Home Improvement

Garage Door Insulation

From day-one one of the main problems we want to solve with this HVAC/insulation project has been the temperature in our game room. Our game room is directly over our garage. Since the garage is unconditioned and poorly insulated and there was minimal insulation between the floors, the game room is rarely comfortable. It is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Consequently, the largest room in our house goes largely unused.

As you saw in earlier blogs, we’ve now sprayed foam insulation between the floors. We’re hopeful this will help mitigate the problem. But, I’ve had on my to-do list for a long time insulating the garage doors. They are simple metal garage doors facing west. So in the heat of the afternoon, as the sun hits these doors, the metal doors helpfully pass the heat right into the garage.

We spent some time researching this project. If money were no object, we could replace the doors with insulated doors. This would be the best solution from an energy standpoint but it would also be about a $5K project which is more than we want to bite off. There are also high-tech insulating sheeting we could but on the doors. But the R-value difference between that and the stock garage door insulating kits available at my Home Depot was minimal. So we decided to take the path of least resistance. We needed two complete packages of the panels at a cost of about $60.00 ea. Total project cost was around $120 and took my wife and I about 2 hours to do. I’m skeptical about the project because nobody bled and I pretty much don’t do any home project without bleeding on it at some point. So, if the home repair gods do not receive their blood sacrifice......?

As DIY project, this one is super simple. We just trimmed the panels to fit our particular garage door and pop them in. Here’s some shots of the project and, of course, your before and after photos.


Your Basic Un-Insulated Garage Door


Cutting the Foam Panels to Fit (My beautiful wife doing the precision work!)


The Finished Garage Door

Response from the Insulation Contractor

So the folks who did the insulation read this blog and wanted to answer some of my questions and respond to some of my comments. So without further ado, here are a few comments from Bill Clark owner of Energy Foam Solutions.

I just read some of the Blog, so I thought I would add some detail on a few of your concerns:
1)   I recommended leaving the existing fiberglass insulation in the basement in place and applying foam over it. If you look at your “before” picture of the fiberglass you can see the exposed wood floor joists below the fiberglass on approximate 16” centers. This would have provided more than enough “point of attachment” for the spray foam insulation as it is basically a foamed polyurethane glue and sticks very well to almost all surfaces. This would have provided the air-seal we needed over the fiberglass for the floor insulation system to work correctly and would have eliminated any air-flow through the fiberglass. We have left existing fiberglass in place many times, the spray foam we apply has no issue holding it in place…
2)   Spray foam insulation works differently than any other insulation product, because it does not allow air to move through it, as its rated as an air-barrier via ASTM testing. Typically used insulation products, including fiberglass allow air to move through them which greatly reduces their effectiveness, as it is trapped/non-moving air that provides the insulations R-Value, this is really why higher R-Values are used with fiberglass, they are attempting to compensate for the loss’s through convective currents caused by air movement through the fiberglass. Because spray foam provides its own air barrier, less actual R-Value is needed to provide an even greater level of resistance to heat transfer. We regularly re-run Title-24 reports for spray foam insulation which allow us to install R-25 in an unvented attic assembly, R-13 in the exterior walls and R-13 in the floor system, where they we specifying R-38 in the ceiling, R-20 in the walls and R-19 in the floor with fiberglass or cellulose insulation and still exceed California’s strict Title-24 standards. Even with these lower installed R-Values, spray foam will still vastly outperform typically used (fiberglass/cellulose/cotton batt) insulation products.
3)   After all the fuss we had with the spray rig’s generator, it appears that some bad diesel fuel was the problem all along, I had a John Deere diesel tech out to your house yesterday to get to the bottom of the problem, but he could not find any issues with the engine and assured us it was not actually overheating, that it sounded like just bad fuel working its way through the system.
4)   We have always installed black plastic behind gable vents, even in new homes. If you do not like the way it looks, let me know we can paint a piece of plywood black and replace the plastic.
5)   The garage ceiling is not complete, even in the areas that you can see the foam. They need to remove all the screws, apply additional foam, then cut it off flush with the studs, so the air-seal is complete. They under-filled the area for now, so they do not have to fight the screws when cutting.
6)   The “odor” from the foam is not off-gassing. It is certified non off-gassing and Green-Guard certified. There are fumes while spraying, as the two components mix and travel through the air, but as the foam expands 10-15 seconds after it is applied there are not any additional fumes. The applied foam does have a distinctive smell/odor that different people have different levels of tolerance of. Because of that, we typically leave fans running until each homeowner is satisfied with any lingering odor and let them decide how long the fans run so they are happy with the end result, but in no way is the odor harmful.
7)   The foam we are installing is rated at R-3.8 per installed inch, but it expands at 120:1 and is difficult to install at exact depths, especially in existing homes. I always error on the side of the customer, we contracted to install R-30 in the attic so it is at least that.
8)   I apologize again for the sheetrock damage, it is very tight in places and we have to be within 24-inches with the foam gun perpendicular while applying the foam, it is always regrettable when it happens, but it does occasionally happen when working in very tight spaces with limited footing. It will be professionally repaired when the garage ceiling is fixed by the same sheetrock contractor.

