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What's the heat-loss benefits of blown-in cellulose insulation into outside walls?

josieT
josieT Member Posts: 53
edited May 2015 in THE MAIN WALL
I have a very poorly insulated old home. The change of my heating system from steam to hot water (yes, I'm aware that was a bad move!), has left me in a position where the single plane metal windows and lack of insulation now make for an uncomfortable winter. I sealed up the windows pretty well this year with foamboard, plastic and masking tape. That helped a lot. The house was bearable but we still woke to a chilly house on many extreme days. The outside walls were definitely cold and I will need to look at insulating them which is costly. I have read that blown in insulation over time falls to the ground. I could see that happening as opposed to using an insulation bat or board.
http://bobyapp.com/blog/2009/06/myths-about-insulating-old-house-walls talks about the problems with blown in insulation including termites and condensation on the insulation causing it to get wet and pulled down. He strongly recommends AGAINST blown in insulation.

I know logically that insulation in general helps. If I put my coffee in a thermos, it will stay warmer much longer than a mug. But for a house, I assume insulation materials and methods can very. I see that a typical recommendation in the NY state energy assessment reports are "Gypsum Board, 2x4 16" OC, 3.5" Cellulose, 1" Wood, R-12."

Has anyone added blown-in insulation in outside walls and see it make a dramatic difference? How about with the attic?

I don't care about cost savings in energy bills with insulatuon. I am simply trying to make sure the house can stay warm during extreme weather

Mariam

Comments

  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,392
    Are you in in NYS? If so,NYSERDA offers no cost energy audits than can pinpoint the shortfalls in your houses envelope. Without air sealing,insulation is just an air filter.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Yes,
    josieT said:

    Has anyone added blown-in insulation in outside walls and see it make a dramatic difference? How about with the attic?

    Many times, actually -- though attics are blown in, walls get dense-packed. Little to no settling if the walls are done right. Attic performance depends on both the type of cellulose (kraft has longer fibers and holds loft far better than newsprint-sourced insulation will) and the skill of the installer.
    josieT
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,250
    You really need to check out this site. They research different kinds of building envelopes and show what is best for sealing them and insulating. And they do it in the worst case environment!
    http://www.cchrc.org/walls
    Rick
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    edited May 2015
    Thank you for the comments. Robert I am in NYC and got the recommendation from an Energy Audit. On the air sealing section it said "Air Leakage in All Conditioned Spaces = 5890 CFM50". Who does air sealing? Only insulation and windows were mentioned with the recommendations. It talked about caulking but who can do that for me?
    Jimbo_5
  • Spence
    Spence Member Posts: 316
    Air sealing is a term used to describe measures that identify air leaks on your home and neutralize them. Leaks around windows, doors, and other openings to the outside are usually pretty obvious. Some that you don't see yet have a huge difference are leaks along the house-to-foundation joint, and the joints created by the top framing member (cap) separating your living space and your attic.

    The more tight you make your house, the less energy you lose to the atmosphere; therefore, your heating and cooling requirements are dramatically reduced.
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    Thanks Spence. I have a very old home (1937) so there are tons of leaks - doors and windows are the worst. Is that a do it yourself project? For example, the leaks through the doors are terrible. Outdoor door replacement is very costly. Is it mostly a matter of plugging up leaks around the doors?
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Have a blower door test done on your home. It will identify the drafty areas that require attention. Most companies will air seal when they do the bower door test.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    edited May 2015
    Your doors, and windows will depend highly on their integrity. You can rebuild, and weather strip to a like new condition so long as the windows, and doors have their basic integrity. While time cconsuming it is fulfilling, and less costly to bring vintage windows, and doors to like new function. With that being said they will not have the r value, and e glass of present day. But if money is an issue.

