This house suffered from inadequate ventilation in some rooms, which was so noticeable during the winter months that the air conditioner was often used to reduce humidity and the sense of "stuffiness." A whole-house heat-recovery ventilation system was added, with a priority on ventilating these stuffy rooms, to very good effect.
insulate foundation wall
Commonly houses are built without any insulation in their foundation walls -- even if the above-ground walls are insulated. This is a problem in the wintertime because heat can escape from the basement or crawl space into the surrounding air and soil. In the summertime, uninsulated foundation walls actually help to cool the house, but the amount they help is dwarfed by the amount they cost in the wintertime.
Ideally the place for foundation insulation is on the outside of the wall, so that the concrete of the wall serves as "thermal mass" to help maintain a constant temperature in the home. However, it is usually not practical to insulate the outside of the foundation once a house is built, so we insulate on the inside instead. Most commonly solid foam insulation is attached to the inside of the concrete walls down to the frost line, about 3 feet below ground level. See A Buyers' Guide to Green Insulation.
When we insulate the walls of a crawl space with a dirt floor, we usually take the opportunity to seal the floor with a plastic sheet to keep moisture from the ground from entering the house. This plastic should meet ASTM E-1745 standards for vapor barriers -- the cheap plastic available hardware stores is liable to puncture and/or degrade over time. The plastic covers the entire dirt floor and goes up the wall to ground level, where it is overlapped by the insulation.
A few of the insulation contractors in southeast Kansas:
- A Heating & Air Company, Chanute/Iola, 620-364-6028 pookie66783 [at] yahoo [dot] com
- All Things Exterior, Beloit, 785-738-2434 troy [at] directwholesaleinc [dot] com
- Brown Enviro-Control, Beloit, 785-243-3704 brbrown [at] nckcn [dot] com
- Coaltrain Insulation, Wamego, 785-456-4301 coaltrain [at] wamego [dot] net
- Faith Construction Services, Topeka, 785-266-3030 Brent [at] Faithroofingcompany [dot] com
- JWK Construction, Topeka, 785-331-5349 jwkconstruction [at] cox [dot] net
- Lighthouse Contracting, Topeka, 785-783-7884 lighthouse [dot] contracting [at] ymail [dot] com
- Miller & Heiman Construction, Seneca/Sebetha, 785-336-3793 CDDMILLER [at] yahoo [dot] com
- Nance Construction, Galesburg, 620-421-2571 bnance1945 [at] yahoo [dot] com
- Revolution Building Services, Topeka, 785-380-1162 R [dot] buildingservices [at] gmail [dot] com
- Superior Builders, Iola/Chanute, 620-365-6684 superiorbuilders93 [at] yahoo [dot] com
- Sutterby Insulation, Iola/Chanute, 620-363-2361 sssutterby [at] yahoo [dot] com
This house was very recently renovated but nonetheless leaked 50% more air than necessary. Most of the air leakage was from the whole-house fan. There was also a very leaky return air duct that passed through an uninsulated crawl space on its way to the heat pump.
We recommended a heat pump water heater to replace both the older gas water heater and the dehumidifier in the equipment room.
We discovered a patch of black mold in the basement of this house, and we conferred with the owner before running the blower door test, since the blower has the potential to spread the mold. We ultimately decided to go ahead with the test because there were no visible air leaks on the far side of the mold (and the lack of ventilation in this location likely contributed to mold growth, since mold likes stagnant air), so the benefits of the test outweighed the risks on this occasion.
This house was in relatively poor condition compared to what we usually see. There were numerous significant problems, ranging from fire hazards (cumbustible insulation in the electrical boxes -- see photo) to mold hazards (rotting floor boards in the mechanical closet -- see photo), to toxic gas (water heater producing more than 63x the safe amount of carbon monoxide), to biological hazards (squirrels living in the attic).
This house was built very airtight -- we had to recommend adding at least 85 cubic feet per minute of heat-recovery ventilation. Humidity had become an issue in the basement, as evidenced by a dehumidifier unable to keep up. We recommended they consider a heat-pump water heater.
This small, two-bedroom house was very well built -- except for the parts that weren't. The windows in the lofted bedrooms were particularly leaky. The water heater and furnace were all the way at one end of the house, on an exterior wall. The plumbing and ducts ran through the unheated, vented crawl space. In the course of our inspection we also found the dryer vent entirely clogged with lint.
The owners of this house had only recently moved in, after renting it to others. The tenants had used the thermostat very frugally so that the heating bills were unusually low and the computer model could not be made to match accurately.
We found a gas leak at the end of an old disconnected pipe where an appliance had been. We recommended removing and recycling the pipe, capping off the junction.
This manufactured house had two wall furnaces, one of which had been replaced just months before we arrived. Since these wall furnaces are natural draft appliances (using the air from the room to draw exhaust up the flue pipe), whenever they are not in use their flue pipes leak air from the outdoors. We recommended replacing the older of the two furnaces and one of the window air conditioners with a mini-split heat pump so that the flue pipe could be permanently sealed.
We recommended a tankless water heater since the house had only one bathroom and one resident.
On the day we audited this house, the air conditioner was being serviced after being out of commission for several days. The family (including three children and an elderly grandmother) had sought refuge from the summer heat by sleeping in the partly-finished basement. Both the water heater and furnace (in the unfinished part of the basement) produced unsafe levels of carbon monoxide during our tests. Fortunately the exhaust vented out the flue pipes correctly, so tragedy was averted!
This rental home had a humid basement and no ventilation in the bathrooms or kitchen, and it was 63% too airtight to meet guidelines for air quality. We recommended adding a heat-recovery ventilator to improve the air quality and reduce the possibility of mold growth.