Attic 95% Complete

While the generator gremlins continued to make noise the last couple of days, with one of our garden hoses providing cooling, the team finished work on the attic for now. In order to let the fumes dissipate, they’ve left the vents on each end of the attic open for now with a fan in one of them. They’ll come back later and seal those when the fumes have reduced.

So here are the before and after photos of the attic.

Attic Before

Attic Lid Before Applying Insulating Foam

attic after 2
The Same Area After Applying the Foam

Mechanical Difficulties - Part 2

The gremlins that plagued the foam insulation equipment struck again today. About an hour into the job the truck disappeared. The generator that powers all their equipment and is powered of the trucks engine keeps overheating and shutting down. Its 95 degrees out there so I guess that’s not too surprising. The guys inform me they have plenty of prep work remaining. It seems we have lots of fiberglass insulation up in the attic and they need to pull all that back in order to get into the narrow eaves. They will also need to caulk in a number of place to prevent the foam from extruding through the seams in the roof.

On the plus side they re-sealed the front decorative grid with the black plastic.

black grill

Up close it looks a lot like someone covered the vent with a black plastic garbage bag (‘cause that exactly what they did!). But from a distance it looks OK.

black grill 2

They did make some progress before the generator broke down.

day one of the attic foam
First Day of Actual Foaming

One pleasant surprise is how thick they’re spraying the foam. I’m confident we’re getting our money’s worth.

foam thickness example
Example of the Foam Thickness Taken On Day One of Foaming

That beam is 8 inches wide. I’d guess we’re looking at an average of at least 12 inches. We contracted for an R-Value of 30. The foam is 3.5 R/inch so my guess is we’re actually getting something like R42!

People Difficulties

Today, the insulation company showed up with a different truck and a working machine to spray the foam. I opened up all the windows in the house in anticipation of potentially toxic fumes but the smell is only strong at the truck itself. In the house the smell is quite mild. Things seemed to go smoothly until I sat down in the dining room to eat lunch and saw white flakes on the table. Eventually it occurred to me to look up and I saw this crack in the ceiling.

ceiling crack

and later in the day, this one.

ceiling crack 2

I pointed these out to the guys doing the work and they were apologetic but seemed to accept this as a sort of standard problem. They agreed to fix it when the job is finished. We’re a little worried about this because the paint on the ceiling is not a standard white, so matching may be a challenge. Two more items for the Check List.

Later in the day, after the team had left I noticed this from outside the house.


This is a decorative grill n the front of our house. In order to seal the house they have to seal off the grill. But surely there’s a more attractive approach. I sent an email to the folks at Bonney and the insulation company. To their credit they agreed immediately to correct these items.

