In with the warm, out with the cold ?>

In with the warm, out with the cold

We’ve had some cold weather in Portland this winter, so it’s no surprise that we had to turn the heat up to stay warm. But what was a surprise was our energy bill. It totaled a whopping $195 for the month of December — more than double what it was earlier in the fall.

Yikes!

Before we bought our house, the focus of our sustainability efforts included things like making almond milk or driving as little as possible by walking or taking the bus instead.

Now that we’re homeowners, our focus has shifted to a larger scale because we are consuming more resources. And while we are careful to keep going with those small things like making our own almond milk and producing as little trash as we can, we also want to make a bigger impact, starting with weatherizing our home. 
I recently wrote about our new windows, which were the first step to making our home more efficient. Now we’re on to some more inexpensive, yet just as satisfying, projects.

Over the past few months we’ve been painting the trim and interior doors of our house and taking them from a dingy and dirty beige to a clean and bright white. And while the original goal was purely cosmetic, there’s actually an energy-saving component as well. In addition to painting, we’re also caulking the gaps between the trim and the doors, which helps reduce air leakage*. We’re about 3/4 of the way through the project and while we haven’t noticed a difference in comfort that we can attribute to the caulk, we’re hopeful that along with other upgrades we plan on making, that come next winter our heating bill will be much more manageable.

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Isn’t it beautiful?

Painting and caulking the trim throughout the house has been on our list of projects since we bought it last year, and it feels great to make progress on something that brings not only aesthetic appeal, but provides comfort as well, all for a relatively low amount of money. But we’re just getting started on our long list of energy-saving upgrades and have a long way to go.

Just in case you’re interested, here’s our weatherization to do list:

  • Replace windows
  • Caulk around all windows and doors (started)
  • Patch and insulate unused pet door in office
  • Replace skylight in bathroom
  • Weatherstrip around exterior doors
  • Insulate electrical sockets and switch plates
  • Add insulation to attic
  • Find a solution for insulating the attic access door
  • Tack up existing insulation in crawl space
  • Add more insulation to crawl space
  • Find a solution for insulating the crawl space access door
  • Inspect house for other potential leaks

The items on this list range from “we could do it right now if we had time” to “whoa, gotta save for that one!” so we’re going to work on them as we are able. We’re most interested in adding insulation to the attic and crawl space before fall 2014 because we’ve known since our inspection that we need more adequate insulation.

But other items, like insulating electrical sockets, weren’t even on my radar until I started doing some research on weatherization tips for homeowners, but after I read that if you added up all the leaks, holes and gaps in a typical home’s envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year, I realize how important all of the little upgrades are.

I’m really looking forward to the energy upgrades we’ll be making to our home this year. It’s amazing what a difference the new windows and paint have done for our home’s appeal, so we’re excited to get the “behind the scenes” part of our home up to par as well.

Calling all homeowners! Do you have experience with weatherizing your home? We’re newbies when it comes to this, so if you have some advice for us we’d love to hear it!

*We know that it’s important to provide adequate ventilation when air sealing. We’ll be sure to take the necessary precautions to make sure our air quality is healthy and hire professionals when necessary.

3 thoughts on “In with the warm, out with the cold

  1. Hey!
    I so insulating your crawlspace and attic access is pretty easy with a batt of insulation and some twine. It's also a good idea to put weatherstripping around those hatches as well. Also, the more you seal the “envelope” of your home, the more you want to start think about getting an air exchanger, otherwise your indoor air quality can get rather unhealthy (your house still needs to breath just like you do!). It can be a little pricey, mostly because you have to hire an electrician AND an HVAC person, but it'll be worth it for your own health. (I could do the HVAC stuff for you if you wanted). Also, there are a few other things you can do in your attic to help weatherize your home which might be easier before you put in all the insulation (mostly going through with a can of spray foam where wires and ducting are coming up).

    Also, I miss you guys!

  2. Sealing up the pet door will be huge, especially if you have an old, drafty one. When we purchased our home, we didn't even THINK about the draftiness of the dog door (in the laundry room – the door of which is directly across the hall from our thermostat) until winter. Needless to say, all that cold air coming in and hitting the thermostat first did a number on a electric bill. We replaced it the following year and there was HUGE savings!

  3. James – Thanks for the advice! We definitely want to make sure we do it right, so we will probably be tapping you for some tips and of course we would never turn down help! We miss you too. We should have you over for dinner soon so we can catch up. I'll have Josh text you. 🙂

    Sam – That's really good to know – thanks! It's been locked and Josh put a little insulation in it so it's not like there is a huge hole in our wall, but I can feel cold air when I put my hand over it, so we clearly need to seal it permanently. I bet other people have this same problem, so I'll be sure to write about it once we've finished that phase of the project.

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