Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
It's expensive: So true, with credit risk (personal or HELOC rates ranging 4%-26%) or without credit (cash savings ranging nominal $8K-$20K, or $4K/ton CFM SEER|HSPF base case, excluding labor cost). Yet I myself, a "very low-income" home-owner, resident in MD's murder capitol intend to do just that.

My journey in earnest began 1.5 years after purchasing a vintage 1997 "V2V" row house (NO ATTIC), when the roof of  sprung several storm leaks. My 1.75 year RFQ search for reputable trade to repair|rebuild roof ($7.8K) and interior water damage ($TBD) literally exposed the decrepit HVAC system (ductwork, circuitry, and vintage insulation), coupled to vintage air exchange units (int gas furnace, ext A/C cooling). Additionally, I've paid OOP for a couple, strategically placed drywall rip-outs ($1.5K), which I later learned, inexplicably disqualifies me for the prerequisite "energy audit" performed by the sole utility sponsor (BGE/Excelon) in my area.

Three RFPs later, I'm sitting on the best-cost system replacement ($12.5K 2.5 ton pump and duct design, 14 SEER, 30K BTU inc labor) and no means to execute it. My savings are exhausted.

What have I learned so far?
To date, homeowner (and renter) "incentives" (grants, no-low interest loans) for high-efficiency equipment install, funded by municipal and state agencies, where I live, are not fit for purpose. Dare I say, eligibility and consideration--absent bona fide total system failure--are designed to discourage application AND settlement amount approved for scope of work, much less disbursement. According a local agency "workshop" presentation (6 Sep 2021), current application back-log is +1 year.

As is the custom in US America, the "green zone" of DSIRE is not what it appears to be.

by Cat on Sun Sep 12th, 2021 at 04:19:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My strategy is to focus on short-term, low-cost improvements and hope that massive government incentives will come about some day soon. We added another foot of insulation in our attic last fall, and have thermal drapes on all the windows. Some of the windows could use replacement, although they are all double-paned.

Big problems are

  1. Wall insulation, there is no way to improve it without ripping everything apart, and
  2. Heat pumps are expensive as all get out. And in a cold climate, you end up running the resistive electric supplementary heating so much that the payoff time is infinite.

One thing in our favor is that Colorado Springs allows homeowners to get
"all" their electricity from solar panels. That helps with the guilt trip part of things, although obviously the power at night comes from coal, mostly.

A relative built an all-electric house in Massachusetts in the 1970s as part of a utility company PR scheme when the Plymouth nuke plant was put in, then a few years later converted it to gas. Oops!

by asdf on Sun Sep 12th, 2021 at 10:57:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same here in The Hague ... hopefully some reprieve with Nord Stream 2 doubling gas transport to Germany ... linked to Dutch Gasunie ... I too look at limited cost for energy saving investments ... had all thermopane windows replaced by A++ an improvement from 2.8 transmission coefficient to 1.1 / 1.2 ... surprised at low price. 🙂
by Oui on Sun Sep 12th, 2021 at 11:17:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How much exactly?

Let's not pretend that price is an insignificant factor in property improvements needed to optimized Choices®, if any, of fuel and efficient consumption by every "housing unit".

I look at my spreadsheet. In one year I reduced the cost of my HH energy consumption from $3K to $2K simply by sweating in the summer and shivering in winter: simple demand destruction, practiced by low-income families in memoriam.

Let's not pretend anymore that the principal barrier to carbon "neutrality" and "access" to high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment can be eliminated by promoting more, novel prototypes of hi-fi "tools" in some mythical, competitive marketplace, where 85% of buyers cannot afford to install them, much less support internet subs hosting "WiFi enabled" appliance apps that measure consumption up to the minute.

by Cat on Thu Sep 16th, 2021 at 03:07:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Wall insulation, there is no way to improve it without ripping everything apart"

I used to blow cellulose insulation back in the day.  In most houses, you can put a hole in the bottom and the top of each bay and blow a wall full of cellulose fairly easily without much damage;  but you may have a special circumstance.

