Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Split Level Bump Out Homes

Today's first appointment was a split level home, with the home owner complaining about a cold room and a cold floor up above.

Upon arrival, we noticed that the home at a 2' by 15' bump out over the lower level of the home; a typical split level. The bump out had vented soffits and can lighting. We went inside to view (and feel) the rooms. The client was right - the lower level room was colder than the rest of the house and the room above (with hardwood flooring) was ice cold. We pulled the floor registers out of the room and saw...daylight. This is not a good thing, of course...

We then went to the outside and removed a portion of the soffit to see better. Once the soffit was removed (and the small chunk of fiberglass that fell out), we peered into the cavity. The can lighting was IC rated...good. However, the area to the basement level and the upstairs was completely open. Cold air could just whip below and above.

The recommendation to the homeowner was for us to build plywood ends within the floor cavity, six inches from the wall, and seal them airtight. We would then put plywood under the bump out, drill holes and dense-pack the entire bump out. Then, we would re-attached the soffiting underneath. This way the flooring will have insulation under it where there is not a room. The wall joint would be sealed off from the cold, prohibiting the air from traveling.

Why this home had an open bump out, we'll never know. This is what keeps HZG in business, though...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Great Houses for Sale - Act Quickly...

Almost all bank owned homes are overpriced right now. For those that are priced well (and exceptionally well) - act QUICKLY.

Today HZG acted a little too slowly. About 6 hours too slowly. A home hit the market and was emailed to me. Due to a Krendl machine going down on a job site, I didn't have the opportunity to check the listing quickly enough. This home had structural issues in the basement (not an issue for my team), was a brick ranch in a great section of town. The auditor had it assessed at $137,000, and this gem was listed for $29,900. Even if the entire interior needed gutted along with the structural issue, it was a DEAL.

I contacted the agent that sent me the information (loyalty has its rewards) - asking him to place a full price offer on the property sight unseen. He contacted the other agent and what do you know - contract pending.

Advice to those that are in the market to purchase: If you see a home for sale that you are 99% sure is a winner (or a steal), place the offer as soon as it touches your desk. These nuggets do not last long - and when they get listed you have to act quickly. Do not play the negotiation game, for someone will present a full price - if not above full price offer - and your offer will be sent packing.

Tomorrow looks to be a weatherization blog - 2 sales calls, training a new person on "how to sell weatherization."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bank Owned and HUD LIstings

The final area (and number one area) that HZG employs when searching for a home is Bank Owned & HUD listings.

These listings are available for viewing and due to the large amounts of foreclosures in Ohio - the portfolio is plentiful. The main reason these are good is due to the availability to view prior to bidding. Agents that carry these listings are typically very seasoned and move fast to show you the product. The homes are typically vacant, and you can walk through at your leisure - no pressure.

Bidding on these properties unfold two ways. Back and forth and set pricing. The back and forth is your typical offer process. You start low, the bank comes back high...and you meet in the middle somewhere. The longer the home has been on the market, the more flexible the banks seem to be. I always recommend starting low on a home that's been on the market for a long period, or one that has serious issues. If the home is a fluke, a cream puff, bid as close to value as possible if you see the potential mark-up.

The set pricing is the bank (and HUD) that has a target acceptance pre-determined. The pricing is typically within 10% of list price. With HUD, we've seen a pattern forming where every 30-days the price drops 10%...then an offer within 10% typically gets it. Unfortunately, the homes listed with HUD have been priced unreasonably high.

Bottom line? Make sure you see the house and KNOW what you're looking to discover. It's not what you sell the house for that makes the profit; it's what you BUY it for.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Residential Realtor Listings

Residential realtor listings (RRL) are another way of finding "nuggets." What is a "nugget" you ask? It's the house that is priced for a quick sale, OR a mis-priced house.

The advantages of RRL's is that you can get inside the home to view and once in a while you do indeed find that nugget. Getting into a home is so important to purchasing and turning or keeping a home. Like everything else, if it's a steal - time IS of the essence. Be prepared to make a bid the same day you see the listing if it's a steal of a deal. You know, the cream puff home.

The biggest disadvantage is that if you don't know the market intrinsically, you will spend an inordinate amount of time viewing properties that are NOT steals. If you have the time, fine. However most serious investors don't and this becomes truly an annoyance.

