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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
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8605895155

Since 1975, O'Donnell Bros has been providing greater Bristol and Central Connecticut with residential and commercial remodeling solutions. We specialize in roofing, siding, windows, doors, gutters, downspouts and so much more. We look forward to helping you with all your remodeling needs. 

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Articles

O'Donnell Bros President, Bob O'Donnell, is a regular contributor to The Bristol Press. Read his home improvement articles here.

 

Filtering by Category: Insulation

Don't Be the Coldest House on the Block This Winter

Chelsea O'Donnell

I love winter. You’ll often find me skiing, playing ice hockey on one of our local ponds, and hiking in the snow over the next several months. But for all the fun that winter has to offer, one thing I can’t stand is coming home to a cold house.

During this week’s delayed winter weather, I got tons of calls from people all over town asking what can be done about their drafty, cold homes. They are also concerned why their houses are so hard to heat and their energy bills are through the roof. The answer to their question is easy because the problem can be found in three-quarters of the homes I work on in our area. The culprit of cold is a major lack of insulation.

Insulation is a cotton-looking fiberglass material bundled in pink or yellow colored rolls that you may have seen in your attic or behind the wall of new construction. It also comes in what we call “loose fill” which can be blown into harder to reach areas. Contractors use insulation between walls, in attics and in basements to retain heat in the house in the winter and keep the heat from getting into the house in the summer. The amount of insulation needed for a home is measured by its R-Value, which equates to its resistance to heat moving through it. Simply put, the higher the R-Value, the better the insulating properties.

Back 50 years ago when many of the homes in Central Connecticut areas were built, R-Value wasn’t a popular unit of measurement. Instead, the industry kept it simple and measured insulation by its thickness in inches. When a home was constructed, the contractor would put about three inches of insulation into the attic, if any was used at all. Three inches of insulation would give that homeowner an R-Value of about R-10. According to EnergyStar, homes in our area should be fitted with insulation that measures between R-49 and R-60. So if you have a home from the 1950s or early and have never upgraded your insulation, your home is definitely not equipped to handle our harsh Connecticut winters.

Do yourself a favor and take a trip up into your attic. Chances are your insulation isn’t up to scratch and it’s probably time for an upgrade. As a general guideline, insulation with an R-Value of between R-49 and R-60 will sit at between 19 and 22 inches thick when settled. How does your insulation stack up to that? If it doesn’t, you don’t have to worry - a contractor can install it in less than one day and insulation has one of the highest resale values of any home improvement job.

With any proper insulation job also comes ventilation, which allows air to move through the attic, preventing over and under heating and reducing the risk of mold buildup. We will talk about that in detail next week.

Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.

Bobby O's Top Tips to Keep Winter Utility Bills Down

Chelsea O'Donnell

Outdoor lights, Christmas trees, and colder temperature mean that December is usually one of the most expensive months in terms of utility bills. But with the holiday season behind us, January is a great time to take a closer look at how much energy you’re using and address the issues in your home that are causing those high costs.

One resource that not enough people take advantage of is an energy audit by Energize Connecticut. For a fee, a home energy consultant will come to your home and conduct a full assessment, covering your furnace and water heater, air ducts, windows, doors and more. Plus they can offer rebates for upgrades and repairs. To apply, visit the EnergizeCT website and choose your service provider.

If you’re not in the market for an assessment would still like to enjoy some serious home energy savings, here are the top five spots I always check for air leaks and heat loss.

  1. Windows. Believe it or not, hanging heavy fabric drapes can help you retain up to 25% of the heat in your home. This is especially true with large glass doors that aren’t being used in the winter months. Also, be sure to check for gaps. Wooden window frames get warped with age and can lead to serious air leakage. For cracks that are smaller than a quarter of an inch, a silicone caulk will work to plug up areas where heat is escaping. Also, if you feel air coming right through your single panes and the glass rattles with the wind, beef them up with some shrink film. This product can be found at any home supply store and can be cut to fit any size.

