In the late '40s a few experimental steel frame houses were built in
Syracuse. I bought one of them in 1972. I could afford the heat bills
at first, but through the years energy prices have risen and I can no
longer afford to heat the place. New York State winters are long and
cold. It's a small place, with one floor; about 900 sq. ft. My latest
heat bill was $380. With no end in sight, my choice is clear . . to
either sell the place or to add more insulation and try another winter
next year. My fear -- loading it up with insulation will be expensive
and possibly not reduce energy bills that much.
Has anyone insulated a steel frame house, and then did the heat bills
drop substantially? -- Bob Syr
No direct experience with this generation of steel frame technology.
However, will begin construction of one this summer. Walls use 9 inch
thick insulation and 12 inches are installed in the ceiling. In our
cooling dominated climate, the worst month for most users is
August/Sept, and the builder is saying less than $200 for a 4000 sq ft
place (actually claims to be close to $100).
Insulation IS the key. Attic is EASY, walls and windows are expensive.
And don't forget doors too.
You give no indication as to the current level of insulation in the
house. Steel frame or wood frame make little difference with regards to
insulation, either it's insulated properly or it isn't.
Both wood framing and steel framing provide sizable thermal bridging and
consequent heat loss. Steel has a little better thermal conductivity
than wood, however it is much stronger and therefore usually used in
smaller amounts and wider spacing negating most of the difference in
If the house was built in the 40s it's likely it was built with little
or no insulation and is desperately in need of insulating unless it was
insulated at a later date. If it is currently with little or no
insulation a good round of insulating and weather-stripping will save a
huge amount of money in a pretty short pay back time.
If the house has original single pane windows they would be the next
likely target after insulating and weather-stripping as they are going
to be the second largest heat loss area. You don't indicate the type of
heat, but if you've still got a '40s vintage furnace running, replacing
that with a newer model will likely get you at least 10% higher
efficiency and save you more money.
Insulating isn't that expensive and in most cases is a reasonable DIY
job. The worse the current insulating state, the faster the pay back
As I recall a steel frame home is insulated much the same as a wood
framed home. You local insulation contractor should be able to handle it.
They are still putting up steel frame homes, but I don't see many of them.
Do you know how much and what kind of insulation is there now? How
about the ceiling? What condition are the windows in and is the house
This isn't by chance a "Lustron" home is it? They were much more than
steel framed, being all ceramic coated steel panels. If that is the
case, I bet there is an owners organization that could give you hints
on how to internally insulate the panels. RW
Maybe not Lustron but I'll wait to see what 'Experimantal steel frame house
of the 40s' means before tring to answer. I don't think the OP means a
conventional steel frame.
What did other people in NY state pay per month for par 1000SF for
comparison. Sounds like he has little more than R14 on average based on my
guess. Not sure how cold syracuse was this year though.
In any case, insulation will help, just don't know what kind or where to
suggest putting it.
Just for comparison: I live in the 2nd floor of a central new york
2-family house, maybe 700-800 sqft for this floor. Fairly old house; I
think it was built 1910-1920. New insulation in one outer wall, we
shrink-wrapped the windows, there's an empty attic above, and I'd guess
we get some bleed-through heat from our downstairs neighbor.
Thermostat automatically sets at 62 during the day and night, 66-68
morning and evening. Monthly gas bills from Dec-March averaged about
$130 (oven and water heater are gas also).
Hope that gives you an idea of what's reasonable...
I just did a quick bit of research and they were made in only two years
1949 and 1950. At about $7,000 and including many built in features, they
were a good deal even if you did not include the cost savings in future
Most utilities will do an energy audit and they are usually free. They
may have a thermal camera that will show you where your energy loss is. I
would pursue this avenue to get the most bang for your buck. Knowledge is
power (pun intended).
The significant problems we face cannot be solved
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