Attic - Walls - Floors - Basement - Crawl Space - Insulation
Jun082016

What Causes a Hot House in the Summer?

Published by Admin at 9:33 AM under Blog

Every summer we get a lot of calls from people who are having comfort issues in their home, usually on the second floor. Many homeowners find that even with the air conditioner blasting, only the lower level of the home will get cool, leaving the second story so hot that it’s uninhabitable

Homeowners tend to blame the AC unit for the hot house issues, but we find that it’s often a problem with the house itself. 

 

Hot house issues can be caused by a variety of things, such as:

 

·       Poor Thermal Boundary (Insulation and air seal)

·       Not enough supply air coming through the force air registers. 

·       Poor attic ventilation (roof vents)

·       Dark roof color

 

Let's break it down a bit:

 

The Thermal Boundary is the shell of the house. The “shell” or “envelope” consists of the Attic, Walls, Basement, Floors and Crawl Space. More than 90% of the attic spaces in US homes are under insulated and poorly sealed. This is exacerbated during the summer months because your attic space can easily reach over 140 degrees for most of the day. You need plenty of the right kind of insulation and an airtight seal to combat these kinds of extreme temperatures.

 Next we have possible issues with the air supply. The actual AC may be functioning well, but it could be fighting an uphill battle, so to speak. Most air handlers (Furnace/AC fan) are in the basement and therefore have to push air all the way up to the second floor. In order to reach the second story, the air has to pass through multiple turns (elbows) and travel a long distance, causing a decrease in air pressure (CFM). The air that ends up coming out of the second story vents generally comes out with substantially diminished air pressure. If you toss in issues with your Thermal Boundary, your HVAC system has very little hope in keeping your home cool, no matter how much you blast the AC.

In summer we get a lot of calls from people who are having comfort issues upstairs. They have a 1 1/2 or 2 story home and can't keep the upstairs areas cool. We see many cases where the second floor is uninhabitable much of the time. 

 

Things to consider:

Thermal boundary - If the "shell" of your home isn't properly air sealed, even the best air conditioners couldn't keep your home cool. Consider hiring a professional to do a blower door test to see if your home is leaking conditioned air. 

 

HVAC- Is your HVAC system up to date? Have you had your Air Conditioner cleaned recently? Something as simple as cleaning out the vents can make a huge difference in the temperature in your home. 

Attic ventilation is a huge problem for many homes. It is essential to have plenty of the right kind of roof vents to properly cool the attic space. Remember, that space can top 140 degrees in the hot summer months.  Ideally, the attic would have 1 square foot of ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic space, split 50/50 between the top and bottom of the area. Most homes don’t meet this standard.

If you believe your attic is one of the many that don’t meet the standards, give us a call. If it’s not possible to retrofit your current roof vents, we can use mechanical vents that are either hard wired into your house power, or better yet, solar-powered.

 

Roof color might not seem like it could have a huge impact, but consider this – on a hot summer day, would you rather stand in the sun in a black T-shirt or something with a lighter shade? Your roof functions in the same way. The shade/color of your roof can make a big difference in the temperature of the attic space, darker colors can soak up heat and trap it in your home. It might not be cost-effective to completely redo your roof, but it’s something to keep in mind for when you do any updates in the future.

 

 

All summer long, we get calls from people who are sweating in their homes and paying way too much on their energy bills. We have an excellent track record for finding successful solutions for each individual home. Give us a call and let us help!

314-884-0092

 

 

 


Oct222015

Energy Efficiency Case Study: Identical homes, 29% difference in Energy Bills.

Published by Admin at 9:02 AM under Blog

 

These neighbors have the exact same floor plan: 1200 square foot ranch, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. The one on the right, House A, pays about $240 a month for their energy bill, while the house on the left, House B, pays about $150 for the same time period. Over a three month time period, the two houses spent a combined total of $927 on energy bills, but House B paid $265 less than House A. House B paid 29% LESS in energy bills. So what’s the difference? We’ll give you a hint: it has very little to do with the inhabitants energy usage habits. 

