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Insulation, Weatherizing, & Energy Audits
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Insulation, Weatherizing, & Energy Audits
Blowing insulation into old walls
We are thinking of having cellulose insulation blown into
the walls of our house in Berkeley, built in 1950, and have
1. Is there a problem with doing this? We have no vapor
barrier (to our knowledge), and we have heard that with even
very slight water intrusion into the walls, the insulation
could settle in a soggy mess leaving the house effectively
un-insulated and an attractive target for termites to boot.
2. One of the bids is from a company that has suggested
blowing insulation into the walls from outside the house by
drilling holes through the siding, rather than removing the
siding, drilling holes in the material behind that, and then
replacing the siding. Should we be concerned about this
damage to the siding?
The company says they will seal each hole, and prime, and
that what is needed later is just a touch-up paint job on
If anyone has had anything like this done to a house without
a vapor barrier, we would be very grateful to hear the pros
and cons. Cold, but a worrier
My parents have a 1950s house did the cellulose insulation
route several years ago. If you have a nice house, don't do
When they drill the holes the plugs they use will always be
visible even after the priming and painting. Over time the
plugs with loosen and now you have a hole to fill.
Cellulose insulation is shredded newspaper. You were told
correctly if it gets wet it will get soggy and compress
leaving you with no insulation and cause mold. Not sure
about the termites, but it makes sense as they need water.
The thing the company doesn't tell you is they can't get the
insulation even distributed throughout the walls due to the
fire blocking. (They can't see what's inside, they drill
and blindly blow the cellulose into the wall. They have no
idea where it's settling. What my parents found was warm
and cool spots as you run your hand across the wall meaning
when the insulation was blown-in areas were missed.
In the years after the house was insulated the difference on
the heating bill was minimal and the rooms were still cold.
I have since learned the money would have been much better
spent installing thick drapes over the windows. Thick
drapes act like a blanket keeping the cold out and the heat
Thick drapes over the windows are far more cost effective
then replacing single pane windows with double pane windows.
We also have a 1950s house (in Orinda) and had the same kind
of insulation blown into our walls about a year and a half
In talking to the contractor they suggested blowing it from
Outside (instead of inside) as the texture can be harder to
match and it is much messier to do it inside (drywall dust
and debris in every room you do it). Homes of our era are
pretty simply built - framing with drywall on the inside and
siding on the outside - not much in between. We opted for
the holes drilled on the outside (as opposed to inside).
The contractor patched them and got them all ready to paint.
The whole process took less than a day.
It made a NIGHT and DAY difference in our house temperature,
especially in the heat of the summer. Our house was often
cooler than homes with AC, even on the hottest of days - you
just need to limit your in and out - the cold will stay in
if you do!
We used McHale's Insulation and could not have been happier
with them. Well Insulated
Blow in insulation is the way to go.
Regarding your first question, you should not have to worry
about any of those issues. We live in a 110yo Vic here in
Berkeley. About 20 years ago I had a company blow in
shredded newspaper. It is treated with borate, which makes
it insect non friendly, non toxic, fire retardant, and
mildew proof. The construction of my wall is redwood siding,
joist space, lathe and plaster. I did the leg work to figure
out that the insulation could be blown into the wall
cavities from the attic, the house construction is referred
to Balloon framing (I believe) so the joist spaces are open
floor to ceiling, mostly. Where there was a block, we had
the contractor drill form the inside. Our walls are smooth
finish plaster. Unless your walls surfaces have a difficult
texture to match, I think this is better as it does not
'alter' the water proof integrity of your siding.Depending
on your siding, I would not try to remove and replace. One
issue I've heard about having it blown into the walls from
the inside is mess. I would think if the workers are careful
that should not be an issue, I don't remember it being
messy. Lastly, about 5 years after we added the insulation,
I remodeled, and when I removed the siding, the insulation
was there tightly packed into the wall cavities. Last
benefit, supposedly it makes your house more fire resistant,
in that it slows down the rate at which the fire spreads.
Need recommendation for insulation installer
Need a recommendation for a good company to install insulation in our attic
space.I am just at the homework stage. Any information about best current
materials and whether rebates from energy company still available for such work,
along with recommendation for reliable company to do the job would be most welcome.
1941 home hot in summer, cold in winter
We just had Advanced Home Energy install insulation in our
house, and I would recommend them highly. They were very
professional, prompt in scheduling a sit visit, scheduled
the work per our timeframe, and processed the rebate. Do be
prepared to consider more than attic insulation. We brought
them in for wall insulation, and ended up also replacing our
aging furnace, ductwork and hot water heater.
Advanced home energy is a great local company. They will
also assist with navigating through rebate options. Tell
them Hya sent you, I work in construction and have worked
with them before. Owner's name is Ori.
The next time you have to replace your roof, consider
replacing the sheathing with osb foilback. It's a little
extra money up front but the efficiency benefits will
outweigh the initial cost. hya
Recommendation for Attic Insulation?
anyone have a recommendation for a contractor to blow in
insulation into the attic? We currently don't have any
insulation and it's not energy efficient as well as too cold
in the winter and too warm in the summer. If you have any
other specific recommendations (R -rating, etc, I'd love to
hear that, too). We are located in North Oakland.
Has your house knob and tube wiring? If so you DO NOT want
'blown in' insulation.
