I spent almost two years thinking about how to insulate.  There was no insulation as far as we could tell, except under the floor in the den.  The second floor is really a finished attic, with no access to the space above, although there is a half-sized door (because of a chimney in the wall) to the space above the den, which has dormer windows and a finished floor, but is vented to the outside.   Despite that, once Robert had sealed at the bottom of the baseboards and we had sealed the light switches and outlets, the house was not drafty, and actually used less heat per square foot than our house in Austin, which had been weatherized in the 90s, before we bought it.  When we had the roof done last spring, I asked about insulation board.  The roofer took a look at the upstairs, and said “You have plenty of space above the ceiling – why don’t you just cut access and lay or blow insulation?”  As it turned out, they had to lay plywood anyway because of the condition of the roof deck, which helped with air sealing.

I spent a lot of time looking at  the roof and the upstairs, and decided that a hole could be cut in one of the bedroom closets. out of sight.  Robert found a carpenter who came one Sunday afternoon with his wife (a reading specialist who turned out to have lived for a while on Schoolhouse Hill in Spencer, where I grew up), and took a look.  We agreed he would cut and frame the access, at an hourly rate, and we would go from there.  Handily, he was able to come not too long after the furnace was done.  He brought his son, and in less than an hour he had cut a neat hole in the ceiling.  There was plenty of space above the ceiling, and a clear shot to the ceiling space in the dormers and sides.  So off they went to get insulation, and in less than six hours they had blown insulation into the dormers, laid bats in the flat areas, framed out the access hole, and made a cover for it.

Robert had volunteered to insulate the crawlspace, which is under the front of the living room and the parlor.  He spent a weeks’ worth of afternoons dealing with joists that were all different widths apart, insulation falling off the heating ducts, and working around a chimney base and wiring running through the space.  But it is done, and the floor above it is now about as warm as the floor over the basement.

He spent several more afternoons in the tiny attic area over the kitchen, hauling out things that have been stashed there by past owners and insulating.  Finally, we realized that the giant hole in the ceiling of the maid’s bathroom in the basement, ripped out when the previous owners redid the kitchen and never fixed, was creating a giant chimney effect.  Last winter the room stayed just at freezing, and probably contributed to the coolness of the kitchen above it.  He spent an afternoon duct-taping plastic over it,  as a temporary fix, since the entire room will have to be redone eventually.  The space under the sink, which was freezing last winter, is now in the forties.

Our gas usage for the first six weeks of this season looks like it is down 16% per degree day from last year, the combined effects of the new furnace and the insulation, and 26% from our first year.  So the sealing and turning the thermostat down saved about 12%, and the new furnace and insulation another 14% (or more – we didn’t finish the insulating and sealing until after the heating season started.)  It also puts our heating and cooling use at about half the US average.

Next year we will look at replacing windows (or adding storm windows) and insulating the basement walls that aren’t underground.  I think we still have some major air leaks in the cracked plaster upstairs; redoing the walls and ceilings in the bedrooms up there is another major project for next year.

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