  2. Doors. We don’t often open the windows in the winter, but doors are a different story. They let lots of air escape, but they can’t be sealed completely because we need to use them. I always suggest inspecting your door sweep to ensure it’s not damaged and replacing it if the bristles have come loose. A door snake or seal can also come in handy, which can be purchased at any big box store or even made at home with an old pair of tights and some rice, beans, newspaper or another filling.

  3. Attic. Those of you with an attic hatch are likely losing a ton of warm air through its frame. We all know that hot air rises, so seal up that hatch with heavy duty plastic, or build yourself an insulated box to fit over the entryway if you still need access to storage.

  4. Water Heater. Insulate your water heater’s tank and pipes with fiberglass. For the tank, fit a fiberglass blanket using foil tape, but be sure not to cover any valve or pipe openings. For the pipes, you can use fiberglass wrap or foam insulation. By adding a layer of insulation to your water heater, you’ll keep the warmth from escaping into the air and you’ll protect the machine from condensation in the warmer months.

  5. Insulation. Most homes simply do not have enough insulation in the walls and attic, which is probably the number one contributor to sky-high energy bills. Insulation acts as a barrier against heat flow, helping to keep the warm air inside the house by slowing the flow and stopping the heat from getting outside. The United States Environment Protection Agency says that with proper insulation, the average home in our area can save approximately 16 to 50 percent in total heating and cooling costs depending on the age and condition of the home. Plus it’s one of the highest rated home improvements in terms of real estate resale value.

Happy New Year Everyone! Here’s to a warm, happy and healthy 2019!

Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


What To Do With Icicles in the Attic

Chelsea O'Donnell

This week I visited a homeowner who called me after he went up into his attic early one morning to get his Christmas decorations and he was shocked to find tiny icicles hanging from the rafters!  As the cold begins to set in, I suspect that many people in our area will start to see the same problem, so let’s dive right into the cause and the solution.

It might be hard to believe that icicles can form inside the house, but in many older homes that lack proper insulation and ventilation, the attic can become a magnet for condensation, which will freeze when it gets cold enough and the moisture has nowhere to go.

We all know that heat rises, and when we heat our homes in the winter, a lot of that warm air moves up through our ceilings and into the attic, rising all the way up to where it should be able to pass through the vents to the outside. However, if those vents aren’t working properly, the condensation and air have nowhere to go, so it collects on any cold surface below the dew point and turns into frost. After a while, this frost builds up to form icicles. The more moisture that builds up in the attic, the worse the problem will become. As temperatures rise and that ice and frost start to melt, it can saturate your insulation with water, causing mold and mildew problems as well as potential leaks in your ceiling. What’s worse is this isn’t even just a winter problem. Condensation build up can cause issues in your attic all year long.

So how do you stop the condensation from forming? Your first move is to look for sources that are pushing excess warm air into the attic. If you have a whole house fan, it’s a wise move to cover it as the louvers will be letting your valuable heat escape. Bathroom fans are another sure bet for letting air through and they will cause major condensation issues if they are blowing into the attic instead of venting directly outside. Finally, make sure your folding stairway is covered over with an insulated box or weather stripping to avoid losing that extra heat.

While sealing off places that allow excess heat to get into the attic is a great idea, the one thing you never want to do is seal off your attic vents. Attic ventilation is a system which includes intake vents in the soffit and exhaust vents at the roof’s ridge. If these vents get sealed or blocked, there is nowhere for the condensation to go, so it gets trapped and can easily manifest into a leak. Believe it or not, the average family of four generates two gallons of water vapor each day from cooking, cleaning, showering, laundry, and breathing. If that water is left sitting in the attic, you’re going to have a problem.

With colder temperatures settling in, now is a great time to take a look up in your attic to see if you have any frost or icicles culminating in your home. Next week I’ll tell you more about how to properly ventilate and insulate an attic to make sure your property isn’t prone to leaks and other condensation-based damage in the future.  

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.