Jim Wuertele’s 1855 wood frame home in St. Johnsbury needed some serious attention when he purchased it in 2003. In winter, the walls, windows, floors, and cabinets were all cold to the touch. “Our dishes were very cold when we opened the cabinets,” he said. Jim hired a certified energy contractor to perform an energy audit and help him create a prioritized list of improvements he could undertake. He took that list and consulted an architect. This step was not mandatory, but with a second opinion, he developed greater confidence that new wall insulation layers would not trap humidity.
Armed with a better technical understanding of the changes, Jim began to tackle the problems. Over the years, and in the following order, Jim contracted for the following improvements:
- installing digital thermostats
- putting in new cellar windows and insulating cellar walls and attic with foam insulation
- filling in holes and cracks in the cellar floor with special waterproof coating
- replacing pink wall insulation with cellulose and then sealing the wood sheathing before adding foam board. At the same time, new triple-paned windows and insulated doors were sealed into the walls.
These measures have effectively sealed the home. Jim also installed a new boiler with outside temperature response, variable flow circulators, and a combustion air path to reduce house vacuum.
Jim’s experience demonstrates the whole-home benefit of energy efficiency improvements. He enjoys improved safety through the fire-retardant insulation, and he is pleased with the insulation’s muffling effect, quieting the living space. He has also experienced a dramatically cooler house in the summer. Even the small things matter: His windowsills are now over 11 inches deep, increasing shelf space for candles or plants. Unexpectedly, his clean and dry cellar improves storage for media, documents, garden supplies, wood, and tools.
Interesting Information and Tips:
- Working with a contractor not only to perform the audit but to create a “shopping list” of work can help prioritize what needs to be done. This step is important for addressing issues such as air quality, which might not be obvious.
- Having confidence in the plan of action—and in the work that lies ahead—is essential. Taking additional preparatory steps, such as working with an architect or other design professional, can help clarify priorities, timing, and other important issues.
- In 2008 and 2009, the homeowner received $1,500 in federal taxcredits, resulting in a $3,000 total benefit. He also received $2,756 in federal and state tax credits for a solar hot water installation.
“It’s comfortable everywhere in the house. We’re easily able to keep the temperature constant and the heating system hardly has to work at all.”