1) Have you insulation in the walls?
2) Single pane windows?
If 1 is no and 2 is yes, attic insulation will help very
little - as we found out.
When cold we use space heaters, for hot weather consider an
Wall Insulation Worth It?
We are considering having insulation blown in to the walls
of our two-story un-insulated home. Temperatures vary
widely in the house in the winter, and the house doesn't
seem to retain heat. Attic insulation has been checked and
is sufficient, windows are double pane, so we're looking to
the walls. I'm interested in hearing from people who have
had this done - the process seems very invasive - moving
everything off the walls, having to repaint, dust, etc. -
and I'm wondering if it's worth it. Did you see an
improvement? Was it worth the disruption?
It was so worth it. We had blown in insulation with air
sealing and it has been great. They say we would not make
our money back. But is has cut our heating in half and our
dog barks less because he cannot hear evey little noise. You
will have holes in your walls which we have not painted over
in all rooms but we would do it again even though we did not
like the company we picked. Best of luck. Wish we did it
Recommendation for house (crawlspace) insulation
We are looking for a recommendation for a good company to
come and insulate our crawlspace in our 100+ year old
Berkeley home. The floors are freezing in the winter. We
are in the process of contacting Advanced Home Energy, based
on previous BPN recommendations, but is there another
company or contractor that others have used to insulate
their house and would recommend? Please let us know.
We had Ernesto Mora (E. Mora Construction) seal our
crawlspace and place a vapor/moisture barrier down over the
dirt. If you do that, I don't think you need to insulate the
crawlspace. We also had some other insulation done by
McHale's (in Concord). Both were great to work with and are
two of the few companies I would recommend to friends. We
have an old house so it's not perfect, but the improvements
in comfort (and our gas bill) were noticeable. warm(er)
Old house question - Should we insulate?
We just bought our 1st house and we're working on
prioritizing our list of upgrades. The house has ZERO
insulation and we're debating whether to shell out the $$ to
either partially or fully insulate. In addition, we replaced
the furnace/ducting before we moved in and are pursuing the
PG&E Energy Upgrade California rebate. So we have limited
time to make our decision on insulation IF we want to
receive a rebate for the insulation as part of this program
(which yes, of course we do).
I am convinced that this is an essential upgrade but my
partner is balking on the costs. So I would like to hear
opinions from people who have insulated their homes: was it
worth it? Also, our contractor is recommending eco-friendly
cellulose insulation which is pricier. Is that important or
should we go with fiber glass? We have a toddler so health
is a major concern but I can't find any information online
saying fiber glass is a health risk. First time (old) home
To insulate your house fully would be costly, as you'd have
to either open up the walls or go through the attic and pump
in foam insulation. The foam is probably your best bet, but
if money is particularly tight just insulate your attic!
You'll get the best value from this. You can do this
yourself pretty easily - make sure to get the proper rating,
which I think is R30. If you use fiber glass wear protective
clothing and shower well afterward. But it's simply a matter
of getting the insulation up into the attic and rolling it
out, not too hard. I would advise though, if you have any
wiring running through your attic, ensure it's up-to- date
before doing this. Been there
Yes, you should definitely insulate your house. It makes
such a huge difference in the temperature in the house. It
will keep your heating bills down and more comfortable to be
in the house overall. There is a noticeable difference in
We don't have insulation in our attic because it's being
used for storage and it gets either really cold or really
hot up there depending on the season.
If you break it down the cost of how much up front
investment to the return of how long the insulation will be
in the walls, spending a little more on eco-friendly
insulation is in my opinion worth it if you can afford it.
Hi. I am an architect and also live in an old house. Not
all insulation is of equal value, especially in our
relatively mild climate. You will get the most bang for
your buck with attic insulation - which is usually pretty
easy to do. Before I would insulate the walls (more of a
hassle as holes are drilled, insulation blown in, then holes
patched and painted - plus you don't know how well wall
cavity was filled) I would weatherstrip all of the windows.
This will cut down on cold air leaking in around the
windows. Then I would plan to, over the coming years and
possibly as you do other work, replace existing single
glazed windows with dual glazed and as walls are opened up
for other projects or as you can afford it, add insulation
to the walls. If you have a fireplace, make sure there is a
working damper so you can keep warm air from escaping out of
the chimney. Good luck ~ Shivering too!
In a word, do it! If you afford the outlay, it's so worth it
in terms of comfort and lower PGE bills. We bought our first
house four years ago and it also had zero insulation
anywhere and very old heating systems. Winters were cold and
damp and I hated being stuck inside the home during the day.
Summers were blazing hot.
We got spray-in ceiling (attic) insulation, had cupboards
and other 'leaky' areas spray-sealed, added a 'whole house
fan,' and got partial basement-to-floorboards sealing (also
spray) under the house. The whole house fan was a great
addition. We don't use airconditioning and are able to have
a nice cool house on hot summer nights. Our PGE bill
averages $90 winters and $65 summers for a 1200 ft2
one-story house. That's everything -- gas, including
heating, and electricity. I believe it's about half what it
was. (We replaced the old water heater with a tankless water
We used a local company that was one of the first to do this
and they were perfectly fine. They keep changing their name
and I have no idea what they're called now, but there are
now also plenty more vendors in this space so you should
shop around anyway. The initial outlay had a bit of a 'gulp'
factor but we are so happy now and consider it just part of
the price of the house. Insulation fan
My wife and I have been doing a major fix-up on a 1920's
uninsulated stucco house for the last three years. We lifted
the house to make the low basement into conditioned space.
