In the News


This view of a garage attic air sealing project shows a well detailed roof, wall and eave intersection. No wind will be blowing through the insulation. Submitted Photo For Dunn County News
A tale of two condos
Dunn County News, Sunday, November 15, 2009

Local company helps homeowners increase home comfort, save energy and money

It was the best of times and the worst of times for three condominium owners in North Menomonie.

It was the worst of times for two condo owners who were unhappy with their new homes. In one, the homeowner could never feel warm enough, and her window blinds swayed in the winter breeze. In the other, the house was too dry and drafty in the winter and too warm in the summer.

But it was the best of times for a neighbor after Heritage Builders of Menomonie completed an air-sealing project.

Energy audit

First, with Focus On Energy, Heritage Builders performed a thorough home energy audit with Aaron Riendau of St. Croix Energy Solutions. With his state-of-the-art blower door, infrared camera, duct blaster and other “gizmos,” he determined that each unit had an air change rate of about 7.33 air changes per hours, at -50 pascals, like in a 20-mile-per-hour wind. This means that on a 20-mile-per-hour windy winter day, the homes furnace would have to heat the entire volume of air at least 7.5 times — each hour.

Heritage also determined:

• The air ducts, which lay above the ceiling, were not air sealed.

• The entire ceiling of the home was not air sealed, allowing cold air to drop down behind the sheetrock, and then through the outlets, window joints and wall bottoms.

• Some windows had been replaced with non-low-e glass

• Air was leaking extensively from the floor joints and around the fireplace bump outs.

More investigation, more work

Since the ceramic/concrete floors never got warm all winter, Heritage had Jim Bourne from Halverson Bros. Heating and Plumbing come over to investigate that problem. Bourne found out that the dual heating system was wired incorrectly so that the in floor heat was never allowed to heat up before the backup air system came on. By changing it, he was able to make it function efficiently.

However, an efficient heater does not make for an efficient building. Heritage had to seal up the house and reduce the unwanted loss of tempered air and infiltration of seasonally cold or hot air.

The following describes how the company was able to reduce the air exchange rates from 7.33 to an average of 2.17 for a net improvement of 70 percent.

In the attic, Heritage removed all the loose fill fiberglass insulation and saved it for reinstallation. Then it added air chutes in the eaves and installed air dams just beyond the edge of the wall plates.

Next, Heritage foam-sealed all the attic duct work, all the light boxes, all the joints between walls and ceilings as well as all plumbing pipe and vent penetrations.

“We basically ‘completely’ sealed off the attic air from the heated air below,” said Ron Welsch, owner of Heritage Builders.  He noted that after the used fiberglass was reinstalled, Heritage installed a thick layer of blown cellulose insulation on top of and around the fiberglass, essentially sealing that mass from the attic cold and hot air.

While the attic work was being performed by Builders Mart of Boyceville, Heritage carpenters were in the home itself, sealing the lower openings.

Workers removed all outlets and switches and foamed the interior openings and caulked the joint between the box and the wallboard.

They removed window and door casings and foamed both the outer edge and the inner edge between the window or door unit and the wall sheathing or sheetrock.

They also removed the entire oak baseboard on exterior walls and foamed and caulked the joint before putting the trims back on.

“Lastly,” said Welsch, “We cleaned up our mess.”

Noticing a difference

According to the owners, as soon as Heritage Builders pulled out of the driveway, they noticed that the home was much more comfortable. Both report reduced air conditioning use this summer.

Computer modeling predicts these improvements are expected to reduce annual energy cost by $250 to $400. Welsch says he is expecting even more savings. Both owners will be sharing the energy bills with Heritage Builders throughout the year as it tracks heating and cooling degree days against energy used this year compared to last year.

In other homes this past year, Heritage Builders reduced air infiltration by as much as 52 percent. And depending on how many problems a homeowner hired Heritage to solve, other percentages of reduced air infiltrations were reported as well.

“At any budget, there is something that can be done to reduce a homeowner’s energy waste and money drain,” said Welsch. “The trick is just knowing what is the right thing to do.”

Adding insulation that is open and porous may not make any change at all in comfort and energy waste. Caulking a joint on the outside may do absolutely nothing at all in terms of air leakage.

Welsch said, “For example, in one home, we achieved a 25 percent reduction by replacing windows and one door, but we could have spent the same amount of time in the attic and basement and reduced the loss by 50 percent or more.”

For more information

Heritage Builders, Inc. and Professional Handyman Service is now in its 25th year of business. Its website — heritagebuildersmenomonie.com — is where people can learn more about the employees and their work. The shop and office are located at N6160 370th St., about two miles west of the Red Cedar River. Call (715) 235-7910.

Copyright © 2009 Dunn County News