The West Wall

Another cloudy day here. It has been cloudy for weeks and weeks. The sun did come out yesterday, for about an hour, which was lovely. But today the skies are steely grey. And mild, it is very mild for January. I might have called it the “January thaw”, but there is nothing frozen here that needs thawing. The snow disappeared well before Christmas.

As an aside, looking out the window, it makes me wonder why the colour gray is so very popular for interior domestic decor these days. I get enough exposure to gray from the weather, I don’t need to emulate it in my home. But that is just me.

Here is the challenge the west wall of the basement presents. Water pipes, sewage pipes, electrical wiring, all within inches of the concrete wall. Attila’s solution was to rip studs to a an inch and a half thickness, build partial studs, and install inch and half inch thick rigid Roxul insulation behind the pipes and wires. It is better than nothing. There are areas, as you can see in the photo, where nothing is the only option, as there are pipes right up against the concrete wall. The area can be upgraded to thicker studs and insulation after the plumbing and wiring have been upgraded and installed properly. There is no timeline on the plumbing and wiring, it will get done if and when.

Attila has almost completed the stud walls and insulation in the basement! He has about 16 inches to go! The rim joists on the back wall will not be completed until into the summer, so we will have some heat loss there for the rest of the winter. There are lots of fiddly bits, as retrofitted improvements always reveal, that need to be done before the drywall and paint can be installed.

The unfinished stretch of rim joist is a dogs breakfast of jerry-rigged plumbing and electrical, which have to be fixed before insulation can effectively be installed. Attila is considering completely replacing the plumbing; we both agree it needs to be done.

The insulation in the basement is a game changer, as so many projects are here at Mist Cottage, the dilapidated mini-house that has become our home.

Lets see, I will start with what I feel as I sit here typing on the computer. The air circulates differently in the house, now that the steady breeze of cold air coming into the basement has ceased. Moisture moves around differently, cooking odours move around differently. It just feels different in here.

Attila has been vacuuming the basement as he goes along. There are corners down there that have not been cleaned in who knows how long, certainly not since we bought the place ten years ago. Finally getting to the basement project means that we are cleaning up the last of the dirt-that-came-before-us. This is kicking up a lot of dust. When the final lick of paint coats the last of the newly installed drywall, I will be running air cleaners down there for a few days, while I wash surfaces and clean. I plan on a mission to reduce dust at first opportunity.

The temperature in the unheated basement has risen to 13C (56F). In the winter it has ranged between 3C (38F) and 7C (45F), so this is distinct improvement. The basement is definitely retaining more heat than it did. This means the floors are warmer. In fact, briefly walking across the floor, in bare or sock feet, no longer leaves me chilled.

And then, where the dollars and cents of the project come into play, our hydro usage is decreasing.

Attila started the project in mid-November, and we saw results!

From October to November 2019, when the average temperature was 3C degrees colder than it was for the same period in 2018, our hydro usage declined by 9%.

From November to December 2019, our hydro usage dropped by 11%.

When the temperature outside is above -7C, our electric air source heat pump is heating the house. That means the hydro bills for November and December, since the temperature has primarily remained above -7C, reflect decreased electric heating costs.

Now all I have to do is record the decrease in hydro usage, and the average cost of hydro during that period of time, so that I can calculate how many years it will take us to save the amount of money spent on the insulation project… how soon will it pay for itself? Of course that will not take into account the oil heating costs, as our system uses the oil furnace when the temperature dips below -7C. I will have to think about how to estimate that cost saving.

Another hydro saving is in controlling the humidity in the basement. We are already finding that the dehumidifier needs emptying every three days, instead of every day, so the appliance isn’t running as much. Only about half of the insulated wall space is now covered with vapour barrier, so there is still moisture seeping in, in those areas. It will be interesting to see if the humidity is even further reduced when all of the vapour barrier is installed.

This morning I decided to pay the hydro bill online. While I was logging in the banks computers went wonky, the whole process fell apart, I was blocked form the site. I called the support team, and was glad to hear it wasn’t me, it was them. All I had to do was wait, to give them a chance to get their act together.

Then I decided to take my blood pressure. Usually five readings are taken. After the third reading the device just stopped. Dead batteries. I had a bad technology day! My blood pressure was within the normal range, nothing to worry about there.

And now darkness has fallen. Attila is home, the pizza is in the oven, The Crown is called up on Netflix, and we are having a Friday night in, pizza and a show.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Friday 3 January 2020
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 100.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: 2.9°C
Humidity: 91%
Wind: SSW 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature.”
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
121 AD – 180 AD