The new framing was 2x6. We insulated these walls and the
ceiling joists with a combination of shredded denim (where
we wanted to optimize acoustic deadening) and fiberglass
batts. The cotton costs about 2X the glass. We did the work
ourselves, so the cost was just the materials. The
downstairs is now very tight.
The upstairs, on the other hand, was drafty and the walls
offered little resistance to radiated heat. (The attic is
uninsulated, but we are deferring doing what would normally
be the first step until all the old wiring is upgraded.)
Wherever the old plaster and lath walls had to come down
because they were beyond repair, I stuffed in fiberglass and
drywalled. Of course, I repaired all of the loose windows
Last fall we had the remaining stud cavities filled with
shredded cellulose that was pumped in ('drill & fill').
Where we were still patching interior walls, we had the
holes made from the inside, though the plaster & lath, and
it was a cinch to hide them after they were patched. Where
we had already finished the inside walls, the insulation
guys drilled through the stucco. After patching & painting,
they are 90% invisible.
We noticed that the house was warmer immediately. (And when
the warm weather came, the house stayed cooler.) I haven't
tried to compute the cost or energy savings, but for us it
was well worth the comfort! BTW, we installed radiant heat
and despite the cost, we are quite happy with its comfort,
quiet and cleanliness.
The drill & fill work was done by McHales, who I would
recommend with one caveat: the line of holes in the exterior
wall wandered a lot -- but then I am a stickler for details.
The cost was about $900 after the $500 PG&E rebate, which
McHales processed for us. Neal
How can I have insulation blown into
our attic? The house is only 1000 square feet and I think
its too difficult to get up there and roll it out. Is there
a company that does that sort of thing? Or a handyman that
wouldn't mind going into that small attic space to roll
insulation out? What kind of cost would this be?
Any suggestions on who to contact for either project would
We used McHale's for a couple of insulation projects and
were very happy with the customer service and price (we had
mutiple bids). They are in Concord. anon
Attic insulation is a very worthwhile investment. Blown in
insulation works much better than the roll-out, as the
latter leaks. Before you blow in insulation you must have
an electrician sign off that it is safe to do so (with
respect to knob and tube wiring) even if you know you don't
have knob and tube up there. You can do it yourself (Home
depot rents the machine), but it is not easy or fun. There
are multiple companies that do this work. Find them online
under 'insulation'. Get multiple bids. It will probably
cost around $1,500. Make sure they will install baffles,
measuring stick, insulation on and around the attic hatch.
You can use different materials, so look that up online to
decide which you want before you get the bids. Also, decide
to what R value you want (how much insulation). PG&E gives
small rebates. The City of Berkeley sometimes does, too.
Been there, done that
We used Advanced Home Energy to insulate our attic and they
did a great job -- thorough cleaning first (we had rat
poop), really nice crew and the whole job was done in 2
days! Their number is, 510-540-4860. Happy homeowner
Foam vs. Denim insulation for crawlspace
We are planning to insulate our crawlspace and trying to
decide between spray foam and denim ('ultratouch'). Spray
foam is twice as expensive but is supposed to be better. I
am concerned about off-gasing with the foam even with the
types that are not supposed to off-gas significantly. Has
anyone used ultratouch in their crawlspace? Do you notice a
significant difference in the temperature of your
floor/home? If you have used spray foam, do you notice any
odor? Are you happy with the decision to insulate your
crawlspace or do you have regrets? Any advice would be
We put ultratouch in our attic, and noticed a significant
difference. It wasn't ultimately in our budget, but when we
looked into insulating we also asked about the crawlspace
and were told that it was a little more complicated because
of moisture issues. I don't know if your crawlspace is
vented or not, but that makes a difference, as well as what
kind of moisture barrier you put down. I'd ask about
moisture issues and how foam and denim might perform
differently. We used McHales Insulation, and were very
happy. They were very knowledgeable and tried to help keep
the costs of our job down instead of pushing expensive
work/materials on us. jl
We insulated our crawlspace last fall, and honestly, I was
disappointed that it didn't make the floor feel much warmer.
Although I do notice a difference in the one place that
couldn't be insulated (around the hatch to the
crawlspace--it DOES feel colder on the feet to stand there).
But all in all, I had been hoping for MUCH more improvement.
Sad. We just used the 'eco' fiberglass stuff (not
treated with formaldehyde), so I don't know about denim vs.
foam. Hope this helps, though. Anon in El Cerrito
Get the foam -- much tighter seal.
We had insulation put in our Orinda attic last year. We
originally wanted the foam, but went went with the denim due
to the higher cost of the foam. We love it! Even on the
hottest summer days (and it gets hot here), our house feels
cool - it made a night and day difference.
First of all you should not use Spray Foam unless you have
to (like in an unvented area such as a vaulted ceiling).
Spray polyurethane foam and other foam plastics (SFP)
release highly hazardous isocyanates and I would not
recommend its use, and it is also highly flammable..
