When people talk about making their home energy independent, they often talk about solar panels and wind turbines. But before all of that, a home has to be tight. That’s not as exciting, but necessary. Lester Graham is following Greenovation.tv’s Matt Grocoff as he tries to make his home the oldest net-zero-energy house in America.
When people talk about making their home energy independent, they often talk about solar panels and wind turbines. But before all of that, a home has to be tight. That’s not as exciting, but necessary. Lester Graham is following Greenovation.tv’s Matt Grocoff as he tries to make his home the oldest net-zero-energy house in America:
The note on Matt’s door told me to come on in and head for the basement. Matt’s 110 year old home has what’s called around here a “Michigan basement.” Basically, cement floor, stone walls, low ceilings. Not glamorous.
Matt is spraying expanding foam insulation up in that area where the floor framing sits on the foundation. The sill plate… which is basically nothing more than one-and-a-half inches of wood between inside your home… and the great outdoors.
“There’s no insulation between your house, or your living part, and the foundation itself.”
Maybe you’ve been in the basement of an old house and sometimes you can actually see daylight through the sill plate in places. Those leaks need to be sealed. That could be done with caulk. Then the area needs to be insulated. That could be done with fiberglass insulation.
“What we decided to do is to do both at the same time, seal and insulate, is to use a do-it-yourself spray foam insulation kit from Tiger Foam. There’s plenty of professionals out there, and for most people, that’s what I’d recommend you do, go to the professional. If money is an issue or if you’re a really handy person, these spray foam kits are fantastic.”
The foam insulation kit costs about 300-dollars. It’s basically two tanks -each about the size of a propane tank you’d use for an outdoor grill. A hose from each tank is attached to a spray gun that mixes the chemicals. The chemicals mix as they come out and the make a sticky foam that expands into nooks and crannies and then hardens after several minutes.
“Way easier than I thought they were going to be, by the way. I was actually terrified. I went back and read the instructions three – four times. And when I started spraying, it wasn’t that bad.”
“You still ended up with a goof, though.”
“I did have a goof. There was a little bit of foam there, dripping, when I forgot to turn on one of the canisters, but what ya– c’mon Lester.”
Matt’s goof means he’s going to have to wipe up some of the mess and spray again. But it’s not a disaster.
If you’ve got a big job… maybe new construction or a remodel that takes it down to the studs… you might want to consider a professional.
John Cunningham owns Arbor Insulation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He says, sure, if you’re up to it… do it yourself.
“You could assume that it’d be cheaper to do it yourself and the kits are a really good option, especially for people that have smaller projects or they’re looking to do the work in a very specific time frame or in a distant location for instance.”
But the professionals are recommended for those big jobs. And right now there are federal tax credits for spray foam insulation– 30-percent up to 15-hundred dollars. That credit is limited though.
“The tax credit is available for the material only, so the contractor should be separating out the material and the labor. Also, there are additional incentives from some utilities and more incentives coming down the pike.”
Some states and even municipalities are considering incentives.
One final note… to use the spray foam, Matt Grocoff is decked out in a white haz-mat suit, latex gloves, goggles and a respirator…
“You’ve got to take all the safety precautions. You’ve got to wear your goggles, your suit. And it also can be messy too. Any overspray that gets in your hair will stay in your hair.”
And as he zips up, I get the hint that Matt has to get back to work.
“I do. I’ve got 30 seconds before this nozzle sets up. So, Lester, thanks again.”
“Sounds like my cue to get out of here. That’s Matt Grocoff with Greenovation-dot-TV. I’m Lester Graham with The Environment Report.”