I have a somewhat entertaining story for you. Here goes…
Last week some time, mother nature decided to throw some -2 degree temperatures at us. I read the weather forecast ahead of time and after reading it, I stood up tall and puffed my chest out. I did this because I was me – and as you may remember from one of my earlier posts, I had installed a nice, new, shiny, gigantic wood burning stove. I have been waiting for the cold weather because, hmmm…let me see…as I put it, “I don’t know if we’re even going to need to use the pellet stove anymore. This wood stove is so great, we’ll be sweating in here all winter.” I love remembering all the fun things I say.
As it turned out and as the cold weather hit, Laura and I began freezing our asses off. I felt a little stupid in the beginning, but following my explanation of thermodynamics to my better half, I felt even stupider. After hitting rock bottom, I finally admitted that the problem wasn’t our heat sources, it was the fact that we were living in what can only be described as a colander. You know, a spaghetti strainer. Stand anywhere in the house you want, you can feel a draft hitting you right in the face. And in those special corners and dark nooks, you can even smell fresh air from outside. How? Who knows.
So many things went through my mind as I sat there wondering why my stupid wood stove wasn’t keeping the place warm. I first thought that I should really crank the sucker up and harness all the BTUs it has to offer (running out of wood the whole time). After that, I thought I should run over to the pellet plant and grab a few tons of pellets to run both stoves simultaneously. Finally I thought that I should just get going and fix the source of the problem. The reason why the stoves have to work overtime to keep the house a measly 60 degrees. I needed to get back into insulating, so that’s what I did.
I want to give you a quick analogy here because I’ve been thinking of it all week, and really, this is the only place I can speak freely. I get the feeling that a few specific people are getting tired of me talking about insulation. This blog doesn’t talk back or have any feelings, so it’s probably the best place to talk shop.
Say you live in an area that has cold winters – and one day, while it’s bitterly cold outside, you decide to stand on your front sidewalk totally naked. I’m sure you can imagine what would happen within just a few minutes of standing there. Yes, you’d get cold and begin to freeze. Now, we all know that when we get cold, our bodies shiver. The reason our bodies do this is to burn stored energy (food) to create heat (body temperature). If it was really cold outside or if your shivering wasn’t getting you warm enough, you’d most likely begin to jog in place. If things get bad enough, you can play touch football in the front yard, but that would be tough to find people to go up against, so you’d most likely just jog in place.
Funny thing would happen if you jogged in place long enough – you’d get hungry. Why? Because you probably burned off enough stored energy. Your body would feel that and want more food to stay in operation. So you ask someone to throw you a ham sandwich out the front door. They do and you chomp it down. You feel better, but strangely enough, as you continue to jog, you continue to get hungry. You ask for another ham sandwich and you get one, but the cycle continues. Sure, you can stay warm, but the price to pay for that is a whole heck of a lot of ham sandwiches. We like to call this, “feeding the beast.” It’s also known as needless energy consumption.
How much does a goose down coat cost? I’d guess that a nice one costs a few hundred bucks. Imagine that someone got sick of you jogging naked outside the front door and having to continuously toss ham sandwiches to you, that they chucked out a goose down parka instead. You slip that sucker on and fall asleep, nice and warm all night long. No more ham sandwiches necessary. We call that insulation. It’ll take a hundred ham sandwiches to pay off that goose down parka, but after it’s paid for and put on, you won’t have to jog anymore and you’ll be a heck of a lot more comfortable. Get what I’m saying here? I’m sick of jogging.
Since I was only partially finished with insulating the log cabin room, I decided to head out to Campbell’s building supply in Madison a few days ago to purchase ten sheets of one inch thick rigid foam. I bit the bullet and got all ten. I usually only do around four at a time, but I figured that it really makes no difference at this point. The room has got to get done. And now that I know how far ten sheets go, I know that I only need about five more to finish completely.
I have been working on attaching the foam board to the walls for a few days. I’m trying to do a nice, tight job, so the thermal barrier will be something I’ll never have to worry about again. As you can see from the picture below, I used tape to seal the seams for the first part of the install, but abandoned it after realizing that silicone caulk does a much better job. Unfortunately, I ran out of caulk, so I’ll need more before I continue. Here’s a picture of what I’ve done so far:
Insulating With Rigid Foam
And here’s a picture of a seam that I sealed with silicone caulk. I’ll tell you – it’s a really strongly sealed seam. I love the caulk idea. It practically bonds the pieces of foam board together.
Sealing Rigid Foam Seam With Silicone Caulk
The temperature hasn’t dropped back down to the single digits yet, so I don’t know if this insulation made an improvement, but I will tell you that the log cabin room holds its temperature much better than it used to. Yesterday, it was about 32 degrees outside and all we had going was the pellet stove in the other room. The log cabin room stayed a cool 60 degrees and didn’t move all day. It actually may have risen towards the end, meaning that the room is holding temperature and keeping the heat in, as opposed to letting the walls and ceiling suck it all out.
It’s all about stopping the conductive heat loss with the rigid foam r-value and then stopping the convective heat loss with the air barrier of the foam and then the silicone sealant. If you can accomplish stopping both of those things, you’ll have a nice toasty warm house without burning all your firewood and pellets.
Up next, drywall and paint.