Weatherization can warm up your space while you work from home
When the town of Wardsboro, Vermont signed up to be a Button Up Vermont community in 2019, Wardsboro resident Jill Neitlich wasn’t sure what buttoning up was all about. She and her husband, Flynn had always assumed that their drafty old farmhouse could benefit from insulation, but it felt like a daunting – not to mention expensive – project to undertake.
"We were putting our son through college, so it felt like a big home improvement project would have to wait."
Jill Neitlich, Homeowner
Jill decided to sign up for a home energy visit through the Button Up Vermont campaign to hear what an efficiency expert would have to say about her house. Steve Spatz, an Energy Consultant from Efficiency Vermont, walked with Jill and her husband, Flynn, throughout the house. At the end of the visit, he gave them a checklist of the actions that could improve their home’s efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality. The actions were ranked based on their cost-effectiveness: which actions would give Jill and Flynn the most bang for their buck. At the top of the list was insulating and air sealing their unfinished attic.
Steve recommended a couple of local Efficiency Excellence Network Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractors that the couple could work with when they were ready to start. They reached out to Jake Robichaud of Analyzing Energy to complete a home energy audit and blower door test. The test determines how much air is leaking from the house through unsealed and uninsulated holes and cracks. The comprehensive audit confirmed that the energy savings expected from weatherizing the attic were substantial. Working with Analyzing Energy meant that Jill and Flynn were eligible to access weatherization incentives from Efficiency Vermont for insulating and air sealing, which would bring down the upfront cost of the project.
The couple worked with Analyzing Energy and Vermont Foam Insulation of Chester to evaluate the different insulation options available to them. They decided on spray foam to give them the most coverage for the odd shaped attic room. Vermont Foam Insulation also took care of air sealing to stop the drafts at the source.
“The contractor walked us through each step, so I didn’t have to figure out what to do next. They told us when they were coming and when we’d need to be out of the house. They filled out the paperwork so that we could get the rebate from Efficiency Vermont. They all knew what they were doing and made it very easy for us.”
Jill and Flynn realized that the newly weatherized space could make a great office for Jill, who has been working from home, like many Vermonters, since COVID-19 hit. The couple worked with their contractors to determine the best time to install sheetrock over the spray foam and make sure everything happened when it was supposed to. Now, they are putting the final touches on the new living space that used to be a dusty, cold attic.
When the insulation and air sealing work was done, Jake came back to do a final blower door test. The test found that the attic weatherization had reduced air leakage from the whole home by around 20%. Jake also inspected the project to make sure it met efficiency, health, and safety guidelines. Jill and Flynn can already feel the benefits of the project throughout the house, especially as the days got colder this fall.
“Already it feels a little toastier, you can tell. And it smells fresher. It used to smell old and musty. While we’re spending this much of our time at home, air quality is so important. I’m looking forward to having a warmer house.”
What’s next on their home energy checklist? Weatherizing the basement. The farmhouse has its original stone foundation. Working to air seal and insulate the basement walls, particularly where the foundation meets the first floor, will help reduce air leaks even further. They are also pondering the benefits of installing a heat pump to reduce the use of their oil furnace.