Ewww! Look at all the nasty insulation being hauled out of my basement. I feel like I can breathe better just seeing it go. Guess what good it was doing me? Not a bit! It wasn’t keeping my floors warm, it wasn’t keeping the damp basement air out of our lungs, it wasn’t keeping my heating and cooling costs down. To be fair, it was a nice cozy home for the mice (I guess the scratchiness doesn’t bother them).
#1 Cut off Rodent and Bug Access
While we were planning and saving for this home improvement energy upgrade, this was the benefit furthest from my mind. Then...the mice came. Every night, we made sure there wasn’t a crumb left out to entice them. We set humane traps, but I personally witnessed a mouse go right into one, eat the peanut butter and come right back out. Every morning would begin with sanitizing our stove and countertops as there were mouse droppings everywhere - an ideal and appetizing way to start the day. I found mouse poop in my kids’ closet and had to haul everything out, get our hepa filter vacuum, buy gloves and paper towels and sanitize the whole thing - multiple times. It was a nightmare. Once we air sealed our basement, the mice just vanished. Their home in the fiberglass insulation and their access through our kitchen cabinets and walls were cut off. I need to remember to pause with gratitude in the morning when my counters and stove top are just as I left them.
To add to the joy of eliminating mice, we also saw a black widow spider in our bathroom - crawling out where our pipe comes out of the wall. I’m not one to be scared by spiders, but I don’t take too kindly to the ones whose venom can send small children to the hospital. Air sealing our basement brought peace of mind...and we foamed up the pipe entrance in the bathroom for some added security.
#2 Warm Floors!!!
Our floors were freezing before. You’d be advised to put socks on before getting out of bed in the morning. Doing laundry without shoes on wasn’t possible because the tile floor was the coldest. There is a good reason for this - our basement is cold like most, but it also had 2 broken windows. Our sons broke both. The first one they came by honestly - the old fashioned method of playin baseball. The second, they purposely bashed out with my high school field hockey stick because they “wanted to see what would happen.” This adds up to our floors being suspended over a large envelope of air the same temperature as outside. It doesn’t matter how hard our radiators work...they aren’t going to overcome that. In fact, our warm air was being sucked out into the basement (warm goes to cold).
Now we can even walk barefoot on our floors without getting frostbite!
#3 Major Improvement to the Addition
An addition made in the 60s with a crawl space underneath makes up our master bedroom. There has never been a stitch of insulation above or below it and our room has always been sweltering, suffocating and miserable in the summer and frigid, uncomfortable and uninviting in the winter. Insulating and air sealing our crawl space have made the biggest difference in this part of the house. There are not giant temperature differentials anymore. This summer our room held onto its air conditioned air and one could actually bare to be in there. This winter the master bedroom has been cozy and warm.
#4 Moist environment cut off from our home
Our basement is unconditioned and will always stay that way. It has a water drainage problem that can only be fixed by jacking up our house and completely redoing the entire foundation. That is not going to happen, so we have our basement organized in a way that water and moisture won't harm anything. This makes for a damp environment that I don’t want mixing with our living spaces. Now that our basement is air sealed, all that dank air can stay down in the basement and I only have to breathe it when I rush down there to get something out of our deep freezer.
#5 Energy Savings
This will be the top benefit when we are ready to do our attic because that is where our duct work is located and where our biggest leaks are. We have not gone through enough time yet to know the actual numbers of our energy savings, but we know our equipment is running less frequently. With this extremely cold December and January the temperature outstripped the capacity of many people's heating systems. Our was able to keep up and maintain the set temperature.
We will update you with real numbers when enough time passes to compare. I look forward to retrofitting our attic, but life is holding us back. We need a new roof and we want a responsible attic, but we also want our attic to be more usable by adding egress. Right now, it cannot be a bedroom because there is no reasonable fire escape. The cost to us to put on a new roof and properly insulate and seal our attic while fixing our duct work vs. the cost of doing all that plus bumping out some framing and creating an accessible window makes it obvious that we should wait until we have saved enough money to do the whole thing at once. So, we must be patient and dream of our next home improvement project. Think of all the value we’ll be adding to our home by completing our energy retrofit and adding a bedroom! It will definitely be worth the wait.
The kids couldn't resist playing with the blower door. We tested before air sealing our basement and crawl space, so we could know our rock bottom score before any improvements. As expected it was bad - 19.8 air exchanges per hour under 50 pascals of pressure. This means our house was super leaky and that we were exchanging the entire envelope of conditioned air in our house with the outside air EVERY HOUR. We were reheating our house 24 TIMES A DAY - that's expensive. Can't wait to find out what we score now with our bottom plane (basement and crawlspace) air sealing!