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Old 11-17-2008, 07:31 PM   #41
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Polycarbonate could reduce heat loss somewhat, but you are likely to get water trapped between the plastic and the glass at some point (water that leaks in and can't get out, or water vapor that condenses on the cold side).

I'm not a big fan of skylights in general (deliberately putting a hole in the roof and ceiling, heat loss issues, etc), and bathrooms are a special problem due to the humidity/condensation.
-- If the skylight is in a cathedral ceiling (no shaft, no lower ceiling) then probably the best thing to do is to assure the skylight is a very good one (seals tight, double- or triple-pane depending on the temps, low e glass, argon filled, insulated frame, etc). A cheap stopgap that might last a couple of years would be one of those plastic heat shrink film interior insulating kits sold for windows--the trapped air is probably worth R-2 to R-3 or so.
-- For a skylight with a shaft and a flat ceiling, I'd lean toward forfeiting the view up through the top and settling for the light. Paint the shaft glossy white, put a frame in the ceiling to hold a sheet of white prism plastic, and tape a thickness or two of bubble wrap on top (tip of the hat to T-Al--leave a few places for air to get in and out to avoid condensation). Leave it all so it can be opened up for access. If you want to be really slick, you could even mount the florescent bulbs for the bathroom up there and do away with the separate light fixture in the ceiling. Cut a hole up top and down below to allow cross-flow ventilation to the attic (or else the enclosed space will get too hot in the summer and there will be moisture problems year-round).

Or, just get a really high-quality skylight and call it a day.

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Old 12-04-2008, 08:26 PM   #42
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I am happy to report that after nearly six weeks of work I have pretty much finished the attic insulation project.

I removed all of the old insulation, used some for stuffing around the edges and gave a lot to a coworker for his attic so I avoided sending it all to the landfill.

So far I have installed 103 R19 6 inch thick fiberglass batts and 26 rolls of 25 foot R30 9 inch thick insulation over the top of the batts. I have covered everything but a two foot boarded over crawl walk on the old side of the attic. I will probably get another roll or two to finish that off.

Thanks to everyone that gave advice, especially samclem.

My advice after doing this:

1) Realize how much work you are getting into. Rolling the insulation over the batts was pretty easy, but removing the old batts, caulking and installing new batts was a lot of work.

2) Get a good set of knee pads. Once you get the hang of it, kneeling on the floor joists is much easier than trying to move around pieces of plywood to sit on.

3) Watch out for repetative stress injury to your hands from crawling. I had problems with my hands going numb and my arm hurting. Hopefully this will clear up as samclem said it did for him.

4) Watch our for hurting your back by lifting things while kneeling and bent over. I must have used my back like a lever lifting plywood and ended up out of action for nearly a week.

5) Give some serious thought to using blown in celulose fiber insulation instead for fiberglass batts. Most have said it would be much easier (and I now believe them) and others have said that its insulation capability does not degrade when the difference between inside and outside temperature increases as fiberglass does.

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Old 12-05-2008, 08:19 AM   #43
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Wow, great work. Don't forget to seal up the attic acccess door/hatch, and maybe add some cheap foam to the back of it to prevent a cold spot from developing in your nice, highly-insulated ceiling.

FWIW, here's my patented method for estimating the time needed to complete a home improvement project:

((My estimated time) x 2) ^2, then express as the next highest unit.

E.g After reading about insulation in a book, a person might think it would take about a day and a half to roll out new batts and get the attic done. As we all find out, there's all the unanticipated stuff (caulking, stepping through the ceiling, haulng all the old insulation away, several trips to Home Depot, if we are lucky just one trip to the ER, etc). The formula takes all that into account:
(1.5 days x 2)^2 = 9, then expressed as the next highest unit (weeks) = 9 weeks. So, by getting this job done in less than 5 weeks, you finished in about 1/2 of the realistic time. Congratulations.

I hope you'll be happy with the insulation. It made a big differenc in our house (only the new windows have made a bigger difference in the comfort level). And you'll be saving money from here on out. Woo-hoo!
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Old 12-06-2008, 09:36 PM   #44
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I am on track for the attic hatch project.

My friend Juliusz at work has already paved the way by building a foam hatch cover for his attic. When I bought the 16 foam panels to insulate the crawl space walls and then changed my mind I saved two of them to make a hatch cover and to seal the ventilation opening in the crawl space during the winter.

I picked up some construction adhesive suitable for use with foam and will be using some old wood paneling that I found in the attic to glue the foam to to make the hatch cover.

The basic plan is to make a two layer piece that matches the size of the hatch opening giving R20 insulation. I will then make some six or eight inch side pieces. Once the cover is in place I will use some sort of bungie cord or wire to secure it to the sides of the hatch opening. I may also but some sort of weather stripping on the bottom to seal it better.

I also bought some shrink-wrap for my windows. Although they are new replacement windows with double pane and inert gas between the panes I figure that the extra plastic and trapped air will help on the windows in the rooms I do not use. I have honeycomb blinds on the windows in my den so that helps insulate them better.

The sky lights are a mess, but that will have to wait until next year. When I was up cleaning the gutter last week I determined that they are simple single pane of glass units and must be a total heat leak. I will give thought to removing them and putting the roof back or to replacing them with some modern units.

So far the crawl space temperature vis a vis the running of the wood stove has been working out. When the outside temperature is 30 the crawl space is 47. This is with a four inch opening in the ventilation area. Juliusz says that once the ground freezes it will be colder because it is now benefiting from heat stored in the gound. I have been burning the wood stove and it is working out well.

I now keep my house around 60 for the oil burner and burn wood in the den while I sit there for four or five hours at night. Hopefully the crawl space temperature will remain above freezing and I can continue to burn the stove. I have piled a huge amount of wood on my back porch, so it would be a real bummer if I have to give up on the wood stove in the middle of the winter and then carry all that wood back to the shed in the spring.

I am turning into a real Paul Bunyan. I had offered a fallen tree to my neighbor who burns a lot of wood and has a big chain saw and a wood splitter machine. Last week he came over and sawed up the tree but his back was hurting and he told me that I could keep all the wood but I had to go buy a wood splitting mall and split all the wood myself. That combined with the electric chain saw my step-father loaned me has been quite an adventure.

So far between reducing my thermostat from 70 to 60 and with part of the attic having the new insulation and some being open while working on it I seem to have cut my oil consumption in half - 60 gallons vs. 120 gallons at the same point last year.

I am sure that I am exagerating, but with all of the advice I got here and all the experience I got from the attic project and working with an electrician on an electrical survey at work I think that I could probably build my own house if I had a couple of helpers for the large stuff. If I ever get booted out of my j*b and have a lot of time on my hands I might try that or try to rehab some old house.

It is looking like the wolves of winter are on the doorstep, so with the attic project finished and the wood stacked on the porch I think I might be ready to settle in for the long winter.

With all of the losses in the stock market and the bad economy I probably ought to ratchet up the observable enthusiasm level at work and start busting my butt to make sure that they like me enough not to flush me out. The added benefit is that they run the heat at work so I can save money on my heat if I stay late at work.

My hope is that in a couple years the market will start going up again and then I can FIRE at the begining of an up cycle - that is as long as enough of the nest egg survives to make that possible.

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