Karl Monetti gave a presentation recently at the Fairbanks Winter Show.
Click here to view his presentation.
Karl Monetti gave a presentation recently at the Fairbanks Winter Show.
Click here to view his presentation.
Northern Alaska Environmental Center
External Energy Retrofit Project
The Northern Center’s mission is to “promote conservation of the environment in Interior and Arctic Alaska through advocacy, education, and sustainable resource stewardship”. To that end, we at NAEC have decided to do a videotaped energy retrofit on our building located at 830 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska. We expect to lower our fuel usage by 25-50%, fulfilling the sustainable mission, and we plan to have the video aired on television for the education of the public. We plan to show what a homeowner, or business owner, can do to lower their fuel usage. This has always been an important endeavor, but with the recent rapid rise in cost of heating fuels and electricity, it is now of even greater importance, as it may mean the difference between moving somwhere warmer, or staying here and having difficulty paying the mortgage or car payment, getting to work, taking the kids to school, or even buying needed medications.
Our plan developed out of participation in the local Cost of Energy Task Force last fall, prior to inception of the State’s $300,000,000 weatherization program. The Northern Center, along with Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), decided to produce a videotaped energy retrofit of a typical Fairbanks home. We wanted to show how you can go to a bank and get a loan for such a project, and have the savings pay for it. Now that the weatherizatrion program is in full swing, our project is still pertinent, as it might be several years before Alaska Housing (AHFC, the administrators of the program) will be able to accomodate the thousands of homewners expected to take advantage of it. If you cannot wait for help from the state, then our project might help you this year, and you may still be money ahead each month while you are paying off the loan.
The NAEC building is a typical Fairbanks home. Built in the 1960s, when little was know about vapor barriers, fuel was cheap, and little thought was given to energy efficiency or conservation. It is 2X4 construction in the walls, with a 2X6 addition on the west end. It has been added on to in three phases over the years, so there is a hodge-podge of materials and construction methods. New cellulose insulation was blown into the ceiling spaces two years ago, and a used but highly efficient EK boiler was put in at the same time. That lowered the fuel consumption by 1/4, from 2800 gallons per year to 2100.
We began early this year with an energy rating. This blower door test was conducted by Arctic Technical Services of Fairbanks. At the same time we had an infrared camera evaluation done. These tests showed us the defects in our building and which items would give us the best return on investment. In our case, we have several small ticket items that will increase efficiency 3-10%, such as a setback thermostat and plugging the air leaks in ceiling and walls. This will cost us around $300 for materials. Addition of more cellulose insulation to the attic spaces will be another low budget item, under $400.
Window replacement was not high on our list because of the low payback (window replacement is very costly and the efficiency gains are not very dramatic), however we decided to replace several older wood windows that were single pane with storm inserts. These were highly inefficient, and some did not close properly, some had water damage, and this was an ideal time to replace them, while construction was already under way.
The energy rating/infrared analysis showed that installation of 2 to 4 inches of foam to the exterior of the building would provide the greatest fuel savings and the shortest payback. Having done a similar foam retrofit on my own home in 1987, I knew this would be our ticket to savings; in my case, I lowered my fuel usage by two thirds!
We bagan work in mid June with removal of the aluminum siding. We found someone to remove it and use it on another building at no cost to us or them. Underneath, we found sheathing of 3/4 inch celotex, a fiberboard sheathing commonly used thirty or more years ago, and, on the newer addition, 1/2 inch plywood covered with tar paper. The daylight basement, which is firred out (2X4) and insulated from within, is uncoated on the older part, but has 2 inches of sprayed foam on the newer addition, just up to the ground level, leaving 30 inches or more of block exposed to the air. This area proved to be the “hottetst” on the infrared test, indicating it was losing he most heat to the atmosphere.
Construction has begun, and CCHRC has been helping us with logistics of the external foam system (REMOTE wall) and videotaping the various steps along the way. We expect to be done by mid-August but we thought you might want to see our progress prior to release of the video in the fall. I have included some photos of the construction phase to date. I hope you can make sense of them and they can be of help to you. For further information and help, contact any of the web sites or organizations listed on the right hand margin of this site, and also visit the new PORTAL for weatherization here in Fairbanks on Driveway Street. Good luck.
The following photo shows the exposed concrete block basement as well as the celotex sheathing above, which overhangs the concrete by one inch. You can also see a 2 foot deep trench we have dug around the perimeter of the building. This is so we can apply foam directly to the foundation 2 feet below grade. In this area, we will first glue a one inch thick foam sheet to the concrete to bring it to the same level as the frame wall above, then add another 4 inches over the frame wall and the basement.
This photo shows a detail of one of the replaced windows. You can see the fiberglas frame of the window on the right, with 2X4 (white painted on the left) frame around it, and non-expanding foam (yellow) filling the space between window and 2X4. I am holding back a Tyvek drain wrap to expose the celotex sheathing. The drain wrap covers the whole outside of the building and is slightly corrugated to allow any moisture in the wall to drain down and away from the building.
