The perfect time to start those home repair / remodeling projects

Before you begin any big home repair / house project, like replacing your roof or changing the siding, think energy. No. Not the energy to do the project, but improving the energy efficiency of your house. Over the last months I’ve heard many discouraging comments along the lines of, “I wish I knew that before I replaced the roof or siding.”

There are three areas of the house that usually get addressed twice in your lifetime, first when the house is built (when you’re at the mercy of the builder’s knowledge), and, second, when things need to be replaced. The three areas are the roof, the siding, and the heating system. These are the most significant areas that affect your energy costs. Yes, the kitchen and bathroom can also be remolded, but they only affect your short-term cash flow; improving the energy efficiency of your home will affect your cash flow — in the positive — for the life of your home. Bonus — you don’t have to buy a snuggly for winter comfort or die of the heat in the summer.

The furnace or boiler should be the last item that you replace with a new one or perhaps even change over to geo-thermal or solar hot water. The reason is that if you improve the home’s energy efficiency first you’ll be able to reduce the size and cost of a new furnace or boiler. How do you get there from here?

Siding covers the exterior walls of course, but when removed it gives you the opportunity to increase the insulation in the walls, as well as installing rigid insulation over the studs. Most older 2×4 or even 2×6 framed homes have improperly installed or leaky fiberglass insulation with an R-value of 13 or 19. The problem is that the insulation is between the studs. Each stud has an R value of 3 or 4 and 30 percent of the wall is wood so the effective R-value of the entire wall is actually reduced significantly.

The answer is to install 1- to 2-inch thick rigid insulation over the plywood and under the siding. Don’t let the siding salesman talk you into anything less than 1 inch thick. If your budget allows and you find that the insulation in the walls is less than R15 then this is the time to blow in extra insulation.

When replacing your roof because of age, an ice dam, damage or because you’re thinking about a metal roof, look into adding insulation and increasing the ventilation in the attic. The attic requires an R-value of 49; that’s over 15 inches of fiberglass insulation. Attic ventilation requires 1 square foot of clear ventilation, such as ridge vents and gable end louvers, for each 300 square feet of attic space. In the winter, the attic temperature should be within 10 degrees of the outdoors. In summer the attic could get as hot as 140 degrees. So, in winter the attic ventilates moisture and helps keep the heat in your home and in the summer ventilation and increased insulation helps your house stay cooler. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by to improve both your home’s energy efficiency and your comfort.