So far, here’s the checklist,

1. Place a “T” fitting on the outlet of the exhaust pipe
2) Insulate the new hot water lines
3) The electrical box for the tankless system is missing a wall plate.
4) The exhaust vent on the outside of the house should have a gasket or seal.
5) Rubber gaskets under the tankless water heater mounts
6) Flexible hoses connecting the tankless heater to the water lines
7) Repair crack in the ceiling

Honey-Do Day - Part 2

The second phase of today’s Honey-Do list was a new garbage disposal. Personally, I’m not keen on garbage disposals at all. I’m eager to start a composter and compost anything that might go in the disposal. But I’ve been outvoted on this for now in a close one to one vote, tie goes to the wife. Check Robert’s Rules of Order, if you don’t believe that’s the official parliamentary procedure. Robert was no fool.

Our old disposal was close to 20 years old and on its last legs. We’d taken to keeping an Allen wrench under the sink because the disposal jammed almost every time we used it. It was also ridiculously loud. It turns out that there are only two companies who make garbage disposals, Insinkerator and Waste King. All the other brands are one of these two with a different label on them. We opted for the
Insinkerator Evolution Excel because we wanted a quiet disposal and because Yolanda tends to put everything in the disposal and I’m tired of un-jamming ours.

The folks at Insinkerator claim their’s is 60% quieter than a standard disposal. After the installation I’d say it was more like 80% quieter than our old disposal. Maybe we’ve just been conditioned by our old one, but I seriously can barely hear the new one.

The folks at Insinkerator also claim you can put a ham bone through this thing. We’re vegetarian but I’m dying to kill a pig just so I can try it out. Happy

The installation was pretty much a standard disposal install. The plumber had quoted us $544 to install this with a lower grade disposal also from Insinkerator. This Install took me just an hour, total cost $320. The only challenge was that this is a big SOB. We also have a reverse osmosis water system under the sink so things are pretty cramped down there now.

Honey-Do Day - Part 1

Today was a Honey-Do and what my honey wanted done was a new kitchen faucet and garbage disposal. The previous faucet wasn’t really that old. But we’d bought it at Costco. The price was great but it was a cheap Chinese knock-off and after just a couple years of use the finish had come off. So when it started to leak, Yolanda declared it a lost cause Laugh

We went to Home Depot this time because they carry the major US brands and Consumer Reports said they were basically all reliable. We selected the most expensive one they had in order to get a new feature we think we’ll save water for us, which is one touch on and off. The folks at Delta Faucets call it
Touch2O, (get it? Touch 2 Oh?) This feature lets you turn the faucet on and off just by touching it. We liked this idea because we think we’ll be less likely to just leave the water running when we wash things if turning the water off is just a quick touch of the hand.

touch2O faucet
Delta Touch-2-O Faucet

Installation was only a little more complicated than a standard faucet install. Although, as an Electrical Engineer, putting delicate electronics under my kitchen sink sounds like a bad idea. Lets see. One downside on the install is that the water lines to the faucet have a solenoid in them and so are made of a stiff plastic and are of a fixed length. You can customize them but that sounded complicated so I wanted to leave them the way they came. The problem is they are longer than the height of a standard kitchen cabinet. the manual say you can just loop the excess out of the way but then cautions you not to make a loop smaller than 8 inches in diameter. Our kitchens sink is a standard height so I’d guess everyone has this problem. Not looped, the tubes are too long. Looped in an 8 inch coil and they’re too short. I opted for an “S” shape in the tubes. However, since they are fairly stiff, this is putting a constant torque on the connection so I’m worried about leaks over time.

All that said, we’re happy with our choice. The faucet looks and works great. Although I still think we need voice activated everything. I’m going to name my house computer Lucy. “Lucy, water in the sink please.” Laugh

Mechanical Difficulties

According to the current schedule we were to begin installation of the foam insulation in the attic today. There was no confirmation call and by 9:30 am, I hadn’t heard anything. I called our sales guy, James, who was the person who’d told me today was the day this would happen to ask if things had changed. James was in a meeting but promised to have someone check for me. about 15 minutes later I got a call that the trucks was on its way. Around 10:00 am a big noisy slightly smelly truck was parked in front of our house.

