Categories in Learn It

Explore these popular topics and let your home improvement adventure begin!

your questions in Learn It

See Answer
solar panel cost, solar energy

Does Adding Solar Increase Home Value?

I'm seeing a lot of advertisements for solar energy claiming that it adds value to your home.  Is this true?

Our Answer

Mark, that is a really good question. I love the idea of using the sun to help power my home but I'm frustrated that it is so very hard to do this given the barrage of misleading information being put out by those selling solar energy, and your question is only one of the very many claims being made.

In short, the answer is "maybe."  Certainly some buyers will be interested to know that the home generates some/all of its own electricity.  But others, frankly, won't care and see all those panels as another thing they have to maintain.  Worse yet, if the solar panels have been "leased" instead of purchased, buyers may not be willing to take on the added lease payment on top of what they pay you for your home, or may want to negotiate a reimbursement for the total amount left on the lease before they buy.

Aside from the value question, I'm finding solar energy companies pitch a wide variety of proposal and payment schemes from purchase to lease to somewhere in between, softener with overly enthusiastic estimates of how much energy you'll generate.  Plus, its not exactly clear what rebates are available, tax credits, and SREC, or solar energy renewal credits - where you earn credits based on how much energy you generate and then sell those credits which are market priced and hard ot predict.

Lastly, it's also important to consider how quickly technology is changing in the solar industry before making a big investment.  For example, ss battery technology improves and prices go down, the shift will be not so much on how much you collect but how much power you can store to use when you need it. This would enable you to have a solar array sized perfectly for year round collection, and the storage capacity to save energy in the summer to use in the winter.

See Answer
insulate finished attic

How to Insulate Finished Attic

I have a large attic with a ridge vent, but no soffit vents or other vents for air intake. As such, the attic gets very moist and cold/hot. I would like to finish the attic for additional living space. As such, would blow-in insulation be suitable to insulate and seal the attic prior to finishing? As I live in the Northeast, would I need to extend the rafters to get adequate insulation? Also, would I remove the ridge vent and leave in the floor insulation?

Our Answer

Insulating in small spaces is often tough. When your rafter is only 8" deep, you can use only 6" of fiberglass insulation as the rest needs to be saved to allow for ventilation, which is hardly enough. Additionally, it is very difficult to get insulation into such a tight space.

However, spray foam insulation can fill in the entire cavity. It has a higher R-value and doesn't need to be ventilated, and in my view, the best way to insulate a finished attic or cathedral ceiling. The Money Pit Guide to Insulation might be a useful resource. Good luck with the project.

See Answer
how to install insulation

Best Insulation for Small Attic

Hi guys! Love the podcast! My husband and I are under contract on a house. During inspection, mold was found in the attic on sheathing and in the insulation. We are getting the mold on the sheathing remediated, insulation replaced and improving the ventilation by rerouting bathroom exhaust duct, adding a new ridge vent and air sealing penetrations like the recessed lighting.The attic is not an occupied space and really too small and too cumbersome to get into (small scuttle in the linen closet). The quote we got was for cellulose insulation. However, we were wondering if it makes sense to pay more for spray foam or a polyiso insulation?  Thanks for any input!

Our Answer

Great job identifying the source of the mold issues in the attic!  Improving ventilation (the most important of which is getting that bath fan exhaust duct  extended), was absolutely the right thing to do.  As for insulation types, cellulose and spray foam are quite different. If you went with cellulose, for one, you'd need all that ventilation. Like fiberglass, cellulose is designed to work in an "unconditioned" space.  Heat is held to the ceiling level, and everything above that is at ambient temperature (hot or cold).

Spray foam, on the other hand, is designed to convert that to "conditioned" space, meaning ventilation is no longer an issue.  We used this on our 1886 home and it's never been warmer in the winter or cooler in the summer.

When it's very difficult to get insulation in a tight space in either case, spray foam insulation might be your best bet. It can fill in tough-to-get-to cavities, has a higher R-value and does not need to be ventilated. A good resource is The Money Pit Guide to Insulation, which discusses pros and cons of spray foam insulation and its types. Best of luck with the project!