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The Hole in my Bucket gets Smaller (Steamhead)

ConstantinConstantin Posts: 3,782Member
I'm so impressed with how well the house seems to have held up over the years. All the sheathing, planking, etc. seem to be in very good condition... it speaks to the care that your family must have brought to the place.

I also cheer on the insulation job, it looks like they did a good job of fitting (not squishing) the FG into place. While it may not stop infiltration the way foam or dense-pack can, this is definitely a huge improvement over nothing!

Also, congrats on the 3x reduction of energy consumption/boiler downsizing. If we all pursued this in our home heating and transportation lives there would be a surplus of oil in the market... I remain hopeful that US consumers will wake up and gradually change their behavior before the change is forced onto them painfully by market forces.

Hoppefully, you and the lovely Naoko will soon be enjoying warmer floors underfoot! Ditto for any Nekos you may have wandering around the house...


  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Time for a new roof

    and I'm taking my own advice. We opened the roof deck to add insulation. There was none in the dormer wall below the roof line, the steep portion of the roof on either side of the dormer or in the floor above the under-cut front porch (which is almost 8 feet deep!). That part of those front bedrooms got real cold in the winter. We also insulated the rear portion of the house that was reachable with the deck open.

    The openings in the soffits ventilate the attic. It never gets over 10 degrees above the outside temperature in the summer- without using a fan. That was one of my first projects when I got the house!

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  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    In the Pink

    showing the front wall of the dormer (R-13) and the floor insulation (R-30) peeking out. We had to shove the floor insulation in from the front with a stick, that was the only available opening. We fished insulation (more R-13, that was all the room we had) up under the steep part of the roof to the sides of the dormer with an electrician's fish tape, pulled from the attic with a helper pushing in from below.

    I know fiberglass is no longer the state of the insulation art, but it was the best fit here, and it's a lot better than what wasn't there before.

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  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Jimmy Canoles of Reliable Roofing

    looks up after hammering the last nail in the wood strips holding the insulation in place. These guys are great to work with, and do some first-class work.

    Now I'll have to do a heat loss calc on this house to see how much less heat it needs.

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  • Brad White_9Brad White_9 Posts: 2,440Member
    It is so common

    to see the area behind a porch roof have no sheathing. At least you had lath and plaster! Good for you for seizing the opportunity. I am sure it will be a "why did I wait so long" scenario, but enjoy the benefits.

    What a perfect little house you have, Frank. 1920's I am guessing, maybe a Sears kit house?
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member

    but not a kit as far as I know. It's the old family house, my great-grandfather had it built. This is where my interest in old houses and old heating systems got started. The system in this house is converted gravity hot-water.

    There was really no way to get into this area unless the roof deck was removed. Even if a hole were cut in the dormer wall you would not be able to move around unless you were a midget.

    Since 1980 I've reduced the heat input by over 60%, from 1.65 GPH to 0.65. Part of this came from replacing the boiler in 1983, part from optimizing the rest of the system, part by improving the envelope with insulation, weatherstripping and storm windows.

    If everyone did this, we wouldn't need foreign oil.

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  • Brad White_9Brad White_9 Posts: 2,440Member
    Damn I'm good :)

    My Susan's house is 1922, similar, gravity HW now forced. Soon to be Vito-powered :) Insulating it was the best thing. More to go always.

    Isn't it the best thing to take an older home (and one with your family imprint no less) and bring it to it's personal best! Knock down oil consumption by 2/3rd? Excellent. Let's get that down to 0.5, Frank :)

  • jackchips_2jackchips_2 Posts: 1,338Member

    you are, Brad.

    And funny to boot.

    Excellent update, Frank.

  • Mike T., Swampeast MOMike T., Swampeast MO Posts: 6,928Member

    Lookin' good Steamhead! Always warms my heart to see a good old home that has been and continues to be well maintained. Even better that you're retaining what's good (and often irreplaceable) while doing your best to make it perform efficiently! Bravo!!!

    Really like that chimney. Is it original?
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Chimney? Mostly original

    the very top was rebuilt about ten years ago. The flue tiles only went to the roof line which screwed up the fireplace draft. I had more tiles added and a slate cap put on.

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  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    I worked the insulation portion of the job with them

    it isn't something this crew usually does. Plus I wanted to see how these parts of the house were put together, and someone had to go get the insulation once we had everything open and knew what we needed. We had to cut most of the insulation to reduce its width- very few of the joist, stud or rafter spaces were the same as those used today.