I was pleased the subcontractor had the Release of Waiver signed and ready to go. I showed them the access to the attic and asked if they would begin with removing the old insulation. The guy gave me a blank look and said, “Are we removing the old insulation?”

attic day 1
Our Attic Before the Project

I pled ignorance. Our contract specifies removal of the old insulation but I have no idea whether the subcontractor or the main contractor is planning to do the actual removal. I didn’t want the foam guys to waste a trip so I called Bonney (our contractor) to see what’s what. The resulting conversation had me even more confused as James explained to me that the subcontractor did not think the old insulation needed to be removed, either in the attic or the crawlspace. James and I agreed there was a logic to leaving the old insulation in the attic. It was to be a semi-conditioned space and the old insulation would serve to reenforce that. But neither of us could get our heads around leaving the insulation in the crawlspace. It seemed logical to me that if you sprayed foam on top of the batting between the floor joists then new foam would not be attached to anything permanent and would eventually just fall out.

I spent about two hours searching the web for something definitive on this. I finally found a site that said specifically that this was not possible for exactly the reasons James and I had discussed. I emailed the information to James and he responded that the old insulation in the crawlspace would be removed.

With that out of the way I went to check on the progress. There was a distinct lack of activity and no tell-tale smells of new foam insulation. The installation team shared with me they were having “mechanical difficulties” with the machine that sprays the foam.

The owner of the company finally came to work on it personally but, no joy. They decided to finish the prep work and reconvene on Monday.

Ghosts in the Basement

My wife usually goes to bed before I do. Like a sensible person, when she gets tired, she goes to bed. I prefer to fall asleep on the couch pretending to watch TV. This results in me finally showering and coming to bed after Yolanda has gone to sleep. Last night, when I got out of the shower i was greeted by four of the scariest words most married men can hear, “What was that noise?”

Turns out, that as I was getting ready to bed, and frequently running water, my wife kept hearing a strange sound from under our house. It sounded somewhere between a beep and a moan. After some experimenting, we realized the sound happened each time I turned off a hot water faucet. Since we’d just installed the new tankless hot water heater we had a likely suspect for the noise (that or the ghost of my crazy Aunt Flora).

Today I inspected the tankless again. I heard the noise faintly when I was standing in front of the unit but it was much louder upstairs. I called Noritz customer support and described the problem. The technician I spoke to immediately knew what it was. I never know in these situations to be happy or annoyed. I’m happy that someone knows what my problem is and confirms I’m not crazy. But I’m also annoyed because, if it is a known problem, why haven’t they done something about it?

In the Noritz tankless water heat we purchased, the NRC111, there are tiny servo-valves that cycle through a self-check each time the system shuts down after use. Normally that noise is unobtrusive. However, in some house, especially when in a basement or crawlspace, the vibration is communicated through pipes or structural members in the house and amplified. They suggested two mitigations; installing rubber gaskets between the unit and the mountings and installing flexible hose fittings between the copper supply lines and the unit.

I called the plumber at Bonney Plumbing and explained the problem and they agreed to do the mitigation when they come out to install the hydronics system.So two more items I’m also hopeful that when they spray the new insulating foam in our crawl space that the foam will absorb most of the sound.

So far, here’s the checklist,

1. Place a “T” fitting on the outlet of the exhaust pipe
2) Insulate the new hot water lines
3) The electrical box for the tankless system is missing a wall plate.
4) The exhaust vent on the outside of the house should have a gasket or seal.
5) Rubber gaskets under the tankless water heater mounts
6) Flexible hoses connecting the tankless heater to the water lines

Going Tankless Part 2 - The checklist begins

The plumber finished the installation of the tankless water heater today. The first surprise for me, is how quiet it is. I had some limited experience with tankless water heaters when I lived in Latin America, where they are common. I have distinct memories of hearing the roar as the water heater fired up when I started a shower.

