Can This Home Be Greened? Fixing the No-Insulation Home

With a few simple renovations, a historic New Jersey home can become energy-efficient while maintaining its charm.

| September/October 2008

Bob and Madalina Blanton’s beautiful 1912 home in Maplewood, New Jersey, is filled with gorgeous hardwood millwork and the era’s impeccable plaster craftsmanship. But, like many homes from this time period, the Blantons’ was built with little attention to energy performance.

After purchasing the home in 2006, Bob and Madalina renovated the kitchen and bathroom, updated the plumbing and electrical systems, refinished the floors and replaced some of the windows. Upon their request, the Blandons’ contractor used only low- and zero-VOC products, and the couple has noticed improved indoor air quality as a result. In fact, Bob, who has chemical sensitivity as a result of working in the silkscreen printing industry for 29 years, has noticed a general improvement in his health since they moved into their newly renovated home.

However, Bob told me of temperature extremes in their daughter’s bedroom on the second floor, which made me suspect the home was not properly insulated. My suspicions were confirmed as I walked through the home. In the attic, where the Blandons are considering adding a conditioned work space and bathroom, there’s no insulation between the floor or roof joists. In the basement, the exposed oil-burning boiler has uninsulated pipes; a basement storage room had no insulation. The Blantons told me they’re on a monthly payment plan for oil heat, paying about $650 a month, and still have an annual leftover balance around $1,000.

To assist my investigation of the   home’s energy performance, I contacted Michael Sheehan of Acorn Home Improvements, which specializes in energy audits and home renovations.

1. Scan the Home 

Problem: We needed to determine all areas of inadequate insulation. 

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!