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

  • “By adding proper insulation, the Blantons will probably cut their heating bills in half,” says Mike Sheehan from Acorn Home Improvements.
    Robert Politzer
  • Madalina and Bob Blanton love their historic home.
    Robert Politzer
  • The lack of insulation in the attic was a good indication of its absence elsewhere.
    Robert Politzer
  • Thermal-imaging scans of walls and ceilings show where the home is losing the most energy.
    Robert Politzer
  • Insulating the basement water pipes is a quick, inexpensive way to save a lot of energy.
    Robert Politzer
  • The Blantons should hire a window company experienced in lead-safe work practices to replace the single-pane windows.
    Robert Politzer
  • The temperature extremes in the baby’s bedroom were a first clue to the home’s energy-loss problems.
    Robert Politzer
  • When Bob and Madalina renovated the kitchen, they asked the contractor to use only low- and zero-VOC products, and Bob’s overall health has improved as a result.
    Robert Politzer

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. 

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