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Inexpensive Retrofitting....

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Posted by JNJ on September 27, 2003, 4:14 am
I'm looking for ways to generate more heat in the house during the cold
months, as well as ways to reduce the loss of heat.  Naturally we're looking
at insulation but that's going to take quite a bit of time and bucks -- the
house is over a hundred years old and the architecture is decidedly
unfriendly when it comes to retrofitting insulation; much of this will end
up being done next spring/summer when we put a new roof on the house.

In the meantime, I'm looking for ways to generate heat for the cooler rooms.
I'm thinking heat exchangers near windows or something similar -- I'm very
much just beginning to look at these options so I thought I'd hit up folks
who are bit more knowledgeable.  Any suggestions?


Posted by Bert Menkveld on September 27, 2003, 12:19 pm
Hello James,

It's almost always cheaper to insulate and seal up a house than to add solar
heating.  If you haven't already, I would suggest you start by buying a good
caulking gun and a bunch of tubes of caulking, and spend some time going
around all the windows, doors, basement, and anywhere else there are cracks
for nasty cold air to seep in and warm air to escape.  Also check your attic
access hatch -- apparently a very common place for warm air to leave.

Once you've got your house energy consumption down somewhat, you can start
to think about solar heating schemes.  I'm hoping to start some such project
this fall myself (have to finish my solar hot water heater first, which, by
the way, does make sense, regardless of the insulation state of your house).

Happy caulking!

Bert Menkveld


Posted by JNJ on September 28, 2003, 12:42 am
We'll definitely be doing the caulking thing, that's a given.  We're also
doing a variety of rennovation projects that will zap our biggest
loss/infiltration areas.  The "attic" in this house is finished space so
that's not so much an issue.  I'll also be adding foam inserts on outlets
and blowing foam into those that can easily be accessed.

Insulation is tough -- the house is 110 years old and the wood frame has
wood both horizontally and vertically; spacing was not even a thought (I
believe this was initially a barn at the end of the 19th century).  As an
added plus, the walls are all plaster and BOTH wood lathe as well as metal
lathe/mesh.  To insulate, we'll have to put holes in the lower portions of
the walls, blow in insulation, then do the same in the upstairs.  We're well
beyond not having enough $$$ for our fix-it-up projects this year, so that
one has to wait until next year.



Yup -- same general focus here.  At the moment I'm just looking for some
ways to add heat to the upstairs so we can move the bedrooms up there (we
have a new addition to the family).

A solar hot water heater is another project we're going to end up working on
next year -- I'd love to do it now, but the bucks aren't there so we're
going to go with a tankless unit for the moment and see where that takes us.


Posted by Eric Jacobsen on September 28, 2003, 2:57 am
I'm about to start this project for 3 rooms in our house...plaster and wood
lathe.  The house is about 80 years old.  I was curious that you said lower
portions...do you mean the bottom of the wall (under the baseboard), or just
the top of the lower half (under a horizontal stud)?  I've seen instructions
to feed a hose into the wall cavity through a hold by the floor up to the
top, and then work it down as you blow in the insulation, but I'm skeptical
that this could really work...seems hard to feed a hose up, and wouldn't the
insulation just fall down as you blew it into the top of the cavity?

I'm thinking of making holes near the ceiling and feeding the hose down, or
possibly going into the walls from the attic.  I may also have some random
horizontal studs thrown in there to keep it interesting.

Sorry if this is off-topic, but has anyone tackled a project like this and
have any tips or suggestions?

Posted by JNJ on September 28, 2003, 4:18 am


This is the standard way of doing it, and what we'll be doing next year when
we launch this project here.  I'm not sure how well it will work in this
house due to the unique pattern of wood -- horizontal, diagonal, vertical,
you name it.  What's more is that this house has wood between some studs,
rafters from front to back, and metal lathe to add to the fun.

If you can gain access to the walls from the attic and get all the way to
the bottom lower floor, I don't see any reason why that would not work.
Perhaps someone who has done a few of these can jump in with a stronger
affirmation.  The fellow who gave me my tips manages a crew that does this
and only this -- they're booked for 6-9 months at a time, working low-income


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