    The Lovely Naoko usually wears at least two sweaters in the winter, we might get her down to one. I still have Lucky, the "shironeko" (white cat) we'll see how she likes those rooms this winter.

    The job will be done tomorrow assuming it doesn't rain.

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  • bob_50bob_50 Posts: 306Member

    Steamhead, say it isn't so. You have hot water heat?:>) bob
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member

    that's what my great-grandpa got. It serves me well as a testbed ;-) I did some of the research here that went into my circulator sizing article in Hot Tech Topics.

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  • Christian Egli_2Christian Egli_2 Posts: 812Member
    Not just another case of do as I say... well done.

    Rather than waiting until next winter to see how effective this new insulation is, I fully expect you to notice a cooler summer. While insulation traps our paid-for heat indoors, it also stops solar heat from breaking in.

    In the past, when I've added insulation into roofs, I have been more impressed by the cooler feel of the summers than the winter fuel savings. In either case, you can't loose. Roof color changes work the same way.

    Thanks for sharing the intimate pictures.

  • Jerry_15Jerry_15 Posts: 379Member

    Intimate pictures? Either I missed something or Christian is a cheap date. He's right on about the insulation though. I'm in the middle (and may finish before my kids start college), of putting an attic bedroom/bath in my 100+Victorian. I put in dormers, and had to sister joist the floor in steel to let me go 6" on an 18' span, since all the ceiling joists, and rafters are 2x4(Almost 2x6 by todays standards). The bigest problem was heat intrusion. Even though I had insulated the ceiling years before, and installed a attic fan, the insulation would save heat during the day, store it, and re-radiate it at night. It was hotter at night than during the day. With 2x4 rafters I could only go r-11, so I stapled foil bubble that I use for radiant right up against the nailers during construction and dropped the surface temp by over 40 deg., based on my radar gun. Could not even work in that space before. Throw a piece up in the cab of your pick-up and you'll know what I'm talkin about
  • Christian Egli_2Christian Egli_2 Posts: 812Member
    Well, you did look? no?

    A stripped roof, down to the bare naked lath, paraded with a pink boa? and you need more? I know it is not full summer yet, but how much hotter can it get?

    Hot diggity steam ;)

  • Jerry_15Jerry_15 Posts: 379Member

    Gosh, it sounds so much better when you say it, Christian. I stand,no corrected.
  • Dean_7Dean_7 Posts: 191Member

    Steamhead is right. We gutted the laundry room attatched to the back of our house (8' x 12') last summer in order to repair serious water leak damage. We found the walls had no insulation above the window sill line and no insulation in the ceiling. After replacing four very bad windows with 3 new energy efficient ones and completely insulating the walls and the ceiling for the first time ever this winter this room was comfortable. And for the first time no icycles formed on the roof eve. This room is heated with a 19 square foot EDR cast iron radiator (old Capitol by the way) and was always cold. Now this radiator is oversized for the room. This also reduced our heating costs anothe r 15% over the winter. Over the last 4 years by insulating replacing old drafty windows replacing the boiler and restoring the steam heating system our total heating costs have dropped almost 70%. My natural gas bill for Feb. was $71.00.
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Job's done

    I had the same thought as Christian regarding roof color. The old roof was a dark charcoal color. This one pays tribute to the original slate roof, but in a lighter color to reject the summer sun's radiated heat.

    For those who are interested, these are GAF Timberline shingles with a 50-year rating. By the time they need replacing I should be a Dead Man.

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  • Brad White_9Brad White_9 Posts: 2,440Member
    That is the nicest looking house, Frank!

    The stone columns, nice proportions and the new roof. That must really feel good. How long start to finish? Seems we were following it real-time.

    Very nicely done!

    Give an attaboy to Jimmy Canoles and Reliable Roofing. Nice work. They are famous now!
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Took 5 days start to finish

    Part of the house had 2 layers of shingles and the rest had three (!). That meant more tear-off work.

    The insulation added about a day and a half. We didn't know what was needed until we had opened the deck. This meant someone (me) had to make an insulation run in the middle of the job, rather than having the stuff on hand when we started. We were able to keep things going but it did slow the job down a bit.

    I've never seen a house quite like this one. They really knew how to design houses in the old days. This house will still be standing long after the new houses built of toothpicks and cardboard are gone.

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  • Long Beach EdLong Beach Ed Posts: 688Member
    Got to chime in...

    What a nice job, Steamhead! Thought I was the only one with these problems, issues and jobs. A lovely home for sure. Just screams 1924!

