These past two weeks have been interesting around the house. I contracted to have, first, an energy audit conducted and then to have several projects begun to improve the energy consumption of this 91-year-old bungalow. The reason for all the excitement was a particularly brutal winter which resulted in roof damage, again.  

The roof (this one is only four years old) has been repeatedly battered over its history by ice dams which occur over the four corners of the house. If you’re not aware of the nature of ice dams, they are caused by heat rising from the interior of the house through a poorly insulated exterior, which melts the accumulated snow pack during the winter. At night or as the temperatures drop outside, the melted snow refreezes and builds up at the edges of the roof until it’s several inches, sometimes a foot or more, thick. The weight of this ice can and often does literally break the roof. Newly melted liquid which accumulates under the ice has nowhere to go, and finds its way into the interior of the house creating leaks and water stains and mold.  

My house had little or no insulation in the walls and none to speak of in the roof. In addition, in the style of most bungalows of its era in the Northeast and elsewhere, the roof extends out beyond the exterior walls at least three feet. It’s the style, and it’s charming, but it means there’s no support and the weight of the ice is even more damaging. 

When I was able to go around the house in early spring and observe the effects of the winter, it was obvious that there was new roof damage in one spot. I knew I could no longer postpone the inevitable: put in insulation wherever possible and stop the madness!  

So I had two energy audits performed, as part of a New York State program, in order to get two competitive bids on the work. The two companies are well-known and well-regarded in the area, and I’d used one of the two previously to install windows.  

After the two audits were performed, I chose the one with which I felt more comfortable, and whose price was both reasonable and within my budget (which required a long-term loan through the State’s program, at a very low interest rate.)   Their work would cover upgrading the electrical wiring in the second floor/attic, replacing basement windows, and insulating both the basement and the second floor. The roof repair will be done by a different contractor, and that’s the only part of the project that is even slightly covered by homeowners insurance. 

During the audit, gas leaks were found near the furnace, so my furnace company came in and repaired those.

I’m very pleased – so far – with the work that was performed, and the way the crews worked (through some of the hottest days so far this year). A comparative energy audit was performed today to present to NYS, for their approval of the project. The results were pretty astounding. The energy consumption as tested was reduced by about 35%, which should be reflected in my heating bills next winter. I won’t really know how well the insulating will have worked until we see the ice dams next year! They won’t be completely eliminated but should be greatly reduced.   There’s still a small punch list of items to be finished up next week. Aside from the fine layer of dust all over, and the fact that I can’t use the eaves for storage anymore, there’s no visible difference (oh, except for the lovely windows in the basement!!)   Next I have plans to do some basic remodeling of the second floor – paint, a TV, air conditioners in the bedrooms, etc. It will be a fun summer!  


Jill Browne
06/02/2011 17:31

Funny to be thinking of ice dams during a heat wave, but it's the right time to tackle it, eh?

Glad to hear you're getting these items checked off the list!

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