House B was built with Energy Efficiency in Mind

House B worked with a standard builder, but insisted on using Affordable Comfort for insulation and energy efficiency measures.

In addition to some simple lighting changes (using LEDs instead of CFLs or traditional incandescent bulbs) Affordable Comfort used closed cell spray foam to air seal all of the top plates at the ceiling plane of House B. Then, R-49 cellulose was installed in the attic. The neighbor, House A, was stuck with the outdated code’s bare minimum of R-38. (Here’s an explanation of R-Value) House B was also fitted with a combination of closed cell and open cell insulation for the walls. House A was insulated with fiberglass, which is the cheapest and poorest performing insulation on the market. The walls were only insulated to R-11. Both homes have unfinished basements, but House B has insulation along the bandsill in the basement, while House A was insulated using fiberglass batt, which is totally useless for this application.These extra insulation measures left House B with a great Thermal Envelope, sealing conditioned air in, and keeping the house cool all summer long.

Meanwhile, over in House A, the summer was spent cranking the AC, trying to cool the front two bedrooms, which the owners claimed were hotter and more difficult to cool than the rest of the home. These two rooms are on the front of the house, furthest away from the air conditioner/furnace, which means conditioned air has a long way to travel. The path includes multiple turns, which causes a major loss of  energy and temperature along the journey. The air coming from the register this summer was not as cool and also suffered a loss of pressure. The extra sun beaming through the bedroom windows combined with the warm, low pressure air coming through the vents made the bedrooms incredibly difficult to keep cool.

Over the entire summer, House A paid a total of $510 in energy bills while still dealing with rooms that were not quite cool enough. House B paid only $300 and didn’t have any cooling issues.

Let's take a look at the difference in energy usage: 

House A:

 

 

House B:

 

So what happened with House A?

The owners of House A assumed that since they were getting a freshly built home, that it would be energy efficient. This is a common misconception. The truth is, builders are not insulation or energy efficiency experts. They operate off outdated building codes and only do the bare minimum. Builders worry about how the house looks, not how it works. 

Builders often have subcontracts with other professionals that do things such as provide/install HVAC equipment, windows, plumbing, etc. When the owner of House B tried to take energy efficiency a step further and choose their own Energy Star rated HVAC equipment and have Affordable Comfort install windows, the builder refused, saying that she had to use her subcontractors. House A was never offered any insulation or HVAC upgrades or options either.

The owners of House A decided to build their own home to fit their personal needs. They chose the area for the good school districts for their children, and assumed the builder would provide top quality insulation and energy efficiency measures. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what they got. While House A and B look very similar, it’s clear that one home is more comfortable and more cost effective.

Talk to your builder, or talk to us.

If you are planning on building a new home, talk to your builder and insist upon energy efficiency measures. Not only will building smart save you money and make your home more comfortable, it will lessen your carbon footprint.

If you have an existing home, it’s not too late to make your home efficient! Give us a call at (314) 884-0092 or email us at info@affordablecomfort.biz and we will walk you through your options. You can also check out some of our great DIY Articles!

How to Keep Your Energy Bills Lower in the Summer

DIY Winter Repairs for a More Efficient Home

 

 

 

 


May062015

Hot House in the Summer? Here's Why!

Published by Rease at 12:49 PM under Blog

 

We get a lot of calls during the summer months from people who are having comfort issues in their home. They complain that certain parts of the home are warmer than others. Many times we hear stories of homes where people cannot inhabit certain parts of their house due to the unbearable temperatures. We also hear that they set their thermostats at 70 or 72 degrees and the house never cools below 78 or 80; forcing the air conditioner to run continuously. So even with a hot home, these home owners are still receiving extra high  bills.

