Additional attic insulation???

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On Fri, 23 Dec 2005, w_tom wrote:

It does run into problems in the areas that the FAQ's on those devices mention. Shiny aluminum, for instance.
Also, in the case of skin temperature or the temperature of furry animals I've noticed it tend to read lower than one would expect perhaps since it just reads the very surface of the object that it hits which can be quite cool.
Not sure if I can answer your question but I wonder if the level of accuracy you're asking for is necessary for pinpointing leak locations.
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My question should answer why so much 'leakage' was measured at the pipe. Insulation stopped convention heat transfer. But the pipe was doing radiated heat transfer. Therefore little heat radiated by pipe appeared as much heat on the tester. Instructions for the heat detection device should discuss this if true. Above is a hypothesis that would also explain why fury animals measure lower. Fur convents heat but does not radiate much.
To better understand what I am asking, first bone up on a concept called black surface radiation. Simpler concepts of conduction, convention, and radiation were (in my time) taught in public school science. How does the manufacturer discuss this?
"P. Thompson" wrote:

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On Fri, 23 Dec 2005, w_tom wrote:

Your crystal ball is cracked. The pipe was mostly in the 30 degree range, the attic was in the 20's. The area of insulation in plastic bags I had put around the pipe was in the 50's, air was leaking around it. Not sure how 'radiated heat' could make the pipe cooler than the area it supposedly radiated to rather than equal in temperature. I don't have freon in my vent stack.

Go look if you're still interested.
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Taking Doug's question one step farther, are readings distorted by moving air or other environmental conditions? How consistent and reliable is it's operation?
"P. Thompson" wrote:

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I downloaded the instructions for the device from the mfr's site, and noticed that the surface temp of the thing you're trying to measure must be over 30 or 32 F. Honestly, I'm thinking about picking up some infrared film instead, and photographing the house from various angles.

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On Thu, 22 Dec 2005, Doug Kanter wrote:

The operating temperature of the device sitting in your hand needs to be above 32 degrees. But what you're measuring can be -4 to 518 degrees.
The 32 degrees is probably more for condensation or battery performance reasons.
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Stubby wrote:

...
Well, you're losing heat through the attic, so you need insulation there. You should go up there (with dust mask, body all covered, etc.) and check for great big holes into the living space. Once you take care of that, you can do your own cellulose for less than $200 per 1000 sq ft. Just don't cover up your vents.
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Nexus7 wrote:

Right. At least two of the contractors said they would install "proper vents". These are the styrofoam vents that allow air to enter the soffits and head up to the ridge vent. It should carry away heat coming out of the ceiling.
I would do the job myself, but I'm too old, too fat and too stiff.
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Stubby wrote:

The "proper vents" are just plastic or styrofoam channels that staple to the roof deck. The plastic ones should be more durable in that they won't have to be handled as delicately during installation. Depending upon the way the edges of your attic space adjacent to the soffit vents are laid out, these vents may not be necessary, if the insulation will stay away from the vents. Maybe you could supervise the job and have some friends blow the cellulose. Between beer & pizza you'll spend a lot less than $1600.
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2X the neighbors. Maybe you have a leak in a heating duct and you are pumping warm air diectly into the attic. A little duct tape and some duct insulation might give you a bigger bang for the buck. Go up on a cold day while the heat is running and look for a duct leak. This would cause massive inefficiency and ice damming, mimicing heat loss through insulation.
If you do not have forced air heat with ducts in the attic, disregard this advice.
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PipeDown wrote:

Right. I have forced hot water in baseboard heaters around the edge of the house.
However, there is an analagous situation to a leaking hot air duct. I used to have hydronic heating with hot water circulating through a copper pipe embedded in the concrete house slab. It was great heat but (a) after 30 years the lime in the concrete ate pinholes through the copper and (b) in 1970 they couldn't care less about energy and builders didnot put styrofoam insulation under the slab. So, I was doing my part of globe warming! Some people lose hot water from their heating systems. It costs a lot and they don't know it's happening. But I'm not losing heat that way anymore because I abandoned the hydronic system and installed a baseboard loop.
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Some obvious heat leakers. Windows. One a windy day, curtains still should not move. For that matter, no place anywhere in the building should feel air motion when outside wind blows.
Other less obvious leakers. In the 1970s, contractors would routinely say that insulation on outside wall between floors was unnecessary. Easy to identify that myth. Floors on inside rooms are cold. Same applies to the space above foundation; where 1st floor joist meet on the outside wall. Sill plate on foundation - did they forget to put a fibrous insulator between foundation and first wood? Drafts at the top of a foundation on windy days identifies bad construction (that is quite legal). 2" insulation inside walls is classic pre 1980 thinking. It should be at least 3.5" inside all exterior walls - including places where interior walls join to exterior walls. Today, most contractors still will insist insulation in corners is not necessary. Furnace - where does cold outside air come from to burn in the furnace? Does it use interior air?
Heat ducts - in the 1970s, it was routine to put the hottest part of the house - hot air duct - directly on outside wall. Sometimes with only a 1/2" of insulation. Again, contractors even in the late 1970s said this was good and acceptable. Therefore the hottest part of the house is insulated to the outside. Air ducts in attic spaces - must be beneath attic insulation. And yet contractors in the year 2000 will still claim tiny insulation around an attic heat duct is sufficient. Attic access hole - is there insulation over the top of that doorway or access hole? Foundation - any foundation wall exposed inside the house that is within three feet below outside grade must be insulated. Just a few ideas and the many myth promoted by contractors then and today.
Stubby wrote:

