The Blower Door Test

Blower Door Test

Today, Margy and I are working with our realtor to do the paperwork and photos to put our current house on the market. Lots of de-cluttering and packing up work to accomplish in a very short time.  So to give myself some extra energy for the day, I want to quickly write about our blower door test at the new house yesterday.  This technology measures air-exchange in the house, and thus, how well sealed and insulated your home.  One test is done before doing any work, and a second test after the work is done.  Our house passed with flying colors!

And here is why–last week they raised the level of the attic floor by eight inches, sealed cracks, and pumped in a whole bunch of insulation into the attic, and created an insulated hatch cover.  This might be the most important step we have taken for greener housing! It is good to remember that goal in the midst of all the hard work involved in making a move.

Attic Insulation

Cellulose insulation is also under the raised boards.

hatch and cover

The hatch box showing the eight inches that was raised up, and the hatch cover to the side.




Here is what a house looks like with NO insulation.  Icicles and potential ice dams.  We got a snow storm the day after our home performance company took out the old insulation, and then they had to wait a few days before they could put in new insulation. (Mold discovered and then remediated.)  Today they brought the big truck with a long hose and blew in cellulose insulation.  Almost done.  Hopefully, during the next storm there will be no icicles.Insulation hose


What is hidden

Attic/before photo

The Attic–Before

Insulation work on our new house started on Monday with the attic!  The plan is to take up all the plywood flooring, remove the old pink fiberglass batts, then frame up another 8 inches. They will make a box around the doorway as well, and create an insulated cover for the door.

Next they seal all the joints, and then blow in cellulose insulation. Oh, and before that the electrician will do a bit of work on the bathroom exhaust fan, and also some other electric work that is easiest to access from the attic.  After that they will put down the plywood flooring again on half of the attic so we can use it for storage.  At completion, we will have insulation value of R-50.

IMG_0554But then we got the news yesterday that there was an area of mold on the ceiling of the attic, over the bathroom area.  We were surprised because we hadn’t picked up any mildew odors. IMG_0556But it was all hidden beneath some rough plywood which you can see in the photo on top as a partial ceiling, and the next photo shows where they took it down. (And look, there are the new framing boards :)) And next: a picture of the mold. (These two photos sent from the crew, to keep us in the loop.)

The good news is that our crew found it, and contacted the remediation company they like to work with and today they came right over to the house to check it out, and also checked out the rest of the house.  They will let us know how much it will cost.  Everything always costs more than you think it will. But happily, they use ecologically safe methods for removal–basically baking soda in a soda blasting process.

So we are waiting to see what has to happen with all of this before the insulation process can resume. But the other good news is we really like the folks we are working with.

Tomorrow morning I will go over to meet the electrician; he will be continuing his work during the hiatus of the other work. Along with the bathroom exhaust fan, he will be fixing the doorbell, adding the wiring for future lighting in the living room, and adding a switch for the kitchen light next to our back door. Every day a little more is accomplished, in this second phase of our search for greener house.

A Greener Housing Walk Through

A couple days ago we had a walk through at our soon-to-be new house with an energy efficiency company representative.  What fun to finally be getting closer to this aspect of our search for greener housing!

Attic DSC02676

Old attic insulation

We started in the attic, which desperately needs new insulation, and which he said will be easy to insulate.  The sellers had reported using 500 gallons of oil last winter–which seemed like a lot to us.  In our current house, which is twice the size, we had used 600 gallons.  But we did attic insulation several years ago.

They can take out the plywood floors, take out the old fiberglass insulation, add extensions to raise the height of the wooden floor joists, and then blow in cellulose insulation of several inches to achieve a high R-factor. Put back plywood floors so we can use that area for storage.  Create an insulated cover for the pull down ladder, and voila, lower heat bills immediately.

Moving down to the main floor, we learn that our windows aren’t too bad–double pane glass, which we were happy to find out.  But he did mention that French doors (which we want to install in the kitchen) can be problematic for air leakage.  So I’ve been researching options that might be more environmentally sound. Wow, lots of research is involved in this process!  I also called the Maine Green Performance Building Supply to get their opinion–the French doors they recommend can take six weeks to arrive by order.  More to think about.

On to the basement, he recommended sealing and insulation at the rim joists, which is the very bottom of the wood frame of the house above the foundation, for those who haven’t been exploring the bones of your own homes. There is already some insulation between the wall board and basement walls that should be okay.

We also talked about air-source heat pumps, and where they might be placed and how many we might use.  One unit in the living room, one in the basement, and maybe one small unit in each bedroom to have more control of the temperature–all these units attached to one outdoor unit.  Once installed, this would be our primary source of heating and cooling, with oil furnace or wood stove as back up in the coldest days of winter.

He’ll be sending us a full report with pricing estimates next week, and then we can see how we stand.  We are also doing a walk through with another energy efficiency company next week, so we’ll have two estimates to compare. It was really satisfying to hear him say that this house is a very good one for making greener.