When Andrew, the plumber, called me in to say we had hot water I followed him into the crawl space where the new water heater was installed. From the entrance I could not hear anything. I asked Andrew if the system was running and he assured me it was. I could not hear it until i was standing right in front of it.
Our new tankless water heater

Having read recently a number of anecdotes from tankless users about problems they had with the system shutting off in the middle of their showers due to insufficient water flow, the first thing I did was tour the house and turning on faucets one by one. It may be my imagination but it feels to me that the water pressure is lower in a couple of rooms. Bt the water temperature is perfect. I ran the shower in the master bath for 15 min. without any problems.

The previous owners of our home had installed a pre-circulation pump on a timer. This pump circulated hot water through the pipes in the house at key times so that when we turned on a faucet we got instant hot water. I had wondered at the additional expense. With the new system I see why. We have to run a lot of cold water out of the faucet before the hot water arrives. We can see this will drive our water usage way up and its painful in drought-plagued California to see all that water going down the drain. We’re going to need a solution for this problem.

Andrew and I walked around and inspected the job. We agreed their were a handful of things that yet to be done. Andrew promised he’d finish them up when he comes back to plumb in the hydronics. I borrowed a best practice from my software project management days and started a checklist. This will be a running list of pending items to be done before we’ll sign-off on the project (and before we’ll cut that final check.)

So far, here’s the checklist,

1. Place a “T” fitting on the outlet of the exhaust pipe
2) Insulate the new hot water lines
3) The electrical box for the tankless system is missing a wall plate.
4) The exhaust vent on the outside of the house should have a gasket or seal.

Change of Plans - Again

The revised timeline called for installation of the new hydronic heating and AC systems to begin today in parallel with day two of the tankless water heater. But our day began with a phone call from our salesman. According to him, our new air exchanger is a top of the line system that the manufacturer, Rheem, only produces in limited runs based on actual orders. Consequently, our air exchanger will not be ready for at least 3 weeks. This is not the end of the world but we have to ask why the folks at Bonney are just finding this out the morning installation is to begin. Their new plan, designed with the best of intentions, was to install a lower grade unit temporarily today and then return in three weeks time to remove that unit and install the higher grade system.
But we’re not actually in a big hurry and it seems a waste of time and money for the folks at Bonney. So we suggested they simply delay the installation until the correct unit is ready. So, the new new plan is for the installation to take place sometime in the first week of August. Here’s crossing our fingers. If things continue to be delayed we’ll make it to autumn and won’t need the new AC until next year. Happy

The Work Begins - Going Tankless

Today the project stared in earnest with the replacement of our standard hot water heater with a tankless water heater. The day began with a lot of decisions. Bonney Plumbing’s guy arrived around 9:00 a.m.. They had not seen our home before nor seemed briefed on the situation other than that the tankless water heater would form a part of a large project that included a hydronic heating system. I showed them around and we began to discussed installation options. It quickly became apparent that , while this might not be their first tankless system, it was their first installation of this model and so job one for them, read the installation manual. I pulled up the installation manual on-line so I could participate intelligently.

Old Faithful - Our old industrial strength water heater

The first decision was where to install the unit. In particular, should we simply swap the existing hot water tank or co-locate the tankless system with the new heat exchanger on the crawl space under the house. The considerations were, the maximum run allowed between the water heater and the heat exchanger, the exhausting of the system and the distance limits there, the draining of the condensation, the electrical connection and finally ease of access and lighting. We finally decided to co-locate the water heater in the crawlspace with the heating system. You may recall that one of the reasons given for changing to the lower temp, higher efficiency tankless system was that the shorter plumbing run would enable a lower temp system. We decided on a location near some support joists where we could run some two by fours to hang the system on. A previously installed light in that area provided convenient lighting. As a side benefit of this decision we freed up the old hot water heater cabinet for use as a closet in my home office.

With that decision made, we needed to decide; where to run the exhaust duct. It need to run to an outside wall, could be a maximum of 39 ft. (assuming there was only one elbow), and needed a incline back to the tankless unit so that condensation would run back into the system for collection rather than outside. We decided to vent behind the house under out raised deck. Electrical supply was easily handled by connecting to the circuit powering our Jacuzzi power jests in our master bath tub.