 
We find most of these problems are occurring in homes that are 1 1/2 stories or 2 stories. The second floor is usually the culprit. They often tell us that the inside temperature rises as much as 10 degrees from the first to the second floors.
 

Here are a few of the things we check:

 
Roof
  • What is the color of the roof? Darker colored roofs tend to radiate more heat. 
  • Is there any shading benefit from shade trees?
  • Is the roof is properly ventilated?
Attic (Including side attics)
  • What kind of insulation and how much?
  • Has the attic been air sealed?
 
The solutions usually include air sealing measures in the attic spaces, additional insulation and additional ventilation. Installation of Solar powered attic ventilators are trending well with homeowners that are having comfort issues upstairs.  
 

Don't spend the summer sweating indoors

If your home is constantly hot no matter how high you crank your air conditioner, your home is not running efficiently. If you don't address these problems, you'll spend the summer avoiding particularly hot areas of your home, sweating through the night, and paying extremely high energy bills. 
 
Give us a call and let us make a plan to make your home more comfortable and more efficient.
Affordable Comfort of Missouri and Illinois
(314) 209-8700

 


Mar242014

How Adding Insulation Can Save You Money

Published by Rease at 11:17 AM under Blog

Affordable Comfort is in the insulation business, but we are also very passionate about energy efficiency. While calls from unhappy homeowners needing more insulation may make our accountant happy, the cost to the environment weighs heavily upon us. We strive to educate the public about energy efficiency in hopes of preventing more inefficient homes from costing homeowners a fortune in energy bills and leaving massive carbon footprints.

 

We recently visited a brand new home in the St. Louis area. The amount of work this home needed was simply unacceptable considering it was just built.  We’d like to discuss some important things that came up during this house inspection as well as a few others.

 

Just because your home meets the code doesn’t mean it will be comfortable

 

 

 

 

Current codes are outdated. Most builders will only meet the absolute bare minimum, which, in our professional opinion, is simply not enough. For example, code states that when windows and doors account for less than 8% of the total wall area of your home, then the R-Value for attic insulation required to meet code would be R-30. While that may meet code, in the St. Louis Area the EnergyStar recommended R-Value for optimal energy efficiency is actually between R-38 and R-60.

 

Air sealing makes a huge difference

Even if your home has a good amount of insulation, unwanted airflow could lessen the effectiveness of that insulation.  A Blower Door Test allows us to quantify the number of air changes within a house.  EnergyStar standards are 6-9 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals. The home we worked on recently was brand new and had 13 air changes. This proves that the builder/contractor did nothing to air seal the home before installing insulation. This home will most likely stand for another 50-100 years and be sucking up much more energy than it should.

 

Insist that your builder go over your options

You do not have to allow contractors to do what they think is best. Insist that they go over your options for insulation and air sealing measures. Educate yourself so that you know the difference between “up to code” and “up to energy efficiency standards.”  Until the codes catch up to efficiency standards, it is up to the homeowners and builders to work together to build homes that will be comfortable and not drain too heavily on the environment.

 

Building smart has a net zero increase in cost

You may think that more insulation and more air sealing will end up costing you more out of pocket, but this is simply not true.  Let’s say you are building a house with a total home loan of $250,000. The initial costs of the additional insulation and air sealing measures will cost more, but you will be able to reduce the size of your HVAC equipment because the home will be much easier to heat and cool. If you add in LED lighting and EnergyStar rated appliances you may end up paying $50-$75 more per month on your mortgage, but your utility payments will be cut in half. So, in the end, you will actually be saving money each month and your home will be exponentially more comfortable.

 

We are always happy to answer your questions about energy efficiency. Give us a call or send us an email anytime.

 


Jan152014

Know Your Options for Insulation for New Construction

Published by Rease at 11:37 AM under Blog

If you are building a new home, it is very important to be aware of all your options for insulation before construction begins. Many people make the mistake of assuming their builders will know what is best, but this is rarely the case. Insulation and home construction are two different skill sets. Consider the fact that your builder may construct the walls, but he contracts electricians for the wiring and plumbers for the plumbing. Shouldn’t your new home’s insulation be completed by an expert in the field of insulation?

