Over the winter we received a call from a home owner that was having heating and cooling issues in a 5 year old home in the Beaumont area. He complained that the house did not heat nor cool evenly and it was costing him close to $200 per month in the summer to air condition his home. He had already replaced the compressor on his unit and was at his wits end.
So, I tested his system and discovered that his system had some ducting issues that was causing it to perform well below its capacity of 4 tons of cooling ( on a house that is 2200 square feet). We came to an agreement that we would change out his ducting to fix the problems.
Back to the office I went with a drawing of the house in hand. We put it into our engineering software and found out that the house only required 2.5 tons of cooling. Now my dilemma was that if we fixed the ducting he would be oversized and the system would short-cycle, leading to higher bills and less comfort.
So I headed back to the homeowner to tell him of this problem without trying to sound like I am switch pitching or upselling him. Thankfully, he trusted me and we embarked on a course of swapping out the entire heating and cooling system and replacing it with a new 2.5 ton system. We also eliminated a number of duct runs in the attic that were completely unnecessary. Many of the rooms had 2-3 registers in them with the registers being placed all the way out along the wall and over the windows. This means the air is spending a longer time in ducts that are in a super hot attic. The Energy Star.gov website has suggestions to shorten duct runs for this very purpose. We were able to properly size the necessary ducts and eliminate the unnecessary ones to provide enough air to cool each room.
Everything seemed to be going great with our new design until I received a call from him that his master bedroom just wasn’t cooling as well as the rest of the house, which was “perfect”.
It was upon this visit to the house that I found this badge attached to a wall in the garage I’ve intentionally blocked out the builder’s name on this, because this post is really an indictment on them for allowing poor building practices to take place in their development.
I jumped into the attic and started poking around at insulation. I had my suspicions when I was up there earlier in the season about how poorly the insulation was installed, but at first glance it looked like many of the attics I am in. The comfort issues the homeowner was having lead me to inspect further. When I did I discover that although the insulation looked level throughout, the house is full of drop ceilings and interstitial spaces (huge cavities in the wall) that weren’t properly insulated. If they were, I would have noticed differing levels in the attic. Here are some pictures.
The most alarming thing about all of this mess, was that this homeowner thought he bought a home that was energy efficient. We found more than what is shown here but much of it didn’t photograph well enough to document.
Bear in mind, with the HVAC retrofit that we had done in the winter, the homeowner had already seen a reduction in electricity bills. He said his most recent one was $90 verses $190 last year. So he was happy about the current energy savings. We just set out to address his comfort issue in the bedroom.
After I reported to him what I found in the attic, he asked us to come back and air seal, retrofit what he had currently so that it was done right and add more insulation. We did so. We air sealed everywhere in the attic. We made sure that all of the existing rolled batt insulation was cut to size and touched 5 sides of the bays. We retrofitted the knee walls so that they would perform correctly and our final step was to blow in 6 more inches of blown in cellulose insulation over everything (an additional R-19+ to the existing). The attic now is performing at R-38+ and the house is much more comfortable. The homeowners bills will come down even more and, as importantly, he will be comfortable in all rooms of his home.
People often tell me that they have huge electric bills in newer homes. It shouldn’t be that way but because of poor building practices in homes that are much larger than homes in the past with many more architectural features built throughout, it is more often true, than not. So don’t accept high bills as a necessary part of living in a larger, newer home. It doesn’t have to be that way.