Friday, February 3, 2012

Energy Tudor-ial

I keep writing about how my husband is not a miser, but I am.  But truth be told, one of the recent expensive outlays of money we decided to make was my idea -- mine, all mine.  Today I'm going to write about the good parts of that huge expenditure.  (Tomorrow I'll write about the handcuffs part of the project.)

Our home is a semi-historic old brick home.  The claim to "historic" is that it was designed back in 1938 by Henry Shaub, a well-known local architect -- the same guy who built several art-deco high schools in our area.  But  the "semi" part means our home was really a brick box with a bunch of aluminum-sided additions built on over the years.  It was ugly, unless you really love the brass-eagles-and-black-shutters look of the 1950s.
Our home (pre-renovation) was a mixture of
salmon-colored brick, white aluminum siding, and black shutters.
But even more important to me, the home was drafty and energy inefficient.  It was built at a time when people thought thick brick walls = insulation.  The interior plaster walls were on lath a mere 1-2" from the brick -- no space to blow in insulation.  I spent the first dozen years of our marriage scheming over ways to spend less money on heat without freezing the family.  And for a dozen years, I failed.

But in 2009, a number of factors aligned.  My three oldest kids -- my homemade daughter and my co-opted daughters (step-daughters) -- all were off at college.  My husband went to Iraq for his own version of education.  This left only me and N-son at home in this large, large house . . . a great time for construction.

I brought in a bunch of contractors to ask if they could tear out the interior walls, frame out new walls with real 2-by-4's, and add insulation.  One crew noted that it would be easier to insulate the outside of the home.  I ran the numbers, thought about muss and mess, and signed on the dotted line.
White insulation on (yucky) salmon brick.
The aluminum siding on the second floor has been removed.
First, we pulled off all the aluminum siding.  We covered the outside of the home in white styrofoam.  There were a couple of neat architectural features we had to work around.
As long as the guys were there, I had them knock large holes in the southern walls to add larger windows.  One of the other things that had always bugged me is that the northern rooms in my home were brighter (because they had larger windows) than the southern rooms.  Everything I know about passive solar energy tells me that in so many ways this was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I was going to fix that, gosh darn it!
Here you can see the southern wall from the outside.
The bricks have been cut away;the plaster wall is still there.
See how close it is to the bricks?  No room for insulation in there!

We covered the styrofoam with stucco.  An advantage I had not even considered is that I got to choose the new style of exterior for our home.  And out of incredible nostalgia for my grandmother's home, I went for the Tudor style.  Here's the finished home.
The new home, with the contractor's notices still in the window.
There was more to the project -- a bit of internal rewiring happened.  The attic was completely torn apart, insulated, sealed, and reconstructed (it's now K-daughter's room).  There were air-flow studies, and sealing of the basement.  

What good came of this project:
  • I got to joke that I was part of the Obama stimulus plan, putting real people back to work and doing my part to keep the shaky economy from falling into total disrepair.  I was (actually, still am) happy that I got to give money to people from my area who were seriously worried about getting good work.  Ken, Johnny, Bill, and Glen.  They were guys who got real jobs through this project.
  • We cut our oil bill by a lot.  Even during the past two winters, which were tough ones, we used only about 2/3 of fuel compared to the past dozen years.  This winter, which is very mild, our fuel use is even lower.
  • The home is a LOT more comfortable.  Right after my construction guys finished up back in December 2009, a nasty cold front blew in -- one of the worst I've seen.  But overnight, with the thermostat off (actually, set at the night-time low of 61 degrees), our home dropped only one degree, from 68° to 67°F.  Our home now has essentially no drafts.
  • The home is prettier from the outside.  Not that I want to be vain about my place, but if/when we decide to sell the place, it has a whole new curb appeal. 
Two years later, I'm still glad I did this.  I still think I did Right -- Right by people and by the environoment and (maybe) even by my finances.  But tomorrow, you get . . . the Other Side of the Story.

No comments:

Post a Comment