Builders are not Insulation Experts

Builders have taken on a DIY attitude when it comes to insulation. Fiberglass batt insulation (which most people know as the pink fluffy stuff) can be thrown up by basically anybody. Builders tend to take it upon themselves to purchase the bare minimum of this cheap and easy-to-install material and do not insulate pass the out-of-date building code minimums. The problem with this is that fiberglass insulation is not the best choice for every application in the home, and even when used in the proper areas (walls), if the insulation is not installed properly, your energy bills will suffer.

Cheap insulation does not save you money in the long run

No matter how fancy your new home is or how robust your heating and cooling system is, an under-insulated home will still be drafty in the winter and hot in the summer. All that money you saved on buying that budget insulation for your new home will be quickly eaten away by your high energy bills.

Consider your carbon footprint

Some builders will argue that the average home owner will only stay in a home for 7 years, meaning the money spent on better insulation will not necessarily be paid back through energy bill savings. This line of thinking is selfish in the terms of our planet. Why build a home that will leave a larger carbon footprint simply for the sake of keeping your initial construction budget low? The home you build today may very well still be standing 100 years from now; should the environment continue to suffer for the sake of saving an arguably small amount of money?

Our job is to educate everyone about the options

Most homeowners are not even given options when it comes to the type or quantity of insulation in their homes. We consider it our job to help educate people about the options available. We also hope to work more closely with builders to encourage them to show homeowners side-by-side comparisons of the benefits of effectiveness of each type of insulation. Homeowners should not have to settle for whatever the builder is capable of installing when experts such as ourselves are well-prepared to explain the options and get the job done properly.

 

 

 


Mar252013

Installing Insulation: When to Update and How to Do it

Published by Rease at 5:51 PM under Blog

Much like every other part of your home, insulation needs an occasional update. All types of insulation hold their original R-Value for about 15 years. Remember, R-Value is a measurement of thermal resistance or heat transfer. The higher R-value a building has, the more resistant it will be to heat flow.
 
Insulation will maintain its R-Value for around 15 years as long as it was properly installed. That means that insulation installed at 10" will sink down to around 6" after those 15 years. If the contractors cheated a bit, the R-Value will have sunk even lower.
 
 

How Do Contractors Cheat?

Some contractors may fluff up the insulation more than it should be, which makes the attic look nice and full, for a short period of time. However, within a few weeks, the fluffed-up insulation will settle down quite a bit, leaving you with significantly less insulation than you need. This little trick saves the contractors money on material costs, while you get charged for the full amount. You can check on your attic a few weeks after installing insulation, but chances are you wouldn't even know what to look for. It's best to use a contractor you trust.

How will diminished R-Value affect the efficiency of my home? 

Insulation that has settled will still have some R-Value, but the lower the R-Value, the less efficient your insulation will be. Updating your insulation will help keep your heat in during the winter and your cool air in during the summer without making your heating and cooling systems work overtime, which will cost you big time on your energy bills.

Can I just add more insulation on top of what I already have?

While you can simply top off your insulation to get back up to the proper R-Value, it is not the recommended route. The downside of using this technique is that attics have a limited amount of space, which limit the capacity for insulation. Leaving the old insulation in will limit your ability to get to a higher R-Value. Another downside is that the old insulation will be dirty. This dirt can be brought into the house, polluting the air in your home.
 

What's the best solution?

 The most effective solution would be our Hybrid System. This system uses a combination of spray foam (which will never settle) and cellulose. This system will last for 25 years or more. If the Hybrid System is not for you, you will need to remove your old insulation and install new insulation every 15 years.

 


Oct092012

What is Spray Foam?

