The 500 kWh challenge: my attic sucked!

Update: I’ve replaced a photo of a cat corpse that was on here. That caused unintended controversy that detracts from the main thesis of this piece, which is that my attic was dirty, unhealty, and badly insulated.

In my quest to reduce energy usage, I need to take care of the big things first; improvements that give the most effective returns on the investment. It so happens that the attic above my condo was poorly insulated, and so my HVAC runs way too much to keep the place livable. But just getting new stuff put in isn’t good enough. The existing insulation—where there was any—was falling apart, and covered with soot from a long-ago fire in an adjacent unit.

Before: There isn't enough room for a beer party up here.

And to top all that off, the attic was full of garbage and animal feces from a feral cat invasion four years ago. A health and energy disaster. The first step was to get all this cleaned up. A local vacuum contractor specializes in this work, and they were out here on August 1.

The big bag of suck.

A big hose gets attached to an engine-driven vacuum at one end. The other end goes up into the attic along with the workers. The attic has about three feet of headroom at its highest point. Temperatures up there also reach dangerous values during the day. Combine that with the general inconvenience of ducts, wires, and pipes that get in the way, and you have a dirty and brutal job. They told me that they ended up underbidding—it took them eight hours to finish, and they almost had to stop due to heat.

After: mostly clean.

But in the end, the attic got done, and is now ready to accept 8 inches of blown-in cellulose. This will give an R30 layer over every surface up there, and down around ducts. I anticipate a big reduction in HVAC usage. This by itself might be enough to meet the 500 kWh challenge. Coming next week: photos from after the installation.



Going back to Bisbee, again

Bisbee is always a photogenic place. I visited most recently on July 29. Richard Shelton did not give me permission to use the title of his book, which I should probably read someday.