Misguided Efficiency

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

An interest in Energy efficiency has again become a concern for American home owners. I say again because in 1973 an oil embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) propelled the United States into an energy crisis.

One energy conserving measure then President Nixon asked of Americans was to lower their thermostats to 68 degrees. As a result of this emphasis on home energy conservation homeowners began probably for the first time to focus on making their homes more energy efficient.

One obvious area that became the focus of energy saving improvements was the attic. The majority of heat loss, as most everyone knows, is through the ceiling. In 1973 - 74 the amount of insulation was very minimal through out the entire house. The ceiling would often, as it is today, have the most insulation.

But the problem or more precisely perceived problem was the attic was cold. Why was it cold? Because of the vents that were installed in the ends of attic. So it was theorized that cold meant more heat loss and industrious home owners began to close off their attic vents in an attempt to save more energy.

As is often the case with homeowner improvements there is more motivation than knowledge. The vents must be open at all times in order to dispel heat in the summer and moisture in the winter. Closing the vents will not slow heat loss; more insulation in the ceiling will accomplish that goal.

So here we are in 2009 and I still find remnants of those old energy saving ideas from the 1970s. The top photo shows a nicely made cover that closes off one of the attic end vents. I find covers like this one a few times a year in homes that predate the oil embargo.

What was a little ironic is I found a meat thermometer in this attic on top of the air handling unit. The day was in the mid 70s and mostly cloudy. The temperature as you can see, and I felt, was over 100 degrees.

The plywood roof decking was beginning to delaminate in a few spots and the newer roofing nails were quite rusted. All this is a result of the vents being closed.

Attic ventilation is necessary for a home to function properly and not become sick. Closing off attic vents is a misguided attempt to improve efficiency. The energy saving effort in the attic should be direct at the ceiling insulation and sealing gaps not at the vents.

James Quarello
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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Rainmaker
1,244,561
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

James,

I am back home and clicked on the feature, so we will see if it goes anywhere. Good post regardless.

Jul 27, 2009 01:26 PM #15
Ambassador
1,334,106
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Hey Kate---was that legal?:)

Jul 27, 2009 01:37 PM #16
Rainmaker
686,684
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Steve, Thanks for coming back and giving it a second look.

Charlie, I guess it depends on where she was living. A baby at 10? Must be some kind of record:)

Jul 27, 2009 10:36 PM #17
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

That was intended to point to my current youthful status. Jeez. Ms. Kate, Founder of FountainOfYouth LLC

Jul 28, 2009 12:59 AM #18
Rainmaker
686,684
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

That would make you and I about the same age. So you are a young lady. :)

Jul 28, 2009 03:17 AM #19
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

My reputation has been smeared. I may just take my marbles and go home.

Hint for James: Eisenhower had grandkids my age. And as Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I have to say about that."

Jul 28, 2009 03:39 AM #20
Rainmaker
686,684
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

I quote 

I got married when I was ten so I remember the gas lines as a married woman.

I was ten at that time. Did I miss something? 

James the confused.

Jul 28, 2009 03:55 AM #21
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

Well, had i been serious that i was 10 when i got married... (Geez I was trying to market my FountainofYouth product that recently hit the infomercial circuits. You're makin' things rough)

Quit being confused. You might fall off a roof. KTG

Jul 28, 2009 04:14 AM #22
Rainmaker
1,244,561
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr James,

In studying that photo, I also see from that water pressure meter that their water pressure is off too. It should not be past 80 F. Hopefully you caught that subtle one. Thanks for sharing.

Nutsy (trained to be the best by Charles Buell)

Jul 29, 2009 02:37 AM #23
Ambassador
1,334,106
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

AHHH, the thought of Nutsy with ZERO blood pressure:)

Jul 29, 2009 02:43 AM #24
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

zero blood pressure = zero Nutzy

Trained to be the best by Kate Ford, Anonymous

Jul 29, 2009 03:26 AM #25
Rainmaker
686,684
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Nutsy, Have you actually attended any classes and if so were you conscious.

Jul 29, 2009 03:51 AM #26
Rainmaker
179,897
Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

Unfortunately, homeowners are getting mixed information on this particular subject.  Go to one of the home improvement stores and ask three of their "EXPERTS" and you will get three different answers.  I've actually tracked down the source of miss information and argued that they should keep there mouth shut, or at least get their story straight.

Jul 29, 2009 06:09 AM #27
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

Jack, that is due to Steven not keeping tabs on his squirrel. While Nutsy says is out on the job, in actuality he's hobnobbing with the big retail stores to offer his "expertise." I am monitoring this for the attorney general as we speak and action will be taken to stop the spread of misinformation. This should also save you some time. Kate, Adviser to the AG

Jul 29, 2009 06:16 AM #28
Rainmaker
1,244,561
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr James,

I was an apprentice to Charles Buell for six months. He taught me that one about the water pressure should never be, or was it that it should always be, between 40 and 80 degrees F. I am ignoring that ranting and crazy woman.

Nutsy

Jul 29, 2009 10:26 AM #29
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

Jul 29, 2009 11:18 AM #30
Rainmaker
174,893
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

By the way, that was my Wordless Wednesday contribution

Jul 29, 2009 11:19 AM #31
Rainmaker
686,684
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jack, That is a problem through out those stores, misinformation. I have over heard advice being dispense to homeowners by these "experts" that was clearly wrong.

Nutsy, You ARE confused!

Kate, You may be onto something.

Jul 29, 2009 11:39 AM #32
Rainer
42,917
Brian Griffis
Realty Choice - Springfield, MO

Good post James.  My house had custom made vent covers that had windows in them.  I just leave the vents there because it was a pain to change them out.  Glad to hear I was doing the right thing! 

Jul 30, 2009 01:21 AM #33
Rainmaker
686,684
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Brian, Closing off ventilation is never a good idea. Glad to hear you were doing the right thing.

Jul 31, 2009 08:58 AM #34
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