Last month, we took you on a behind-the-scenes peek at the Collins-Ruddy project. This tri-level home was a retrofit from a 1970’s where energy-efficiency was clearly not in the original blueprint of the home. Todd and his family began a journey to improve the energy loss in their home, and incorporate Passive Haus techniques wherever possible.
We use the word “journey” because that’s truly what it has been. They started this project in 2012 and are still to this day finding ways to improve. If you’re just catching this journey here in this article, take a look back at the first half of the journey we shared last month.
Today, we want to share more details about this project:
Biggest Lessons Learned:
- Solar: Todd wishes he had installed more solar panels than he needed originally to account for these future needs. While they maxed out the federal incentive, as it stands, they will need to upgrade their solar system to get them to Net Zero with vehicles, equipment they have, and what they plan to have in the next several years.
- Entry Doors & Floors: The doors were installed prior to considering a wood floor upgrade. Because the doors were installed lower, standard wood floors were no longer possible or the door would not be able to open. Instead, Todd installed engineered flooring which is not as thick.
- Attic Insulation: Todd says if he had to do it over, he would have started from scratch. Clear out the old insulation, then start with a thick layer of foam at the attic perimeter and wall connections, foam the j-boxes and any other penetrations… and then finish with a huge layer of blown cellulose. It’s more costly to do it this way, but it’s also more effective for a couple of reasons: higher r-value at the perimeter and is more airtight.
- Win the Lottery: While a pipe dream, Todd jokes that he would have won the lottery before approaching this project. It sure would have made the process easier! The process can get pricey with the more costly upgrades like windows and solar panels.
What’s Still to Come?
Remember we mentioned that this is a journey? That said, between budgets, finding quality labor/contractors, sourcing supplies, and just mere time, retrofitting a house to be more energy-efficient usually doesn’t happen overnight.
Here are a few projects they plan to tackle in the future:
- Remove the siding, add an air barrier and then 3” of mineral wool continuous insulation, and finish the exterior with new siding.
- We might consider re-insulating our walls at some point as there is only poorly installed batt insulation. The re-insulation process entails cutting holes and filling the walls with cellulose.
- Purchase a new heat-pump water heater.
- Replace the furnace with a whole house heat pump when it approaches end of life.
- Increase solar panels to get to Net Zero.
- Go all electric and cut the gas.
- Go all electric for our cars as well … and utilize our solar energy production to charge them. While we have started this process with a RAV4 prime – plug-in hybrid, future vehicles will eventually be all electric.
Here’s the new video >>
Why Do All This?
Sometimes they get quizzical looks from neighbors and friends as they share about their journey and projects. Why would you invest so much effort into improving so many things that you will never see? Sure, there are fun things like a kitchen remodel that you see and experience day in and day out that make a difference. Initially, it was about their children sleeping through the night and it’s pretty easy to forget the fact that you don’t have to cover your feet on freezing floors or the fact that you can live without space heaters in the dead of winter. Finally, Todd has the peace of mind that energy price increases won’t be that impactful on his bill.
Their family knows the power of energy-efficiency and how it can not only save a lot of money in the long run, but it reduces the need to rely on creating more heating or cooling. They’re proud supporters of sustainability efforts that reduce their carbon footprint and energy load on the earth. If we can build a better space that asks less from our energy resources on earth, why shouldn’t we? That’s their approach.
At AE Building Systems, we want you to know that you don’t have to be breaking ground on a brand new custom build to employ energy-efficiency into your home. Odds are, most of us reading this have purchased a home where we inherited energy-efficiency issues, thermal bridging, and other concerns in a pre-owned home. Most of us will be where Todd and his family were: faced with retrofitting and solving problems as best we can with the house we’re in.
We want you to know you CAN make a difference in your own home. Small steps can make a BIG difference when it comes to energy-efficiency, energy savings, cost savings, and sustainability efforts. You can be part of it, and we want to help you on your own journey.
Got questions for Todd or want to know where to start? Feel free to reach out!
Todd Collins 720.287.4290