Attic Insulation. Heat naturally flows from a warmer area to a cooler one. It does this in only three ways: conduction, where heat is transferred directly from mass to mass; convection, the movement of heated air from one space to another (hot air rises, heavier cool air sinks); and radiation, which simply means that any warm body gives off heat toward a cooler one.

The function of insulation is to minimize the radiation and convection transfer of heat with a minimum of solid conduction so that our homes stay warmer in cool weather and cooler in warm weather.

In this section I discuss the merits and uses of various types of well-known insulations and inform you on how best to evaluate R-values.

R stands for ‘resistance to heat flow.’ The greater the R-value, the greater the insulative power. R-value requirements depend on factors such as local climate and the surface you are insulating (walls, ceiling, floor, etc.) and will be regulated by your local building code. I suggest you contact the office of your city or county building inspector for the requirements of your area. Each region of the country has different requirements for adequate amounts of insulation.

In most areas, local utility companies will offer helpful suggestions on how to reduce your energy bills. Many will arrange to have an expert come to your home to point out areas that need to be insulated or weatherized. Often there is no charge for this service and it may even lead to low- or no-interest loan programs you may be eligible for. Also, state or federal tax credits may apply.

Check with your State Energy Commission, local power company, or local home center for the optimum R-value in your region.

Safety

Safe-use practices are important when you work with any type of insulation.

  1. Dust mask and goggles are necessary for work with all types of insulation, or when sawing wood.
  2. Fully cover your body, if possible long sleeves, a hood, long pants, and gloves. Insulating materials are skin irritants.
  3. Always use the correct tool for the job.
  4. Be sure power tools are properly grounded.
  5. Watch power cord placement so that it does not interfere with the tool’s operation.
  6. A hard hat should be worn, since roofing nails may be sticking through the sheathing.
  7. If you are not allergic to tetanus shots, be sure yours is current. There are usually exposed, rusty nails in an old attic.
  8. Keep the insulation clear (3″ or so) from objects that transfer heat to reduce fire hazards, and install sheet metal baffles around recessed light fixtures, chimneys, and flues.
  9. In older homes with possible frayed wires, do not allow the aluminum vapor barrier of batt insulation to come in contact with the wire, since it could short circuit
  10. Working in attics or other hot areas can cause loss of body salt by excessive sweating. Consider taking salt tablets.
  11. When working outside on a roof, wear shoes or boots with rubber soles; stay clear of power lines; secure extension ladders with safety hooks that clamp over the ridge; and delay your work until the roof is free from dampness of rain, frost snow, or dew.
  12. When working high on the outside of the house, I suggest you rent scaffolding to provide a balanced, level working surface.
  13. Do not step through attic floor joists onto the ceiling of the room below. It will give way.
  14. Some types of insulation are flammable. Check with your local building department and fire department for special application precautions or restrictions.

Information provided by Homeownersnetwork.com

Condensation double pane window is the accumulation of liquid water on relatively cold surfaces.

Almost all air contains water vapor, the gas phase of water composed of tiny water droplets. The molecules in warm airdouble-pane-window are far apart from one another and allow the containment of a relatively large quantity of water vapor. As air cools, its molecules get closer together and squeeze the tiny vapor droplets closer together, as well. A critical temperature, known as the dew point, exists where these water droplets will be forced so close together that they merge into visible liquid in a process called condensation.

Double-pane windows have a layer of gas (usually argon or air) trapped between two panes of glass that acts as insulation to reduce heat loss through the window. Other types of gas used in this space have various effects on heat gain or loss through the window. Some windows also have a thin film installed between panes that separates the space between the panes into two spaces, further reducing heat loss and heat gain through the window. If multiple-pane windows appear misty or foggy, it means that the seal protecting the window assembly has failed.

Silica Desiccant

A desiccant is an absorbent material designed to maintain dryness in the space it protects. In a double-paned window, silica pellets inside the aluminum perimeter strip absorb moisture from any incoming air that enters the space between the panes. If not for the silica desiccant, any moisture in the space between the panes would condense on the glass as the glass cools below the dew point temperature.