When it comes to the RRL, the best advice HZG can give you is to find Realtors that have a large listing base and get to know them. Let them know you are serious to purchase and only want the under-valued properties. Many Realtors, if they know you are serious, will do a lot of the leg work for you.

Real Estate agents can have great value if you find the right one.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Where to Find Properties

HZG is actively searching for another home to add to the portfolio. There are many avenues to find homes. The most common are: Bank & HUD owned, Auctions, Residential Realtor Listings and Sheriff's Sales. Let's talk about the positives and negatives of each. Today we'll address the Sheriff's Sales.

Sheriff sales take place in our community every Friday. Sheriff sales are properties that people have stopped making payments on and the bank has asked them to vacate - via the Sheriff's department. The listing of homes is given in advance, and if a person catches up with the bank the listing is removed.

The positives of a Sheriff's Sale is that you can, every once in a while, catch a good deal - buying a home extremely under market price. That is if the bank only has a small loan on the property or the property is paid off in full. To HZG, this is the only positive. Now on to the negatives...

Here we go:
1) You are not permitted to see the inside of the home. The law requires that you may only view the home from the outside. What this means is that the interior may be completed wrecked - top to bottom. It also means that the person may still be living there - and destroy the property at the last minute. Remember, if they wouldn't do whatever it takes to keep the house (making payments on time) - then the odds are in the favor of the property itself not being taken care of.
2) The sale is in an auction setting. Once again, you are going against people who may intend to live in the home; or against auction idiots. HZG doesn't mind losing to an owner occupant bidder - home ownership IS treasured. However, HZG despises losing to the AI.
3) Once you have "won" the auction, you must pay it off in full within 30 days. This is not that big of an issue, except for...
4) You may not close on the property for up to 10 months. That's right, your are potentially out the home's price for 9 months without being able to gain possession.
5) Once you have possession, you may have to evict the current owner; this can take another 2 months and the damage that can result.

Lesson learned? Sheriff's Sales are risky. HZG learned a valuable lesson when it took 9-months to close on a $136,000 property. Yep, out the money (and it's interest) for this period and then the work could be done.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Attic Issues at Auction

Today's auction was a cream puff. By "cream puff", I mean that the price will be driven higher by someone that really doesn't look too deep. It was a nice 2 bedroom, 1 bath home that had almost all of the cosmetics done. I keeper for a rental or a quick house turn. We looked at it as a potential for both; with different strike prices.

The lower strike price was for turning the house over; the higher strike price was for the rental. Either way, there were too many people on site for this one to be had smartly.

The bidding started out nice and low and surprisingly, creeped upwards at the same pace. That's when idiocy began to happen - driving the price to with $10,000 of it maximum value. The winning bidder did not go up into the attic space. Maybe this bidder didn't care. With HZG being in the energy efficiency business - I had to look. Vermiculite was the insulation of choice - and only 2 inches of it. 4 penetrations that were large enough to let money (via lost heat) go through. Finally, a drop down staircase within the thermal envelope. This attic needed a good $1,500 to $2,000 worth of work - which I'm confident that the high bidder did not take into account...or didn't care.

Moral?- look everywhere prior to purchasing. That "one missed spot" can be the difference from making money to breaking even.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

House Auction - Structural Defect

Today, HZG went to an auction viewing / bidding for a "small bungelow in need of TLC - a handyman special."

For those of you who have never been to an auction for real estate, you can sometimes get a good deal. Most of the time, unless a house is in need of TLC, the home will sell to a family that REALLY wants the home - even if they pay too much. This home that we went to was one that had potential to be a money maker.

Upon arrival, there were 15-20 people there to inspect the home. We were able to go through it quickly and assess the repairs / energy savings improvements / cosmetizing that the home would need. Upon completion, we figured the bank would only have to PAY us a few thousand to take the home. However, this blog is not about the auction so much as it's about blind people purchasing a home. Blind in the figurative sense, that is.

