Ed Pfeifer: Insulate yourself from the coming winter - PineCreek Journal

Ed Pfeifer: Insulate yourself from the coming winter

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 | 12:01 AM

For the majority of my adult life I have lived in a warm, comfortable home with a fully functioning furnace and good insulation. But that wasn’t always the case.

When I was in my early 20s, I lived in a 100-year-old farmhouse for a while. I shared the joint with a roommate, a couple of black snakes and dozens of mice. It wasn’t a place for everyone, but for me — at that time in my life — it was perfect.

That shack was drafty, and the furnace, roughly the size of a ’69 Volkswagen bus and twice as noisy, worked only in fits and starts.

Sometime in early December, we would bust out the plastic window film and spray foam to quiet the whistling wind and kill the chill.

We would service the monstrous furnace and even insulate the cracks and crevices in the ancient foundation. But those measures were only marginally successful.

It was flat-out cold in that place, even for the mice.

At the time, I was convinced that if only we had a proper furnace it would be comfortable there — no skim of ice on the toilet water, no frost on the outside of the refrigerator.

But alas, even if we had a Cadillac in the basement instead of that Volkswagen, it would have been chilly.

As it turns out, the real culprit was a substantial lack of attic insulation. By substantial lack of attic insulation, what I really mean is that the attic contained exactly zero insulation.

The big rumbling furnace in the cellar barely stood a chance.

All of the heat created in the damp and creepy basement was soaring upstairs, through my living room, past the hibernating black snakes and out the slats and slate. Sure it lingered long enough for us to stave off hypothermia, but that’s about it.

Living in that old house provided me with plenty of life lessons. But, as the December wind whips itself into a frenzy and snowflakes fill the air, the one I am reminded of most is that correctly insulating your attic is a really big deal.

If you are unsure of your home’s attic insulation, I strongly suggest employing the services of a professional and reputable insulation company to investigate your attic.

Those guys will know exactly what you have, what you ought to have and what you ought not to have.

After they have had a look and made recommendations, do your homework and invest accordingly.

If you can pursue the work as a do-it-yourself project, that’s fine. If not, I think it prudent to let the pros take care of it rather than ignore potential problems.

Once the insulation issue is properly addressed, furnaces work better and labor less.

Additionally and perhaps just as important, living spaces become much more temperate and comfortable.

Thanks to the icy cold, mouse-infested glorified shed I lived in long ago, I will never take that comfort for granted.