home energy assessment


Old 11-09-08, 07:40 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: NJ
Posts: 232
Question home energy assessment

I had a state - utility home energy audit done. I have had a couple of contractors visit to ananlyze and submit a plan.

I have an ancient old house built before 1900. Paying for some upgrades probably makes sense - I get a big discount. The walls have no sheathing so the auditor says the walls can't be filled. But there seem other opportunities. I do have new windows and appliances. I have oil steam radiators "one pipe" style, so I"m told it would be costly to convert to hot water or anything else, so probably will leave as is. I am in the mid-Atlantic states where the only really very bitter winter months are Jan & February, maybe March. I have used space heaters and a wood stove Fall and Spring. My electric bill is LOW.

I have a few concerns and am hoping someone here might have some thoughts.

My key concern is maybe I do need the air flow as is. In summer on the few extreme hot days - in the 90's for a heat wave - one upstairs bedroom gets a strong odd musty odor; almost like vinegar. That may or may not be specifically from inside the room; it may be in the walls or the chimney inside the wall. This was not a problem this past summer. (I could put in an a/c). And in winter, if I close the master bedroom using a space heater for about two hours to fall asleep, that one room gets a very strong stale smell - this just started maybe two years ago. If I leave the door open it goes away after several days. I have no idea if the carpet needs to be cleaned, or furniture turned bad or whatever. Also, if I cook a strong smelling dinner, it can take days for the odor to leave the house - downstairs. (windless days). So aromatic rice I can smell when I come downstairs in the mornings for a few days.

The energy audit says - and I agree - there is not good insulation - and someplaces none - in the attic so they recommend redoing that. They also recommend sealing all the pipe, etc. vents, drywall top plate, etc. So seal these things in the attic and also spray to seal around the wall in the basement (old flagstone rock foundation). That should tighten up and stop air flow through the "chimney" like holes in the house. My fear, though, is that much less or no air flow means this old house might also make the stale air worse and hold in moisture from humid summer days, etc. That scares me because of the smells I now have at times.

I am also concerned about installing a new indirect tankless water heater - something I said I'd like so I can shut off the furnace from April - November. This time span uses about 150 gals of oil to heat the domestic hot water. At $3.00/gal that is about a cost of $450/year. I have one contractor with a gas tankless heater for about $2500 (about 4 year payback), and another who offers an electric one for about twice that (so 8 year payback). I may be better off keeping the domestic water coil inside the oil boiler - that unit is about 7 years old.

Any thoughts from your way is appreciated.
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Old 11-11-08, 05:31 AM
airman.1994's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: VA
Posts: 5,631
It will be very hard to make an old house air tight unless you remove the plaster walls and air seal them with spray foam. If you are in a green grass area you will need to have a dehumidifier in the basement. This will help with the odors
Old 12-03-08, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: western Massachusetts
Posts: 2
I would guess your furnace is not very efficient. I had a 50 gal gas water heater. I believe it saved me a bundle vs running the oil fired boiler all summer. Personally, I prefer tank heaters over tankless, because to me, tankless systems don't deliver the same consistent hot water as a tank unit, but that's just my opinion. When my unit failed, I replaced it myself for under $200. If it were my decision, I'd get a separate hot water system, and turn off the furnace.
Old 12-03-08, 02:38 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: NJ
Posts: 232
Thanks. The reason I did not originally go with a tank heater is that I so enjoy the luxury of a very long shower and hate running out of hot water. It will run out especially if I shower too sooner after the dishwasher or clothes washer is run, someone else showered, etc. This luxury is my one vice in life.

I have also read like you say that tankless heaters have varying ability to deliver consistent hot water, or really hot water at all, which makes me hesitate. One professional went further and said oil is the hottest fastest.

So maybe I'll keep my coil inside the boiler and pay $400 bucks towards oil for it over the late spring/summer/early fall.

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