Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our Recent Sub-Zero Cold Spell Showed Value of Weatherization

[Published Dec. 12, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

Now that our spell of exceptionally cold weather is finally over, what did we learn besides the fact that Peyton Manning can play in cold weather?

For Rita and me, that week of sub-zero nights really demonstrated the value of home weatherization.  That’s because in 2012 we spent $10,000 on weatherizing the 2002 home we had purchased backing to Lookout Mountain. It was primarily because of that investment in weatherization — not just our solar PV system and air source heat pump — that I put our house on that year’s Golden Tour of Solar and Sustainable Homes.

This week I’ll describe the weatherization of our home in case you have decided based on last week’s cold spell that your house would benefit from a seriousimprovement in insulation.  The work was performed by Bill Lucas-Brown of GB3 Energy Solutions. I got to know Bill and his wife when I sold them a home in downtown Golden and he described his work.

What exactly did Bill’s company do that made such a difference? First, we had Bill perform an energy audit on our house, which included a blower door test. A blower door test depressurizes the house by installing a strong fan in a doorway which sucks the air out of the house. With the fan running, it’s possible to identify the places in the house where outside air leaks into the house.

In our case, Bill found that the molding around our windows needed caulking and that the can lights in our ceilings were not sealed which was allowing air to leak into our attic.

In addition to the blower door test, Bill used an infra-red camera to determine which areas of the exterior walls were poorly insulated and which electrical outlets in those exterior walls might need sealing.

From his energy audit Bill gave us a list of things we could have him do, and we agreed to everything on that list. Among the items were: conditioning of the crawl space under the front section of the house, sealing and insulating the rim band (where the floor joists sit on top of the concrete foundation), blowing in 180 bales of additional cellulose attic insulation, caulking around windows, and insulating the walls and attic of our attached garage.

We trusted that such a massive increase in insulation would make our home more comfortable in the winter, but after last week’s cold spell, we have a genuine appreciation for the effects of GB3’s work.

These improvements are detailed in a YouTube video which I made with Bill shortly after the work was completed. (I created videos describing all the homes on the 2012 tour of solar & sustainable homes, including our own.) I have put a link to that video at www.JimSmithColumns.com in case you’d like to see what Bill’s company did for our home that made such a difference in the past week.

Our gas bill isn’t in yet, but last December’s gas bill was only $30 higher than our gas bill in July. It must be attributable to weatherization.

We were so pleased with GB3’s work on our home that I also hired the company to weatherize Golden Real Estate’s office. They conditioned that crawl space in the same manner as at our home and blew additional insulation into the attic.  As a result, our office was also nice and cozy throughout last week’s cold spell.

Contact information for GB3 and the other vendors is displayed on that video.

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