Published by Rease at 5:14 PM under Blog

Many people have begun to hear the word spray foam as a buzzword in the insulation industry. This high-quality insulation is great for many applications and in some cases can be very cost effective. However, it's important to know what you are buying and in which situations this high-performance insulation makes sense.
 
 

What is Spray Foam?

 

This polyurethane foam is an expanding substance. It sprays on thin and expands to create a barrier. Open cell foam will expand more than closed cell, but that does not necessarily mean one is better than the other.
 
Closed cell foam only expands a little bit, but it creates an airtight barrier. It acts as an air barrier, thermal insulator, and moisture boundary. This type of spray foam is great for ceilings, but not for roofs. When used for roofs, it can trap moisture from leaks and condensate, which will lead to mold growth.
 
Open cell foam expands much more than closed cell because it is not airtight. The open cell foam allows air and moisture to travel through it, making this foam ideal for attic or roof decking. Instead of trapping the moisture like a closed cell foam would, this type of foam allows the moisture to travel through and dissipate, preventing rotting.
 

When Should Spray Foam Be Used?

 
Spray foam is an expensive material, so you certainly do not want to spend money on it unless you are going to see a return on your investment. Spray foam is great for new construction, or modifying homes in areas such as the ceiling, attic, or roof. Due to the high cost of the material, it is best to combine the foam with another type of insulation. Affordable Comfort created a Hybrid System that uses a small amount of spray foam paired with Cellulose insulation. This system allows you to get the high performance benefits of the foam without breaking the bank. If you were to insulate your entire home in spray foam, the cost would be too high to ever see a return on your large investment.
 

When Shouldn't Spray Foam Be Used?

 
Spray foam should not be used exclusively to insulate an entire home, due to the aforementioned high cost issues. You also wouldn't want to add spray foam directly on top of existing insulation.
 
Overall, spray foam is an excellent choice for insulating a structure. It is just important to know when and how to use it, as well as how much should be used in order to save money without sacrificing results. We here at Affordable Comfort are more than happy to walk you through the process.

 

 


Sep042012

What is Spray Foam Insulation?

Published by Rease at 4:53 PM under Blog

We here at Affordable Comfortable offer very high quality BASF Spraytite 178 series spray foam. You may be wondering exactly what spray foam insulation is and what the benefits are - allow us to explain!

 

 

The polyurethane foam is an expanding substance. It sprays on thin and expands to create an airtight barrier, which not only insulates your home, but also acts as a pest barrier. This type of foam is a 2-part foam, meaning two ingredients are sprayed together to create a chemical reaction that causes the insulation to expand and seal tightly.

 

What makes spray foam different from other insulation types?

 Spray foam is an incredibly high-performance insulation with an R-value of 6.7 per inch. To give you some context, the next best insulation material, cellulose, has an R-value of 3.8 per inch. The combination of these two insulations makes our hybrid system both affordable and effective. If we were to use only spray foam to achieve the desired R-value, the cost would be significantly more, and would take several more years to pay itself off. The hybrid system, on the other hand, involves a base coat of the high-performance spray foam, which is then topped off with the cellulose insulation. This system gives you the quality materials you need to take care of your home without digging too deeply into your pockets. On average, customers pay back their investment through utility bills savings within 2 years.

 Is it safe?

Spray foam is very safe for you and the environment. The blowing agent used with spray foam is certified to have zero ozone depleting qualities. This insulation also blocks moisture, which protects your home from dangerous mold growth. The material itself is non-fibrous, so it won't come apart and irritate your skin like the old fiberglass you might already have in your home.

Another added bonus you get with spray foam is that it actually asks as a structural enhancement for your home. Once the foam dries, it hardens and strengthens the beams in your home, which can help protect from storm damage.

Spray foam can be used in a variety of spaces within your home such as walls (during new construction), band sills, floors/crawlspaces, foundation walls, craw space walls, attic floors, and knee walls in the attic. It's also great for filling in odd spaces where air may be leaking. Spray foam is a superior insulation that can protect and enhance your home, while still holding up to our high standards for environmentally safe materials as it causes no damage to the ozone layer. Plus, it eventually pay for itself in utility bills savings! It's win-win all around.

