If you’re like most Tucsonans, you live in a house that does a lousy job of keeping the winter’s cold outside. Which means that you’re left with the uncomfortable choice between living in an icebox or dealing with heating bills that rival your mortgage payment.
Almost all houses inside the Tucson city limits were built before any national energy efficiency standards. Roughly 175,000 houses in eastern Pima County – which includes the city of Tucson – have little or no insulation, R-2 or R-3 walls, and leaky single pane windows.
The above fits my house to a tee. This Middle-Aged House is in its mid-50s, it’s pretty drafty, and I’ve already had the windows replaced.
So, how am I solving my drafty house problem?
I started by having home energy auditor Maggie Michel over for an inspection. Here she is, identifying air leakage with an infrared camera…
The bad news is that Maggie’s report confirmed what I had long thought: This place leaks like a sieve.
The good news is that it’s possible to make houses like mine more energy efficient – without spending megabucks. And a lot of the work can be done with tools you already own.
That’s where Tucson’s Green Retrofit Co-op (GRC) comes in. It helps members work on each other’s homes in order to make them:
- Energy efficient
- Resource efficient
- More affordable and livable with age
I’m a GRC member, and I recently hosted my first of what will probably be several GRC workshops. Reason: This Middle-Aged House is an emotionally needy house. One workshop just isn’t enough.
The festivities started with instruction from GRC founder Tres English. Here, he’s showing GRC members how to seal air leaks around electrical outlets and switches. He’s using a spray foam sealer called Great Stuff…
Tip: Tres is using the window and door version of Great Stuff. There’s another version that’s used for sealing bigger gaps. That version of Great Stuff foams like crazy. Don’t use it for sealing leaks around outlets and switches. Just don’t.
Maggie’s home energy audit found quite a bit of leakage where my walls and ceilings meet. To help solve this problem, here’s Richard, the courageous kitchen caulker…
On to the back of the house. What do you do to keep your hot water heater from getting cold and lonely?
Well, you give it a nice, warm insulating blanket so it doesn’t keep coming on and making money-burning sounds that I can hear inside the house. GRC mentor Norm is on the case…
It’s been a week since the workshop, and as mentioned above, there’s still a lot of work to be done. But I’ve noticed that this place doesn’t get cold as quickly in the evenings as it used to. So, some progress is being made.