    Post some pics of your windows, and doors in question.
  • Spence
    Spence Member Posts: 316
    Weatherstripping doors is indeed a DIY project; easier than caulking windows from a ladder. Running a neat bead of caulk in the inside, where the wood trim meets the wall will stop drafts. As mentioned by Robert, an audit will help tremendously. There may be low or no interest financing from your utility to help with the more costly measures such as blown-in insulation. Not paying to condition Mother Nature is an investment, not an expense, that keeps giving benefits every year. You said it best; make your house a Thermos bottle, and stay warm without using energy.
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    I did have an energy audit with blower test. I was just a little concerned over the price of the recommendations. I have all those numbers. attached are some pictures.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,864
    Switch back to steam. Your radiators are only producing 2/3 the heat now than they did with steam. Go back and you'll be comfortable.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    edited May 2015
    It's really not practical to go back to steam after already switching. I'm not rich by any means ... loL! I already have a hot water system now. I did not use the same convector elements that I had with steam.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    This is from another thread right?
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    Heating system was another thread. This is a complement. Heating contractors who are helping me are very concerned if i'll be able to get my new heating to work without addressing insulation and windows. This post really concerned me: http://bobyapp.com/blog/2009/06/myths-about-insulating-old-house-walls
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Completely off-topic, but could you address your decision to change out the steam for HW. We often ponder that and I'm just so curious as to what would convince someone to do this expensive retrofit. I don't mean this as a slam on you at all as I'm sure you're now just trying to make the best of a bad decision. Usually any changes in heating systems are done AFTER upgrades in insulation so it's clear whoever, did yours didn't do a correct heatloss. Any chance of getting them back to increase the radiation? It seems this might be on them. Colleen P.S. still trying to find the name of the wholesaler. I didn't forget.

    So are you saying you air Xchange is 50x perhr? I didn't understand that number you gave above. The storebought gaskets for doors work fairly well. I'd consider an extra glass or clear screen for the exteriors, at least for the winter. Are the originals anywhere to be found? Most houses had them custom-built at the time. Definitely caulk around the trim molding and get the space where the joists meat the building sealed in the basement to prevent a chimney air effect from sucking the cold air to the top floors. Definitely air R50 to any attic space and insulate/vaporbarrier any knee walls. I did this after years of freezing and can't believe the difference in comfort and noise!

    I have plaster on brick so can't even consider insulating between, hence, I know nothing about it really.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    edited May 2015
    vaporvac - happy to address that question. It was one of the biggest errors in judgement I've ever made in my life. Basically when I bought the house exactly a year ago, it was oil powered steam. I hated the idea of oil. the oil boiler was the original from 1937 and was massive! It took up a huge foot print and was scary looking. Also insurers don't like oil tanks under the house.

    So my only decision was to swap from oil to gas and keep the steam. That's what I wanted to do. I had a general contractor to some work (recommended from a family member) who had an idiot foreman with a big mouth. He scared me about 'sweaty pipes' and all the pipes running on the perimeter of the basement. So he suggested forced air.

    My first question was price. The price was higher than a straight conversion but it wasn't so high that I couldn't consider it. I know we can't discuss prices here. I thought it would be cool to get central heat and air and would modernize the house. The thing is that you can only make such a decision once. If I did the conversion, then HVAC later wouldn't make sense.

    I made my decision based on price only which was bad. I had no idea to factor windows, insulation, etc. Just to sanity check, I got a second estimate and it was the same. (Don't laugh but my second estimate was from Sears Home Improvement that I saw in Valupak! - I wasn't too bright here but I had no idea who to call.I figured Sears is reputable). So I thought I did my due diligence.

    So steam system is ripped out first. Then there were all kinds of gyrations around where to run ducts, where to put the furnace. On the onset it seemed simple - furnace in the attic and one in the basement with ducts in each. No ducts in wall . Simple! But how many vents are needed? The sun room had no decent access from the basement. Where should the furnace be located? I started to see these guys had absolutely no idea what they were doing. I fired them but not without having no heating system. I thought about suing. But I can't prove that they convinced me to go with HVAC. they could say I agreed to it. Which I did.