    Adding three rooms to my attic now; Fibreglas under the clay spanish tiles. Added a hot water zone to the steam boiler for the attic using a tankless coil.

    Some paid help's humping 120 boards of 5/8" Sheetrok up five flights as I write. God bless laborers.

    Long Beach Ed
  • D107D107 Posts: 1,464Member
    roofing manufacturers say color not an issue?

    I spoke with a rep--I think from certainteed--who maintained that any effect from darker roof colors is negligible. Goes against common sense for me. Problem is most of the nicer colors--my own personal taste--are darker.

    Any other evidence out there on this?

    Great looking house!

  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Posts: 1,437Member
    You might want... have a look here.
    Yours, Larry
  • Wayco Wayne_2Wayco Wayne_2 Posts: 2,472Member

    My computer could not get through at that address. Could you summarize? WW

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  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Here ya go, WW

    text from that Web page:

    The Cool Roof Rating Council Serves Facilities Managers and Roofing Specifiers

    Why Cool Roofs?

    Cool roofs are good for your bottom line, good for your building, and good for the environment. By reducing typical roof surface temperatures by 50ºF or more, cool roofs provide a number of potential immediate and long-term benefits to building owners and managers including:

    * Lower your utility bills for air conditioning

    * Down-size your air conditioning systems

    * Expect lower roof maintenance costs and longer roof life

    * Enjoy greater occupant comfort

    * Use this low-cost energy efficiency measure for meeting building codes, and

    * Help address your community's heat island effects

    How Can the Cool Roof Rating Council Help?

    Designers, builders, consultants and owners are showing increasing awareness of the radiative properties of roofs as a key contributor to buildings' thermal performance. Thanks to this growing market awareness "cool" roofing is becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors of the marketplace. In such a market, reliable radiative performance ratings are the bedrock of effective specification. Code officials, energy service providers, architects, roof consultants, building owners, property managers, and community planners rely upon the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) for its Product Rating Program to provide fair and credible roof surface radiative property data.

    CRRC recognizes only roofing product radiative property tests performed by properly trained and accredited, independent laboratories. CRRC standardizes and assures the quality of the rating process-we don't establish or enforce performance thresholds. EPA's Energy Star program is complementary in that it promotes only products meeting certain performance levels, and relies on manufacturer performance claims. For product data you can depend on, insist on the CRRC label when you specify your roofing products. See the CRRC product directory at

    for a listing of CRRC labeled products.

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  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member

    in the late 1940s there was actually a system called "April Showers" that used sprinklers on roofs, to reduce their surface temperatures with cold water either evaporating from the heat or carrying the heat down the drain. Obviously we can't waste water that way now, but it shows the benefits of reducing roof surface temps in the summer were known way back then.

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  • D107D107 Posts: 1,464Member
    amazing that here around new york where it gets very hot

    in summer, I see no interest in this by local contractors. Most of the roofs being pushed are various shades of black or brown. One major national manufacturer said there was negligible difference. I wonder what has to say about this as well--especially for an unvented attic where supposedly the under-roof-sheathing foam or fiberglass insulation would keep the attic cooler. I know they do concede a slight effect on shingle life, but new roofing systems I've seen at building call for insulation to be added between the sheathing and shingles which should lessen heat penetration. (at a cost of course)

    Thanks for the great links.

  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    If you asked those contractors

    you would probably get an answer like:

    1- "It costs too much".

    2- "That's what air-conditioning is for".

    3- "We've always done it this way".

    And as a result the energy situation gets worse and worse.

    BTW, my house does not have A/C. Sorry BGE, I'm not one of your cash cows.

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  • Mike T., Swampeast MOMike T., Swampeast MO Posts: 6,928Member

    Some info regarding dark vs. light roofs:

    Heat Island Group

    National Geographic

    Public Information Energy Research Program Note that darker color granules that are significantly more reflective are available.
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Here are the heat-loss numbers on this house

    These calcs were done using Slant/Fin Hydronic Explorer version 2. Assumptions are: 0 degrees F outside, 70 degrees F inside in all parts of the house except the basement, which is calced at 60 degrees F (it usually stands at about this temp throughout the winter). Some interpolation was necessary since the rooms involved are not always complete rectangles.

    As originally built in 1924, with no insulation, storm windows or weatherstripping of any kind, and without the first floor back bathroom (space was used as a pantry then, and was not insulated underneath): 132,005 BTU per hour.

