House is very cold!

melynn44October 5, 2012

Just a backstory: we have a home that was built in 1900. However, in 1986, we put on an addition.

We have a furnace and AC system that is about 7-8 years old. But, our house just has always seemed cold. I wouldn't necessarily say drafty, but cold. It is a one story, with an attic and a crawl space. There was no insulation in the old part of the attic, and some batting insulation in the new part. We knew there was some batting insulation in the walls of the new part, and assumed the old part to be hollow.

So, we called an insulation company. They came out, went up in the attic to look around, used some fancy contraption to measure heat, and agreed the older part was likely hollow. They quoted us a price, and we hired them.

So, they arrived, and drilled some holes from the outside around the house. Come to find out, there WAS cellulose in the walls on the old part. So, they pulled out the batting in the new part, and injected some spray foam. The did nothing with the old part's outer walls. I really would have preferred to have something done with the old part. But, according to them, there was already insulation in there, so they didn't need to do anything. So, they went up in the attic and did some cellulose blown in over the entire attic. We do not remember ever having insulation put in, and my husband has lived here his whole life, and I have lived here 35 years. So, the insulation that is currently there is very, very old. So, I cannot imagine it is very effective.

They suggested that we may want to think about insulating the foundation. We have thought about it, but for now, we are waiting to see how much of a credit we will get since they did not have to insulate the whole house.

Well, according to the thermostat and an indoor thermometer we have, it is 70 inside our house, with nothing on (45 outside)However, at 70, it is still very cold. we have to layer on sweats, use blankets, etc. It is just very cold. The walls are cool to the touch.

I just don't know what to do at this point?

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How old are your windows? Are they tight and do they have double panes of glass? The windows are a big source of leakage. This may be part of the problem.

Have you tried raising the thermostat to 72 degrees? There may be some temperature vairations in your house. You may have to raise the thermostat a degree or two to compentstate for this.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 11:06AM
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When you said 'walls are cool to the touch', that is not good. need to buy a temperature gun (around $50) and go around the house, check all walls, ceiling, floor and find the cold spots, so that you know where to add the insulation.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:42PM
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It is a one story, with an attic and a crawl space.

prior to insulation air sealing should be done.
insulation doesn't stop air flow..except foam insulation
when correctly installed. as air moves through the
insulation it robs the insulation of its R-value.

since you can't air seal now in the attic..because
they have insulated it..your only option is to
air seal from inside the house.

can you explain this a little more clearly?
"So, they pulled out the batting in the new part, and injected some spray foam."
where did the inject spray foam? did they have
a foam rig or cans, or package foam kit?

any insulation in the floors?
I have a crawlspace. in the winter the floors
are frigid. two pairs of socks, slippers feet
cold all the time. I'm going to foam insulate
my floors. 3" of closed cell will give me R-21
and air seal.

conventional insulation doesnt work in open crawlspaces.
as the air blows across the robs it
of its insulating value, much like in the attic @
air leakage sites.

old insulation still retains its R-value unless it
is torn or flattened. that the company couldn't determine
that there was insulation in the walls..that isn't a
good sign.
I'd shop around for another company if you chose
to do more.

in my was the air leakage of the house that
contributed to it being so cold in the winter.
as I've sealed off is warmer.
I've probably blower door tested my house half
a dozen times over the years. as large leakage areas
are sealed, then smaller leakage areas become
apparent. of course, I have the its
not a big deal for me to test.

if you invest in a blower door will show
you where the leaks are. then you can address the
leakage and improve the comfort of the house.

you mention nothing about your hvac system.
how are you heating and cooling the house?
where is the ductwork..attic...crawlspace?

more info will help us to help you.

btw..40 degrees! brrrr its sunny & 80 degrees
here today..its been a yardwork day!

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 4:34PM
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melynn- Yours is a somewhat puzzling story, but let me ask this - if you're outside on a mild day (not in the sun) and it's 70 degrees, are you very cold? Could it be a humidity problem inside (cold and damp?)? Had it been raining outside when you felt so cold?

Energy, not everyone agrees spray foam is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Some say they perceive and are sensitive to off-gassing, who knows? Petrochemical foam anywhere within a structure presents a great danger in the case of fire.

In my mild weather and uber eco-conscious region, spray foam isn't used frequently (to my knowledge) and doesn't have a strongly favorable reputation. I'm sure regional and climate differences offer other answers.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:13PM
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I've never said foam was the greatest thing
since sliced bread. if you read my posts
the only places I recommend foam is roofline
when ducts & equipment is in attic
and floors over crawlspaces.

in op's case..if the foam offgassed..which
in most cases offgassing is a symptom of
componets mixed wrong..if she installed
foam to undersides of floors over
a would offgas to ambient.

foam may not be a common install in your
area, or perhaps you are not aware of installs
in your area. either case, foam is a widely
used insulation.

it has long been my pov that foam is a cover
for bad building practices. that the homeowner
has to spend 3x the cost to both air seal and
insulate speaks loudly to the trades who make
all the holes in building envelopes.
but when weighing the time, effort and materials
to air seal..homeowners often opt for an
insulation that both air seals and insulates.
economically and to labor intensive time
to seal these difficult to work in areas.

granted this is based on my years in the
trades,inspecting & testing homes & installs.
not just the trend of the day.

have a good weekend.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 7:09PM
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I read your comment as a quasi recommendation - I work in this industry, and here's what I'm going to do with my house.

A couple of years ago, I decided to upgrade my attic insulation. I had out the area's largest insulation contractor for a bid. I asked if they did spray foam, the answer was "Yes but I don't recommend it". I asked why, he said "In this area it's not a good investment, too expensive and the payback period is too long. We do it mostly for buildings looking for one green designation or another".

I thought I was clear that my comment was based on what I know about my area - isn't that where most comments come from, yours included? This was based on discussions with people I know (including builders) and my discussion with this insulation contractor. I don't question your expertise, nor the applicability of foam in areas with extreme weather. Maybe OP lives in Minnesota, or maybe in San Diego, only know that wherever she is, she'd like to be warmer.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 9:33PM
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If the house is 70 and you feel cold lets stick to the basics.
1) Get a home energy audit (blower test) and then caulk / insulate were necessary. I'll bet you use less energy ($) this year and are more comfortable.
2) if your windows are old and drafty you may need to think about replacing them. I've done replacement windows and have been as snug as a bug in a rug. Mine are triple pane.
3) I had several inches of insulation blown into my attic. The house is very comfortable.

My kitchen wasn't properly insulated and was freezing in the winter. I insullated and put a yotul gas stove back there in the attached den. It was so effective I bought another for the front of the house. They heat the entire house and the heat is in the room with you. Its running now and it's really toasty.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 5:48AM
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I'm puzzled. My house thermostat is set at 61. I'd be in trouble if 70 felt cold. Interior humidity might be the only explanation?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 8:59PM
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