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Question DetailsAsked on 2/24/2015

Where to start with insulating a non insulated house for winter use.

House was used only in summer months. Central air only, no heat. Non insulated walls and ceiling. Drafty windows .

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2 Answers


Lowest cost is attic and floors,if raised floors,or basement walls. Foam can be injected into walls,costly,but less then ripping walls apart to add fiberglass. Windows and doors, will be the highest cost for the benefit gained.


Answered 5 years ago by BayAreaAC


BayAreaAC gave you the cheapest places to insulate.

As far as the most EFFECTIVE places to insulate, generally start with noticeable drafts - certainly any you can feel, and you can buy smoke pencils for about $20-40 that you can use to detect very minor leaks - or scan with a thermal IR camera or a smartphone or tablet with the App to change camera to read more in the thermal range - available at Google and Apple App stores. Typically major draft areas are around doors (especially under) and windows (especailly around frames under trim) and fans/vents (with stuck-open or missing dampers) are your easiest loss areas to seal. Drafts are especially bad because a draft feels several degrees colder than stagnant air (windchill effect) so if you stop them generally you can tolerate about a 5 degree lower temperature in winter than before without feeling uncomfortable, or if drafty you can tolerate about 5 degree higher temp in the cooling season so in very hot climates drafts can actually make it feel more comfortable. Reason tropical houses use lots of shutters andopen screened verandas and such. In addition, the drafts represent air exchange that is causing you to lose conditioned air, so energy $ loss there. Chimneys with leaking damper can also cause a LOT of warm air loss in winter, not so bad in summer because the cooled air in the house does not want ot escape up the chimney.

In addition to drafts around the window frames, unless they are severely out of square, you can commonly replace weatherstripping pretty easy, and even (at a bit of visual aesthetics loss) add additional weatherstripping to cut drafts dramatically without replacing the windows. Things like true shutters can also significantly help in extreme heator cold by reducing heat flow and radiation through the windows.

Another significant energy saver can be drapes or curtains - insulated for wintery areas, or sun-shield type in hot climates, opening during direct sun in winter and closing on cloudy days and at night in winter, and opposite in hot summer - close to block solar heating through windows, and open at night to let heat radiate from the house.

Generally, the next most effective place to insulate is the areas with the greatest temperature differential - usually exterior walls, though unless done witih blown-in insulation or foam-in-place insulation harder/more expensive to do then some other areas.

Floors with exterior air below them (like crawlspace) usually next more effective, though air sealing with vapor barrier sometimes achieves a good portion of what insulation would. Otherwise, floors on grade or over a basement that is NOT open to the outside air generally do not contribute a drastic heat loss or gain, and normal carpet with good padding can significantly mitigate that differential.

Attics can be a significant loss point, especially if gaps are open around penetrations or there is no vapor barrier, again because you have conditioned air leaving the conditioned space. Worst in winter because the warm air up against the ceiling is escaping - in summer you have the hottest air up there escaping so not as much energy loss generally, plus in summer the stack effect is commonly less because exterior air temp is not as different from the household temperature. An uninsulated attic can cause significant heat loss or gain - additional insulation beyond R13 to R30 can be a tossup regarding cost effectiveness depending on your attic type, how much airflow goes through it, and your climate. In attics with good ventilation in either very cold or very hot climates can benefit from insulation upgrades in many cases, in more moderate areas commonly there are better places to spend your energy dollars.

For a professional assessment, an Energy Auditor can evaluate your current situation and how much and where your air losses are, andrun some number showing where your insulation/ weatherproofing 4 would be best spent. Just bear in mind the difference between energy efficiency (i.e. superinsulating) versus energy economics - i.e. what will pay off in the time you expect to keep the house or may contribute to resale value. Consider also how many heating/cooling days you will have or be using it - a high degree of insulation efficiency may not pay off if the building will only be infrequently used or your number of heating days is small - just burning the fuel to heat it for those short times may be faqr more economic than insulating to the hilt.

Using the energy auditor report, a Heating and A/C contractor should be able to run the ACCA Manual calculations to determine how much heat you need, and propose efficient ways to produce it depending on your house construction, climate, fuel availability, days of occupancy during winter, your willingness to "rough it" somewhat, etc.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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