The Gaines Group
Timberville Snow

Snow may help identify places you are wasting money

There was a time I enjoyed snow – that time has passed. To me now, snow is an interruption in my schedule, plowing a driveway, shoveling many hours, and dangerous roads. However, it is also an easy time to identify energy leaks in your home. Snow may help identify places you are wasting money through air leaks and poor insulation.

Timberville Snow Timberville Snow

For instance, in this house we used to own in Timberville had a major insulation problem in the bonus room. That room above the garage was always a few degrees different from the rest of the house. You can see the snow has melted at the roof / wall intersection from heat coming through to the outside. When we did an energy audit on this house we found that the wall did have insulation in it. It was just installed in a way that allowed air movement and in one case a bridge to the outside. This room’s comfort issues and thermal bridge was corrected by Elite Insulation adding a layer of foam to create an air barrier on the outside of the existing fiberglass insulation. The room comfort was considerably improved.

Timberville Snow

From the front of the house you can see the trusses in the roof over the garage. This indicated more air movement from the conditioned space. This attic space was not accessible so all we could do when we insulated was to fix the back half of the roof cutting down most of the air movement. You can see there is again warmth coming through the wall at the roof intersection above the porch. Not an area that is easily fixed after construction so make sure you get it right during construction. All in we spend $1,500 fixing insulation problems on this house and lowered our annual energy bills by $500.

broadway snow

At our new (old) house there is still much work to be done. See the melted snow in between the windows on the roof – that is air escaping out of the hood vent above the stove. We need to improve our insulation in the attic to fix this problem. Also you can see we have storm windows which traps the warm moist air escaping from the house in between the window and outside creating condensation. We have a LOT of warmth leaking from out windows. However, this is the last thing we will fix as it is the most expensive and has the longest payback period of changes we could make to the house.

broadway snow

With this particular storm the snow drifts are massive. Nothing you can do here other than hope they do not pull gutters down or worse cause a roof collapse. Our roofs here are designed for 43 pounds of snow load psf. We should be ok now that the snow has stopped, but I will remain nervous until it melts.

broadway snow

Finally, watch how the snow melts on your roof. This will tell you, compared to your neighbors with a roof facing the same direction if you are average or above average with your attic insulation. I know our house needs attention since we don’t yet have R-72 insulation in the attic. If you are building a new house this is the time to get these details right, it will cost you less and save you more. If you have an existing house, things can be fixed to work more efficiently, but there is only so much to be done. The best we have done on an existing home is a 65% reduction in energy use. Let me know if you want help identifying the problems that need addressed at your home.

Green Term Defined: Conservation

Conservation, to me, is the key to a more energy-efficient future for our built environment. It is the act of preserving, guarding, or protecting the resources we have available on this planet.

IMG_3626 - Copy

Building represent 38.9% of U.S. primary energy use (includes fuel input for production). Source: Environmental Information Administration (2008). 

Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources and account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions. Source: Energy Information Administration (2008). 

Buildings Represent 72% of total U.S. consumption of energy. Source: Environmental Information Administration (2008).


With stats like these you can see how cutting energy use in existing buildings is a key to our efficiency future. We can do a lot with new buildings, but we have an aging building stock that needs lots of attention. 72% of buildings in the U.S. is over 20 years old. Conservation is the key to improving our building stock and cutting our annual energy use.