Collins-Ruddy Residence Part I

Here’s a look at how the Collins-Ruddy family worked to retrofit their home…

We like to practice what we preach here at AE Building Systems, which is why we’re excited to share about a project for our very own Todd Collins! (If you haven’t met Todd yet, below is a quick intro.) The Collins-Ruddy Residence is probably much like your own home: it wasn’t built from scratch with Passive Haus/energy-efficiency in mind. So many homeowners buy a home that meets other needs, but often doesn’t tick the box of efficiency. And so, we enter a retrofit situation! 

Setting the Stage

The Collins-Ruddy Residence is a 1971 tri-level home with a basement (four levels in total) with 2×4 construction, and fiberglass batt insulation. The home has had some window replacements, but they are still lower performance windows than the ideal situation. The house has forced air heat with a gas furnace, and a gas hot water heater as well. The house also came with a programmable thermostat, reasonably new range with a convection oven, electric resistance cooktop, and an old Montgomery Ward Fridge.  

The Collins-Ruddy family keeps the thermostat roughly at 68 degrees F in evenings and mornings, and 60 degrees F at night and when not occupied. Of course, remote working and virtual school have changed the game for their recent years’ occupancy. 

The Problem

Todd and his family care deeply about Passive Haus techniques and energy efficiency, so any home they would have purchased would have needed some adjustments in their eyes. However, this tri-level posed a few other obvious problems for them. The young kids’ bedrooms were COLD at night, resulting in poor sleep for them (and the parents)! They also experienced thermal bridging in most zones of the home, which were accentuated in extreme hot and extreme cold seasons!

The Investigation

Todd decided to get an energy audit for their home to evaluate how and what to focus his attention on to improve energy efficiency. 

The Solution: Phase I

As a result of the audit, Todd did a few simple things to help within their current framework. Below is a rough timeline of their journey so far:

2012:

  • Wrapped the water heater – Cost $40 for “insulation blanket” 
  • Power strips at TVs and Computers – Cost $50 to reduce phantom loads 
  • Gas Fireplace – Taped it off with an air barrier 

2013:

  • New Washer/Dryer – Cost $1400 – high-efficiency units
  • New Fridge Cost $1100
  • New Garage doors – R-10 and reasonably airtight
  • New Ceiling fans – To reduce A/C usage – DC/ECM motors and CFL/LED lights $2400
  • Insulation/Air Sealing Contractor $4,100 
    • Insulated – skylight walls in attic – blanket insulation  
    • Insulated – knee-walls between attic and conditioned space – similar to skylight walls
    • Air-seal attic junction boxes – ceiling fans (6) and electrical boxes – 3 new, 3 replaced 
    • Air-seal attic along exterior and interior walls – foamed attic wall junctions and gabled end where the walls meet the attic  
    • Attic hatch dam to hold insulation back  
    • Insulated attic hatch with 10” of recycled XPS and Poly-Iso 
    • Attic Insulation – increased insulation to R-65 (increase of R-25+) in two attic spaces 
    • Air-seal bottom plate – foam insulation in bottom plate rim from the interior 
    • Drill and Fill above garage/below bedrooms
    • New bath fan with DC/ECM blower motor 

2014:

  • Installed Solar Panels $15,000 installed  
    • 3.9 Kw System – covers all electrical and then some

2015:

  • Windows/Doors $27,000 installed  
    • Replaced all windows and doors – R-7
    • Added two new South facing windows  
    • Installed new entry and French doors – R6 (Euro-style with multipoint locking for airtight and sound dampening results)
    • Installed new door from garage to interior of house (insulated fiberglass r4)

2019:

  • Basement – our office and workout space was cold due to thermal bridging  
    • Taped the bottom plate on the interior to reduce air infiltration  
    • Insulated basement walls with 3” Rockwood Continuous Insulation 

2020: 

  • Kitchen remodel with energy-efficient appliances 
    • Induction cooktop 
    • Convection oven 
    • Fridge – second version 7 years later  
    • Dishwasher 
    • Nest Thermostat 

Ongoing:

  • Replaced Lighting – CFLs swapped for LEDs  
  • Retaped furnace ducts where accessible  

The journey to better energy efficiency doesn’t stop, but as you can see this is a journey. Retrofitting a house doesn’t happen all in a blink of an eye, and this project is a case in point of how you can focus on small, low-hanging fruit, as well as bigger projects as your budget and time allow. 

Join us next month to see how all of these changes have worked out for Todd’s family, as well as other issues they still plan to address in order to improve the house even more!

Got questions for Todd? Feel free to reach out! 

Todd Collins 720.287.4290

9 thoughts on “Collins-Ruddy Residence Part I”

  1. Front ugly should have been cured first particularly if you spent $ on new windows.

    The bedroom windows are poorly proportioned and the main level picture windows are not as bad but still bad.

    1. Thank you Mr. Caistor for your comments. Our goals were less focused on aesthetics and more on Energy Efficiency. That said, this is a work in progress thing. We have additional upgrades coming in the future that won’t necessarily address your comments on the windows, but they will address the dated exterior finish.

  2. Thanks Todd:
    Very informative journey.
    I am similarly struggling to fix top and bottom plate leakage on exterior walls in finished spaces on my existing 1993 home. Any suggestions on how to go about those improvements?

  3. Hi Todd,
    Can you post what your reductions in natural gas (and electricity) use were over the years of the incremental energy efficiency/conservation improvements? That can ring a bell with people when they see actual cost reduction. Up-front improvement costs can be daunting, but when you see results, that’s gratifying.

  4. Great article Todd – I myself has been on a journey of continued efficiency improvements since 2000 and have done most if not all that you have completed. Next step as you know if the HRV/ERV strategy that will work in my home. I will reach out to you again sometime this year to talk about it.

    Thanks,

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