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May 16, 2017 3 min read

Heat Loss on a Typical HouseYou have probably seen similar pictures as the one shown on the right. The infrared exposure shows how energy is escaping from this wood frame house. Notice the primary areas where the plates and headers are typically located. You can see where the double top plates are just under the eave. You can also see the wood headers above each window.

We will show you a suggested alternative to provide insulation in these areas so that energy is not lost. This approach is not the only way to make this home more energy efficient, but it will provide a very inexpensive way to improve the condition of the home’s insulation.

Using a typical wall section, we will show the areas in detail so that you can see what alternative methods you can take to provide better insulation.

The design team at Rocky Mountain Plan Company believes that it is important for residential designers to take the lead in high performing homes to help our country become better at saving energy. Techniques to save energy help everyone. Home owners can save on utilities, and the United States can become a better world leader in energy savings.

Better insulation is one of several small steps to a much better home design. The responsibility of all residential designers should be to provide solutions for the environment, and not to contribute to the source of the world’s energy problem.

The image on the right (Plate 002) is an enlarged scale of the roof soffit. The top detail shows how we have been insulating at this condition for years. Below is a simple solution that allows the insulation to carry over into the soffit area. Notice the gap just under the sheathing. The insulation must be such that the attic area can still maintain ventilation.

Window and Door headers are critical areas for energy loss, but usually get missed. Many times designers hand off residential plans to engineers to size these headers. Unless the engineer consults with the designer on the sizes indicated, the engineer usually specifies solid members.

We recommend that the designer and the engineer collaborate on the suggested insulated headers. Most designers understand insulated headers as providing two framing members so that the builder can fill the space between the members with insulation. Providing ¾” laminated tops and bottoms to the headers allows framers to have the headers pre-made and ready to set into the framing wall. But most importantly, the area is insulated and can help prevent excessive energy loss. See Plate 003.

On Plate 004 we show Rim boards that occur at the bearing of floor joists just on the outside of the exterior walls. It is a perfectly easy place to provide good insulation.

Along with the insulation that is commonly placed between the floor joists, additional Styrofoam sheets can be placed just on the inside face of the rim board. And in conditions where the floor joist bears on a foundation wall, a Styrofoam sheet can be placed atop the foundation wall next to the wet plate to address a common area where heat escapes a building, particularly on basement foundation systems.

What you have learned? In this post, you have learned how to improve the performance of your home by using effective insulation techniques. By properly insulating your attic, window and door headers, floors, and foundation, you can reap the savings of your comfortable and efficient higher performance home.