I was called to conduct an energy audit on a fairly large house and as usual I started in the basement and worked up toward the attic. After some two plus hours of checking every possibility to save money and energy, the home owner informed me that the master bedroom was always freezing. A “Ghost-Like” freezing, he described.
Winter had just started and upon entering, the bedroom was as cold as it was huge. I started my hunt for all the contributing reasons.
I noticed newly installed Recessed Ceiling light fixtures in the bedroom's ceiling. The homeowner told me that he received a great deal on the labor, since he was friends with the electrician. Nevertheless, I immediately calculated the cost and savings for him to convert from the 75 watt incandescent flood lights his friend installed to 18 watt compact fluorescent floods. Today, I would recommend LEDs. Based on the local Kilowatt rate and hours of use for the bedroom lights, the payback on his cost to buy the new flood lights was less than two years. Yet, this did not solve the issue with why the bedroom was so cold. The main reason was lurking above us in the attic.
I first addressed the thermostat's location on the second floor for the bedrooms and the benefits to having a Multi-Set Back Clock thermostat installed in a different location. Then I pulled down the steps to the attic and went up without hesitation. Once my eyes cleared the hatch entrance, my portable light came upon the astonishing answer. I froze, not from the cold attic, but because of the great incompetence of some "so-called professionals." As I slowly backed down the steps and turned to look down at the homeowner, he knew from the look on my face, that something was seriously wrong.
"How well do you know this electrician friend of yours?" I asked cautiously.
"Very well, I know him for years. Since school. Why?"
"Is he a licensed electrician?"
"I think so. Why?"
"You can use my light and go up to look for yourself, but to install your new light fixtures in the ceiling, your friend moved all your insulation and stacked it up in a pile on one side. They never put the insulation back into the Bays between the wooden beams."
The homeowner took my light went up, looked around, and came down cursing while making a few angry claims.
We reviewed the solutions to his cold bedroom that included placing the current insulation back with the vapor barrier facing the attic floor. Also adding additional Un-Faced insulation on top (insulation without a vapor barrier) and the importance of always having a licensed electrician. One final note, always check on the work done yourself.
Alas... a ghost was not part of the reasons for the cold bedroom or for moving the insulation into a stack on the side.
Bill Lauto, at Going True Green
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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