We typically start off in the basement and work our way up to the attic (unless of course it's a slab home...). The basement was enough to say "enough." It was clay tile - which in itself isn't that bad; however the bottom course was pitched at a 45 degree angle sloped to the floor. Yes, the wall was coming in and would need replaced due to the structural and moisture issue. The upstairs directly above the wall in question was cracked from floor to ceiling. We stood in the basement discussing many things - the snow, the next auction, a current property being completed - as well as listening to the blind people. One by one we listened, waited, and then did our duty as good citizens to show them the issue. Apparently the majority of people at this home had heads that didn't pivot downwards. Once we showed them the issue, they realized that this potential deal was less attractive.

Moral of the story? Pivot your head in many directions when viewing a home - up to the ceiling and down to the floor. It's amazing what you'll find.

Should we have stayed longer to inform everyone? We didn't - but at least we left with a clear mind knowing that at least we told the people we saw. Even the seasoned investors missed this...

On a positive note; the attic was insulated fairly well...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Information for Blog

Good evening to all -

We are expanding the blog site to include more ways to "make" money with homes. Besides energy savings tips, we will begin including part of our other business - which directly relates to saving and making money - The home purchase and "keep or sell" business (along with general repairs).

HZG has been purchasing homes and retro-fitting them to the best condition they have been in since they were built for over 10 years. This is not "flipping." Flipping involves purchasing and cosmetizing the home for a quick sale - without upgrading the home. Our average turn time is 5-6 months - yes, the homes are in that desperate of shape. We also purchase homes, retro-fit them and keep them in our portfolio as rentals. The homes are in such good shape that they require zero maintenance - which saves us money. Regardless if we keep or sell the home, we weatherize them so that they will be good for the environment and save the tenant or purchaser money. It also gives our company a "good name" in the market. Lastly, we have a silo of our business built on helping others keep their homes in good shape - handyman style.

As you can see, we believe in homes - whether it is for energy savings or upgrading - it's to save / make money.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Trailer Weatherization

I realize that the majority of readers do not own a trailer. However, I must address the combat duty that my crews go through so you get a better understanding of their appreciation when dealing with a "good" house.

My combat crew, or so I call them when going to a trailer, went to their next war zone. The motto of weatherizing a trailer is to work carefully around the many obstacles (bad plumbing, bad skirting, sinking trailers, holes in the siding...the list goes on and on.) I received a call after 1 hour with the crew stating that they couldn't work on the trailer. My pat response is "do what you can do and call it a day." My "troops" are dedicated and will work in any condition; so when they tell me they can't work, well, I listen. This day they could do very little. Why, you ask?

It was a "Willard" trailer. If you recall the movie Willard, the movie was about mice and rats. Well, this trailer had them. Scurrying noises when the skirting was removed to see the belly; fresh droppings when viewed. And the King dropping; this was no ordinary sized rat. It was a monster rat potato cake.

HZG immediately told them to pack it in - no purple hearts are to be awarded today.

So the next time you think your job is rough, remember that there are jobs out there that deal with rats. Big ones...

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hot Water Tank Usage

Some people have asked HZG whether they should go to a larger hot water tank due to the volume of usage in their household. One of the best responses came from Home Energy Magazine. I will briefly review the answer and include my thoughts...

If you're trying to minimize the cost of providing the hot water services, there are other options to consider prior to tank size.

1) Reduce demand by using energy saving shower heads and hot water fixtures.

2) Washing clothes and dishes at the lowest temperature that is feasible. This should let you turn down the water heater thermostat, saving more energy by reducing standby loss.

3) If you are hand washing dishes, don't run the water at the same time you're washing. Wash all the dishes, then rinse them.

4) If you use warm water to brush your teeth, don't run the water until it's time to spit.

All of these combined will save on energy, reduce the volume of warm water - and save you money.

Incidentally, Mrs. HZG has used to use hot water for white clothes. Now, the temperature rarely is ever set past warm. Cold is used with booster detergents (Borax, for example). I can't tell the difference -

Experiment on your own and see if the above works for you.

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Heat Registers

This is an insult to intelligence post. I must share it with one and all for there may be one person out there that needs it. For those that don't, enjoy the amusement.

The last sales call made yesterday was one a good one to cap off a Friday. HZG was called to a person's house (gender shall remain neutral to protect the innocent). He / She complained about one room being more cold than the others. "I definitely need insulation" this person of neutral gender said. So...I first did my usual home exploration to see if there was something obvious. There was, making the house call extremely short (and non-profitable). I enjoyed the "chuckle-profit" though...