Ultratouch is made out of recycle material but it is not an
ultra-low VOC product and should not be used in a damp area
such as crawl space. I would recommend using Johns Manville
fiberglass batts. It is made with 30% post consumer
recycled material and emit ultra-low amounts of VOC. I would
also install a vapor barrier (plastic) on the dirt. For
more information you should contact www.energyupgradeca.org.
Non-Profit that provides free energy audits
My name is Christina C. and I am with an environmental non-profit
based in Berkeley, Rising Sun Energy Center. We run a summer program
called California Youth Energy Services. It's a free service which
provides homeowners and renters all around the bay area with a free
energy efficiency audit and free energy saving equipments (such as
CFLs, clotheslines, and efficient flow showerheads, etc.)
We can do all of this for free because we also hire and train local
youth for the summer to become energy specialists and perform this
audits. We are funded as a workforce development program for youth.
I am writing because we were hoping to get the support of the Berkeley
Parents Network. Hopefully some of you have heard of us or have taken
advantage of our services before. If not, we encourage you to come by
our office on 2033 Center Street to check out our operation and sign
up for a summer appointment!
We also have a new program that we are launching called Smart Solar,
which is funded by the city of Berkeley to be an unbiased
informational resource for residents who are interested in adopting
solar for their homes. I could send you some information on this
program as well if you think community members are interested.
Insulation for crawl space?
Looking for ideas on how to handle the crawl space in the roof in
our small, 1940s rancher. There is some really old insulation
material, and there have been rats...yes. What I'd love to do is
have the whole space cleaned out and re-insulated, not just
against the weather. Does anyone have a recommendation for this job?
It seems like there are a few similar postings, but again, I would say
check out Advanced Home Energy: www.advancedhomeenergy.com
(510)-540-4860. We also had droppings in our attic and old fiber glass
insulation, all nasty stuff. They cleaned it all out and insulated our
attic properly, so that our utility bills went way down and our house
is finally comfortable.
Satisfied AHE customer
Someone to ''air seal'' my home
I live in a 2-story 1920's vintage house with hardwood floors,
original single-paned windows (floor to ceiling) and a very
drafty fireplace. I cannot face another winter of freezing
while also paying $500 a month to PGE!
In reading through old posts, I got some great ideas, but I
think I need a contractor to ''air seal'' my home. However, I
can't seem to find any and one that was recommended a while
back doesn't seem to be in business anymore.
Has anyone else done this? Need someone competent to seal
cracks in door frames, windows, fireplaces - we have cracks big
enough that daylight is visible on multiple sides of our
front/back doors and many windows. Tried to weather strip last
year but it really didn't do the trick.
Appreciate any advice or recs!!
I recommend checking out Advanced Home Energy:
www.advancedhomeenergy.com (510)-540-4860. We have a house in the
Berkeley hills that was very drafty and during the winter we had to run
the furnace all the time to keep the house warm. Advanced Home Energy
came in last year and used a tool called a blower door to pressurize
our house and identify where all the leaks were. Originally we thought
the leakage was coming from our windows and doors, but it turns out
that the majority was coming from our recessed lights and attic space.
They also had an infrared camera that could see the air escaping! I was
impressed and am very happy with the results. They weatherstripped our
doors, sealed all the cracks and leaks in the attic and insulated our
attic. Our utility bills went way down during the winter and our house
is finally comfortable.
Satisfied AHE customer
We worked with Sustainable Spaces out of San Francisco. Their
staff was very helpful and really seemed to care about my needs
having to do with scheduling, etc. They can come and do a home
energy audit and figure out exactly what you need.
Need attic insulation
We're thinking about getting some attic insulation blown in to
our house. We were told it was thin. (We currently have a
little insulation (R-11 or so) and know we should get more (R-
30 or so)). If you have had added insulation on top of
existing, was it worth it in terms of comfort for you? In
other words, besides costs savings, did you actually notice a
Yes, it made a difference. We used Advanced Home Energy and they
came and blew in more of the cellulose insulation on top of what
we'd already had. They did this about 4 weeks ago now and we've
already noticed a difference on the really hot days. Before we
upped our insulation the upstairs would cook on the hot days. Now it
just gets a bit hotter than downstairs but is much better.
We also insulated our crawl space and that made a HUGE difference
- more than the attic insulation did. We did that ourselves
about a month before we had the attic insulation done. contact
me if you want info on what we did.
The temperature deviation in our house used to follow the outside
temp pretty closely (we have a thermometer that shows both inside
and outside temperature). Now our house stays between 68 and 72
day and night regardless of how hot or cold it is outside. Cameron
I don't know about added insulation, but we did have our attic cleaned
out and re-
insulated by Advanced Home Energy: www.advancedhomeenergy.com
4860. We have a house in the Berkeley hills that was very drafty and
the old insulation was insufficient (or whoever first put it in missed
some major spots). Advanced Home Energy came in and sealed all the
cracks and leaks in the attic and insulated it. Our utility bills went
way down during the winter and our house is finally comfortable. I
would highly recommend them.
Satisfied AHE customer
I had my house insulated by Advanced Home Energy and highly
recommend them. They are prompt and professional and
competetively priced (i did my homework). I loved that they hire
youth from the community and felt like they are just good people.
They also are very tidy and cleaned up thoroughly afterwards. Did I say
that i highly recommend them? Not to mention that i
could feel the difference in my house temperature immediately and
saved a bundle on my PG&E bill.
