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The most cost effective things that you can do to improve your homes energy efficiency will depend on the existing condition of your building envelope, the efficiency of your equipment, and humiditiy control.
Addressing the condition overhead and tightening the building envelope are basic principles involved in maintaining efficient temperture control in the home. Thermal imaging will clearly indicate areas of major heat loss.
There are many types of structures and styles of thermal barriers. Therefore, you are best advised to have an energy consultant from a Home Energy Rating Service HERS evaluate of your particular home and assist in identifying the weakness of your home envelope and machanical equipment. Such a report can provide you with a roadmap to begin taking steps to improve the overall efficiency of the home.
If you have standup space below grade near the kitchen and a dry foot print beneath your home you may want to consider consulting with a designer or builder to explore the possabilities. Often it is necessary to dig out and incorporate masonry and / or stone work into the restraining walls and floor. The objective of the cellar is to create an environment maintain a constant temperature and humidity.
Needless to say, depending on size a cellar will allow you to stock pile volume and will give you an opportunity to age choice ventages yourself. Good luck!
In Georgia a wall retaining over 48" grade requires an engineers stamp.
You might consider terracing and have two or more lower retaining walls. Be aware of hydrostatic pressure and provide adequate weepers to deminish concern for hydrostatic pressure. Good Luck!
I would presume that there are restrictions in Washington which require the approval of an Urban Design Commission for any archietectural modification to an older structure. Such organizations operate with guidelines that are unique to your area.
I would suggest that you contact your local Building Department. Provide them with the name of your neighborhood and inquire of them "what if any restrictions limit your options".
Older homes are a specialty. Check with homes near by and ask neighbors. If neighbors have have had a good experience often they will be willing to share a phone number.
Be sure that the contractor you hire is certified to work with pre 1978 homes. The OSHA and EPA certifications or RRP guidelines (Restoration, Renovation, Paint standards) must be followed to protect employees and the general public from the harmful effects of lead paint products. Good Luck!
Foam insulation is very effective in the development of a super tight building enevelope. It will stop air leakage and enable more total control of the interior living space. This present potential problems in that our living and breathing in the living space generates moisture.
Traditional building construction practices are precisely the opposite and utilizes the concept of venting in the attic and in the crawl space whereby the area above and below the living envelope allows for the eveporation of moisture.
In designing a super tight envelope that is totally sealed there should be careful thought and concern for moisture in the enclosed area. Because foam is so effective at sealing drafts, the space should be thoughtfully designed as a whole house system, with exhaust vents for all areas of the house that generate moisture, and consideration should be given to installing an Energy Recovery Vent (ERV) to normalize the humidity between exterior and interior, to avoid the potential of developing a sick hoiuse syndrome.
Open cell is advisable in attic applications where you want moisture to freely move through when a roof leak developes, to avoid major structural damage over time. Close cell is most advisable in the peremeter of the crawl space or basement area where concern is for a more dense insulation product with more structure. (I have seen it done but advise against, applying foam on the bottom side of flooring since doing so seals all of the mechanical systems into the muck and makes maintainence profoundly troublesome and wretched for the future).
Bob Windom, Windom Construction Co. Inc. Atlanta
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