After putting on my booties & stepping into your house, and after the niceties are handled, my first order of business is typically to ask a few questions. If warranted, I’ll say, “Take me to the most uncomfortable room in the house”.
WHY do I take charge like this? Don’t most folks just call us, and say, “I need some more insulation?”
Yes, they do. And most every other company will oblige them, and try to make the sale. And be gone in 20 minutes, after slapping the Big Red Staples button: “THAT WAS EASY!”
Often, an insulation upgrade, by itself, helps. But insulation isn’t always the only reason you are uncomfortably warm or cold in the family room, or why your AC vents drip water, or why condensation is running down your walls, or why you smell your crawlspace, or why you have dark mold-looking stains, etc, etc, etc.
Quick Science Lesson
Insulation is used to slow the flow of heat. In summer, it slows heat gain. In winter, it slows heat loss. Some insulation products are better than others. Those that earn their R-Value by blocking airflow, in my opinion – are the very best (in residential homes). This is one reason why Bird only installs spray foam insulation and cellulose insulation… and no fiberglass insulation.
On Bob’s Belt
My everyday tools are:
- Laser Distance Measurer.
- Handheld Infrared Camera
- 2nd Flashlight on belt, for homeowner’s use.
- Laser Thermometer, with pointer
- Handheld Hygrometer (and calculates dewpoint)
- Wood Moisture Content Meter
- My Smartphone tools:
- Pitch Gauge
- Local Weather
Bob is So Nosey!
When I get to the uncomfortable room, what am I looking for? Lots of things… and I make comments as I evaluate… and ask LOTS of questions!
- Orientation of the outside walls.
- How much glass is in the outside walls, and what type of windows (and coverings) are there?
- Is there heated space above and below the room?
- Where is the HVAC Supply vent?
- Where is the HVAC Return vent, (if it has one)?
- What is the primary use for this room?
- Is the room more uncomfortable in the summer or winter, morning or evening?
- Have any other professionals discussed this issue with you? What did they say?
- Where’s the thermostat located, relative to this room?
I’ll often perform two or three quick tests while in that room:
- Airflow temperature at the HVAC Supply vent(s) and Return vent.
- Level of indoor humidity in the room.
- Surface temperatures of the walls, ceiling, and floor.
With this exercise completed for each uncomfortable room / zone, I head to the attic and (when needed) the crawlspace or basement, for more evaluations.
What am I looking at in the attic or crawlspace?
- Type of insulation, quality of installation, and how much is there. Get measurements. Assign an “effective R value”.
- Design of HVAC system(s), including a careful evaluation of the air-duct system, especially for the design & location, and quality of air-duct installation, (airflow efficiency) as it relates to the uncomfortable rooms / zones. Get measurements.
- Amount of ventilation, and type.
- Height of roof, and pitch (slope). Get measurements.
- Is there a vapor barrier, and what shape is it in? (Crawlspaces)
- Does the crawlspace have bulk-water intrusion?
- And more …
My quick walk-around outside the house will tell me:
- Color of shingle (lighter or darker?). Color of house.
- Amount of shade on the house, and during what periods of the day.
- Location of any bulk water intrusion that may be an issue under the house.
- General condition of outside compressor(s): I’ll get size (capacity) from the i.d. plate (2 tons, 2.5 tons, or 3 tons, etc), if airflow is blocked by vegetation or structure, and more.
NOW, I’ve got plenty of initial information to help me arrive at anINFORMED, WISE DECISION as to the “what’s wrong” and “why” for this house, as it relates to a comfort issue. If not, I suggest our fee-based diagnostic tests, (only necessary for about 20% of our clients), because this is taking more time and expertise than I have on a free visit.
Should we Change Our Name?
In a large percentage of my quotes, I am recommending a mixed “package” of services. These are services that address the issues that my homeowner said are important to them, after our “orientation & follow-up chat” while I was on site.
As a Solution-Driven contractor, a typical “job” for the Bird Pros could include HVAC services, Insulation, Testing, and Airsealing!
- Remove the old attic insulation.
- Thoroughly airseal the attic floor, to isolate the attic environment from the living space.
- Install one or two new dedicated RETURN HVAC ducts with vents.
- Resize & redesign one, a few, or all SUPPLY HVAC ducts.
- Change the HVAC filter!
- Replace a few HVAC vent covers with high-velocity grills.
- Before & After Airflow Tests.
- Upgrade the kneewall insulation.
- Install ducts on the bath exhaust fans!
- Block the floor joist bays under a kneewall.
- Install cellulose insulation to R-50.
- Install our insulated Attic Stair Cozy.
- Install our insulated Shutter Seal Whole-House Fan Cozy.
That was the BIRD Proposal, vs their Free Estimate: “Add R-30 attic insulation…. $1200.00”
Obviously, we can’t perform that job for $1200. But, you spent $1200, and aren’t comfortable yet.
Heart Surgeons & Army Rangers
We’re different, for only one reason: To Provide You with a Solution. If you only want “Some more attic insulation”, you’re better off with a blow-and-go contractor, with one tool on his belt.
You don’t need a Heart Surgeon to treat your sore throat. You don’t need a decorated Army Ranger as a security guard for your Bingo Night.
But, when you have heating and cooling issues, and indoor air quality issues, it may take more than, “Just add some insulation” or “Put a plastic vapor barrier under the house”.
It’s hard to arrive at the solution when you haven’t identified the sources and causes of the problems.Evaluation, or Free Estimate. You pick. What do you need?