Entering the room in question, I did a quick scan of the room. No registers that I could see. So I dug under a stack of magazines and books on the floor. Looky here! A register! Completely covered. To make matters even more interesting...the final reading material covering the register was a hard back book with a plastic cover...melted to the grate.

Moral of the story...check your registers to see what type of air flow exists (find them first). Secondly, make sure they're open (yes, I've seen that too...)

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fiberglass at Every Level

Today's sales call of the day dealt with a home built in 2002. Should be OK with insulation, right? Wrong.

The clients complained about their open floor plan being cold all over, not in any room or location. They regularly clean and service their furnace (very important). The have weatherstripping on their doors (although not great - better than nothing). So the next logical step was to call HZG out to evaluate.

In the attic there was blown fiberglass everywhere. All penetrations were properly sealed - not big air leakage or bypasses determined. While there APPEARED to be fiberglass everywhere - evaluating every section of the attic revealed that they had an average of R19. Some spots R38, some spots R12. Either way - a boater could get sick from the waves created. The best guess is that the original installed just blew fiberglass in - but didn't concentrate on its height. If you recall from past blogs, height is EXTREMELY important when blowing fiberglass, for it's the air space that gives the R-value. Well, this installed just blew - literally and figuratively.

Our recommendation was to install an additional R19 accumulative - bringing the R12 and up to an R38. Regardless of whether you're installing fiberglass or cellulose, a "calm sea" (no waves in the material) must occur.

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Fake-out" Insulation

Today's sales call was interesting. Many of you may have "fake-out" insulation in your attic - and don't even know it.

What is "Fake-out" insulation? It is insulation that appears to be installed correctly and you would never know it was incorrect unless you did a "lift check." In today's attic, the client asked me to quote adding an additional R19 value over his existing R19 fiberglass. Upon my climbing into the attic, I did my lift check to see what type of insulation was installed (vapor barrier, etc.). Upon lifting up one section of paper backed insulation, it was approximately 2" in thickness, stapled to the joist and HANGING over the cavity. This means that there was an air pocket, making the insulation non-effective and fooling the client into believing that he had an R19.

I continued on my trek across his attic to a foiled section of insulation, performing another lift check. This was even better. It was foil PAPER, no insulation attached. R- BIG ZERO. So, this gentleman who was looking for an R19 add is now looking at an overall R36 add. Big difference.

The funny part of the story (if you want to call it funny) was that 2 other contractors had already been out, did a groundhog investigation (poked their head up through the hole) and gave him a quote for R19. Funny sad, I guess.

The moral of this sales call? Don't believe everything you see.

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Basement Water Issues and Weather

We've touched on basement water issues in past blogs. With winter now upon us (in the Midwest, you know what I mean), it's time to remember a key component of water...snow.

We recently had a deluge of rain that brought with it the many phone calls regarding wet basements. Following this rain, we had a winter blast of 3" - 4" in an afternoon. The temperature dropped enough that the snow now remains, with additional amounts dropping periodically. The forecast (man, I sound like a weatherman...probably as accurate as well...but not good looking...) for this upcoming weekend is 40 degrees. This in return will cause the snow to melt. This snow melting will equate to a steady rain for 5 - 6 hours. More wet basements...

So...if you've had issues in the past during the rains, check out your basements during melts. The effects are just as obvious - and address them accordingly.

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Basement Sill Plate

Today's sales call was on a parsonage for a church. The new owner stated that the budget was $133 per month. I later found out that this budget was for the last 6-months...of the spring / summer season.

The house was a century home with a stone basement. In the attic there was an R-zero, so this was a definite need. However, the basement was a major air sealing job. The sill plate on top of the stone was leaking around the entire perimeter - to the point you could feel wind coming through. I explained that all the insulation in the world would not stop heat loss through openings to the outside.

With this being said, I recommended a house diagnostic blower door driven air leakage solution. Could that sentence have been any longer? Anyway, by depressurizing the house, the existing air leaks in the basement would be active and magnified, enabling us to properly seal the perimeter of the foundation. With the use of caulk and foam, the entire perimeter could be completed within an hour - savings quite a bit of energy for the little bit of time.