    Only then did I find this forum and then realized that i should have kept the steam. HW was probably better than forced air because of the age of the home.

    Complete and utter nightmare emotionally and financially. I had an infant daughter to care for, full time job, unemployed husband... didn't need the strain. Then on top of that got screwed by an incompetent heating contractor who put in a debacle of a heating system (another family recommendation - never going to my in laws for contracting advice!). I have to remember to count my blessings i life in order to not get completely depressed about this. Have to borrow money from my parents now to get this fixed.

    But that's the story of how I lost my beautiful steam system. Also the emitters were convectors, buried in the wall. So they didn't even stick out that much. I have no idea how the steam system worked. But I'm sure it was just fine. In retrospect, I would have kept the oil for one season and tested it out. I was a complete IDIOT. I just can't believe how completely, completely stupid I was to just trust people without vetting them out. Idiot of the year award should go to me!
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,628
    edited May 2015
    VaporVac , Rob G , Spence ,

    She has had an energy audit by a talented and thorough auditor . I have been to the house and have designed this system after the bad install several different ways . 5890 cfm @50 pa means her home is a sieve and suffers 2.7 ACHnat . She certainly needs insulation at the very minimum in the bays that now house hot water heating lines to keep them from freezing . The only reason they did not freeze this past winter is due to the fact that the house never even came close to design indoors and constant circulation saved her .
    She is going to be using 4 & 6 tube cast iron radiators of varying heights in the upstairs . 2 of the rooms have alcoves where the radiators must go that limited the EDR we could install so this floor had to be designed for a 160* AWT at design conditions and we will use ODR . First floor will be Buderus Panel rads w/ TRVs and constant circulation , this will also run from 160* downward . There is also areas of radiant ,CIBB . In the future should the home get insulated well and some other upgrades made we can turn this thing down to where it should be .
    This woman was taken advantage of by a licensed professional ( OK) contractor . He tried to heat this home with radiant also , below the subfloor and hardwood , none of the rooms except the kitchen can be done with radiant it turns out . Too high SWTs and surface temps to get even near the actual heat loss . She was completely mislead and is now paying the price .
    Looks as though Jonny88 will be performing the install and working alongside the home performance contractor to get this done as best we can with the budget that is available . This is the real reason we frequent this site and why it is such a valuable tool to those who have been , for lack of a better word , Robbed .
    Josie , Dense pack will not settle as will other materials . in your home it is the way to go .

    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
    RobGSWEI
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    The people on this site are angels.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    @josieT , the place I got the plexi is Piedmont Plastics. they are national, but the nearest are located in Phlly or albany. :( They suggested you call them and maybe they can suggest a competitor. The Albany # is 518-724-0563. the thickness you need is based on the size you need. I used very thick for my large windows, but on slightly smaller ones, thin will work if framed and gasketed. Hope this helps. C
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
    ttekushan_3
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,628
    Just wanted to pont out something in my above post . Where OK is in parnetesis was supposed to denote SARCASM .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 940
    edited May 2015
    @josieT, you are being far too hard on yourself. If you were to rip out the steam with what you know now, then maybe "yer an idjit" :smile: But there was no way to know at the time. This is why you called recommended professionals and double checked against a national service organization that couldn't possibly be inept and still be in business. Now, the last phrase we know now to be Sarcasm, but you wouldn't have seen anything odd about it when you started out. I see a number if idiots in the scenario who failed their duty to perform in a manner a reasonable person would expect. You were not the idiot. You were merely MISinformed by those who presented themselves as experts. It looks like you're in good hands now.

    @vaporvac, I'll second your nomination of Piedmont.

    @rich, looks good to get radiant heat sources back. BTW good call on labeling the sarcasm. It doesn't always travel well in print. I use this now (don't know if this .gif will work):
    terry
  • josieT
    josieT Member Posts: 53
    edited May 2015
    that's for sure vaporvac!

    Thanks for the confirmation Rich!
  • Spence
    Spence Member Posts: 316
    Great write-up by Rich on the 18th!