Silica gel has an immense surface area, approximately 7,200 square feet per gram, which allows it to absorb large amounts of water vapor. As the sealant protecting this space fails over time, increasing amounts of moisture-containing air will enter the space between the panes, and the silica pellets will eventually become saturated and will no longer be able to prevent condensation from forming. A double-paned window that appears foggy or that has visible condensation has failed and needs to be repaired or replaced.

Why Double-Paned Windows Fail:  Solar (Thermal) Pumping
 
Although double-paned windows appear to be stable, they actually experience a daily cycle of expansion and contraction caused by thermal pumping. Sunlight heats the airspace between the panes and causes the gas there to heat up and expand, pressurizing the space between the panes. At night, the window cools and the space between the panes contracts. This motion acts like the bellows of a forge and is called thermal pumping.

Over time, the constant pressure fluctuations caused by thermal pumping will stress the seal. Eventually, the seal will develop small fractures that will slowly grow in size, allowing increasing amounts of infiltration and exfiltration of air from the space between the panes.

Failure Factors

Windows on the sunny side of a home will experience larger temperature swings, resulting in greater amounts of thermal pumping, seal stress and failure rates.

Vinyl window frames have a higher coefficient of expansion resulting in greater long-term stress on the double-pane assembly, and a higher failure rate. Windows also experience batch failure, which describes production runs of windows, especially vinyl windows, that are defective, meaning that the pane assemblies have been manufactured with seals that have small defects that will cause the window to fail prematurely.

The Nature of Damage

If it’s allowed to continue, window condensation will inevitably lead to irreversible physical window damage. This damage can appear in the following two ways:

  • riverbedding.  Condensed vapor between the glass panes will form droplets that run down the length of the window. Water that descends in this fashion has the tendency to follow narrow paths and carve grooves into the glass surface. These grooves are formed in a process similar to canyon formation.
  • silica haze.  Once the silica gel has been saturated, it will be eroded by passing air currents and accumulate as white “snowflakes” on the window surface. It is believed that if this damage is present, the window must be replaced.

Detecting Failure

Condensation is not always visible. If the failure is recent, a failed window may not be obvious, since condensation doesn’t usually form until the window is heated by direct sunlight. Windows in the shade may show no evidence of failure, so inspectors should disclaim responsibility for discovering failed double-paned windows.

Thermal Imaging as a Detection Tool

Under the right conditions, it’s possible to use an infrared (IR) camera to detect failed windows. IR cameras are designed to record differences in temperature.

Recommendations for Failed Windows

According to industry experts, the glazing assembly can be replaced  approximately 75% of the time.  Occasionally, the sashes must be replaced, and only about 5% of those cases require that the entire window be replaced.

Inspectors should be aware that there are companies that claim to be able to repair misty windows through a process known as “defogging.”

This repair method proceeds in the following order:

  1. A hole is drilled into the window, usually from the outside, and a cleaning solution is sprayed into the air chamber.
  2. The solution and any other moisture are sucked out through a vacuum.
  3. A defogger device is permanently inserted into the hole that will allow the release of moisture during thermal pumping.

Inspectors should know that there is currently a debate as to whether this process is a suitable repair for windows that have failed, or if it merely removes the symptom of this failure. Condensation appears between double-paned windows when the window is compromised, and removal of this water will not fix the seal itself. A window “repaired” in this manner, although absent of condensation, might not provide any additional insulation. This method is still fairly new and opinions about its effectiveness range widely. Regardless, “defogging” certainly allows for cosmetic improvement, which is of some value to homeowners. It may also reduce the potential for damage caused by condensation in the form of mold or rot.  Some skepticism exists about the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of this method of repair.

In summary, condensation in double-paned windows indicates that the glazing assembly has failed and needs repair or replacement. Visible condensation can damage glazing and is the main indication of sealant failure.

Article provided via Nachi.org

  • Air seal and insulate your home: You can prevent heat from escaping or cold from entering your home – lowering your heating bills – by insulating and air sealing your home. An inspector that is also qualified to perform an energy survey or audit can help identify the areas that need sealing and insulating.
  • Use a programmable thermostat: Install a programmable thermostat that can reduce the heat at a specific time when you are away from the home and raise the heat before you get back for dinner. Having the heat at a higher temperature when the home is not occupied by anyone is inefficient, so automatically having it raised and lowered at certain times will save time and money. As a courtesy when inspecting a heating system, make sure to put the thermostat setting back to where the homeowner had it originally set.

