Archive for the ‘air infiltration’ category

Energy Efficiency Improvements – Where to Start?

August 21st, 2010


I have some funds to do energy efficiency improvements to my old (1950’s) home, but I don’t know where to start. The home is well maintained, but has had no energy improvements. It seems that every contractor has the best product, and there are many claims about huge energy savings. The government rebates and tax credits just seem to complicate the issue. Where do I start?


There is no simple answer. I can outline where to logically start, but I think your home deserves an evaluation and some scientific testing before you start spending.

I suggest you contact Focus on Energy. Their goal is to provide information, resources and financial incentives to help improve energy efficiency in Wisconsin. The state program is well known throughout the country.

I used the Focus on Energy program called “Wisconsin Energy Star Home Program” when I built a new home. They gave advice on construction details, and worked with the builder on energy efficiency. The results were fantastic.

For existing homes like yours, they offer a service to scientifically evaluate your home and the systems in your home at a very reasonable price. Their consultants can test for leaks, review your equipment, and use a computer model to identify the best areas to invest.

Overall, you should look at the easy energy improvements and your old equipment. If you have a furnace that is over 25 years old, put that at the top of the list. If the attic insulation has never been improved over the original three to six inches, that should be high on the list as well. Insulating the top of the basement wall, using low-flow plumbing fixtures, fluorescent lamps, and a set-back thermostat are simple changes with a great payback.

An evaluation by the Focus on Energy is the best first step. They also offer a new interactive website at Ask Focus on Energy. They will answer your questions and refer you to a large database of answers. If you have a unique question, one of the experts can respond.

Wood Fireplace Sucks The Heat Out

February 9th, 2010

How do you make an old wood fireplace energy efficient and prevent heat-loss? Can you use a wood stove insert in the existing fireplace? I have a half-cord of wood remaining, but hardly use the fireplace since it’s so inefficient and sucks the heat out of the room.


You got it, a masonry, wood-burning fireplace is only good for wasting heat up the chimney. While the ambiance is great, an old wood burner will not help heat your home.

A wood burning insert will certainly improve the situation and provide some heat. But, you need a special installation/liner and you also need to routinely clean the flue. The combustion gas moves up the flue at a much lower temperature, and more deposits form.

Your best bet is a gas-fired, sealed insert that is vented with two pipes up the old chimney. This has an air intake and sealed combustion so it does not draw any air from your home. It is a true heating appliance. They look great too.

Sealing Space Between Kitchen Cabinets

January 16th, 2010


My brother-in-law and I installed new kitchen cabinets last spring. Everything turned out great, except for one oversight. A few wall cabinets have dead space in between them, and they are open at the bottom. It’s allowing outside air to come through the bottom of the cabinets. What kind of insulation might you recommend to fill these cavities? Would fiberglass be safe to use?



I assume you do not have solid drywall at the top of the cabinets to the attic and this is allowing air movement. You can seal the gap with anything that’s solid – drywall, wood, metal, or plastic. Fiberglass or insulation will not stop air movement.

You should also have a complete air seal from the heated space to the attic. In fact, you must have an air seal to prevent heat loss and moisture damage into the attic.