Contractor for installing attic insulation
Can anyone recommend a good company or contractor for
installing attic insulation? We're not sure if we're going to
go with blown in or other. Open to green options. It may be
complicated by the fact that we have some old knob and tube
wiring up there. Many thanks.
our attic insulation done just a few months ago by All Seasons
Insulation, and were very pleased. Mark came out and did the
estimate, and the job was scheduled for a few weeks later. The
guys that came out to do the job were neat and professional.
The material they use is green--mostly recycled newspaper I
think. We didn't have the tube and knob thing but I would
think they know how to deal with that. Anyway, I just wanted
to have a recent post for them because we thought they did a
great job for a reasonable price. And we got our PG&E rebate!
i highly recommend ADVANTAGE HOME ENERGY 510 540 4860.
licensed and experienced. they also do complete home energy audits with
reliable equipment available to pinpoint your insulation needs and/or
they are also licensed by PG&E to work with their energy savings rebate
that saves you, the home owner, a LOT of money.
i'm a certified green builder and home improvement specialist and i
them to my clients all the time.
Central air vs. insulation?
Everything I read is about increasing temperatures. I have
many fans in my home, including 2 ceiling fans. Nonetheless,
after hours of trying to air out the house, it was still around
90 last night at 2:00 AM. I have a small home (1050 sq ft)
built in 1939. I have a central heating system so I have the
duct work in place. I am not sure about insulation but I don't
think the house is insulated. What have been people's
experiences with insulation vs. central air? I want to get the
best bang for my buck. If insulation can keep the house to a
reasonable temperature (and will also be useful in the winter)
that's great. But my baby and I can't sleep in 90 degrees.
Suggestions for HVAC and/or insulation companies also welcome.
I would start with a solar-powered attic fan.
http://www.solabrite.com/pricing.asp We put one in our home a
few years ago and it made a huge difference on those very hot
days- and you get a lot of bang for the buck since there's no
ongoing cost to run it.
you should absolutely go with insulating your home first. as long as your
not insulated properly you are throwing money down the drain by paying for
either for heating or cooling, that is wasted. your mechanical temp
control ( central
heat now, possible central ac in future ) works longer to reach the
setting on the thermostat and stays off less time when the temp changes
to the lack of proper insulation. in a properly insulated house with
HVAC, the mechanical temp control would get turned on, reach the desired
relatively fast and turn off and stay off for the rest of the day/night
i highly recommend ADVANCED HOME ENERGY tel: 510 5404860. they can do a
complete home energy audit (they seal your house, blow in clean, heated
air and do
thermal, infra red scanning to determine where energy is being lost) to
your insulation needs which they can then perform. they are certified and
by PG&E to provide up to an 80% rebate through a special energy
program set up by PG&E. that makes insulating your home properly not only
right thing to do but also very affordable.
i am a certified green builder and home improvement specialist and have
with them on many projects to my full satisfaction and to the full
satisfaction of our
Want to insulate my attic
have recommendations for a reliable, efficient contractor who can
insulate my attic? We don't want blow-in insulation; we need the
kind of insulation that you can roll out and then cover it with
I'd recommend that you consider the ecological choice of recycled
blue jean insulation. It is called Ultra Touch and comes in R-19
and R-13. The R-19 rolls fit in a 5.5'' bay. R-13 fits a 3.5''bay.
It is not itchy at all, non-toxic with no fumes, and uses
recycled materials. It is treated with borax for fire resistance
and pest resistance. It is fine to put plywood over to regain
your attic space. I've got it in my own house.
(The best R value for attics is R-30 and that is the current code
requirement. But some insulation is better than none.)
Regardless of your insulation type, I've got a reference for
I'm a licensed building contractor (Berkeley Craftsmen Builders,
510 815 0125)
and we've had pretty good service from these companies as
McHale's Environmental Insulation Co.
800 427 9780
and we've used All Season's Insulation, 800 905 7965.
Our house is freezing
Our PG&E bill was over $700 in December, yet our 2400 sq ft
house is still freezing. I would like to find an insulation
company that could assess the quality of our existing insulation
to see whether the insulation is part of the problem. Our home
has 12-ft vaulted ceilings (but no attic), and I speculate that
that is why it's so cold. Might it be possible to have the
ceilings lowered to create room for additional insulation?
I would like to hear about your experiences with
improving insulation and any companies or techniques you might
recommend. We are wearing 4 layers of shirts plus long
underwear, sleeping under layers of down comforters, and using a
programmable thermostat to drop the heat significantly at night.
- freezing in Montclair
To the person with the $700 pge bill who is still cold..I was
moving into a an old drafty house that I knew to have high bills
and still be cold (my father had lived there). I was determined
to make the the house more energy efficient and comfortable. I
looked around for a long time before I found a place called
Sustainable Spaces is San Francisco (google them) that for $600
or so will come to your house and spend several hours doing a
complete energy audit to determine where all your leaks are and
then give you a full and detailed report including a
prescription of how to fix it and how to get the most bang for
your buck. I thought they would say replace the windows...but
they didn't. I insulated my vaulted ceiling and ceiled up
the ''building envelope'' and did weather stripping everywhere.
They also do the work and refund half the cost of the audit if
you do. They were extremely pleasant to work with and now even
on these cold days, my bills are reasonable and my house doesn't
have breezes going through it.
