WINDOWS that act like cold radiators and attics that behave like giant sieves can make a homeowner bankrupt this winter.
Everybody talks about the cost of heat, but now a new book, "Home Retrofitting for Energy Savings," by Paul A. Knight (Hemisphere Publishing Corp., a division of McGraw-Hill; 364 pages; $14.95) tells the homeowner what to do about it.
The simple step-by-step illustrations work for even non-do-it-yourselfers.
The illustrations go a bit far, including stick drawings of the six men who helped produce the book as well as a picture of a doctor holding a stethoscope to a window to show that "houses can be sick." Once you get past these, author Paul Knight gets down to facts and solid advice on making your home energy efficient.
Knight discusses heat loss, including the three mechanisms for heat transfer -- conduction (heat transfers via molecular action), convection (via liquids and gases) and radiation (via electromagnetic waves). He explains how all three work together in your home.
"Heat in a room moves to the interior wall surfaces by convection and radiation. It flows through the interior wall surface by conduction. Heat travels from the interior wall surface to the exterior wall surface by convection, radiation and through adjoining framing members, by conduction. Heat is lost from the exterior wall surface by convection and radiation."
Starting with the rudimentary -- replacing broken glass -- Knight recommends scraping out the old putty with a chisel, cleaning the wood with a wire brush, then sealing the wood by painting the recess with primer. "Prior to placing the new piece of glass, apply a thin layer of glazing compound to the inside of the recess around all sides of the pane."
Press the glass firmly against the glazing compound. Next, insert the glazier points (triangular metal pieces that hold the glass in place -- "don't rely on the glazing compound only," warns Knight) about 8 inches apart around the perimeter of the frame with a putty knife. Then put the glazing compound around the outside edge of the pane in strips. Pack it down to prevent any water from seeping through. Wipe away excess compound and paint the compound strips to match the rest of the window.
Plastic storm windows, says Knight, can be bought in kits or can be built at home. The plastic adds "another layer of resistance about equal to that of a sheet of glass," explains Knight. Storm windows -- plastic or otherwise -- are as effective inside as outside. The disadvantage to inside installation is that they will not prevent the weathering of window frames. Knight warns that plastics that are flammable should not be used on the inside (check with salesperson for flammability before purchasing the plastic). The plastic storms must also meet local building code requirements for egress, ventilation and flammability.
For weatherstripping Knight first suggests planing or rehanging a door to make sure it fits tightly in the frame. Scrape or brush clean the surfaces you're weatherstripping -- three sides of a door should have weatherstripping (the bottom surface of the door should have a bottom seal).
Apply caulk or adhesive to the three surfaces. In weatherstripping a hinged door with spring metal strips, apply the spring metal to the jambs. Trim the metal around hinges, locks and other hardware. Tack a wire nail to one end of the strip. Tack down the strip, spacing the nails (brads) about 4 inches apart. Flare out the edges of all the strips with a screwdriver to insure a tight fit. Other weatherstripping materials include rubber, silicone, vinyl plastic tubing, foam, felt and plastic. Knight also describes weatherstripping a horizontal sliding door, garage doors and hatch doors to the attic or basement.
Unfinished and uninsulated attics lose heat fast. Insulating an attic, points out Knight, will not only reduce heat loss in the winter but keep in the cool during the summer.
Proper attic ventilation will prevent condensation and summer heat build-up. Vents should have an open area of not less than 1/600th of the attic floor area and not less than 1/300th of the attic floor area for flat roofs, according to Knight.
Knight gives these warnings on insulation blowing machines:
Place the machine on a piece of plywood or tarp, stacking the bags of insulation near the machine.
Clean the trap beneath the hopper (section of the machine where the insulation is poured).
Before attaching the hose, plug in the machine and turn it on. Hold your hand over the vent to make sure it works. Then attach the hose.
The machine will fluff the insulation as it goes through the rotating choppers. However, says Knight, it helps if the person feeding the machine breaks the large clumps of insulation into smaller pieces.
And, never leave the insulation blower unattended around small children and/or pets. Hole & Cracks
Knight deals with the final touches that will make your house an energy saving fortress -- caulking cracks, sealing air bypasses, repairing structural holes, sealing foundation crawl space vents, installing building skirting and insulating exposed ducts and pipes.
Damaged wood or asbestos shingles are structural "holes" that need to be replaced, says Knight. The first step is to pry it out, being careful not to break the shingles around it. Pull out any remaining nails. Then slide the new shingle in place and nail the top and bottom. With asbestos shingles, it may be necessary to pre-drill holes to avoid shattering the shingle.
And for those who don't know the meanings of a dormant crack (a crack in a masonry or concrete wall that shows no signs of movement), a slump test (a test of the water content of concrete -- a dry mixture will have a small slump and a wet mixture a large slump) or a weep hole (holes in the bottom rail of a storm window that reduce condensation on the window surfaces by allowing a minimum amount of air infiltration into the air space between the two windows), a complete "energy vocabulary" is listed at the end.