The next picture is the same as the previous except for 2 things;
Here you can see a section of wall with the drain wrap in upper left, covered by a layer of 2 inch white borate treated (keeps the ants out) foam tacked in place by 16 penny nails into the studs. To the lower right is the second layer of 2 inch foam, with joints staggered over the first layer to reduce air leakage. This layer is held in place with 6 inch sheet rock screws securing 2 inch diameter plastic washers into the studs. These are placed at 16 inch intervals along the studs on 16 inch centers, or 24 inch intervals on 24 inch center studs.
This next shot shows the base coat of the stucco system. This consists of the soft mesh imbedded in a slurry of Preswit (brand name, others are R-Wall and Dryvit) base coat product mixed with portland cement. It is applied with a trowel in a fairly thin coat. At this point I have just finished the back of the building and have turned the corner to the east wall. The corner itself has been sanded into a smooth curve with a 1 inch radius using a simple tool made of a few scraps of plywood and some 50 grit belt sander material stapled to it. You can see the exposed foam on the left, a partial sheet of mesh in lower center, and a full sheet going around the back corner. You can see I overlap the sheets of mesh by about 5 inches. The dark round spots are the thicker, undried base coat covering the recessed plastic washers holding the foam in place. The building in the rear is for storage only and will not be treated with the foam.
Here is a view of one of the finished windows on the rear wall. Again, all edges have been rounded with the sanding tool, and the lower sill has been angled at 5 degrees for drainage. The mesh that had been stapled to the sides, top and bottom of the window has been wrapped back around the foam and overlapped with the mesh on the walls, all embedded in the cement mixture. The door in the distance was done in a similar manner.
One last shot of a finsihed window shows some backer rod placed in the gap between window and foam. After the final color layer is applied to the stucco, this gap will be filled with a flexible caulk. The outer edge of the fiberglas window hs been covered with 1 inch wide masking tape to facilitate clean-up. Actual application of the color, or finish coat of stucco will occur next week.
Have you noticed the “fuel surcharge” on your electric bill lately? I am sure you have. Have you also noticed, and read, the little colored inserts in your electric bill each month? My first tip is to not complain about the surcharge without first taking the advice of those flyers. Almost every month GVEA gives us helpful hints on how to lower our electric bill. You can find a complete list on the GVEA site, http://www.gvea.com, but here are just a few;
Now to home heating costs. As with any other form of energy, the cheapest unit of energy is the one not used, so the trick, as always, is first to use less.
Don’t forget to also check out some of the other links in the right hand column for more information.
By Karl Monetti
I once owned a home on Badger Road that had been built in 1954. I moved into it in 1974 and lived there for 18 years. The original home was 24’X40’ with a full basement for about 1900 sq. ft living space. The house was 2X4 frame construction typical of the era, with poor insulation, no vapor barrier, and exposed concrete in the daylight basement. Over the years I had stripped the whole place from the inside, one room at a time and upgraded the insulation and vapor barrier as best I could. I also had added 12 inches of blown cellulose to the attic. We were using about 1700 gallons of heating oil yearly
In 1987 I added a two story 30’X40’ addition with a partial basement for a total of 3000 sq. ft., bringing the whole house to 4900 sq. ft. This addition was of 2X8 construction with a 12 thick roof, had a much tighter air/vapor barrier and no exposed basement.
Three years prior to the addition I had built a small commercial building. That building was fiberglass-insulated 2X6 frame construction with 6 inches of closed cell foam on the exterior, 24 inches of blown cellulose in the trusses, and a 3 foot thick earthen berm around the whole perimeter. It had 3300 sq. ft. of office space with a full basement under it, and it only used 1500 gallons of fuel oil yearly, so I had learned that insulation is my friend.
It turned out I had just enough closed cell exterior foam insulation left over to cover the three sides of the old house. (The fourth side was butted against the addition.) I knew if I wrapped the old house in 6 inches of foam I would use less fuel to heat it, but had no idea how much, and that is a very important thing to know when considering financing such a project; is it going to be worth it???
I had gained enough expertise to apply the, by myself. Anyway, the foam system, known as R-Wall back then (there are different brand names available now) was already paid for and I knew how to put it on, so I stripped off all the old siding and exterior sheathing and firred out the whole exterior with horizontal 1X4 on 2 foot centers. I then ran all new wiring on the outside of the house in the spaces between the firring strips. This allowed me to re-wire the whole place without damaging the interior walls at all!
Next I put on a layer of exterior sheetrock, then glued the foam on and applied the fiberglass mesh embedded in epoxy resin. (I have since learned that 2-4 inches of closed cell foam would be enough for most retrofit applications, but my stuff was 6 inches thick). I extended the foam down over the exposed concrete foundation and into the ground 1 foot. I left the cosmetic finishing and color application to the pros, and ended up with a very nice looking ranch with a two story addition.