 

 


Aug132012

What is R Value?

Published by Rease at 4:30 PM under Blog

 The term “R value” gets thrown around a lot when discussing construction, building materials, heating and cooling systems, and insulation. Everyone loves to tell you about their R Value, but if you don’t know what it means, what good is that information to you? Allow us to explain.

 

 

Quick definition

 
R value is a measurement of thermal resistance or heat transfer. The higher R value a building has, the more resistant it will be to heat flow. Building materials such as metal or glass have a low R value, while insulation has a much higher value.
 

Why should I be concerned about R Value?

 
As the definition states, the higher R value your home has, the more resistant it is to heat flow. Basically, a higher R value means better temperature regulation in your home and thus lower utility bills. Sadly, many builders only meet the bare minimum, so while they may try to impress you by throwing out arbitrary numbers, it’s important to recognize the difference between “standard procedure” R value and optimal R value.
 

How is R Value calculated?

 
R value is calculated based on the material. For insulation, the calculations are as follows:
 
Cellulose: 3.5 per inch
Fiberglass: 2.8 per inch
Rockwool: 3.2 per inch
Vermicullite: 2.7 per inch.
 
So, if you have 10 inches of fiberglass, you have an R value of 28.
 
Cellulose:
 

 

Fiberglass:                     

                                                                                                     

 

So what’s a good R value?

 
The “bare minimum” R value is R 38. However, based on our experience, we have found that most homes are only working with R 15. Sadly, neither of these values are what would be considered optimal. The optimal value varies by location, but in the St. Louis area, the recommended R value for optimal performance is between R45 and R60.
 
Chances are your home was built with the bare minimum and has since deteriorated down to R15 or lower. By bringing your R value up to optimal performance standards, you will be enhancing your home’s ability to regulate temperature, which means much lower utility bills and a more comfortable home.
 
Still not sure? Take a look at our online quote calculator and get a quote within 5 minutes. No obligation, just information!

 

 

 


Aug092012

Is Do-It-Yourself Attic Insulation a Good Idea?

Published by Rease at 4:21 PM under Blog

 

If you’ve decided to tackle your attic insulation issues to save money on your heating and cooling costs, you’re on the right track. Attics are very connected to your home and are often to blame for excess energy loss that ends up costing you more money on your utility bill.

Should I try DIY Attic Insulation or hire a professional?

There are plenty of people out there who are perfectly capable of fixing things around the house. When it comes to repairing a broken door hinge or fixing a leaky faucet, there is nothing wrong with doing it yourself. However, when the leak you are fixing is related you’re your insulation, the process can become a little more complicated. You’ll need to do an energy audit to figure out just how efficient or inefficient your current insulation installation is, check all your window and door seals, and perhaps even investigate the possibility of your insulation pumping polluted air into your home.
 

Tricky for you, business as usual for us

 

All of those steps can be difficult and a bit daunting for even the most seasoned do-it-yourselfers, but we here at Affordable Comfort are experienced experts. We’ve been in this business since 1993. We know exactly where to look and what to look for when it comes to the analysis process of installing attic insulation. We can streamline the process and have your new insulation installed in as little as one day. That’s right, one day and you’ll be on your way to lower utility costs, a greener home, and cleaner air.

 

What about the costs?

 If you are worried about the cost of hiring a professional to take care of your insulation woes, we can help. You can use our Online Audit Calculator and get a dollar amount within minutes. All you need to do is answer a few questions and you’ll have your quote without having to deal with any pushy salesmen. If you decide to go forward with your insulation installation, all you have to do is submit your quote to us at the end of the calculation and we’ll get in touch with you right away. So why go through the hassle of trying to do it yourself when we can make it so easy? Get your quick quote right now!