Gaines Group Architects
attic insulation

Attic Insulation Will Make Your Home More Comfortable and Energy Efficient

It certainly has gotten cold here. As I write this, it is 17 degrees outside and the high for tomorrow is in the 30s. This sudden change in weather has certainly hit me hard. I hope you are staying warm. Speaking of staying warm, is your house comfortable? Do you have enough of the right kind of attic insulation in the right places?

Over the years I have been in a LOT of attics and most of them do not have the right kind of insulation and certainly not enough of it. Even worse, there is often duct work running in the space on the wrong side of the attic insulation, the cold side, with very little insulation around the ducts. Code says you need R-38 insulation in the attic as a minimum. I would say that is about half what you should have for your attic in our climate if you are using fiberglass insulation or cellulose. Think of it as adding a second blanket to your entire house.

attic insulation

In areas where duct work penetrates the conditioned space at the supply points, there is no insulation. Having the duct work inside the thermal envelope would fix this problem. So if you have the chance, insulation on the underside of the roof sheathing, open cell spray foam, is certainly a better solution than fiberglass or cellulose on the floor of the attic (when duct work is in the space). Spray foam is air tight and when installed in the appropriate places will make your home both comfortable and energy-efficient.

attic insulationOther holes that exist in the insulation envelope can be can lights and eave ventilation that does not have baffles. These holes and air leaks from improper sealing of the thermal envelope all combine to diminish the effectiveness of your installed insulation. Finding ways to stop air leakage and installing the proper amount of attic insulation will help on these cold days.


attic insulationIf you have fiberglass insulation, add more to achieve R-72. If you have cellulose, add more to achieve R-72. However, if you want to get it right insulate with an air tight solution, open cell spray foam is the easiest method to create a home that will be comfortable and energy-efficient for many years.

Design Matters – New construction vs custom construction

Design matters. If you are building a new home, proper planning and design will provide you with the most energy-efficient, durable, and healthy home. There are many things that are done in new home construction that are considered standard, that might or might not be healthy, durable, or energy efficient. The design phase is a chance to set the performance standards for your builder to incorporate into your new home (and the price of your new home). Without an architect, you have to rely on the builder to set the design standards for you.


Design matters. Setting the performance standards, designing the spaces that work for you, selecting the right products for your design are key decisions that should be done  prior to getting a price for the construction. We frequently work hand in hand with a builder to make sure we keep the budget in check while in process with the design. Decisions can be made as a team, which will provide the best solution to you at the best value.


Another successful LEED for Homes project on a tight budget

Doing the first LEED for Homes certified project in the Southeastern United States in 2005 was a great honor and helped us build a solid reputation for delivering innovation at an affordable price. Over the years we have done multiple LEED projects and have shown time and again, innovative design done right can be done on a tight budget. Using LEED as a tool instead of a goal allows the designer and contractor to deliver the best value project for the home owner.

Leed for Homes is a green home certification system for assuring homes are designed and built to be energy and resource efficient and healthy for occupants. Compared to a conventional home, a green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste, is smartly located and built with as little impact on the land it sits on as possible; and is healthier for the people living inside. 


It is exciting to announce that we have two more successful LEED SILVER projects finished with happy clients living healthier paying lower utility bills. 501 / 503 was our first LEED for Homes duplex project for repeat clients Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. This project has a long list of innovations that saved the client money, lowered the impact on the site / environment, and cut utility costs.

  • All Native Plants to reduce need for irrigation
  • 90% permeable lot to reduce stormwater runoff
  • Strategic location of trees to shade hardscape areas thus reducing heat island effect
  • Effective landscape design that prevents erosion
  • Water efficient plumbing fixtures
  • 30% more energy-efficient than the average home built today
  • Advanced Framing
  • 95% of all construction waste diverted from landfill
  • Proper ventilation system integrated with the heating and cooling system
  • No Garage
  • Energy Star Windows
  • Compact plumbing system design
  • Energy star appliances

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Energy Efficient Home – Design Matters

Energy Costs are rising by an average of 6% every year. So what is a home owner supposed to do to keep up? Energy efficient options are all around your home, you just need to know where to look.

A solar hot water system costs around $2,500 to install, has a annual savings of $280 and a payback in 8.9 years. You don’t want to spend that much, duct sealing costs around $450 and has an annual savings of $300 or a 1.5 year payback. Still not enough? A programmable thermostat costs around $115, saves $180 annually or a .6 year payback. Small changes make a big difference. Start with the first step and see how much you can save.

energy efficient home

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