Dan and I decided we needed some advice about the next project to tackle at Henbogle House. Many, many of the home improvement projects here at Henbogle we tackle ourselves, but sometimes you need some help. Heating oil consumption is one of the areas we would like to improve upon, and we were stymied about the best next step to take to cut our costs and increase our overall comfort, so we called in the pros, Sustainable Structure, Inc., for a home energy audit.
The night before the audit, we completely opened the house up, every screened window and door cranked wide open, to cool the house as much as possible. The next morning at 6 am we closed every door and window to both to keep it as cool as possible until the audit began, and in preparation for the blower door test.
The blower door test is used to identify areas of air infiltration, i.e. drafts, where the cold air sneaks into the house. The door is covered with a airtight gasketed fan set-up, and the air is blown out of the house to create negative pressure, drawing air into the house through those drafty areas. And yes, there were plenty of drafty areas, but actually it was not as bad as I thought it would be, although it sounds awful — air leaks equivalent to a 24×24 inch window. Actually, while not good, it is not as bad as many old houses, or so Curry, our auditor, told me.
Our house is an 1881 Cape, which during its lifetime had a shed added, then converted into living space; a second shed added to the first shed; and a barn added to the second shed. In the New England vernacular, it is the big house middle house backhouse barn layout, or Cape with an ell with an ell with a barn. All those add-ons were opportunities for air gaps.
While it sounds like we have a huge gaping hole, really it is more a case of 2000+ really small holes — death by a thousand cuts as it were. The knee walls on the second floor of the cape need more insulation, most of the joints between additions, and the cold basement walls, a mix of brick, fieldstone, granite, etc. are all places where we can tighten up. As part of the audit, we will get an estimate for tackling various pieces of the weatherization picture, and we got an opportunity to talk with Curry and get his opinion on a number of concerns we have about various house projects.
We haven’t even seen the report yet, but this process has been really helpful to our planning for some of the big projects that lie ahead of us — siding replacement on the front of the house, a complete bathroom renovation, finally completing our laundry room, and replacing our worn out front door. We were really having trouble deciding how to prioritize the projects, and were unsure how to decide whether to replace wooden siding with wooden siding, or opt for vinyl siding. As a result of the audit and discussion, we were able to decide to repair the wooden siding and to begin working on that fairly simple project ourselves. Look for a post on that project soon.