The best part of it all, besides all the room for the growing family, was the fuel consumption; we went from 1900 sq. ft to almost 5000 sq. ft. and still only used 1750 gallons of heating oil a year!
We almost tripled the size of the space we were heating and still used the same amount of fuel. We had essentially lowered our fuel bill on the old house by two thirds. Had we just done the retrofit on the house, the cost of the renovations would have been about $8000 (minus the electrical upgrade). We would have saved 1000 gallons of fuel yearly for an annual savings of about $1100. That equals an 8 year payback at 1987 fuel prices, which hovered around $1.10/gallon.
Similar external foam retrofits today would cost in the range of $12,000 to $15,000 for the same sized home. At today’s fuel costs of $3.75/gallon, if we could even save 500 gallons of fuel yearly, that would be $1875 yearly for a 6-8 year payback. And, from that point on, you continue to save that money the rest of the time you occupy the building.
Exterior foam application is just one of the energy retrofit options we will be covering in our televised programs. Another is replacing older boilers with newer, more efficient ones.
The day before I closed on the sale of the house in 1997, the boiler died (Murphy woke up a day too soon) and I had to put in a new boiler. I called the new owner today and she told me (from her records) she used an average of 1285 gallons the following years. That is almost 500 gallons less than I had used on the old boiler. Priced at $1.10/gal., the $550 annual savings would have paid off the cost of the boiler installation ($3500) in just 7 years.
One of the great things about a boiler replacement is the relative ease and quickness and lack of disruption of living space required for the change-over. Current state-of-the-art boilers are quite a bit more efficient than anything available even 15 years ago, so it is a good bet your home may benefit from such a project.
Again, knowing the potential savings makes it easier to determine if a retrofit of any scope or magnitude makes economic sense for you. Sure, saving energy will help the environment, but few of us can do that if it means not being able to live the way you have become accustomed. It needs to be affordable. One thing we all realize these days is current energy prices are NOT affordable, and for many of us that means the difference between staying warm and paying the mortgage, making car payment, driving to work, or getting Granny’s medication.
With that in mind, I would ask this question; if you are going to make an investment of any kind in your home, what makes more economic sense, a new kitchen (or bathroom) remodel or an energy retrofit? For comparison, you could drop $25,000 easily in a kitchen remodel that would never pay you back at all. Or almost twice that in a new ‘tricked out’ truck. There are few homes in the borough that could not save 30-50% or more of their energy costs with an injection (in the right places) of $25,000 in an energy retrofit.
Stay tuned as we take you through the steps to determine how YOU can start saving money, too.
The following article from the Daily News-Miner March 5, 2008 edition will provide a crucial piece to the puzzle of allowing more people to take advantage of the cost savings we hope to demonstrate during our video presentation. Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) and its local arm, Interior Weatherization, will now have much greater resources to share with a broader range of homeowners for energy retrofits that can save them from 25% to 50% on their fuel bills, forever. This is direct boost for the whole community, as it will help not only the homeowners, but also suppliers, contractors, engineers, architects, and energy raters, and the money saved on fuel all stays here in our community.
Click here to read the full article.
Another piece of the puzzle; it seems like we are in an era of heightened awareness of what needs to be done with the built environment regarding evergy conservation and efficiency. This letter from the U.S. Green Building Council to its members tells me they have been reading our website and STOLE OUR IDEA!!!
Click here to read the letter from Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.
The notion of giving each Alaskan a cash distribution is not very well thought out. It is like the old proverb about giving a person a fish, feed him for a day. Why not give each Alaskan homeowner a free energy audit, then $1000 credit under Interior Weatherization or some other organization for a start on a weatherization or full enegy retrofit project. Interior Weatherization’s own figures show that for an average of $7500 invested, they can realize 38% savings on energy. This will provide them with a real permanent fund (read as two words, not as in PFD) of their own that will save them more money each year than they get as a PFD check. Every year. Forever.
Such a plan would provide many jobs in a currently slumping homebuilding industry. It would provide savings to thousands of homeowners who would then have more discretionary income to use on other items (such as “getting drunk” in the not-so-pc words of Rep. Bill Thomas). This money, from the energy auditors to the contractors who do the work, to the laborers, carpenters and plumbers working under the contractors, to the suppliers of the materials, and the financial istitutions who may finance more extensive projects, all this money stays in Alaska instead of going to oil companies based in Texas or London. It bolsters OUR economy, not someone else’s.
With the rising cost of energy, this is one sure hedge against that form of inflation; the cheapest unit of energy is the one you do not use.
I would like to see support for any action that might put such a plan into place. even if it were voluntary; “you can have $500 cash now, or a free energy audit and $1000 credit toward weatherization and reap rewards the rest of your life”, it would be much more meaningful and lasting than just a cash give-away.
North Pole , Alaska