Category Archives: energy efficiency

Insulating my ancient roof

November 04, 2012 | Filed under: energy efficiency

Sooo… in-between all my games stuff I continue my hilariously slow process of trying to make my 1750’s drafty house more energy efficient. The big area of the house that is still horribly uninsulated is the attic, which is a sort-of spare room, which we never really use. Maybe twice a year.

because it’s so old, it’s not like insulating a new house with regularly spaced rafters and throwing down some nice easily unrolled insulating thingies. You need to use ‘breathable’ insulation. The attic has about eight wall panels that cover the eaves. I’ve insulated behind 3 already, and today I finally finished the fourth. here is the panel at the start.

behind that is a notable lack of insulation, and some thick felt like stuff hanging down. Look behind and around that and we find that the current insulation is…

Rubble! Yes rubble. huge pieces of slate, stone, some straw, a few long bits of wood, some newspaper, some stuff which I briefly panicked was asbestos, but we now think was just plaster dust. When I say ‘some’ I mean about a dozen bucketfulls of the stuff. methinks modern insulation has moved beyond ‘fill the eaves with rubble and straw!

And here we are with me having put down a nice thick layer of insulation instead of all that dust and rubble.

And here we go with another layer on top of that so it’s double thickness. Insulation achievement unlocked +10 points. Well done.

Apparently it started snowing in the west of England today, so maybe I’ll find out sooner than expected if it makes any difference whatsoever. It makes me feel better anyway :D

Attic Insulation again…

March 02, 2011 | Filed under: energy efficiency

Theres some games conference going on, but I’m not there, and it’s very pazazzy, so I thought I’d blog about loft insulation instead. I’m sticking it to the man.

I live in a very old (1750s) house built out of mud and dead peasants, and it’s extremely cold at times. This is because the house was built before mankind invented double glazing, or indeed, glazing, it sometimes seems. Anyway, part of my five year stalinesque plan is to insulate the darned thing, and we are currently working on the attic. the attic is big, has lots of old beams and is about two hundred degrees below zero.

Taking away the side panels to see what was behind them revealed this:

Which is to say mostly 18th century rubble, dust and the remains of fossilised birds nests. Not a completely poor insulator, but not exactly aerogel. Clearly we could do better, but we needed to preserve an air gap to allow air to circulate. These old houses need to ‘breath’. We ended up wedging individually cut pieces of reflective-backed foam insulation between the rafters, with tiny blocks to hold them in place. That felt is all that is between me, and the stone roof tiles, and then open country…

Eventually that was all done on this bit, which is the lower section of a quarter of the half of the room we are currently doing. This will tke years. (we ended up doing a quarter of the attic, to date). a secondĀ  layer of felt goes back, pinned on top of all this.

Then the fun bit, which is laying lots of ‘semi-rigid’ sheeps-woolesque soft insulation between the floor rafters (not visible here), and then laying an additional layer of really wooly even more sheeps woolesque stuff over the top, curved around to prevent any drafts. You can also see a big thick mega-chunky piece of foam insulation that will go in front of all of this, behind the wooden side panels (the panel itself is very thin and crap). The sheeps woolesque stuff was horrid. cue lots of spluttering and itching.

This is everything put back in place, all I need to do now is fill the slight gap where it meets the beam with flexible filler, then I’m going to give the whole thing a coat on nano-paint. it sounds like bullshit, but we used this in our living room and it’s very very good. Basically a nanotech paint additive that reflects heat. great for insulating where cavity walls don’t exist and internal insulation isn’t an option. This is what it all looked like before we started. This time it might be warm though. It’s certainly quieter.

The other end of the room is much much harder to get to, so we are employing someone to come balance on ladders and do that end for us. One day, the temperature of the house will get to the stage where we can have just 2 duvets in the summer. One of the positive outcomes to doing this, is that as I lay there covered in dirt, hammering nails and swearing, I remembered why I gave up carpentry to become a computer programmer. Woodwork sucks. Debugging might be annoying, but C++ doesn’t bend when you hit it.

I wish improving the energy efficiency of your house came with unlockable achievements, I’d be a total achievement-whore. Roughly a year ago, we bought a very old house (roughly 1750), and it was in a sorry state in terms of energy efficiency. To take just a single room (the living room/lounge/whatever), it had thin carpet and crap underlay, huge gaps under the skirting board, a freezing cold cellar underneath with zero insulation between joists, and an open chimney with an open fire. Plus single glazed windows (can’t change them…alas), and normal bog standard curtains.

Now…

  • It has a wood-burning stove, MASSIVELY more energy efficient than an open fire (+400 points)
  • Curtains lined with ‘blackout-liner’, to keep the heat in (+50 points)
  • Some heat-reflecting nano-paint, ready to repaint the walls (yes really) (+25 points)
  • Sheeps-wool insulation stuffed between the joists under the floor (+75 points)
  • Super-thick underlay and carpet on order (+40 points)
  • A builder is going to fill all the gaps under the skirting board (+125 points).

To add complications, we just discovered that a draught from under the skirting boards is coming from a HUGE gap in one corner. It looks like the floorboard there is missing, and has been replaced with a thin sheet of metal, that is just hanging in one corner. What the hell? I think that may need properly fixing, by actual tradespeople.

Hopefully by the time this is all done, it will massively drop my heating bill, and I won’t need to sell 10,000 copies a day just to keep us warm. Hurrah! The guy who sold us the house must have worn duvets strapped to each limb all winter.