Paul & Jill's House

Paul and his wife, Jill, live in Santa Clara, CA. Their main complaint was uneven temperatures throughout the house and high heating bills. When we arrived at their home for an evaluation we found a meticulously maintained home with beautiful landscaping, remodeled bathrooms and white carpet. Under the surface was a different story though. Under the house in the crawlspace we found that the duct system was in a significant state of disrepair. It was compressed in many places and almost completely disconnected in others. Additionally it had been wrapped in deteriorating asbestos insulation. Upon testing the system for leakage we found that it was losing over 30% of its conditioned air to the crawlspace. The furnace was located in a utility closet just off the home's entrance. The utility closet was completely open to the attic and vented down to the crawlspace as well. The door to the home's interior was loose and not airtight. This was an unhealthy situation. Supply-side leaks in ductwork tend to depressurize a home's interior. In Paul and Jill's home this depressurization was creating a vacuum with the potential to suck asbestos fibers from the crawl space up into the utility closet and then into the house. The depressurization may have also been pulling attic insulation fiberglass from the attic into the house via the open ceiling in the utility closet. Additionally the heater vents were not drafting properly, potentially releasing harmful combustion gases into the house.

Our solution to this set of challenges was fairly straightforward. We brought in an asbestos abatement contractor who removed the offending ductwork. At the homeowner's request we kept the existing forced air furnace but completely disassembled and air sealed it. We calculated the heat load for the house as well as for each individual room. We then installed a new insulated duct system, sized and balanced to deliver proper air flow and heat throughout the house. With the new ductwork we reduced leakage from 33% all the way down to 4%. The new ductwork significantly improved the system's energy efficiency and eliminated the unhealthy depressurization of the home's interior caused by the old leaky ducts. We installed a new low static inline air filter that is doing a much better job of maintaining indoor air quality. We also air sealed the utility closet and upgraded the diffusers.

The new system is safer, quieter, has no asbestos, heats the house evenly and quickly, removes more dust and impurities, and will have a longer lifespan. The homeowners are thrilled, describing the results as a "dramatic improvement in comfort". All this and not a single spot on the white carpet.

Bob & Alice's house

Bob and his wife Alice live in the East Bay. They bought their home in 1999 and lived in it for ten years enduring high heating bills, dark & drafty rooms, and sweltering, indoor summer conditions. We found that the house had been well maintained over the years but there were some significant energy blunders that had never been addressed. The attic had been insulated probably in the 1960's with 2" thick fiberglass batts. The batts were compressed, dirty, and poorly installed. The attic had the original knob and tube wiring present. The combination of knob & tube and fiberglass batts has been proven in recent years to be a fire hazard. In many areas the batts were a very dark color indicating that air had been leaking up through the ceiling for many years.

We found multiple bypasses allowing conditioned air to leak from the living space up into the attic. There was a utility chase that ran from the basement all the way up to the attic. The furnace was a natural gas infloor model that was barely 60% efficient. They had one bathroom fan that was very loud and vented directly into the attic. The main bathroom had no fan and plagued the owners with an ongoing mildew problem.

Our solution was to remove all of the attic insulation and then all of the aging knob & tube wiring. We cleaned out the attic and replaced all the wiring with Romex. We also replaced the electrical service panel. We then air sealed all of the plumbing and electrical penetrations, sealed all the light fixtures, blocked off the large utility chase and sealed all of the top plate to gypsum joints. The clients used the attic regularly for storage so we installed a radiant heat barrier to keep the space from getting too hot during the summer months. We then then blew in 12" of cellulose insulation. Down in the conditioned space we air sealed all of the outlets and switches, replaced four of the worst windows on the south side with Low E glass units. We upgraded the lighting with Solatubes and recessed fluorescent can lights in the office and kitchen. We installed a motion controlled, continuous duty rated fans in the bathrooms to keep the air fresh. We also installed a whole house fan to help cool things down on hot summer evenings. In the basement we sealed up all of the plumbing and electrical penetrations and then sealed the large utility chase.

Bob and Alice now have a healthy, comfortable, energy efficient home. The rooms are well lit with Solatubes during the day and at night the fluorescent cans provide pleasant, even, efficient lighting. The air sealing eliminated all of the drafts and the insulation upgrade helps keep all the rooms at an even, comfortable temperature. The new Low E windows have reduced the solar gain on the south side preventing the summer build up of heat on that side of the house. The electrical system is much safer and gone are the worries of fire started by overheated, aging conduit. The electrical bills are the lowest that they have ever been. The mildew issue in the bathroom has been eliminated by the quiet new fan and the air in the house always feels fresh.











energy upgrades that work


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