Ruh-Roh! Houston, We Have a Problem! Part 1 of 3

Real Estate Agent with

Houston, TX Skyline

Houston is one of the many places in America where having proper insulation is a necessity.  Not too long ago I wrote I Think I Have Just Heard It All.  I spoke about how I was going to re-insulate my attic and how I found out about some GREEN Products to do that.  I thought I would split this up into 3 posts so that I can go into detail about the topic and show some pictures to help.  Yes I am going to show my own attic before and after and track the decline in my utility bills.

First, let me say that I should be in some sort of Greenhouse Gas Hall of Shame right now.


Ok, the break down on my modest home:

  • Appx. 1200 sq ft Patio Home
  • All Electric
  • Built in '82
  • Electric Bill never gets below $230 and as high as almost $400  WOAH!
  • For every inch of Fiberglass Insulation X 1.5 is your approximate R-Value.  Mine is a whopping R-8.25  In Texas, the minimum recommended is R-30.  Houston, here is my problem!

I knew for some time that there was something wrong.  After I got my EcoBroker Designation I started looking closer at what I could do.  Insulation is the first on the list! 

If you read my first post you know that I was looking into Celbar which is a Recycled Newspaper product and Ultra Touch by Bonded Logic which is made of Recycled Blue Jeans.  The bid came in nearly 50% more than what I was originally quoted so out of curiosity I decided to get a second bid. 

I contacted a local company called Diversified Thermal that was highly recommended to me by GreenHaus Builders who happens to be a LEED Builder in the Houston area.  So, I gave them a ring to come out.  The Rep explained that they no longer use Celbar (I didn't ask why)  that they use another product called Applegate that they feel is a better product.  If you check out the video on their Home Page, I think you might agree.  They feel as though it is saturated better and not as dry.  Ok, I'll run with it.  It is still recycled newspaper.

Well, the bid came in quite a bit less and they will be at my house first thing in the morning to insulate.  I took an opportunity today to take BEFORE Pictures.  I will share my Hall of Shame photos.

Poorly Insulated Attic



What you are seeing here is Vaulted Ceiling Knee Walls that butt up against an exterior wall.  Apparently the guys building my home many moons ago felt it would be best to just put plywood and no insulation in the back area.  The company I have hired will be putting a barrier to prevent Heat Gain from my covered porch area.



Poorly Insulated Attic



Here you are seeing more Hall of Shame, knee walls and vaulted ceilings.  Half of my home is vaulted ceiling.  The air conditioning ducts are only 3 years old though!






Poorly Insulated Attic



In case you are wondering, even with Fiberglass Insulation you should NOT be able to see the floor joists.  (2x6 beams that you walk on so you don't fall through the ceiling.)  Actually, you would need more Fiberglass Insulation to get the same R Value as Applegate or Celbar.



If you are reading this and want to know more about R-Value of insulation, fellow Rainer Jeff Geoghan wrote a GREAT post titled What's an "R" Value that does a phenomenal job explaining it.  Also, I recommend you go to Applegate Insulation's website and check out the videos.  If you need a teaser as to why...all I will say is that a Blow Torch is involved! 

Well, next post I will be able to say that I am a little closer to getting out of the Greenhouse Gas Hall of Shame.  I will post the After pictures and then track how my utility bills will drop over the summer months in Hot and Humid Houston, TX.  It is suspected that they will be cut in half.  Let's see!  By the way, total cost to get my home up to an R-38 and installing the Knee Wall Barrier to reduce heat gain...$965.  I will also receive a $300 Tax Credit at the end of the year.  That brings it down to $665.  Now, if my electric bill drops in half-My Return on Investment should be less than 6 months. 

One great way to go GREEN and get something for it...quickly!


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J.NARRIN -Asheville Partnering Broker-in-Charge - your contact for Newsy-News, LAND, Homes, and Views
Asheville 1031 Real Estate Investments - Asheville, NC
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I always look forward to reading what you have to say.What I like most about your posts is that you get involved in what you discover. It makes me smile to know that you got on the phone and had the pros come out and give you an estimate that will , in the end, give you a healthy living space.  

One question (and I'm smiling) If you get a tax credit, would you count that off your cost??

Jun 21, 2007 05:10 PM #1
Jon Mitchell
Classic Property Management - Santa Clarita, CA
Awesome!  I can't wait to see the after shots.  I like how you use your own home to get a point across.  Let us know how much you end up saving in utilities.  Money doesn't grow on trees!  If it did I would own an orchard...
Jun 21, 2007 05:13 PM #2
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Hi JaneAnne, I did.  It brings it down to $665 so my bills should catch up in less than 6 months.  I thought that was important because many people don't realize that there is even a credit available.  :)  I'm on a roll!

