Home, Leaky Home: Trying to Improve Efficiency

One of the greatest inspirations behind Acre has been the battle to keep conditioned air in our current 1960’s split-level home.  You know the one; just like all the others in your town, with its leaky single pane windows, hollow wood doors, and the absolute bare minimum amount of insulation in the walls.  The house is just plain difficult to keep comfortable, and it isn’t cheap to try!

We considered replacing all of the windows, ripping the siding off and sheathing the house in insulation, and then tracking down every air leak possible, but the expense was breathtaking. Instead we have tired to make the home more comfortable and efficient by blowing in additional attic insulation, sealing leaks, and putting low-e film on the windows. These steps have helped quite a bit, and even made a dent in the bills, but I feel like the little Dutch boy with my finger in the dam.

The walls are too thin, the framing is wrong, the foundation is entirely uninsulated, and even the orientation of the home makes it impossible to take advantage of daylight for passive solar heating.  It’s akin to trying to convert a covered wagon into a Formula 1 race car. I would love to be able to take a traditional home and get it to an off-grid level of efficiency, or even close, but a traditional home is just wrong from the ground up. I don’t want to discourage those who want to improve their existing homes and reduce bills, but I do want to make it perfectly clear that you can only get so far before cost outweighs benefit.

The exercise of improving our home helped me see more clearly the causes for the greatest energy loss, and to re-imagine construction details to help avoid these problems. Of course, I am not the first to consider the many ways to improve home efficiency, but I think the Acre approach is unique and has a broader scope.

We’ll be leaking details over the next few months…faster than a drafty single-pane window…so stay tuned!

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