Can someone advise me on how to find out where the heat is leaking out
of my home? My heat bills are almost twice what some neighbors claim.
$1800 for a 1500 sq ft, ranch house. There is 6"+ of insulation on
the ceiling and say 3" (whatever was standard in 1970)in the walls.
Several years ago, I reduced the heat loss a little bit by replacing the
leaky in-the-slab radiant heating system with perimeter baseboard radiators.
All of the windows have been replaced. I shotgunned the whole place
with vinyl, low-E units and have since replaced most of those with
An interesting observation is that the heat use (cu feet of gas) didn't
increase during the recent Winter when I has home all day. New England
was fairly cold and I had the thermostat up to "normal" everyday. That
says to me that the loss is in the boiler, running a lot and being
Now, if I talk to my plumber, he says that boilers don't lose efficiency
with age. He'll happily put a new one in for $3K, but doesn't think it
will result in much less heat loss.
Siding contractors promise much improvement but won't put a number on
it. That's about $6K.
The gas company will do an infrared scan for $150 but I'll have to wait
'til Winter. And, the scan will show what we expect -- heat loss
So, is there some kind of professional, maybe an architect or
professional engineer, that can analyze the situation?
Is the $1800.00 for the whole year, or just the winter. Do you have
gas dryer, water heater and stove? What is your gas consumption on
those? A leaking water heater relief valve will give you a high gas
bill coupled with a high water bill. Where does your water heater
relief valve discharge to?
The problem may be infiltration. Do you have a Jenn-Aire cooktop? I
have seen those raise utility bills significantly when used a lot,
because they can blow a LOT of heated air out of the house, only to be
replaced by cold outside air that needs heated again.
You are assuming that it is the insulation, that may not be the case.
Definately go for the thermal scan, it is time to stop guessing and
start measuring. Se if the gas company will do a blower door
infiltration test on your house.
Thanks, Stretch. You gave me something to look into: the hood over my
stove which is vented to the outside. It could be sitting there
sucking up heat all day and all night! I think there should be a
flapper on it but maybe not.
I have an electric drier but the stove and water heater are gas. I have
10 years of monthly electricity and gas consumption figures in a
spreadsheet with graphs. The gas consumption decreases to almost
nothing during the summer months. The electricity use is fairly
constant all year 'round.
One other clue is the house tends to get ice dams even though I have
soffit and peak vents. That suggests the ceiling insulation isn't
working well. I'm thinking of having more blown in just to eliminate it
as a problem.
Are you sure your neighbour nows what he is talking about? Many gas
companies lets you have "Equal billing" plan. That is when you pay all year
round let's say 200$ and then in September they adjust based on your actuall
gas meter readings. Now maybe you are comparing his plan with your actuall
usuage plan? I had this happen to me when neighbour was talking about his
"lower" bill. It is lower in winter, but then in summer when I don't pay
anything, he still pays same 200$.
Just another thing for you to look into.
I'd suggest that the ice dams indicate sealing problems between
walls/ceiling and rafter area. There should be continuous insulation
coverage of course. Sealing is most simply accomplished with
continuous vapor barrier inside, in addition to sealing wall cavity
from spaces above.
'70s-vintage insulation in walls might be due for upgrade. Depending
on where you are in NE, may be well past due. From inside, then proper
vapor-barrier and wallboard.
May sound like big-deal. Not really, IMHO, doing one room at a time.
Besides, damage that can be done by ice-dams can be a really big deal
Once that's sorted out, you can get an approximate idea of
furnace/boiler efficiency by checking its exhaust temp. Higher temp
means lower efficiency. Competent local tech should be able to help
here. There are ways to boost efficiency of gas appliance, via stack
damper, pressure regulator, etc. Which may even be useful to you.
Just be careful the blown-in insulation doesn't block the soffit vents.
Unobstructed air flow from soffit to ridge helps maintain uniform temps on
the whole roof deck in the winter, reducing the occurence of ice dams.
Good point, Jim. I'm going to try buying some of the Styrofoam
inserts that channel the air from the soffits right next to the roof.
But with the slope of the roof, they might be really hard to put in
place. Maybe I can pull off the soffit covers and work from outside.
Because ice dams also form over my garage and that is "unheated", my
problem is not due to air leaking from the walls up to the attic. But
it seems to say that heat is getting into the attic and is circulating.
Blown-in pink stuff certainly helped my first house back in the '70s.
The heating costs dropped in half!
Where do you live, what Zone, what are temp lows. Is bill for1 month.
Has boiler been cleaned and flame adjusted.
6" insulation is apx R 21. The N.East probably has a attic code of R35
and optimal of R 60. A blower door test and IR photo would help as a
start. But your attic sounds way low.
I live 30 miles northeast of Boston. Can you direct me to a web site
that has the insulation requirements? I always wonder what the point of
dimishing returns is.
