Professional or DIY?

"Last time we tried DIY, you ended up causing us a little more headache than it was worth, remember?"  My wife kindly reminded me last week.  And you know she's right.

Taking her sage advice, we divvied up what weatherization I could do myself and what I'd need to hire a professional for.  Remember, we had a certified energy rater come and evaluate our home first to be sure that we knew all the pieces we needed.  Here's what we decided.

*Remember, each home is different, and getting a professional energy audit will qualify you for rebates, and find specific changes you need for your unique house.

ENVELOPE SEALING v. INSULATING

"Imagine pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it.  How long would it take to fill up?  Now plug the hole.  That's what air sealing does," says Adrian Manriquez, one of our community educators.  We decided to hire professionals to do some air sealing and insulation, and to do some of it ourselves. 

PROFESSIONAL NEEDED 

Immediately, I knew I did not want to go under my house, and whether we choose closed-cell foam or foam board insulation, I did not want to be the one to do it.  Additionally, the incentives are only available if you hire a participating contractor.  In evaluating if you want to do it yourself, remember, you save on labor costs, but you might not be doing it right, in the most effective manner and you do not get any Energy Smart incentives.  But it might still be enough savings to be worth DIY.  These tasks we decided to hire professionals: 

ACTION: SPRAY FOAM UNDER-HOUSE INSULATION

TOTAL COST AFTER REBATE: $3,960          COST RECOVERY TIME ESTIMATE: 4 YEARS

and drop the price per square foot of foam by (up to) $0.20/sq foot.  In my 2,200 sq ft house, that's a $440 rebate, only available if I hire a contractor.  By using closed-cell foam, we could air seal and insulate in the same step. 

ACTION: AIR SEALING ATTIC

TOTAL COST BEFORE REBATE: $2,650      COST RECOVERY TIME ESTIMATE: 4 YEARS

We hired an Energy Smart qualified contractor to air seal both ours and the tenant's HVAC ($400 per side) and air seal the whole attic ($1,850 for the home).  In 7 hours, their team of 4 was done with what would have taken me days.  Also, they knew how to do it best, and I would have missed spots, and they added additional value by sealing some of my baseboards and my non-functional chimney.  These professionals were the same ones that did the energy audit so they knew exactly where all the problems were.

ACTION: INSULATING ATTIC: BLOWN IN CELLULOSE (10" for R-30 coverage)

TOTAL COST WITH REBATE: $1,100      COST RECOVERY TIME ESTIMATE: 1 YEAR

TOTAL COST DIY: $863 (95 bags and 5 hours)

We prepped the attic ourselves, but we have to hire a contractor to capitalize on the insulation rebates.  Additionally, the labor isn't much more expensive than materials, so that's one fewer day I don't have to spend in my attic.

DIY MAKES SENSE FOR...

There are tons of DIY resources online.  Department of Energy offers easy to access information for air sealing, insulation and more.  After talking through the steps with the auditor, I decided that I could do several steps myself and save money.

ACTION: PREPARING ATTIC FOR INSULATION     COST RECOVERY TIME ESTIMATE: MONTHS

TOTAL COST: $220 (Supplies only, tools needed included a staple gun, reciprocating saw, drill, and extension cord)

Our attic is a huge project, and after the energy audit, I also went up there with a general contractor.  There are exposed electrical wires, a non-functioning door bell, non-vented bathroom fans, and no intake attic vents.  Fixing the attic vents immediately reduced the draftiness in our living space.  The bath fan vents will reduce vapor in the attic.  Fixing the wiring reduces fire hazard and brings the home up to code, and the door bell makes the tenants happy.  

I decided I could do most of these repairs myself, and they must be done before insulation is added.  Why?  Because the required 10" of insulation will cover all of these problems and make them worse.  With a sawsall, staple gun, drill, ladder and about $220 in supplies from Lowes or Home Depot, and a few Saturday afternoons, I'm just finishing these repairs this weekend and glad to have saved the money and understand what's going on in my attic better.

ACTION: AIR SEALING WALLS, DOORS AND WINDOWS     COST RECOVERY: IMMEDIATE

TOTAL COST: $110 in supplies (6 hours over a few week nights.) 

Right away after I installed door sweeps, weather strips and altered where my back door latched the house was less drafty.  My wife, that night, mentioned how much more comfortable the living room, bathroom and hallway felt.  I learned all I needed from youtube.com and from the Department of Energy website.  It's literally filling cracks and gaps around doors and windows (even behind molding) that, together are equal to leaving a window or door open.

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN

If you need help deciding what you and DIY versus what you want a professional for, check out the DIY guides at Energy Smart (a Louisiana program) or give us an email or call and we can talk about your options.