House Superinsulation Project
We decided to give our house a "superinsulated
retrofit." This method is much different from conventional
approaches to insulation. In this article I describe
why and how. This article is primarily intended to help anyone who
is interesting in doing this sort of thing and doesn't know where to
start. (This may not quite qualify as "superinsulation,"
depending on how your define this term, but it is close -- see below for
Here is what I cover:
1. Why do a superinsulated retrofit at all?
2. What are the alternatives to an exterior
3. What were the steps in the process?
4. What could we do to improve things further?
5. What were the results?
One of the most significant obstacles to finding out about
a superinsulated retrofit is that almost no one has heard of it or
knows anything about it, including insulation contractors, E-star
rating people, various renewable energy organizations and experts, people
at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and so forth. Some contractors offered us bids on work which, even
if done competently, would not have been as effective as what we
eventually got (or possibly might not have worked at all). It's
important to have the advice not just of good construction experts but
also energy experts.
Actually, there's a pretty good reason for this lack of
knowledge: almost no
one in the United States has done this type and extent of insulation.
There are relatively greater numbers of people have blown in insulation
into their walls, put in more insulation in the attic, sealed cracks
around windows and doors, etc. (all of which is very good), but very few who
have done this sort of superinsulation. I hope that this will inform people as to what can
be done, and that people can offer improvements to the techniques used
here. This is an
important topic. The energy crisis is upon us, and even if we start
today to make all the new buildings energy efficient, we will be living
with these older buildings for decades. We need to know how to
retrofit them to make them more efficient.
We did find some good information and some people to
work with. We found a book, The Super Insulated Retrofit
Book by Brian Marshall and Robert Argue. This book is by a
couple of Canadians and was written in 1980, back in the days when people
thought they were facing an imminent energy crisis. We didn't follow
their advice for a superinsulated retrofit exactly, but it was helpful in
sorting out the alternatives. I was unable to locate these people
via the internet, and I'd be interested in talking to them, so if you know
where they are (or if you are them) please let me know.
were very greatly helped by the advice of Steve Andrews, who is very
active in ASPO-USA -- thanks VERY MUCH, Steve. We didn't follow all
his advice either, so we can't blame him for anything that goes wrong, but
what we got right was due in large part to his contributions.
Finally, we had an excellent contractor do the work, Tiimo
Mang of Norseman Construction Services. You can contact him
8805 W 2nd Ave
Lakewood, CO 80226
We almost had to
become experts ourselves to get the job done. There are more
pitfalls than your typical home remodeling project.
I don't think that what we did quite qualifies as "superinsulation," but it is close, and will probably do reasonably well for Denver,
Colorado. One definition is that a building is superinsulated if the
walls are R-40 and ceiling R-60. Our house now has walls probably
about at R-35 and
ceiling at R-50, which probably falls just a bit short. My objective
is just to show what can be done and what the results are, when you are
stuck with an existing house constructed in a traditional manner.
Hopefully, whatever you do will be less difficult than what we had to do
and information can be collected and spread as to how to retrofit existing
buildings to dramatically reduce or eliminate fossil fuel energy
November 24, 2007