These 3 Upgrades will get Most Homes Very Comfortable

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If you live in Georgia, in a typical home, these 3 upgrades should get your home very comfortable.

After 20+ years of focusing on getting existing homes comfortable and more efficient to heat and cool, there are three measures that I repeat, over and over – to great success.
And for those stubbornly uncomfortable 2nd floors (where the bedrooms are located), I’ve added a 4th “Bonus Measure” we use to solve those.

I can hear some of my competitors now, “Bob’s about to give up the family success secret!” I’m not worried. They won’t install cellulose with a water sleeve and water pump, and they also don’t have Beau & Chris Bird – my two sons overseeing the jobsite.

And I believe many insulation Home Performance companies are missing it at the core: a focus on being Solution Driven, rather than Product Driven. That’s what is prone to happen with commission-driven sales people riding around, giving away “free estimates”. What a fallacy!

It can be done – but at great price. We did it for 18 years, because “that’s what everyone else is doing”. Riding all over 19 counties, giving away free estimates. Who really believes it’s free? All of that overhead is built into the pricing… just like theft is built into Walmart’s pricing.

Here are my three most commonly recommended upgrades, based on the services that we provide to homeowners.

Upgrade #1: Get a Return-Air Vent in Every Room

In far too many homes, I find deficient return air flow. Simply put, you cannot have too much return air flow. Installing additional return air vents has done more to get uncomfortable zones and rooms more comfortable than anything else, assuming the insulation is adequate.

Basically, you want a return vent in every room that doesn’t create moisture. You don’t want a return air vent in bathrooms, nor kitchens.

If you have rooms, zones, or floors that aren’t consistent with the thermostat, check those rooms for return air vents.

And, here’s a tip: It’s a good idea that each return air vent is a dedicated duct attached to your unit. Exceptions are well designed, properly-sized trunk lines with properly sized branch ducts.

This process is called “Balancing Your Air Ducts”. It’s basic common sense, when you think about it. Most of us aren’t prone to think about our air ducts, the diameter of the ducts, where the vents are positioned in our home, etc.

Air in = Air out. If you have a shallow inhale, you’ll have a shallow exhale. Low performance.

Upgrade #2: Upgrade your Attic Insulation to R-50, using Bora Spray Cellulose Insulation
If you are serious about getting your home comfortable and in peak efficiency, you should forget about fiberglass insulation and focus either on spray foam or cellulose insulation.

There may be high-performance fiberglass insulation products, but I never see them in the houses I visit. Again, I write based on my 20+ years of experience in my Atlanta market. When you want high performance, think Spray Foam and Cellulose insulation.

For those homeowners who are wary of foam odors in their homes, and for those homeowners who have no HVAC systems in their attics, your answer is cellulose attic insulation. Specifically, I recommend & install all-borate cellulose attic insulation.

If you’re on a strict, tight budget, simply install the cellulose directly on top of the low-performance fiberglass or whatever is already in your attic. (After the attic is properly prepped for more insulation). Make sure to measure the depth of the mix of insulation. You need it to be at least 15” deep, when you’re finished. For example, if you have 6” of fiberglass insulation currently in your attic, you must add 9” of fresh cellulose insulation. In fact, you can add another inch of cellulose insulation to make-up for the fiberglass settling under the cellulose. This service is called our “ATTIC BUMP-UP” service.

I’d love to go into all the science of why this works so well, but you’d dose off in my blog post! Here’s a link to those articles where I discuss more of the science:
Click here!

If your budget allows, you must strongly consider completely cleaning out the current attic insulation and thoroughly air-sealing your attic floor. The benefit of air sealing the attic floor cannot be overstated. It will do more for your Indoor Air Quality than can be imagined. After prep, install your fresh cellulose insulation to R-50. That will be 15” thick. And get ready for a dramatically improved comfort level in your home, and dramatically improved Indoor Air Quality. This service is called our “ATTIC MAKEOVER” service. About 50% of our homeowners choose our Attic Makeover, and they are not disappointed with their investment!

Upgrade #3: Seal & Insulate Your Floor with Closed-Cell Foam Insulation
Is your home on a vented crawlspace? Spray foam insulation is THE quickest & most affordable way to get PERMANENT relief from the odors, moisture, bugs, and dampness, (and you hate so much), that are currently trespassing from your crawlspace into your home.

Here’s the deal: the fiberglass insulation currently tucked under your floors is acting as a huge moisture sponge. Additionally, it’s sagging like wet clothes on a clothesline – doing you little good as floor insulation because it’s not in complete contact with the floor. Bugs & rodents love to nest in it. It’s got to go.

Here’s your answer:
Remove the fiberglass floor insulation, bag it up, and haul it to the landfill.
Install Closed Cell, spray foam insulation. We only install “2-pound” foam insulation, which means it’s a true closed-cell foam. Here’s what “2-pound foam” means: if you took a 12” x 12” square cube of the foam and weighed it, it would weigh 2 pounds. It’s a high-density foam, compared to ½ pound open cell foam used in attics and walls.

Why is closed-cell foam important? Because it is a true moisture barrier. With 2” of closed-cell foam sprayed under your floor, you get these three benefits, from one application:
Moisture Barrier.
Air Barrier.
Thermal Barrier.

Talk about value! This is absolutely your best investment for your floor insulation.

Now, your home is completely isolated from that uncomfortable, unhealthy crawlspace! And it’s permanent! (And it solves squeaky floors too!) Tired of stubbornly high levels of humidity inside your home? This is part of your answer.

Bonus Upgrade: Seal & Insulate your Air Ducts with Low-Pressure Closed Cell Foam

For those of you with homes that have air ducts in the attic, you may have rooms that remain stubbornly uncomfortable. If your attic has R-50 cellulose insulation, and you’ve balanced those ducts, here’s what to consider next.

Seal & Improve the insulation on your air ducts. When we see air ducts lying on the attic floor, we always give our clients the option of “burying the ducts” beneath a cozy layer of high-performance cellulose insulation.

But if your air ducts are suspended across your attic, like powerlines criss crossing the attic, what can be done?

Just last week (it’s early November as I write this) I measured the surface temperature of a suspended air duct in the attic for Ms Homeowner. It was cool and damp outside, but that duct had a surface temperature of 93 degrees! The system hadn’t been used since the night – many hours before my afternoon appointment.

In summer conditions, I regularly measure surface temperatures of 100+ degrees on suspended air-ducts. It’s just common sense. You can’t get cold water from a warm hose, and you can’t get cold air from a warm duct!

As for air leakage in the average air duct system, Government statistics indicate that the average American home is losing between 20% to 40% of conditioned airflow from leaky ducts!

We spray your ducts with Low Pressure closed-cell spray foam insulation. This technique seals and insulates these fragile, vulnerable systems. We also spray the plenums (where the ducts attach to the furnace; notorious for high leakage)..

Now, you get almost instantly cold, and instantly warm air flow from your vents, and the airflow is cleaner because the once leaky ducts aren’t spewing unhealthy dust and other particles all through your house!

Some homeowners want all four upgrades at once. Most of our clients phase these upgrades over time. It’s your choice!

It’s not unusual for Savannah to answer the phone and I’ll hear her say something like, “Oh sure I remember you Mr ____, and congratulations on the purchase of your new home! Sure, we can fix that for you….”

Simply put, once you have lived in a comfortable home, with healthy Indoor Air Quality, you miss it when you move into a drafty, unhealthy, uncomfortable home. That’s why we get so many repeat clients, as they relocate around the metro Atlanta region.

Call these steps your Three Silver Bullets that Achieve Home Comfort!

Thanks for reading!
– Bob Bird

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