This blog explores changes in the energy industry from an insider’s perspective as it transitions from the old centralized utility model to the new paradigm of distributed generation.
This blog was previously called Inside the Housing Evolution and focused on energy efficient homes. Ultimately, it’s all linked. Soon, every building will have the potential to generate, store, and sell energy. Welcome to the era of the transactive grid – the greatest shift the electricity sector has seen in over 100 years!
Insulating rooms above garages: The Mike Holmes way VS the Urbandale way
” Hi there, after watching Holmes on Homes I was wondering when Urbandale will use spray foam insulation on the above garage floor instead of leaving the gap with heat duct. There is a big concern that if any seal is not done right like around electrical or lights that carbon monoxide could accumulate in that space and send co2 in the air ducts to the furnace and then back through the whole house. Seems like a risky practice and the spray foam is so much more effective and we would end up with higher garage ceiling by doing it this way.”
Mike Holmes is a big fan of spray foam. And why not? Spray foam is a very versatile building product that seals and insulates at the same time. Because it expands, spray foam can be used to fill the smallest of cracks, or also large wall cavities. It’s a great product, but it’s also very expensive. Now, Holmes doesn’t have to worry about the price of spray foam because he’s sponsored by the spray foam manufacturer. For those of us that have to pay for it, it’s best to be judicious in how and where it’s applied.
The rooms above garages require a lot of attention to the construction details. There is a lot of area that is exposed to the cold, and you also have to make sure that it is completely sealed so that car exhaust can’t leak into the living areas. Many builders will insulate the floor similar to an exterior wall, with only R28 – R32 batt insulation and a sheet of poly separating the room from the cold. If you’ve ever walked barefoot in one of these rooms, you’ll realize that this just doesn’t cut it. Using spray foam in the floor cavity is a superior choice. A builder would typically install about 5 inches of spray foam, which provides R30 – R32 insulation and completely seals the floor from air leaks. Urbandale’s approach is a little different. We use R40 batt insulation with a sealed poly air barrier, but then we also run the heating ducts into the cavity above the insulation and below the floor. This heated plenum ensures that rooms above the garage stay warm. We also use spray foam, but we use it sparingly as needed in the areas that are difficult to seal, such as by any steel beams. All of our houses are tested for air leaks, so there’s no chance of fumes making their way into the living areas. Our approach allows for more insulation and warmer floors than Holmes’ approach, and it’s also less expensive to build!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m actually a big fan of Mike Holmes and I respect how he has increased consumer knowledge of construction and energy efficiency. Holmes once wrote an article that called out Urbandale specifically as an example of a better builder for our commitment to the R-2000 program so I’m very grateful for that. When I served as the Vice Chair of the R-2000 Renewal Steering Committee I pushed to get Natural Resources Canada to hire Holmes as the spokesperson for the R-2000 program. The thing you have to remember though is that first and foremost Holmes is making a TV show. Because of this, he tends to over promote his sponsors (hey – who wouldn’t?) and he doesn’t necessarily acknowledge the very real role that budgets play in choosing between construction options.
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Peak Power is a Microgrid project development company focused on delivering innovative solutions to offset the most expensive hours of electric demand. We specialize in optimizing the revenue streams from energy storage, advanced building automation, and renewable technologies for customer sited and utility scale projects. Please visit www.peakpowerenergy.com.