Next Topic: More Fun...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bathroom Fan Venting Oops

Today's sales call was interesting. A kneewall attic space with the usual issues. Of course, the prior contractors who came before me had interesting things to say. Let's see, "rockwool is the best..." "Fiberglass is the best..." "Foam is the best..." The poor client had information overload, so I helped contribute to it with my views on all of the insulation products. Of course HZG is a cellulose fan - however I acknowledged the benefits of the other insulation products (almost - the only benefit of rockwool is to remove skin from the body, which elicited a chuckle from the homeowner.)

None of the other contractors referenced air sealing - and they probably never will. This is a huge advantage on sales calls. This particular client had a 6" chimney chaseway in their attic. There was insulation installed on the kneewall - however it was backwards. The issue that I'm addressing in this blog is the bathroom fan venting oops. Not because it's more serious than the others, it's just been a while since I've seen it (and I'm sharing it with you...)

The gentleman decided to finish the attic space and put in a bathroom. It was done spectacularly -quality craftsmanship. However, I asked him how he vented the bathroom fan. Deer in the headlights... "What do you mean, vent it?" Egads... The ceiling was sloped and he installed a bathroom fan vent in the slope. He thought the slope was enough to vent the fan. When I slowly explained the process of moisture and venting, the light above his head went off and he asked what could be done. Fortunately, a termination kit precisely in stalled on the roof would solve the problem - however the drywalled ceiling with "moisture issue" would need to be fixed.

Again - venting must be encapsulated and moved to the outside of the building shell. Always...

Next Topic: Tomorrow's Sales Call

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Temperature Settings

We have touched on programmable thermostats in the past; however we didn't cover what a "good" temperature setting is for non-occupied units (in Ohio).

For the people out there that are going on vacation or have vacant rental properties in the winter months, temperature settings can greatly increase the size of your wallet (or purse...)

In Northeast Ohio, the recommended setting for a furnace of a vacant property is 53 - 55 degrees. Anything less than this can cause water lines to potentially freeze - and burst. From the files of do as I say, not as I do...

Once upon a time a young HZG thought that since the temperature of water freezing was 32 degrees F, as long as you had your thermostat set to, say 40 degrees, you'd be OK. A week later, upon randomly checking the vacant unit, the pipes inside had burst. The water flowed...and flowed...and flowed. So, not only did I have nice water line repair bill, I had a nice water bill. Stupid is as stupid does.

Unless you have winterize the unit (drained water lines, put anti-freeze in the toilet and sink), keep the temperature at'll be a much happier person.

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Electrical Follies

Nothing is more fun than when you have to battle your own home.

HZG had an interesting issue occur yesterday. Mrs. HZG has a crew come and give the house a "once over" ever 2 weeks to help her in keeping a clean ship. I received a call from the crew stating that the vacuum cleaner was plugged into an outlet in our bathroom and it must have shorted out the fixture. The light was now out; bathroom fan, out; bedroom light, out. The gentleman that called stated that he checked the breakers and everything was OK.

Mrs. HZG arrived home and I called to warn her of this issue. I asked her to please verify that the breakers were all on and correct. She did and they were. So I called Fixit Guy to see if he could come over and diagnose the problem. It was late on Friday, so I asked him if he could come on Saturday afternoon - we could deal with the lighting issue for a day. Fixit Guy asked if the breaker was tripped and I stated that 2 independent sources verified it was. Why didn't HZG fix it? HZG doesn't do electricity...

Fixit Guy shows up with a GFCI outlet (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). He states that typically if a GFCI goes bad, all that connects through it goes bad as well. He disassembled the existing GFCI and used his powerful electricity detector to tell me he thinks he knows what the issue is. He goes to the basement and MAGIC...the lights come on.

What was the problem? The breaker wasn't flipped into place. Mrs. HZG could have gotten an earful...however it is much my issue as hers. The last person I remember saying this line was former President Ronald Reagan..."Trust, but verify..."

Lesson Learned.

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Insulating Mistakes

Today was a great day for mistakes. Two separate sidewall insulation jobs that had minor issues. The reason I'm bringing them up is to let you know that no matter how well you plan - issues can arise beyond your control.

