Energy audit, retrofits at Lavender & Thyme B&B
increase guest comfort
By Suzie Romig
Innkeeper Peter Tijm did not have to pre-cool his top floor guest rooms on warm days after insulation and air sealing was completed in the attic.
“I would do it again, absolutely. The opportunity that came along with the CARD program was fortuitous. It was great.”
-- Peter Tijm, owner and innkeeper
Glenwood Springs innkeeper Peter Tijm carefully creates a welcoming, warm environment for his guests at his Lavender & Thyme Bed & Breakfast.
But, on some days, that welcome was just a little too warm in the top-floor guest rooms of the Victorian home built in 1903. In previous summers, the innkeeper had to turn on the window air conditioning units in the bedrooms before guests arrived.
The summer of 2010 was a cooler story, after the home had an energy assessment and efficiency upgrades. The three lofted-ceiling rooms at the top of the house stayed cooler and more comfortable. Some days the guests opened the windows and didn’t use the air conditioning at all, Tijm said.
The improvements came through Tijm’s participation in the CARD project, or Commercial Audit & Retrofit Demonstration project, an energy efficiency program offered through the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative. The B&B received a free energy assessment and rebates to help pay for the energy efficiency upgrades – all funded by the Glenwood Springs Electric Department.
For Tijm, participating in CARD resulted in a more comfortable structure, lower utility bills and a learning experience in building science.
As a retired chemical engineer, Tijm was familiar with infrared technology, and he found the infrared camera images taken during the energy audit of the old house “revealing.” The images showed that storm doors and windows that were intended to double-seal the antique single-pane windows and wooden doors were not doing their job because they were not sealed. The camera also showed that the attic was short on insulation.
Energy auditor Mike Suhrbier also performed a blower-door test, which showed that 48 percent of the air in the home exchanged every hour – meaning the B&B was a very leaky structure. Suhrbier found significant air leaks at the basement rim joists, fireplace, wall and ceiling penetrations, attic access, light fixtures, ceiling fan connections, windows, doors, outlets, switches and duct work, which wasn’t surprising in an older home.
But Tijm was paying higher-than-average electric and gas bills and dealing with wide temperature swings in some rooms.
B&B owner Peter Tijm points out where the storm windows on the front porch are now air sealed to reduce heat loss and save on energy bills in the winter.
The first step to improving the home’s energy efficiency was hiring an insulation contractor to spray insulating foam in the gaps and holes, caulk extensively, seal drywall enclosures such as around bathroom fans, and add weatherstripping around doors. The contractor sealed heating air ducts, insulated the basement rim joists and added insulation in the basement.
In the leaky attic, more insulation was needed. But first, the contractor prepped the space by sealing off the air flow between the house and attic, and building up a dam around the inside hatch into the attic so insulation could reach its full thickness right up to the hatch opening. Then the contractor blew in six inches of cellulose insulation to increase the insulating value to R-44, topping off nine inches of existing fiberglass insulation that was at R-30.
The insulation and air sealing resulted in rooms that were easier to keep warm in winter and cool in summer.
“Attic insulation drastically improved the reduction of solar heat on the rooms,” Tijm explained, after observing the patterns through the summer of 2010. “The house was much more comfortable.”
Tijm also replaced incandescent bulbs with CFLs, installed smart strips on two computer systems, replaced an old refrigerator/freezer unit with a new ENERGY STAR-rated freezer, and installed a programmable thermostat.
Although it isn’t required, Tijm said he is looking forward to ordering a follow-up energy assessment with an infrared camera so he can see the difference the improvements have made. He is still crunching the numbers and watching future energy bills, but he knows he will be able to decrease his energy costs from past high electricity bills of $200 and gas bills of $240.
He encourages other business owners to make an investment in an energy audit to help prioritize the most cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades.
“I would do it again, absolutely,” said Tijm. “The opportunity that came along with the CARD program was fortuitous. It was great.”
- Total retrofit cost: $2,258
- CARD rebate: $590
- Owner investment: $1,668
- (Too soon after improvements to collect comparative figures)
Funded energy efficiency measures (total cost of measure):
- Air seal building: $598
- Install weatherstripping and door sweeps: $135
- Attic insulation: $624
- Insulate and air seal basement rim joist: $205
- Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs: $16
- Replace freezer with ENERGY STAR model: $599
- Install Smart Strips: $88