As a former CHEERS (California Home Energy Efficiency Rating
System) rater and building contractor emphasizing energy
efficiency, I could identify the energy waste in your home as
well as the sources of heat loss, energy waste and thermal
Your uninsulated vaulted ceiling is certainly an energy hole in
your house. If your roof above it is old and near it's end, you
might consider rigid foam insulation on top of the roof.
I just had a great experience with Advanced Home Energy. They
were reasonably priced, did great work (I can already feel a
difference in the warmth of my home),cleaned up after themselves,
were polite, and honest and upfront with all costs. They told me
what I needed (and what I didn't! Just as important, I think),
and stuck to their estimate even when the work took three days
(their original time estimate was 1 1/2 days). A really good
company with some really fine employees. Their phone number is
Insulation over knob and tube wiring?
My old house in Oakland has knob-and-tube wiring in the attic
with a small amount of old blow-in cellulose insulation. I
know I'm losing tons of heat through the attic and would like
to improve my insulation situation but have been told that the
wiring prevents me from insulating up there. Does anyone know
if there is an affordable way to insulate if you've got this
old wiring? If not, what to do? New windows, insulate the
Cold and wasting energy
We have the same issue in our attic. I had done a lot of research
and what we plan to do is place batt insulation not flat on the
floor of the attic, but up in the rafters (parallel to the roof
structure) using friction (or stapling paper/foil face) to hold
in place. This is more work, but it may be your best option.
Need an energy audit
I'm looking for a company that will come to my home to access it
for energy efficiency. Why is my daughters room cold and my
sons room is not? Do we have enough insulation? What can I do
to save money this winter on heating bills... Stuff like that.
I called PG&E and they don't do this anymore. Any thoughts out
Contact Rising Sun Energy Center, 510.665.1501, http://www.risingsunenergy.org/.
They insulated my attic last year with 100% cotton insulation for $300; they're
subsidized by PG&E and you don't have to be low-income to qualify. Although I didn't
need them for an audit or wrapping my water heater, they also do these things. Good
I know of at least two companies that do energy audits and the
recommended contract work. One company is RENU
(www.renuyourhome.com) 415 462 0245 the contact is Kevin Beck
or Robert Mitchell. The other company is Sustainable Spaces
www.sutainablespaces.com) 415 294 5380 x 24 and the contact's
name is Adam Winter. I recommend using a company that knows
what they are doing. Sometimes by simply adding insulation
without considering other aspects of your home like sufficient
combustion air for your gas appliances or other moisture issues
could result in unintended consequences. That's great that your
considering a greener house, we all need to go that way.
I had my home evaluated by Sustainable Spaces about 18 mo. ago
and was very impressed. Their evaluation goes beyond energy
efficiency - but addresses those concerns that you listed. Of
particular interest to you would be 'balancing' your heating
system (they adjust how much air goes to each heating vent).
They charge a set fee for the evaluation - but if you use them
for remediation repairs (some they do themselves and some they
subcontract) the fee goes toward that work.
In general the following link gets you to a directory of green
building professionals - check under the category of
Advanced Home Energy or Rising Sun Energy?
We are considering Advanced Home Energy located in Rising Sun
Energy Center for home insulation, etc. Anyone had recent
experience with them?
I had a good experience with AHE when they insulated my attic
last year to comply with RECO; the service was good and price was
unbeatable. My only complaint was that there was something of a
mess to clean up afterwards. My recollection is that their newer
equipment (which apparently isn't so messy) was out of commission
that day. Good luck.
Hav you used Rising Sun Energy Center?
Has anyone used the subsidized insulation program through
Rising Sun Energy Center? Everything I've read about insulation
stresses that proper installation is vital to effectiveness, so
I'd like to make sure they'll do a reasonably good job before
going with them.
Rising Sun insulated my attic last year and did a good enough job for me
to pass the
City of Berkeley's RECO inspection. They made enough of a mess, however,
my contractor complained (!), and I found little bits of the blown-in
material all over
for some time. Dvir is a sweetheart, however, so you can talk with him
before/during/after; I wasn't there when they finished... Good luck!
Our 1920's house has no insulation
we have a 1920's house with no insulation and it gets pretty
cold during the winter... we are thinking of having foam
insulation be inserted in our bedroom only (3 walls). We're
wondering if this is expensive and if foam insulation is a
smart idea (vs. ripping out the walls which i think is plaster,
and putting in regular insulation and then putting new gyp.
board back up....).
any thoughts? recommendations?
Foam insulation -- depends on the type of foam, and whether it
will off gas, or emit highly-toxic fumes in a housefire (which of
course we all hope won't happen.)
Another simple alternative is to have cellulose insulation blown
in, above and below the fire blocking in the walls. Make sure
they also blow it in above and below windows, and above exterior
doors. Cellulose insulation is made from ground up newspapers
that have been treated with borates to resist insects and mold,
and is fire-resistant.
It can be installed from inside or outside. While installing it
through the inside walls is a bit messier, it eliminates the
chance that your home's moisture barrier will be penetrated and
allow rain into your walls.
After you insulate the walls, you will need to repaint (the
contractor will plug up the holes, but won't necessarily repaint
unless you add it to your contract. There are additives you can
add to your paint that will act as a radiant barrier, and reflect
longwave heat energy back into your room. (If painted on the
outside, it will prevent excessive heat gain from the sun.) Do a
Google-search using ''ceramic radiant barrier'' and you will get a
couple of companies. This stuff was developed by NASA, and is
used to stop heat gain on the space shuttles during re-entry. I
have taken some infra-red images of it working, viewable at
Feel free to contact me with any other questions.