What do you think the IR photo ($150) will show? I assume the windows
and doors will light up, and the roof, but that's what you expect.
I have a hotwater boiler for the heating system. Does that have a
"blower door" to be tested? I think what I should do is ask heating
contractors, "What tests do you do when you evaluate a heating system?"
Most of them say, "Efficiency." But they can't explain what
factors influence it and end up recommending a replacement. The guy I
use now doesn't do that and says that it wouldn't help much! Who do I
On Mon, 02 May 2005 19:51:04 -0400, "William W. Plummer"
I think Ransley's numbers are good. Fiberglass nominally has an R
rating of 3.5 per inch. 6" is, therefore 22. Until you get to 60 you
can just keep adding more, PROVIDING that you don't block ventilation
under the roof. That ventilation, btw, will also lengthen the life of
your roof shingles by providing cooling to them in the summer. In
northern NH, the cheapest insulation is blown in cellulose which is
fine for horizontal surfaces like an attic. Usually you buy the
cellulose in bales and get loaned the machine to blow it in.
I have no idea, but it is money well spent. That will help you KNOW
if and where you have a substantial energy leak.
Usually, they use a meter which measures the temperature and
composition of flue gases. The idea of efficiency is just to
determine how much of the potential energy of the fuel is converted
into heat. It does not tell you anything about the efficiency of your
home. One thing which will make a small difference is to use a pipe
to bring in outside air for combustion, rather than using the air
present in the home, since that air is ultimately vented outside
through the stack.
Well the difference between normal efficiency and poor is only a few
percentage points, so you can judge for yourself.
If it were me, I would most certainly have the IR study done in the
winter with the house in normal configuration. Your heating bill
sounds quite high. Mine is higher, but I am just a few miles south of
the Canadian border and the house is 8000 sq. ft. with a heated
garage. FWIW, there haven't been many changes in insulation
technology between 1970 and today. The principles remain the same:
keep water vapor out and the more, the merrier!
Umm.. sort of.. The bottom line is, you can't save more in
heating bills than you're spending. So you figure out how
much you're paying in heating bills, and which surfaces account
for how much of that. If you can double the insulation in
any given area, you halve the heat loss there. That gives you
dollars per year saved. Multiply that by how long you expect to
live in the house, or 20 years, whichever is smaller.
If you can double the insulation for that price or less,
then it makes sense to do so. If you can't, it doesn't.
If there is ANY connection between the attic spaces and the
living spaces; a door, a hatch, can-lights, balloon framing,
then think carefull about blown-in cellulose. It will *NEVER*
stop sifting dust into the rest of the house.
Another lead! I have a dozen can lights. However, I've been told it
is against Code to have insulation in contact with them. I have a bias
against cellulose and would probably have pink stuff blown in. I know
isocyanate foam is bad because it will push the siding and wallboard off
the studs. Is there another choice?
Depends. Are you insulating walls, or an attic floor?
If the former, you've either got to rip them open, or
spray/blow something in. Chunky stuff like chopped
fiberglass leaves gaps, cellulose is dusty, foam risks
popping your walls. There's low-expansion foam,
and if that's put in by competent professionals who aren't
being rushed, the chances are that it won't hurt your
house any, but that's likely to be your most expensive
I suppose, if you can get at the framing beforehand,
and seal up all the cracks and penetrations beforehand
like it was the hull of your new submarine, cellulose
might work, but my experience with a 40 foot high
timber/ballon-framed hybrid with cellulose blown in
by a roofing contracter has made a serious negative
1) In spite of other posts, celulose is better insulation than
2) Can lights are a hole in the ceiling. I have done blower door
testing, you can't believe some of them are. Not all are however.
Some have nearly air tight housings. The best ones have lenses and
gaskets to reduce air flow into the attic. If you can retrofit with
those it will help. Do you have any air conditioning, that can affect
air pressures and infiltration in the house.
3) Icynene foam is good, but like any foam expansion can be a problem.
Best to ask an insulation contractor. It depends what he is used to
and what he is best at. Some may have special equipment for a certain
insulation that makes it easier to apply in certain circumstances. But
get the IR test first so you are not guessing any more.
4) Get the blower door test also, unless you find a BIG problem with
the IR test.
Certified Residential Energy Auditor
Hold it. My electric usage (drier, computers, TV, lights) is fairly
constant year round. My gas usage (heating, cooking, hot water) is
high in the Winter and drops to almost nothing during the Summer.
Budgeting the payments does not affect how much you pay, only when you
pay it. I tried budget payments years ago, but I couldn't convince
myself that the gas company was doing it right. The "January
adjustment" always muddied the waters. So, I went monthly. And I
started recording usage and cost every month. Graphing that in Excel
is very instructive.
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