The first sidewall insulation job we were on had a "typical" mistake. While drilling through the sidewall, we hit an electrical wire. Smack dab in the middle of the cavity. How do I know it was smack dab in the middle? We use a wire probe in the first test hole we drill to measure the cavity widths. Sometime during construction, the electrician failed to properly attach the wiring inside the cavity. If (and when) this happens - we recommend that you do NOT attempt to fix yourself - call a licensed electrician.

The second sidewall insulation job we were on was an aluminum siding job. Using the handy-dandy fein saw (as referenced in the prior blog), we began cutting the thickly layered painted siding from the home. Right through a cable wire on the exterior of the house... This type of repair can be handled by you or an insulation crew if they know how to do it. So we repaired for under $10. Still, an inconvenience.

The lesson - other people can interfere with your insulation happens...

Next Topic: More happenings...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Great Product...Right...

HZG has recently been approached by an "expert" in the weatherization field, selling a "great, new, inexpensive, easy to install, easily mark-up-able air sealing product." Whenever someone uses that many adjectives...

This product is an "outlet air sealer." The company that approached me stated that by using a blower door (very impressive, they owned a blower door), they discovered that there was major air leakage and heat loss through electrical outlets throughout the home. You could "feel" the wind coming through the wall. Now, I believe that in some homes you CAN feel air leakage coming through these outlets. However...

The outlet is NOT the source of the air leakage. The outlet is the opening that you can feel air leakage - but NOT where it is originating. In essence, this product will block you from feeling the air leakage, not stop the point of entry.

Most air leakage happens due to a bypass in the wall somewhere, or due to lack of insulation. Instead of purchasing this product, I stated to the salesperson that HZG is a firm believer in finding the source and fixing it. If the source cannot be found, then dense-packing the walls typically will find the source and cease it.

Remember, if someone swears by a product...swear back at them. Nicely, of course...

Next Topic: More Happenings

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Fein Saw

The Fein saw is an excellent tool to be used when removing stubborn aluminum siding. You know, the siding that has been painted 40 to 50 times, fusing the individual pieces into one. This type of siding cannot be removed without creating a giant wave - and once you have re-attached it, it will look terrible.

The Fein saw is a vibrating saw that is also used to cut casts off of human extremities. It cuts the siding off without tearing the material so that you can adequately dense-pack the walls of the home with insulation.

The first step is to cut the siding underneath the lead lip at a level that is below the level of your eye (so that you will not notice the cut). Once you are ready to re-install the siding you can simply nail the siding back into place with finish nails and run a bead of caulk along the seam to seal it off.

Quick topic, but a great tool.

Next Topic: More Happenings

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Interesting Products

Many times there are products that sound too good to be true. HZG just ran into one that fits that description...and then some.

I will not go into the product name or the company that sells it. However, it touts the reduction of energy bills by 15% by reducing radiant energy (as conducted by an independent lab.) With that being said, let's address the product.

1) A reduction of 15% is amazing when it's across the board, regardless of the energy used...
2) Radiant energy is important when it exists in the buildings thermal envelope - not in an attic space.
3) Independent lab? What lab, and what makes them independent?
4) We don't care how hot or cold an attic gets, as long as the thermal envelope is sealed and there is proper attic ventilation.

It's great to see new products out there - however research is very important BEFORE spending money.

Next Topic: More Happenings

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Basement Water Issue Reader Comment

The following "water in basement" issue comment came from the ever popular "Anonymous", and is a very straight-forward issue that is easy to detect...if you don't mind standing in the rain for a few minutes to observe.

After several years of trying to discover the reason for water coming down the back wall of my basement, I finally discovered that it was a problem with the gutter on that side of the house. The gutter was not correctly attached and the water directly went into the window well by the basement wall. Reattaching a new gutter corrected the problem.

Sometimes water issues CAN be detected and corrected at minimal expense. Soooo, while looking at the gutters, take the extra glance at the downspouts too - they can become disconnected from a perfectly good functioning downspout.

Thanks again anonymous for sharing your issue (and solution)!