With these decisions made, Bonney’s guys got to work. I was hopeful the installation could be completed in one day. But as the afternoon wained I saw this would not happen. The guys called it quits when they realized they did not have the gas fittings required to finish the job. Fortunately, they’d had the foresight to leave the existing system intact and their plumber promised me we’d have hot water that night from our old system.

That evening Yolanda arrived for the dreaded wife inspection. She was less than happy with the location because the footing in that area is loose dirt and sharply sloped. Also, the light for that are does not come on with the wall switch by the entrance. One must cross in semi-darkness to that are to turn on the light for that area. She pictured late night emergency visits to the tankless water heater and was concerned that poor lighting and poor footing had the potential to make a hot water problem into a trip to the hospital if someone tripped in the dark. I see a small project in my future leveling the ground in that area, putting in some concrete pavers and potentially improving the lighting situation.

Next Yolanda and I discussed the placement of the exhaust. Yolanda pointed out that the exhaust would be directed straight into our poolside patio area. Which, in those 100 deg. days here, is the only cool outdoor place to relax. Hot smelly exhaust might not be the best addition. I promised to discuss moving the duct to the other side of the house with the installers.
Final note, turns out that, despite the best of intentions, something happened to the old hot water heater yesterday. Yolanda noticed the water was not as warm as usual when she took her evening shower. My showers follow hers and by then the residual hot water was gone. No hot water tonight! Lets hope the new system is up and running before tomorrow night.

What the heck is "Hydronic" heating?

We told our HVAC company we were open to (even likely to favor) innovative ideas. The center piece of their solution was Hydronic heating. That, of course, had us googling like crazy people. A quick google search on Hydronic heating yields lots and lots of information.......about “hydronic radiant heating.” Hydronic radiant heating circulates warm water through small pipes or tubes in the walls or floors of a house. The resulting warmth “radiates” into the room. It's a great system for some applications but we realized quickly it made no sense for us. The time to put those little tubes in the floor and ceiling is when you build the house. You can put them in as a retrofit but it means tearing up a lot of the house and that wasn’t what we had in mind.

A few clarifying emails to our HVAC friends quickly confirmed that Radiant Hydronics was not what they had in mind. They were instead proposing a forced air solution using a hydronic heat exchanger. It turns out, this is not such a new solution. Most commercial heating systems are based on this idea i.e. a boiler and forced air. You’d think there would be lots of information on this subject as well. Turns out that is not the case. There is almost no information on this kind of system, how it works, how efficient it is, when to use this vs. a standard heat exchanger. So, check out our Hydronic HVAC page to see the explanation we’ve put together.

The Proposal (s)

The HVAC company came back to us with a Chinese menu of options organized into three scenarios.
Scenario 1 - Basic HVAC Upgrade
AC sizing
A Hydronic Heating and AC System

Scenario 2 - Energy Upgrade
Everything in scenario 1
Per room airflow calculations
Duct sizing
Duct Repair and Resizing
Replace Attic Insulation with Foam insulation
Heat Recovery Ventilator

Scenario 3 - The Rock Star Upgrade
Everything in Scenario 2
Zone Balancing
New Duct Work
Foam Insulation of the Crawl Space Below the House
High Performance Registers
Web Linked Programmable Thermostat
Condensing Tankless Gas Water Heater / Boiler

Naturally, we liked scenario 3 but scenario 2 was closer to our budget. Now we needed to understand better the systems being proposed and the tradeoffs between them so we could decide on a scenario that best worked for us.

