Super-sealed and ultra-insulated, this old home beats brand-new ones for efficiency

by Susan Gillin | Jul 06, 2018

DIY homeowner rolls up savings of $360 a year on electric bill

It was a steal of a deal at $140,000. But William Smale’s classic old home on Cottage Avenue had sawdust in the walls, plaster that was cracked and crumbling, and mold growing around the windows.

“It was in really bad shape,” Smale said.

William Smale home energy useSmale is remodeling the house, built in 1918, and, step by step, is making it as energy efficient as if it were built today. Maybe even more so.

“In my experience, I don’t know of anyone who would do what you have William Smale home seasonal differencedone,” PUD Energy Adviser Josh Mitchell told Smale during a visit to his home last month.

Smale has added rockwool batts to the attic to achieve R90 – almost double what state energy code requires for new homes. He has neatly tucked more batts into ceilings and interior walls. He expertly sealed the exterior walls with closed-cell foam insulation – a messy and demanding job usually left to professionals.

He replaced the windows, installed a heat pump water heater, and upgraded to a super-efficient heat pump.

All of these measures come with PUD rebates.

In addition, he’s purchased an Energy Star-rated refrigerator, which sits in a kitchen waiting for drywall and tiled floors.

He’s rewired the house, removing the old knob-and-tube wiring.

The energy-efficiency upgrades are saving Smale about $360 a year on electric bills over previous owners, Mitchell said. (Click on charts to view full size.)

“It’s important to note that the prior usage patterns are with a different family living in the home, but clearly the home is more efficient,” he said.

Smale is a Senior SQL developer for CCCN (Community Clinic Contracting Network). He had moved to Wenatchee two years ago from California to work as a database administrator for Columbia Valley Community Health.

Smale said he's taken extra steps because the home probably won't be remodeled again for at least 50 years and he wants the improvements to last. Plus the extra insulation cuts noise from traffic on Cottage Avenue and from the trains behind his home. Even though he installed new windows, he wishes he would have opted for a step up in quality to reduce noise even more.

One of Smale’s next projects is to add ventilation. Because of Smale’s attention to detail, the house has been air-sealed tighter than most new homes, so it will be important to install a fan for adequate ventilation, Mitchell said.

Homes need air movement to remove pollutants and prevent damage from moisture.  

In photo, PUD energy adviser Josh Mitchell uses a thermal imaging camera to detect air leaks in William Smale's newly insulated living room.

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