I have had some other pros out....but different topic. :)  "Windows" is my only clue.

Jun 21, 2007 05:15 PM #3
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Hi Jonathan, The savings cost will be my 3rd post of the series.  I think I will wait to see what my August bill is.  It is usually the highest.  I will keep everyone posted.
Jun 21, 2007 05:16 PM #4
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Century 21 Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI
(RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE really get into it and great to use yourself and your own situations to created an informational piece! Like I said...firey with honesty. WooHoo!
Jun 21, 2007 05:53 PM #5
Gary Smith
Agent Marketing Today - Commerce Township, MI
Steph good information and photos. Can't wait to read the rest!
Jun 21, 2007 08:12 PM #6
Christina Lackey
Coldwell Banker Prime Properties - North Syracuse, NY
Syracuse Central New York Real Estate
Wow- This is really interesting.  Up here, we are all about keeping the heat IN in the winter... and my bills run about the same as yours, only opposite.  We're like 400 in the winter for gas heat and 250 in summer with our AC on.  Maybe we'll check into this too, before we sell.
Jun 21, 2007 08:13 PM #7
Dena Stevens
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
It's a strong person who shares pictures of her attic. And I've never heard of recycled blue jeans for insulation. Thanks for sharing, guess I have my homework in front of me!
Jun 21, 2007 10:29 PM #8
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Hey Sally, I thought it would be fun...and easier to track the results.  Thanks!

Hi Gary, I'll be waking up bright and early for them to start my transformation!

Hey Christina, I hope you went to the website and watched the videos. This material is amazing.  With the price range of my home most would not be able to afford these utility bills.  They would be better off buying a newer, more energy efficient home. If it works out the way it is supposed to, I will now have GREAT advice for sellers.

Hey Dena, LOL!  I didn't show the part of my attic cluttered with junk. The Blue Jeans insulation is a great product but it is considerably more expensive.  Applegate is awesome stuff. Did you check out the videos on their website? 

I wanted to use my own house for a few reasons:

  • I really am practicing what I preach
  • What better way to know the result of ROI
  • I live about 5 miles away from George Bush IAH airport and I'm curious to see if it cuts down on noise. It's not loud and I hardly notice it anyway, but still curious.
  • and last but not least, I thought it would be fun!

I can't wait for Steven Smith to stop by and let me know what he thinks about my attic. :)  It's an inspector's nightmare when it comes to electrical wires.  BLAH!  That's after insulation.

Jun 21, 2007 10:49 PM #9
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

We need a video of your walk of shame =P  Oh wait. I'm not on You Tube right now......

Jun 21, 2007 11:14 PM #10
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Lisa, LOL.  I thought you would all like that.  Thanks for stopping by.
Jun 21, 2007 11:18 PM #11
Ana Connell
G & C Properties - Burbank, CA
Burbank Real Estate Agent
Great project!  I can't wait to follow your results on this as we need to look into this issue as well!
Jun 22, 2007 12:26 AM #12
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Hey Ana, I will let everyone know what happens!
Jun 22, 2007 12:47 AM #13
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!
Great post with good information. I love how you always give so many facts~
Jul 01, 2007 11:03 PM #14
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Thanks Mary!
Jul 09, 2007 07:28 AM #15
Cheri Smith
Prudential Gary Greene, Cypress TX - Cypress, TX
Realtor Prudential Gary Greene

That is cool. My house is 2400 sq feet and my last bill for June was $470 or was it $460. Doesn't matter once you get over $ I live in Hockley, by Waller. So same weather as you. We do have 8 people living here so that explains a lot of it. I too am trying to find ways to lower my light bill. Our A/c is 9 years old so I am thinking we will be upgrading soon.

Jul 17, 2007 05:48 PM #16
Stephanie Edwards-Musa - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Hi Cheri'- Look in to doing this insulation also.  Sorry, I commented about the a/c system on a different post.  The green building one.  I think I ended up with an insulation that was about .63 per sq ft.  It took me up to an R-38 and I felt a difference within hours.  $300 tax credit at the end of the year so it took the cost down to $665.  I should capture that within..I'm thinking a year and a half at most.  I haven't received a bill to show the difference yet.  Keep an eye out for part 3.
Jul 17, 2007 08:42 PM #17
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Stephanie Edwards-Musa

knitwit at thred UP

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