The High Performance Home - The Whole House Audit

It started with our furnace going down one cold evening a few weeks ago. I went down in the crawl space and opened her up. The diagnostic lights indicated a problem with the vacuum relief valve. I unhooked the air tube that connects to the VRV and blew through it and then tapped the valve with a screw driver and reassembled everything and wala! Things were auto-magically fixed. While I am happy to bask in my wife's sincere praise for my handinesss, I was suspicious of the fix. Things that easy to fix usually come back at the worst time.
This isn't the first time the unit has gone down and it is getting to be about 20 years old. We decided to call a few HVAC companies for quotes to replace our furnace and AC.  We got a couple of quotes and then we ran into a company whose sales guy, James, said, "Why don't you let us do a free whole house audit?" I like free. So we agreed to have James and his team  audit the energy efficiency of our house.
When they arrived and I watched them unload the gear it reminded me of those movies when the bio-hazard team puts someone's house in lock-down. The "stuff" just kept coming. Finally, the foyer of our house was filled with assorted gizmos and tools and the audit began.
The audit consisted of,
- a visual inspection of the attic and crawl space
- a burn test, in which they  lite a small smoldering flame and  look for drafts
- an infrared camera scan for hot and cold spots
- inspection of the HVAC systems
- inspection of the water heater
- ducting pressure test (we were losing 40% of our HVAC activity to the outside through faulty duct design)
- a blow test in which they seal up the house and put a big fan that pressurizes the entire living space and check for leakages
We knew we didn't have the most efficient home but the audit convinced us we needed to take a more holistic approach to going green. We asked James and the gang to come back to us with a proposal and we emphasized we were open to more innovative solutions. Check in soon to hear about the proposal.

Completed Projects

I didn't decide to start this blog right away. so, we got a few things done before this started. I'm hoping to document those projects on the website www.doyourselfgreen.com  soon. In the meantime I think there's a enough going on to keep the blog more than busy.
Here's a list of what we've done so far,
-changed all the lights to CFL
- upgraded the thermostat to a super-programmable
- changed out all the windows (all 37, ouch!)
-installed solar pool heating
We've probably done others. I'll update the list as I remember.

The Starting Point

So, about our house. Our home was built in 1992. It is one story, sort of. Our home is on a steep lot that slants toward the back of our home. So the front of the house is at street level but if you stand in back of the house, your looking up basically 2 stories. But there is only one small room  below street level that was added on after the original build (by the original builders) as a combo guest room and changing room for the swimming pool. The house is about 32oo sq. ft.. We have a crawl space under the house that, due to the slope of the lot, is minimal in front but big enough to stand in at the back. This crawl space houses all of our utility stuff, furnace, water heater, etc. We also have a a crawl space attic. Other feature; as mentioned, a swimming pool (something we would never have done if we were building from scratch but the house came with one, so cool!) We also have three fireplaces we almost never use and a 3 car garage.
Heating is a 5-ton forced air gas furnace at about 80% efficiency. Windows were dual pane aluminum. We have a HUGE water commercial size water heater for some unknown reason. I guess the original owners wanted to never run out of hot water. We have central air, again about 80% efficient.Everything is pretty standard for the time the house was built. Regulat R14 batten insultaion (you know the pink stuff.) No attic fan or whole house fan.
Our energy bills before we started doing energy improvements were averaging around $250 per month even though we were conserving like crazy, tmep at 63 F most of the day during winter months, splurging up to a balmy 68 in the evenings. Temp kept at 83 duirng the summer day dropping to 78 in the evenings
Stay tuned to see how things change.

The Backstory

My wife and I purchased a home built in 1992. That's makes it fairly new but old enough that green technology and and the high performance home knowledge have advanced a lot since our home was built. Last year we started getting serious about making our home more energy efficient and more "green."  We found a lot of good general information. But we're both engineers. We need to understand how something works before we invest in it. We've found a real lack of specific information about how do best improve our home.
This blog is about our continuing efforts to improve our home, the challenges, the learnings and the technology. In parallel, we'll be doing a website www.doyourselfgreen.com where we'll post more info, video's of our projects etc. I hope you enjoy the blog and I look forward to your comments.
About the name: FYI I called this site "Do Yourself Green" but its not "Do 
it yourself green". I'm a handier than average guy with more confidence than no how, so I'll tackle a lot of things myself but many of the things we contemplate here are just more than I have time or know-how to tackle. So, don’t be surprise when we bring in the pros.