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Old 09-25-2009, 02:16 PM   #1
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Energy loss due to multiple problems

My family and I live in a 40 year old house that sits on a slope. The front yard slopes down to the front of the house and the back yard slopes away from the back of the house. We've had leakage issues in our basement in the past. We are in the process of installing a french drain. Actually one half of the drain is complete and is working perfectly. I would now like to address the issue of energy loss. It is not uncommon to have a $700 power bill during the month of August. My husband bought this house from family when he was in his late 20's. I moved in when we got married and have since then been trying to find ways to decrease our energy bills. I know we need a new AC unit. We had it serviced two months ago and additionally, had a new insulated garage door installed. Both have decreased our power bill by $20 a month. I personally thought it would do more, but I know we have other issues to address, too.

Our basement was originally just a basic cinder-block basement. At some point before my husband bought it, someone decided to put up paneling and install a drop-celing and call half of it a game room. Unfortunately, there is no insulation between the paneling and the block wall. In "completing" the basement, they installed three registers downstairs. So we now heat and cool the noninsulated basement.

While we were installing the french drain and we were digging up close to the bricks in the front of the house, I felt a cold draft. Some of the mortar was missing between the bricks and apparently, our air conditioning is escaping through the holes in the bricks. There are several of these holes. Now, we had already gone through and wrapped all of the duct work and made sure there aren't any drafts from the duct work. I can only guess that it is the air from the room itself (the game room) coming through the walls. We live in the south, so the temp difference inside vs. outside is enough to create a draft, I guess. I also noticed that along the bottom of the wall outside, it seems there are holes drilled in the bricks every couple of feet or so (I suppose to let the bricks breathe?) Air is also coming out of those holes.

Is it okay to plug up these holes and would that solve the problem? Or, is this something we need to address on the inside of the house? If so, is there anything we can do to get away with not having to take down the paneling? I guess, what is the cheapest way? Then, what is the easiest? And finally, what is the best way to address this? We've also sealed all of the windows and doors, but we don't have double-pane windows yet.

My husband has a form of early dementia, so I am left to figure this out by myself. Our funds are limited, so I need lots of info so that I don't spend money we don't have. My dad owned a residential construction business and I grew up helping him build houses, but I am at a loss when it comes to fixing one that is already built. Can anyone help?


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Old 09-25-2009, 04:08 PM   #2
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I would call the local utility to see if they conduct energy audits for their customers. This way you can get a complete detailed list of the areas that need attention. If the local utility doesn't do it, you might be able to contact a local business that can do it for a price.


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Old 09-25-2009, 04:17 PM   #3
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That's a great idea. Thanks!
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Old 09-26-2009, 04:32 PM   #4
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"We live in the South." What part please? I live in S.GA. so basements are not common here (hardly any) as they are in N.Ga. I have sisters in the Atlanta area, my Bro-in-law is a developer so I see multi-level homes being built up there. On a few homes, depending on the General Contractor, I see insulation placed on the exterior of basement walls, and french drains added as the home is built. On some homes in this area it seems that a spray-on coating of a tar-like substance is all they get. The insulation I have seen installed on exterior walls has always had mold problems, due (IMO) to not addressing the moisture problem beforehand. The mortar missing between bricks at a low level of the bricks and spaced evenly will be "weep holes". This is to let the interior of the brick wall "breathe" to prevent moisture build-up. You should not be feeling conditioned air from within the house. If it's just random mortar missing it will be worth looking into re-pointing these areas. Holes drilled in the mortar between the bricks (unusual for drilling into the bricks) may be for termite treatment. These should have been plugged by the termite treatment company, if that is what they are. Before investing in double-pane windows, ask around to see if storm windows work good in your area. The are a "cost effective" alternative to having windows replaced with double-pane, and they do work for keeping wind drafts out and add some thermal barrier. As far as the cheapest, easiest, or best way to address your problem? Without more details it's hard to answer that one via this forum. Good Luck, David
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