Contractors Gary Bergeron and David Joyce of Synergy Companies used a “super-insulation” method, one of their specialties, on this Leominster, Mass., remodel: 4-inch-thick rigid foam insulation on the siding and 6-inch-thick rigid foam on the roof. Homeowner Alex Cheimets researched his upgrade options when he and his neighbor decided to replace the siding on their shared 3,200-square-foot house that is split into two condominium apartments.
Cheimets had already made other smaller energy-efficient upgrades, such as replacing windows, adding cellulose insulation, and installing a programmable thermostat. He put off the re-siding project for two years to investigate his options, calling local universities and getting in touch with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER). He worked with DOER to create a pilot project for energy retrofits and expanded the work to include new roofing and roofing insulation.
Synergy Companies has been offering super-insulation services for four years. “It’s a hard sell because it costs money,” Joyce says. “People want immediate gratification — it’s hard to sell on 10 years from now.” A rough estimate for this insulating method, he says, is about $5 to $6 per square foot. The result is an R40 wall and an R58 roof. This insulation process goes beyond existing code. Bergeron says that, ideally, contractors should use the code as a starting point, but should look beyond that for better methods for all aspects of construction. He recommends Boston-based Building Science Corp., which consulted on this project, as a great resource.
Philip Giudice [PDF], Commissioner of the Massachusetts DOER, says that when Cheimets approached the state about his idea, it provided support through existing programs and by working with the local utility company.
“We looked at the challenge of existing building stock — it’s a significant challenge for dealing with energy and an environmental future,” he says. “We need all the examples we can get for being cost-effective for the long haul and lowering energy consumption and lowering greenhouse gas. We knew this pilot could have significant, wide-scale applications. We need homeowners like Alex to make decisions in line with long-term needs.”
Giudice says it’s important to document how the insulated house performs. The project has an oil-consumption monitor and recording units on each floor that are connected to a computer and measure the home’s temperature and humidity every 15 minutes. Cheimets also placed two of these units in neighboring houses to provide “control” data.