-- Alice La Pierre, Energy Analyst, City of Berkeley
Good experience with Rising Sun Energy Center
I just had a wonderful experience insulating the attic in my
house. The previous ownerms insulation contractor had done a
sub-standard job applying blown-in insulation. The upstairs
bedroom had virtually no insulation; it was very hot in the
summer and very cold in the winter. Since I wanted to get the
job right this time, I was determined to find a capable
contractor. I consulted BPN postings on insulation
contractors. Several contractors, including one recommended on
the site, came to give estimates. I also did Internet searches
on insulation types. During the latter process, I found an
http://homeenergy.org/archive/hem.dis.anl.gov/eehem/00/001112.html, on quality control (or the lack thereof) in blown
insulation jobs. I asked all the contractors who had provided
estimates about their quality control for blown insulation;
none of them had any.
By calling the City of Berkeley and
speaking with a very helpful person, named Alice La Pierre, I
learned about a subsidized program for attic insulation through
Rising Sun Energy Center and its contractor Advanced Home
Energy. I couldn't speak more highly of the AHE contractor,
Dvir Brakha (510-260-5375), who routinely includes quality
control of his jobs. Part of my attic had an access problem
that none of the other insulation contractors were equipped to
tackle. Dvir not only took the time to competently address
this problem, but went beyond what the other contractors
proposed to do in insulating the space. He was also a pleasure
to deal with. Add to that that Rising Sun has a rebate
program, so that a job that normally would have cost $1,100,
cost me only $400 and you've got a winner. I am astonished by
the impact of effective insulation on the comfort of my house.
I knew it would make a difference, but this is like moving into
a new house!
Is it worth it to insulate?
I'm planning to have our home insulated within the next 2 months - both batts and blown in cellulose.
For anyone that's had it done - was it worth while? I have a 1 1/2 story cape cod that's just too hot in the winter and too cold in the winter.
I have quotes from a couple contractors and I'm leaning towards McHale Insulation. Has anyone used McHale Insulation? If so would you recommend them?
Any other East Bay insulation contractors people can recomend would be appreciated too.
We just had it done today, in fact and the company who did it was wonderful! We had done one of our rooms with cellulose (ourselves--never again...) and it dampened sound while making the room warmer. We didn't do bales in the walls (we have no vapor barrier at present), but I notice a difference.
The company is Envirotherm in San Rafael, and the main guy is Daniel.
The guys who did the work covered everything, did the work, patched the holes (we'll have to put some mud on in three days, and touch up with paint, but that's ok by us), and cleaned up wonderfully. They were very nice and very thoughtful in their attitudes and their work. They did between 600 and 800 sq. ft. of work and charged $1500 all total (inc. tax, materials, clean-up). I came home to a house in great shape and that was worth every penny.
I will warn you that it is peak season for installing heaters, insulation and the like, so you might have to call them a few times for an estimate visit, but they're worth it, IMHO.
I checked the archives and didn't see anything current for my situation. I'm looking to have my 1500 sq ft, 2 story home insulated and am interested in recomendations for insulation contractors. The house was built in '54 and a bedroom was added to the 2nd floor in the 60's.
I want to have insulation blown into the exterior walls and have the attic space/walls on the second floor brought up to R-30. I would also like to have the floor insulated via the crawl space.
Has anyone done something similar?
Any ballpark estimates regarding cost?
Any success or sob stories?
Would love any/all feedback...thanks!
We had insulation blown into our walls (1950's rancher) and we used
All Seasons Insulation. The owner is Mark Clark and he can be reached
at 925 935-7965. He is incredibly nice, and will do the estimate
himself. For us, he turned out to be approx. $1.09/sq foot of
insulated wall, which was the cheapest quote I received. I also got a
PG&E rebate at the time which took 20% off the total cost.
A.S.I. also does attics. They were professional, fast and cheap!
Very satisfied and now warmer
editor note: phone updated 1/12/2006
We wanted to insulate our attic with blown-in insulation.
We used McHale Insulation Co from Concord 925-825-9780
(they came to Albany, no problem). I found them to be very
professional. In addition, the insulation work qualified
for a rebate from PGE, and at the completion of the job,
they had the rebate form all ready to go, including the
stamp. I would think they do all kinds of insulation work
like your requesting.
Could someone recommend a good and reasonable contractor or
company for wall blow in insulation?
May I suggest you really research whether blown-in
insulation would help your situation or not. After we got
cellulose blown into our walls and attic, we had a huge
increase in condensation and mildew on the walls and
windows. I don't know why this happened, but it was not an
improvement. We used McHale. Hope this helps.
Can anyone recommend someone to install insulation in our 2ft high attic.
There is none there now , but I have concerns about the old style wiring that is
up there. Thanks
We are struggling with decisions as to whether we should rewire our 1942
house so we can blow in insulation or install batting instead. Does anyone have
experience with this? A few people said that re-wiring could easily run
into five figures because it would involve breaking into the walls, and
Can we safely install batting around the knob and tubes in the ceiling?
