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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

Help! I Can’t Keep My House Cool

Chelsea O'Donnell

After this past weekend’s mini heatwave, I had an interesting reader question pop up in my email inbox. She asked:

“Dear Bob, we live in a Cape Cod style home. This past weekend when the temperature reached almost 90 degrees, our second floor became unbearably hot. The second floor gets incredibly cold in the winter too. What can we do to help regulate the temperature so it doesn’t change with the seasons? - Nancy M., Bristol

Nancy, you’re not alone. This is a common problem in Cape Cod style homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, building codes were much more relaxed and energy efficiency was unheard of, so homes were built with very little insulation or ventilation.

What’s happening in your case is that the outside weather is coming in because there isn’t enough insulation to protect your home. To be even more specific, hot air is getting stuck in the attic and seeping down into the second floor because there is no ventilation to let it out. What’s worse is that the moisture in the air is also getting trapped; giving you a potential mold exposure problem that can easily go right from your attic into your lungs.

So what do you do? First, take advantage of a free insulation inspection from a local area remodeler to see how much insulation you actually have. If you haven’t had the house insulated since it was built, I can guarantee you don’t have enough. If you’ve recently bought your home, now is the time to pay close attention. 

Today, we measure insulation by its “R-Value” and the higher the R-Value, the better the insulating properties. In the 1960’s, R-Value wasn’t a popular unit of measurement and instead, most insulation was measured by its thickness in inches. To give you an example, if a typical 1960’s home was insulated at all, it was probably fitted with an R-10 value, which equates to a little over three inches of thickness. The recommended R-Value for Connecticut’s climate according to EnergyStar today is between R-49 and R-60 for an uninsulated attic and between R-38 and R-49 for a home with a few inches of pre-existing insulation. So as you can see, times they are changing.

If your house is the victim of extreme temperature changes, the easiest and best way to regulate it is to build that barrier of protection. A professional can tell you how much insulation you need and can also perform an assessment to see if any mold has formed in the attic and walls. It’s key to remember that adding insulation will change the way your home breathes, so make sure it is fitted with proper ventilation to allow for appropriate airflow. If you just experienced a cold and expensive winter in your home, this is a project to tackle now to stay comfortable all year long.

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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.

Window Condensation? A Common Spring Problem To Resolve

Chelsea O'Donnell

This week a reader asked a great question, “My windows are constantly fogged up and I’m not sure why. How can I fix them?”

Window condensation is such a common problem and it happens in homes with too much humidity. If your house is old or new, it doesn’t matter. When the humidity inside the home is higher than the humidity outside, your glass windows and doors will start to show condensation, especially at this time of year when evening temperatures hover around 40 degrees.

Homes should be at about 50 percent humidity. When they are higher, the glass in your home will act as a dehumidifier and the excess moisture will collect on it in an attempt to get rid of the water from the air. Newer homes are built tightly, which makes it harder for moisture to escape. Older homes can let too much moisture from the outside in. This is why condensation doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to any house.

So what can you do to either prevent condensation or get rid of a problem that you already have? Step one is to purchase a hygrometer which is the instrument to measure humidity. As I said, 50 percent humidity inside the home is what you’re aiming for, but anything from 45 to 55 percent is fine. If your hygrometer is measuring 60 to 70 percent or higher, you’ll want to take immediate action. While condensation on windows is unsightly and annoying, mold and mildew growth is much worse.

If you have condensation, here are a few ideas to get rid of it quickly and effectively.

Turn Down Your Humidifier. If you’re using one, it’s working! By releasing less moisture into the air, you’ll reduce your condensation problems.

Buy a Dehumidifier. If your house is constantly damp, a moisture eliminator is going to be crucial. Lots of homeowners run dehumidifiers in their basement all the time but keeping one going upstairs might be necessary. If you are running slightly more humid in rooms such as the bathrooms or the laundry room, try a refillable moisture absorber such as DampRid.

Use Your Fans. Bathroom and kitchen fans are there for a reason. Cooking a dish that lets off lots of steam or taking long showers both create tons of extra water. Extractor fans can help to remove that moisture. Let them run for 10 minutes after use.