Orange Home Inspector

  • Install ENERGY STAR doors and windows: Doors and windows are places where cold/warm air can easily come through. Installing energy efficient doors and windows can save energy and money with their higher quality insulation capabilities. Windows can be expensive and should be viewed as one of the last upgrades to the home. If only single pane windows are in place in your home, consider adding storm windows for an added layer of insulation.
  • Use LED holiday lights: LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), are at least 75% more efficient and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lights. By using LED lights, you can be at ease knowing that having the holiday lights on is not significantly increasing your energy costs.
  • Turn off the lights: This will help save money year-round. You can save energy by making sure the lights are turned off whenever a room is not being used. If taking a winter vacation, be sure all lights are off in every room before your extended time away from the home. You can also save on your electric bill by changing all the light bulbs in your house to CFLs or LEDs.
  • Use lighting controls: You can save additional money on your electricity bill by using motion sensor and time controls. Motion sensors turn a light on when motion is sensed and turn a light off after sensing a room is unoccupied. Using a timer for your holiday lights will ensure that you do not forget to turn them off.
  • Lower the water heater: One significant way to reduce energy consumption if you are away on vacation is to simply lower the temperature of the water heater. If you will be gone three or more consecutive days, set the water heater to the lowest or ‘vacation’ setting if there is one. Another thing you can do is add insulation to the water heater and hot water lines. If your water heater is a gas or oil unit, make sure the insulation does not interfere with the exhausting of the by- products.
  • Unplug electronics: When you are away, unplug those kitchen appliances, DVDs, TVs, and computers to save energy and money. These electronics, when plugged in, use up energy even when they are turned off. You may have heard the term “phantom load” or “vampire power”. These terms refer to the electric power consumed by electronic and electrical appliances while they are switched off but plugged into an outlet. This is wasted electricity.
  • Use a power strip: if the idea of running around the home to unplug everything is a bit too much, use power strips to plug in multiple appliances, and then turn it all off with the flip of the power strip switch. It is certainly more convenient to have all your electrical devices plugged into one large strip. Remember, however, that these strips are typically rated for 15 amps and should not be overloaded. Larger appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, toasters and other appliances with high power loads should be plugged directly into the wall.
  • Adjust the blinds and curtains: Last but not least, another useful way to conserve energy while on vacation or in general during colder months is to lower the blinds and curtains. Close your curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts; open them during the day to let in warming sunlight.
  • Content provided from Energy.Gov and AHIT.com

How to Reduce your Heating Costs? During the cold months we all feel the pinch of the cost of heating our homes. There are many things we can do to lower our heating bills. While some of these may cost money, there are simply and effective ways to lower your heating bills that do not cost you anything.

Lower your thermostat. Simply lowering the thermostat in your home a few degrees can shave 5%-10% of the

Reduce the water heater temperature. It’s also not likely to be noticeable if you turn down the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees you will save money and also make it safer to protect yourself and your children from scald issues.

Reduce Heating Costs

Reduce Heating Costs

Be aware of inadvertent heat loss. Keep your doors and windows shut when the heat is on and if your home has a fireplace that you aren’t using, be sure the flue is closed and glass doors are in place to minimize heat loss.

Use Vent fans wisely.  Use Bathroom and Kitchen vents as needed, but turn them off as soon as possible so that the amount of heat loss in minimized.   

Reduce water use. This will not only save money if you have a public water supply, but it is a good way to reduce the amount of times your water heater has to fire and heat your water. Water saver shower heads and reducing your shower times are very effective.

Use the sun when possible. During times when the sun is out make sure you open your curtains or drapes. Close them during the evenings to curb some of the heat loss.

There are also several low cost ways of lowering you bills. These will include checking/replacing weather stripping, Changing your furnace filter, change to a set back thermostat and having your furnace tuned up by an HVAC tech.

Signature Home Inspection is a Certified Home Inspection service located in California serving Orange County, San Diego County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, and San Bernardino County California.

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