    As of 1986, with the attic insulated, storm windows on about 1/3 of the house, and the pantry converted to a bathroom with 3-1/2 inches of insulation in the floor: 107,944 BTU per hour.

    As of 2005, with storm windows everywhere and the back bathroom floor insulation increased to 10 inches: 97,316 BTU per hour.

    As of 2006, with insulation in the walls and floors of the front portions of the front bedrooms, the walls of the back portion of the northeast back bedroom and a sliver of the dining room ceiling that sticks out past that back bedroom- 89,631 BTU per hour. According to the calcs, the new insulation shown in the pics above will save me 7,685 BTU per hour at design temperature.

    So the calculated heat loss is now 68% of what it was when the house was first built, and 92% of what it was before the roof/insulation job.

    The interesting part is that I'm firing the Burnham V-14 at 0.65 GPH. So my input rate is 91,000 BTU per hour. Assuming 82% efficiency, that's good for a gross output of about 74,620 BTU per hour, and a net of about 67,836 BTU per hour (1.1% pickup factor). So either the house is performing better than the calcs would indicate, or the boiler's efficiency is a bit better when downfired- it is rated 107,800 net BTU per hour at a firing rate of 1 GPH. Or maybe we just haven't had a cold enough winter to put a good load on the system in its current configuration.

    The old boiler (an oversized all-fuel Peerless from the 1940s using gravity circulation and a non-flame-retention/non-Shellhead burner) was originally fired at 1.65 GPH. It was later down-fired to 1.35 GPH. The current rate of 0.65 is about 40% of the original, and roughly 49% of the downfired rate on the old boiler.

    The Lovely Naoko and I have already noticed the difference. Outside temps have ranged from about 42 to 80 over the past couple of weeks, and the house has stayed at 65-69 degrees with no help whatever from the heating system. It NEVER did this well before.

    Dan, if you see fit, please copy this thread to the Heating Efficiency area.

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  • Wayco Wayne_2Wayco Wayne_2 Posts: 2,472Member
    Thanks for sharing this

    information Frank. I just recently took out an old cast iron hot water beastie, rated at 250,000 btu's, and put in a wall hung Prestige rated at 99,000 based on my Wrightsoft heat load. This leaves a 13% cushion at 10 degrees OA, according to my program. It sure makes me nervous to see such a large difference in capacity, but the heat load software has been right so far, and from what I've seen it has some fat figured into the final load. The system has a large thermal mass and will take a while to get up to temp but with large cast iron radiators I should be able to get a lot of condensing temps during the Winter. WW

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  • S EbelsS Ebels Posts: 2,322Member

    You have to remember that these old systems were sized to heat the house WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN. Spanish flu, remember?
  • Al CorelliAl Corelli Posts: 454Member
    Roof Color vs Temp

    In my own house, we went from a dark grey to a "White" shingle and the summers are noticably cooler since. Sorry, no hard and fast data, but we use the AC (thru-wall) much less since then.
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    But if

    I knock the basement out of the calc, the remainder comes very close to the estimated net boiler output at 0.65 GPH. There are no radiators in the basement, but the return lines are uninsulated. It's unfinished and used as a work/storage area, but does have storm windows. It usually stays around 60 all winter.

    I ran my calcs at 70 inside/0 outside because that's how it was originally done.

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  • ConstantinConstantin Posts: 3,782Member
    That seems very cold...

    Does it get that cold in your area? Boston is much further North, yet our design temperature is 9 degrees. We have had -15 for days at a time, but that was rather unusual weather...
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    It does get that cold here

    occasionally. But the old standard was 70 inside, 0 outside so I used the same standard for this set of calcs, to better show the effect of the weatherization. Kind of like the 0-60 MPH acceleration test for cars- it refuses to die.

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  • saving the planet, one house at a time

    Hi Frank,

    Congrats on a job well done. If more people paid as much attention to energy usage as you and TLN, the finite fossil fuels would last longer.

    The steps you took could be performed at almost any home in America, my own included.

    Best regards, Pat
  • Steamhead (in transit)Steamhead (in transit) Posts: 6,688Member
    Thanks Pat

    and feel free to post pics and numbers when you upgrade yours! The more examples, the better.

    I have one and maybe two appointments this week to do heat-loss calcs for boiler replacements. If I find old windows, no storms, no insulation etc. then a "what-if" calc with upgraded weatherization is in order. I've done a few of these and always end up with at least one size smaller boiler if the upgrades are in place. This is why heat-loss computer programs are so great.

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