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w_tom wrote:

I believe I'm OK on those points. But I like the idea of snooping around with an incense stick.

This is a single-floor ranch house. But others here may have that problem. Good idea to check it.
Same applies to the space above

I'm going to check that. My guess is the walls are nailed to the slab and I'll bet there is no insulator. So the baseboard and carpet are the only things cutting off that draft source. Good call!
2" insulation inside walls is classic

The furnace and water heater are in a utility room that draws air through vents in the door which opens to the outside.

I have forced hot water. Other readers might have hot air.

Yes. Both hatches are covered with pieces of insulation. Because the garage is unheated, the hatch out there doesn't need to be.
Foundation - any foundation wall

Good idea. I'm in a slab house so I can't use it, but I did consider digging under the slab and pumping in some sort of insulation, a piece at a time.
Just a few ideas and the

Much appreciated. Thank you.

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Stubby wrote:

Therefore the utility room is outside of the house. Walls and door separating utility room from rest of house must be insulated. Pipes into and out of heater and hot water must be insulated. Insulation around the water heater should be supplemented since water heaters are normally insulated assuming room temperature environments. Meanwhile, what is the vintage of that furnace - a question about its efficiency?
Appreciate the concept. The house must be completely encased in same insulation. Any hole in that insulation negates most all adjacent insulation - which is why so many homes have energy loss where interior walls join to outside walls.
You cannot correct the slab. You cannot dig beneath and maintain a stable house. Homes on slabs (especially with heat in the slab) were a bad idea - from an energy perspective. You could dig outside the foundation up to 3 feet down to place insulation. Then cold does not go under wooden walls to cool the floor.
Appreciate how badly Americans built homes even in the 1970s. Ironic, that a gallon of gas in 1969 (at 2005 prices) was $1.80. Recently people complained when gas went from a ridiculously low $0.85 to a just as low $1.20. Energy was so cheap in 1970s that we only insulated walls in more expensive buildings. We put a hottest part of house - hot air ducts - almost directly in contact with outside cold - and called that high quality construction practices. It suggests how much wealthier Americans were back then - or how much intelligence has finally been grudgingly forced upon an American public.
Why are you really concerned about the price of energy? Because in the 1970s, a gallon of regular gas went from $1.80 to well over $5 per gallon - in 2005 dollars. Good reason to expect history to repeat itself now that less energy is discovered every year compared with what is consumed - meaning we have a severe innovation problem. All factors that contributed to an economically depressed 1970s - including a lying president, inflation, excessive federal government spending, an unjustified war, and increasing energy prices - also characterized the 70s.
History demonstrates that people do not take energy consumption seriously until gallon goes to maybe $7 per gallon - 2005 dollars. IOW you would be simply getting ready earlier when doing so costs so much less.
No way around an energy inefficient design - a slab. The damage has been done. You must minimize the damage.
The good news - many options exist to improve energy consumption.
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w_tom wrote:

That isn't true. Just think about windows. Of course areas of poor insulation lower the total insulation value, but they don't negate the rest of the insulation. If that were true, then there would be no point of putting insulation in the walls of a house with windows, which have very little insulation value. Wall insulation makes a great difference, even with lousy single pain windows.

Your insulation comments may be true where you live (CA?) but are certainly not true of where I live. Many of the houses built here in the 70's, including mine, were built as all electric houses with double pane windows, 3.5" of insulation in the walls and 16 inches in the attic. BTW 3.5" of insulation in the walls of attached garage too. Insulation standards went up in the 70's but insulation of walls and ceilings was pretty standard in house construction and improvement in the 50's.

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Stubby wrote:

it doesnt sound like your attic is the problem
you need some heat to go into the attic, it keeps the mold out every attic should be vented all year round.
which leaves the doors, floors, walls, windows and kids running in and out the house. (fanning the door)
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Stubby wrote:

I get ice dams also... Then again, my house is very old and I have no insulation on the lower 12 feet of the roof. The upper part of the attic is finished so that was insulated in the 1970's. Darn, I must be losing a lot of heat... :(
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