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Old 11-15-2008, 08:20 PM   #1
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Need Insulation Advice!!!

So I have a really drafty first floor in my 100 year old 3 story brick. In an effort to move the house into a greener pasture, I have been trying to make the house more efficient and air tight. I have recently put down a new hardwood floor, under which I laid roofing felt for a vapor barrier. I have also installed new windows all throughout the house (new double pane). It seems that my problem is that my unfinished basement (stone wall and concrete floor) which is really cold, and where my furnace and hot water heater are located, is sucking all the heat from the first floor. None of the duct work that is routed through the basement is sealed or insulated so the hot air has to pass through a cold basement before reaching my vents in the 1st floor. When i go into the basement with the furnace going it seems that the basement is nearly as warm as the 1st floor and there are no open vents down there. I can not find a spot where warm air is leaking into the basement so the only thing I can think of is the heat radiating off the duct work is warming the basement while cooling the first floor. I have thought about just wrapping the vents, floor joists and all in plastic as a second vapor barrier just to trap all the hot air against the sub floor. Is this a mistake? Keep in mind the budget is very tight and I am trying to keep my gas bill from killing me while also keeping baby feet warm. Please Help! I am desperate for warm floors!



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Old 11-15-2008, 09:16 PM   #2
Theres more then one way.
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Being heat rises, it seams like this would happen naturally (heating the subfloor, from what you explain about the temperature in the basement).

Personally i do not know about in closing everything with plastic, it might cause moister problems. But i would thinking if you wrapped the duck-work with the proper insulation that would help it retain heat and pass more of it to the main floor.

Just some suggestions/thoughts to think about.


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Old 11-15-2008, 10:23 PM   #3
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You can get insulation for pipes and the plenum that will cut down on heat loss. Easy to put on and will help some with your cold feet.

It might be worthwhile to look at your furnace and see if it is big enough to do the job. Or maybe the ducts are just undersized.

Many times there is more the the problem.

As was stated in iRobot, you have to ask the right questions. Time to look at the whole heating picture and see what you have.
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Old 11-16-2008, 07:10 AM   #4
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Recently I found the US Dept. of Energy website to contain useful information about home insulation. Also many other websites about insulation and so on that break it all down so the average guy can understand what is good and bad. Sorry I can't be of more help.
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Old 11-16-2008, 07:41 AM   #5
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My own home is similar to yours.
Last winter I noticed the same with a really warm basement and the first and second floor was cold by comparison.
I did two things. Sealed every joint in the forced air system with foil tape and then wrapped everything, including the return air ducts with Reflectix insulation and taped the foil seams too.
I have a central air system as well so I needed every sq inch to be sealed so I wouldn't have a moisture/condensate problem in the summer.

This year (now 28º) I have a real noticable difference throughout the house.

I should mention that I did a temp check last winter on the second floor registers Vs first floor.
It took 2 1/2 minutes for the 2nd floor heated air (at the register) to get up to temp compared to the 1st floor closest to the furnace. (obvious reasons, they're closer) But, by wrapping the ducts I got the second floor down to 15 seconds.
The time it took to warm-up the cold basement ductwork was robbing the heat from the air everywhere else in the house, especially the second floor.
No better time than right now to get-r-done and it isn't all that expensive to do. Just make sure you start with a clean, dry duct. I used a shop-vac and then wiped everything down. Worked on and off at it for 2 or 3 weeks until I finished.
I also sealed the heck out of the basement windows. No cold air movement at all. Yes the basement is at 62º right now and the house is at 68º. Hey, I don't go down there for anything anyway.
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Old 11-20-2008, 09:40 PM   #6
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Need insulation advice

Have you checked your attic insulation? In most houses built before the 1960's there was very little or no insulation. My house was built in the mid 70's and only has R-19 batts laying between the 2x4's. In Michigan it is suggested we have R-49. I was surprised to find out that I needed more insulation up there because the snow on my roof doesn't melt very fast and there are no patches of the roof where the snow melts first. But, I have a huge ice build-up on the roof every year.

I've been going up there every night this week to seal any gaps and spaces where the warm air flows up from the living space (it's actually a job that should take an afternoon, but I'm slow. Or as I call it, thorough). Now I'm trying to decide if I should do the blown-in insulation myself or hire it done. They say ignorance is bliss. Well, my ignorance of what was going on up there for 12.5 years may have been blissful, but now I'm wondering just how much money I've wasted. Plenty. Plus, I discovered the bathroom ceiling fan was venting into the batt of insulation that was laying on top of it. All this time I thought it was vented through the roof. I found a gap in the siding, which made it possible for bees to build 8 small hives and there was a Paper Wasp nest.

Check out what's going on in your attic. I was told that 40% of the heat from a house can be lost through the roof. My floors are always very cold in the winter and in the summer when the central air is on, the basement is freezing while the upstairs is way too warm.

Also, when your new windows were put in, were the gaps around the window frames spray foamed? I also took all of my outlet covers off and put in those little foam things to keep air from coming in that way. I could feel a draft from them as I was putting those things in. Good luck with your house. I hope you find the problem very soon.

If you get the Discovery Channel, there is a show called 'Holmes on Homes' that covers a lot of this kind of stuff and other common house problems. It's very thorough in explaining the right way to do things the first time. Right now it's on between 10:00 am and 11:00 am, M-F. My kids even like it.

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Old 11-21-2008, 06:51 AM   #7
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Wrapping all of it in plastic will probably create some moisture problems, particularly on the bottoms of the floor joists. Start by insulating the supply ducts, then the returns and finally between the floor joists. Just remember that when you insulate the ducts, you are cutting down the heat supplied to the basement, meaning that the overall temperature in parts of the basement will drop since the heat source there has been greatly diminished. That could mean some frozen pipes or that the temperature at the floor will drop lower if you are not careful.
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Old 11-21-2008, 02:16 PM   #8
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Its my opinion that heat loss from the duct work is good as heat rises and warms the first level floors.

I chose to spend my money on insulating the exterior basement wall and in so doing I've noticed a major difference in my heating costs.
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:35 PM   #9
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I'm working on the same thing; did the attic according to my "zone". It's now at 7".
Haven't read this yet but it comes recommended by knowledgeable people on "other forums."

Residential Energy: Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings (Paperback)
by John T Krigger (Author), Chris Dorsi


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