowe's. We also talked to an associate about blown insulation - apparently, if you buy 20 bags of it, you get the blower free for 24 hours.

We were thinking about all of our options when we walked to the front of the store and noticed the same insulation priced at $10.86. When we compared products, it was the exact same thing. The price was a misprint, but they were going to honor the price. With that bit of new information, we decided to go ahead and buy enough insulation for the whole attic.

I spent Tuesday night insulating wall outlets using the expandable foam. Wednesday I spent some time in the attic filling the holes where the wiring runs into the house. Later, I opened a roll of insulation to lay it out and realized I had few questions. I called my uncle who is a contractor and while talking to him, I found out that building codes require only R-30 insulation, so what the inspectors recommended must be from Energy Star.

While in the attic, I realized that above our bonus room (closed-in porch), there wasn't any insulation at all. So before I add extra insulation to that room, I have to put some in there to begin with.

Robin and I spent the early part of Wednesday morning in the attic rolling out insulation. We seemed to get a lot done. There was more to work around near the front of our house, but when we moved to the back, we had nothing to stop us from rolling out the insulation the length of the house. The first few rolls went fast, but by that time we were hot and ready to call it a day. We don't think it will take us too long to do the rest of the attic. I'll need to leave room to get to the bonus room, so I can insulate that in the near future.

The few other things we need to do is get better weather stripping on our doors and caulk our windows. I'm really glad we did this. It makes me feel like we've done something important for our house and our lives.

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