I found blowing cellulose to be a very meditative activity and enjoyed it a lot.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Mon Sep 13th, 2021 at 06:00:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Problem is if there is old fiberglass insulation already in there, especially if it was sloppily installed.

Many people here have converted their houses to stucco exteriors. Disregarding the sort of siding might be on there already, whether aluminum or vinyl or wood, they just staple on chickenwire and then put a layer of stucco on. It covers up all sorts of problems with rotting wood, broken or missing siding, etc.

But I am not so sure it does much to improve the insulating quality of the wall.

by asdf on Tue Sep 14th, 2021 at 10:36:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A blower door test, especially with an infrared camera to spot where heat loss is located, is a very good idea for anyone wanting to button up their domicile.

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Wed Sep 15th, 2021 at 06:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I demonstrated(above) not unlike pre-close home inspection and BMI caliper measurement.
by Cat on Wed Sep 15th, 2021 at 09:52:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
asdf presents a scenario that most definitely is not addressed in current "best practice" sales or,say, EPA litchitchure. Besides ATTIC or CRAWL SPACE voids terminating interior elevation, the "economics" assume new construction, mostly open frame construction, without drywall or plaster barriers to Choices®. Sure, "experts" have implied vintage of (fiberglass) batting (if any) is OK but not optimal (barring "envelope" hazards, eg. water damage, pests, molds, lead, asbestos) Instead, go forth and "weatherize" windows! Go forth an replace windows! Or assume the ultimate retrofit--a new residence that meets or exceeds current LEEDS specification for builders!

Who pays for that?
well, I expect the GREEN NEW DEAL state to generously subsidize my maintenance of efforts.

As readers know, water damage provoked me to, ahem, explore the structural integrity of me home. I now know the minimum cost of three (3) strategically placed ("selective demo") rip-outs--ceiling of each floor, including a ground floor exterior wall slice between studs.

I've even priced a range of replacement windows (custom-size-because construction reality: 1997 vinyl to 2021 vinyl|fiberglass|aluminum +Features®) excluding labor, $800-$1600 each). There are nineteen (19) windows in this old house. I GUESS, I'll keep 'em. SOOOOoooo I just paid a carpenter $595 to repair exterior trim+caulk of one window, 28x42, leaking into interior floor/ceiling below. Oh. Look, hidden, moldy insulation! How do I get that out (without rip-out) in order to INJECT NEW! FRESH! Foam insulation everywhere but the party wall!

Existing stock v new construction
NAHB table, sales pr0n, Freddie Mac & the inventory < reckless eyeballin' > shortfall
This oversight has stymied two generations of the best homeowner (possibly slum landlord) intentions to retrofit, ahem, rather than purchase a new home conforming to current LEED specification, possibly taxable improvements devoid of "curb appeal".

by Cat on Wed Sep 15th, 2021 at 09:40:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you gloss is not a DIY task for existing, vintage SFR and MFR housing or commercial buildings.

I don't know what "bay" means where you live, but I've had to educate myself in architectural and construction framing terms to prepare for RFPs. A "bay" is any opening in an exterior wall--windows and doors. The top of each bay is a structural member called a horz. "header" to which  carpenters attach an ext. wall panel enclosing vert. 16" spaced studs. Panel materials vary by spec; the salient point is the interior finish, eg. drywall panels or plaster lathes, enclosing voids between studs.

Likewise for each window, a wall panel encloses the voids between supporting studs above the header and below the sill to the sole plate. IF insulation has been placed in these intervals during construction, "blowing cellulose" after the fact through an ext. or int. hole at 16" intervals above and below each bay is nonsensical.

What cost/benefit strategy have "experts" proposed to rehabilitate such a physical dilemma for property owners and a growing number of private and public housing tenants, who want to realize "carbon neutral" benefits?

I'm all eyes and ears. Where is this material and financial support?

by Cat on Thu Sep 16th, 2021 at 04:34:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cellulose = fire hazard

Yes, some of it is treated, but the treatment dissipates with time, leaving you with walls and ceiling ready to go up like a bonfire.

by StillInTheWilderness on Tue Oct 12th, 2021 at 01:25:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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