Add Insulation and Seal Out Drafts to Warm Up a Home
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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Richard in Ohio is living in a pretty drafty house. Join the club. Tell me what’s going on.

    RICHARD: Insulation contractor came and blew cellulose insulation in the walls. Left a lot of voids in it, which caused forced drafts. I had infrared-camera work done and the floors are like 31 degrees and about 45 degrees waist-high. And I can’t seem to figure out what’s going on here or what to do about it. However, I found a physics teacher that restores old homes. She told me that if you leave a void in an insulation – insulated wall – it will cause a forced draft. [Be creating] (ph) quite a few forced drafts in here.

    TOM: Well, maybe, maybe not but here’s the thing. First of all, you had blown-in insulation done and you followed that up with an infrared-camera inspection. I’m guessing you didn’t do that right after the installer was done, correct? You did this later on to try to figure out why it was still cold in the house?

    RICHARD: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s very difficult to install blown-in insulation in a wall and do it correctly, so we’ve heard this before. The best installers will take a long time to make sure it gets in just right. They put in just the right amount and they knew how to get it in every bay and then they use an infrared camera to figure out if they’ve missed anything. So it sounds to me like now we’ve got a real mess in the outside wall. We don’t know what’s insulated, what’s not insulated.

    Let’s set that aside for right now and cover two other very important basics. Number one is the attic. You want to make sure that you have enough insulation in your attic because if you can trap the heat from escaping from the attic, which is where most of the heat leaves the house, you may find that it’s going to make you more comfortable.

    In the attics of Ohio, where you’re located, you’re going to need at least 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation. Most people don’t have that much. But that is what the Department of Energy would recommend. So if you don’t have that much insulation, the first thing I want you to do is add insulation to your attic.

    The second thing – you mentioned you’re on a crawlspace. Your floor has got to be insulated. Again, unfaced fiberglass batts. If it’s a standard 2×10 floor joist, you want to fill that up with a full 10 inches of insulation. If you can insulate the floor and the attic – two areas that are accessible and easy to access – you’re kind of halfway there.

    Now, what are we going to do about the exterior wall? Well, short of taking it apart, we’re not going to easily solve this problem with a blown-in. If you had an insulation company that could work with the camera and add additional blown-in, they might be able to fill it in. But that’s going to be expensive and I don’t know that you’re going to get a good return on investment.

    So what I would suggest you do is everything else that you can do to stop the drafts. So that means sealing around windows and doors and outlets and light switches, especially, to make sure that we get as many of those gaps closed as possible.

    And then from a decorating perspective, very often – Leslie, you jump right in because I’ve heard you recommend heavy drapes over these windows, too, to try to short-circuit those drafts that are sort of falling around the windows.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you can do it sort of two-fold. You know, we have drafty windows. Unfortunately, the previous owners installed not the greatest of windows and they were poorly installed. So, short of doing a major project here, I’ve gotten creative. I’ve done a sort of double-lined fabric shade that’s up against the glass portion of the window itself. And I’ll draw those down during the colder times. And then I have a heavier drape that I use in the winter, as well, that’s lined that I will just close up to make sure that I’m keeping those drafts out.

    Also, if you’ve got baseboard heating in that room, you want to make sure that nothing is blocking those baseboards. Your furniture – you’ve got to pull away from the walls. Think about giving it some air, just sort of circulate the heat around the room a little bit better. But really, heavy fabrics, heavy draperies, that really does make a huge difference.

    TOM: Richard, I hope that advice helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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