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Residential Energy Efficiency Blog

Saturday, September 26 2020
Common Reasons Your Home is Cold in the Winter


If you live in Maryland long enough you will experience a cold winter. During extreme cold events most untreated houses in our area will give in to the "pressure" and feel drafty. The heating bills go up and you may never feel warm. Before you know it the winter is over and you spent a whole lot, but you didn't end up getting much comfort in return.

Unless the envelope of your home has a pressure boundary to go along with the thermal boundary then extreme winters are likely to be costly and uncomfortable. The missing part of an insulated home is sealing up all places where air can flow from the outside to inside (infiltration) or inside to outside (exfiltration).

Most Maryland houses are in this category and are considered to be leaky.
 



Check out this 1952 Maryland Attic with a Large Thermal Bypass
 


 



Typical Characteristics of the Houses that Grade the Worst


As a certified professional home energy auditor with over 1000 home energy audits completed, I understand the common configuration problems that cause issues for different style houses. Having this experience gives me good insights into how to solve issues and not make them worse.

Below are a list of characteristics found in the houses with the biggest winter comfort issues:

  • Recessed Lights in Top Floor Ceiling
  • Open Chimney Damper
  • Large openings at the attic floor like this one
  • Unsealed Attic Access Hatches
  • Fiberglass Batt Insulation Installed at Attic Floor
  • Closets with Doors to Attic Areas
  • Houses Built on an Open Crawl Space
  • Homes with Kneewalls and Sloped Ceilings
  • Houses with Uninsulated Ducts
  • Poor Overall Attic Ventilation

 

This is Why it is Happening - The Stack Effect

 

To understand how to get a hold of the winter cold in your home, you must first understand the Stack Effect. The stack effect happens in every building and it gets its name from a fireplace and chimney. The physics behind the name is that at the base of the chimney - at the fire level - there is a "pull" or negative pressure. At the top of the chimney the smoke and heat billows out. That is the "push or burst" - the positive pressure.

In the winter our heat in our homes rises upwards. Much like a hot air balloon. We all know that hot air rises. What we have been missing for all these years is that the hot air is escaping through holes in the ceiling. And when it gets pushed through the top it gets pulled in at the bottom (crawl space, untreated basements).

To make a Maryland home more comfortable in winter the focus must be on sealing the attic floor. Disruption to the flow of warm air escaping through the ceiling will also disrupt the negative pressure, or cold air streaming in at the basement. Less negative pressure means less cold air infiltration - or less drafts. By sealing the attic, the heat can't escape and the furnace/heat pump does not have to run as long.

An energy audit through the BGE Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is a great way to get up to speed. An energy audit, done with a great energy auditor, will guide you to how your home fares. Usually, we intrigue homeowners with easy to fix finds and advice that puts them in control.

 

Conclusion

In sports, one expression to describe a team or a player that is performing at peak is to say there is a "science" behind what they are doing on the court or field. 

When it comes to home comfort there is a true science behind it and Hometrust has the training, knowledge and diagnostic tools to test and finally get to the source of your home comfort issue.
 


 

Considering an energy audit, but not sure if it will help your issue or concern? 

 


 


 

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    Specialized Maryland Contractor
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    Hometrust Remodeling is a licensed contractor specializing in a whole-house approach to home remodeling with an emphasis on educating our customers, providing energy efficient solutions, maintaining a network of high caliber technicians and using building science principles.

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    North Laurel, MD 20723
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