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Entry Door Leakage

One of the most overlooked items in a home that can cause a great amount of energy loss is the door that doesn't shut properly. Doors that do not shut properly let large amounts of elements to pass into your home, making your furnace or air conditioner work extra hard. When the home was built, this probably wasn't an issue. However, with settling, temperature changes drying out wood, lock sets not functioning properly - the door may no longer seal OK. This has nothing to do with the weatherstripping; weatherstripping is the band-aid. HZG recommends weatherstripping as a secondary (and cost efficient measure.)

Some doors need to be shaved; some doors need to be adjusted at the hinges; some doors need to have dead-bolts installed. If you have the capabilities of doing any of these, the door will shut better and less air leakage will occur. THEN add weatherstripping to give a better seal.

Test your door. When it's shut, pull the knob / handle. If there is any give, you have leakage. If you have to struggle to get the deadbolt to work; you have leakage. By the way, deadbolts should be able to be activated with a simple turn of the switch - not a hard turn (or having to lean into the door to get it to shut.)

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What's behind the drop ceiling?

There are quite a few basements out there with drop know, the nice white tiles between metal framing...

Well, it's important to see what's underneath them. Major energy loss can occur underneath these panels. The accompanying photo shows HZG's crew in action, air sealing and stuffing band joists. The band joists behind these panels had major plumbing penetrations that we could seal, plus enough room to install a vinyl backed R11 for extra insulation. The vinyl is used so that you can foam around the insulation and create a permanent seal.

This is a quick writing - but an important one. Take nothing for granted. Check behind, underneath and on top of any secondary structure (that you can). You'll never know what you may find...

Next Topic: Continued Happenings

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Incorrect Insulation Advice

Evening all -

Today was another enjoyable day of listening to advice that was given to a client from an insulation contractor. Sometimes my joy comes from giving clients the "What did that contractor say?" look. This was one of those occasions.

It was a kneewall attic area. The client was complaining about the high gas bill and the coldness of the rooms below. When I arrived there, I inspected the kneewall area and found zero insulation on the kneewall and an R11 batt on the flat. I explained that I would want to put an R19 on the kneewall, seal off the floor cavity underneath, blow the slopes and crown, add another R27 to the flat and add 2 gable vents. The client was in shock. "The last guy that was here said that I had a good start with the R11 on the flat. He said he would recommend putting an R19 ON THE ROOF DECKING so that I would still have somewhere to store items behind the wall." That was it...nothing else.

Of course I explained that my quote would be substantially higher - and the work would be correct. I'm sure the client's head was spinning, but when I explained why the other recommendation was idiotic, the client seemed to understand.

I guess we need others in our industry like this contractor to separate us from them...

Next Topic: More Happenings...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ceiling Issues

Good evening all -

For the near future, I will be describing the daily actual happenings of HZG during the Energy work day. If anyone out there has an energy question or comment, I will pre-empt the happenings and directly answer the question or comment. Please, write this blog for me!

Today I went out on a sales call from a distressed home owner. This was not the typical "My gas bill is too high" call. This was "My ceilings paint is peeling and the ceiling is starting to bow." The client's fear was that due to a lack of insulation, condensation was occurring and forcing the paint to peel and the ceiling to bow. In the insulation industry, you will have many a company that would say, "Absolutely, I can fix that. Let's add insulation." HZG's philosophy is to actually go up into an attic with an idea but not to express it to the client until it's verified. The reasons being are: 1) You may be wrong and 2) we're in the business to help - not sell. Selling will take care of itself.

So anyway, I'm crawling through this 3' attic with the 1" of beat down fiberglass - maybe the client is right... I get to the area and yep, the ceiling is bowing. It's not even attached to the joists. Apparently, while asking questions across the attic to the client's head stuck up in the hatch, there WAS a roof leak and the roofer decided to fix the drywall on his own. Without much skill, in this instance.

Soooo, I have to develop pricing to remove and install this room's ceiling (3/4 of it was damaged), quote air sealing (4" chimney chaseway to the basement, soil stack issue), an R38 extra of cellulose and R38 of fiberglass on the hatch. This client also had a powered vent that should be disconnected. If there is anyone out there that would like to disagree with me on powered vents, please do so. To HZG, they're air seal breakers.

Next Topic: Actual Happenings Continued...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

May you find 2007 FULL of energy savings!