Open the Windows. Air circulation is key, so open up those windows and make good use of ceiling fans. Also, make sure you check the humidity in the attic, as heat tends to rise. You may find that your first and second floors have entirely different humidity levels and need to be treated independently.

Insulate! Because condensation is caused by heat and moisture, it’s a good idea to make sure your home is insulated to make the air easier to control. Insulation can be as simple as weatherstripping and door sealing depending on the level of wall and attic insulation in your home. If you’re not sure how much insulation you have, call a contractor to give you an assessment and free quote.

Spring and summer are much wetter seasons than fall and winter, so be sure to check your moisture levels often. As the humidity rises outside, a house that doesn’t “breathe” properly will be susceptible to a number of problems. Consider foggy windows as a warning sign and take action right away to avoid potentially expensive repairs and hazardous breathing conditions 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.


Energy Efficiency Home Upgrades That Add Value While Saving Money

Chelsea O'Donnell

In case helping the planet isn’t enough motivation for you, creating an energy-efficient home not only reduces your utility bills, but it can increase its value too. Real estate buyers are showing increased interest in homes that carry  Energy Star certifications and paying less for heat and electricity is a huge bonus too.

With so many options to improve your home’s energy consumption, how do you choose what to focus on? Here are some of my favorite upgrades which are easy to implement and will give you the best bang for your buck.

Insulation

Adding or upgrading your attic and wall insulation is a fantastic and cost-efficient way to lower heating and cooling costs. For an average 1,000 square foot ranch, the project costs around $2,000 and the benefit can be upwards of $600 per year on energy bills. In our area, more than 75% of homes are underinsulated which allows heat to escape in the winter and cool air to be lost in the summer. If you’re considering central air for the coming season, don’t even think about putting a system in without having your insulation inspected first.

Solar Panels

While not cheap or easy, solar panels do offer excellent energy savings and are worth mentioning here. The cost can be anywhere from $15,000-$30,000 and once installed, you can expect savings of $500-$1,000 per year on energy costs. Solar panels require very little maintenance but many people consider them unsightly. Suppliers are working on better aesthetic solutions and I think we’ll see a lot of improvements in this area in the next few years. Pound for pound, insulation is a less expensive solution with comparable benefits.

Windows and Doors

Homes lose a ton of energy through windows and doors, especially older ones with loose fitting frames and single pane glass. Energy efficient windows and doors are a smart investment as they will not only save you money in the long run, they are also easy to clean and operate with virtually no required upkeep.

Weatherstripping

Weatherstripping is usually the first recommendation I make for homeowners looking to lower their utility bills cheaply. Energy audits reveal that up to 40 percent of heating and cooling losses occur through air leaks, particularly in older homes. Sealing off these leaks is an easy project that any homeowner can do, it’s very low cost, and the materials can be found at any home improvement store.

Programmable Thermostats

I love programmable thermostats which can help you reduce your energy consumption when you don’t need it. A smart system will allow you to turn down heating and cooling when you’re at work or away for a period of time and the savings will often be recouped in a year. While systems differ, you can expect to spend $200 or less depending on the bells and whistles included.

Gas Fireplace

Gas fireplaces have an energy-efficient rating of more than 70% where wood-burning fireplaces rank around 15%. The cost to convert wood to gas is roughly $2,000, which will pay for itself in just a few years time. While many homeowners love both the smell and the look of a traditional wood burner, new technology has helped gas fireplaces look much more appealing and less artificial than when they were first introduced to the market.

Low-Flow Faucets

While heating and cooling are the biggest energy eaters, it’s definitely worth thinking about your water intake too. Low-flow hardware for toilets and showers is cheap to buy, easy to install, and can cut water usage by up to 50%. This is both great for the environment and can save you upwards of $200 per year on the bill. If you have an old dishwasher and washing machine, now is the time to replace those too as energy efficiency has been the biggest upgrade focus for appliances in recent years.

Making smart energy efficiency investments is a good idea for any homeowner, but it’s important to learn more about your individual home and where improvements can be made. Scheduling a no or low-cost energy audit is a great place to start.

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.