Any advice would be appreciated. Darcy
Our house is pre-40's and it has rolled fiberglass insulation. (Is that what you
mean by batten?) The ceiling of our subarea is exposed so you can see the old
wiring if you move the fiberglass aside. We've lived in the house for over 10
years without problems, and I can't see how the house would pass RECO
inspection at its sale without insulation in various places like a subarea. But one
place you could check would be the RECO people. (I'm not sure what department
of the city bureaucracy they're in, but you could try something like "Codes and
P.S. RECO stands for something like "Residential Energy Conservation
I am not an expert but... I just talked with an insulation company about this.
They said that the city of Berkeley requires that they create channeling aroung
the knob and tube wiring before they blow in the other insulation. This creates a
buffer of space so the insulation does not directly touch the knob and tube. You
will have to have an electrician first inspect the wiring to make sure it is stillin
good shape. They said that all other cities just require the inspection and if it is
okayed they can insulate with the channels, but Berkeley requires the channels
even after the inspection. I spoke with Save Energy Company and got a free
Just done it...
If you have knob-and-tube wiring you must "box them in" (separate them from
insulation), before you lay down insulation, whether it is in batts or you
blow it in. This is a code requirement.
Since we had a maze of wires running in our attic,we found much easier, rather
than individually separate each wire, to lay thin plywood(1/4) on top of the
joist and than lay the insulation on top of it.
Just be careful to leave at least 3" of free space around all electrical boxes
and to leave vents clear. Sylvia
We need someone to install fiberglass insulation in our attic. We have lots
of head room, but poor access and old knob and tube wiring. We don't know if
it is necessary to hire an expert, or whether a handyperson would be
sufficient. Any opinions or recommendations?
We have been trying to get insulation installed in our attic, and only one
contractor has called back to give an estimate. He was promoting blown-in
cellulose insulation vs fiberglass, and the cellulose is half the cost so it
is appealing. We live in Oakland and have old knob and tube wiring. The
Oakland code allows the insulating material to rest on the wiring once the
wiring has been tested, but Berkeley code does not. So what does Berkeley
know than Oakland doesn't that we should worry about, and does anyone have
advice on cellulose vs fiberglass?
We just received the keys for our new house in Rockridge and we want
to do some minor work before it becomes too cluttered. Can someone
recommend help with insulation and weather-proofing? It's a big old
house and I don't want to regret its purchase when the winter PG&E
bill arrives. Erica
My home is in need of insulation, wall, floor, and ceiling. I'm
looking for recommendations of reputable people who can do this,
especially with minimal damage to my walls. I'm also looking for
experience/advice on installing the wall insulation from the interior
or exterior. I have a stucco house and worry about drilling the holes
on the outside and being able to patch them effectively.
We are looking for an insulation company to possibly insulate an
unfinished attic space.
Insulation: We used American Synergy. They were somewhat inconsistent, but far
more knowledgable than the competition.
I'm looking for a reliable and affordable person to install
insulation--either traditional batting or blow-in--in our attic. any
recommendations would be greatly appreciated. thanks, pamela
I call Shel Harris in Berkeley, 549-3290. He does almost all the
energy conservation inspections in Berkeley to comply with the local
ordinance, and also can do the work.
Does anyone know about installing insulation? What kind to get, where
you get it, anything to worry about/watch out for? I was thinking of the
kind that comes in a huge roll. Is this something easy to do for a novice?
We are thinking of putting insulation between the cross beams on the
ceiling of our unfinished basement. The idea is that this will help keep
living & dining room (which are directly above the basement) warmer. Thanks
Installing insulation is one of the easiest jobs you can do yourself. Wear
gloves and a dust mask when you do the work. Buy it anywhere, but pay
attention to the R-rating (that's how warm/thick it is) and whether you
need a vapor barrier. The labeling on the roll should tell you what the
correct rating and vapor barrier need is for basements. (The idea is to put
the vapor barrier on the side closest to where moist/warm air comes from,
so that it doesn't get into the insulation and rot as it moves through the
wall. You probably don't need one in a basement.)
You need to get something to hold the insulation up into the space between
the joists, or it will fall out. They sell special metal bars for this, but
you could also use chicken wire, if you didn't mind the work of cutting it.
Insulation is not expensive as a one-time investment in your comfort (about
$200-300 depending on the size of your house, plus the metal bars). On the
other hand, in our climate it may not make that big a difference--heat loss
through the roof is quite a bit greater than heat loss through the floor,
particularly with a basement underneath.
Installing insulation can easily be done by a novice. It's not
difficult, just very unpleasant. As the insulation is made up of
fiberglass fibers, be sure to wear a long sleeved shirt and pants,
gloves (you can get inexpensive cotton gloves that allow for ease
of movement while protecting your hands), a hat if you are working
underneath it, and a dust mask. The fibers are very small but are
irritating to the skin.
Basically you roll out the insulation, measure the length you need, cut
with a utility blade and staple to the sides of the studs. The
insulation goes against the wall and the paper should be facing you. Some
insulation is sold in precut lengths. It can be purchased in quantity
at Home Depot, among other places. It's rated by an R-value--the higher
the number, the more it insulates. I think R-19 is the basic that fits
comfortably in a 2X4 stud cavity. If you are placing it between
larger studs you can increase the R value. You might want to check
and see what's recommended either by code or by PGE. Good luck.
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