This is an important project for those who are concerned about their energy use, and all should be although the less affluent are affected to a greater degree. I didn't know where to start this project, at some now known weak points, or the path I took to combat my war on lost energy. So the most prudent way would probably where the greatest loss of energy occurs in the home.
Now I have prebuilt dwelling that is transported to its location, so extra considerations are needed when addressing these dwellings, but still the number 1 place of energy loss is found in all homes, b/c its the windows that allow the most energy loss in most dwellings, and many people would want to overlook this fact just for aesthetic reasons, I could not afford that luxury.
So once I determined that in the deep south, in the summer, the radiated heat generated through the windows was beginning to overwhelm the air conditioner, I took action. I found out about a product called "white out", its a durable fabric that is meant to block the sun and radiant heat from entering the dwelling, each year during summer I would use a glue gun and cut the fabric to the size of the window and glue the outer portion to the plastic window frame, this was after I removed the blinds and curtains as one was generating heat, the curtains, and the blinds were just sending the heat straight to the ceiling while masking the problem in the form of a wall, after 3 or 4 years I had the whole house done.
But this became laborious over time plus I couldn't see outside until the fall when a cold front finally pushed the heat away, so I figured I would make, out of pine 1X2, frames on hinges that I could then staple the fabric too so when the time was right I could just swing open the frame and not have to rip the fabric off the glued spots each year and reapply them the next summer, this also proved effective during the few cold winter nights also.
The next weakness I ran into in my home was the ability of the rising heat to easily escape into the attic by means of the crown molding,[(in my case) heat rising is a momentum thing, you give it a long enough time and temp difference, and heat will quickly escape], these house were put together by machines in many places, and the gap between the wall the ceiling approached an inch in many places, I found this after a section of crown molding was peeling away from it's mount, and when I went to refasten it I noticed the gap, this now had to be addressed.
My solution to this was not easy except for the idea, I would drill a small hole the size of the straw coming off a can of spray foam every 6 inches, then spray the foam in the hole until it squeezed out the sides, then after it dried, use a bread knife to cut off the exposed portions like you see in the header photo. I did a hole every foot that was exposed to an outside wall and where the two sections of house meet, this was another great energy conserver.
Now like me you might have some windows that are a challenge to build frames for, I did these last in case I had some difficulties which can always arise with a situation like this. The most challenging part was to make the curved part of the frame and then make certain it was fitted properly, to make the bend I drew a line in the center of the thin part of the wood the entire length of the stick and on both sides, the trick is cut a slice 1/2 way down the stick every inch or so depending on how severe the curve was, this is a 90 curve so its about as extreme as a bend normally gets,(I do this by hand to ensure accuracy, you might have access to a wood workshop and could do this quicker), and you can then bend the wood with the cuts on the inside.
The cuts are designed to remove the wood so when bending the stick, the remaining wood has a place to go, if it did not, the wood would simply snap in half, same if you were to try to bend the piece with the cuts to the outside, the weak point would be one of those cuts that were deepest cut into the wood. This is tricky b/c not only do you have to bend the resistive wood, it has to be the right size. (I joined my two corners with a 45 degree cut, so with that cut I jammed it into corner and bent it almost into place to get the exact length I needed, I was already w/in an inch so just measured as best I could and trimmed the bottom , its makes for the strongest bond.
I think I attached and glued the upper portion to the side rail and let it cure first before putting the pressure on the cuts to attach the bottom rail, and naturally made sure the bent piece fit in the opening it was designed to fit into). But strangely enough after doing the first one, it fit better into the opposite window so I reversed the frame and fitted it into the second window and tried to remake the first one to fit better, it did fit but it is a tight fit requiring a small effort to install each day but its still, less effort than trying to make another one in the hopes it would fit perfect, (And even after a good enough fit I attached a bar to the remaining frame to be additionally secured b/c it was a long running window and I wanted to strengthen it, I did this by hand too with a butterfly cut, it worked by I was glad it wasn't fine furniture), it performs just as well as a perfect fit.
I thought I was mostly done until some hoods decided to drain the freon from my central air conditioner. So I bought two small window units and luckily found some used styra foam boards. I took the foam boards and custom cut sections to fill in the wood white out frames and glued and filled the gaps with the spray foam, this really put me over the top as far as energy loss, and I can go weeks at a time using only a dollar a day electrical use when not in summer, I heat with wood to do the heavy lifting and solar and a tiny bit of electric heat on the days it doesn't go into the 30's. This has worked out fantastic and if you wanted to make everything pristine looking you could go buy the 4X8 sheets at about $50 a piece and cut them to fit each frame but there would be an addition significant expense than what I did.
The easiest way to cut this board is with a electric meat knife, its still easy, you have to work the knife up and down in and out to save some time and I nearly wore out one flea mkt purchased knife after like 20 windows. This covers the top side heat loss and window energy drain. I also made sure no gaps were around any door.
Now I had some extra time, and for 20 years my bare feet froze on the floor for 3 weeks usually in Feb b/c the cold settling into the bones of the under side of the house. We have no basements here so its easy for cold air to find its way to the underside of the dwelling unless you go all around and double check to see if insulation was installed properly, or if any gaps were left behind during construction, you will fall victim to this tapping of energy.
As you can see, once I cut through the one giant piece of insulation, I could see why my feet were so cold. The insulation is only as good as your ability to heat the area it insulates. The hot air blowing through this can was never going to be enough to heat all the wood above it, its 26 feet wide and subject to the constant chill below with no basement, just standard bricks for a wall.
So I bought some thin board and cut up some appliance packing and made these filler unit to slide under the floor and then provide some means to further insulate.
I slid and then further packed the area with foam pieces and now once the floor is heated from above, the heat doesn't just get absorbed into the wood flooring, it instead stays warm and gives off its heat once cooled from above.
I then took the foot deep insulation wrap, and with a wide washer, long nails, and a custom made compression stick, compressed and nailed the insulation to the joists above every 3 feet or so. This took all summer and I only did the living section of the house, the sleeping section i'll do next year to increase the over all efficiency of the dwelling.
One last thing, I took the liberty to install an attic fan to drain the radiant summer heat from entering through the ceiling, but in the winter the hole would lose any heat acquired from the winter sun plus any heat generated from the house, so I found a circular styrofoam cover from a propane grill packing material, it fit perfectly and with an attic thermometer, I can see and feel the difference in the morning by an additional few degrees.
Aside from adding board insulation to the top of the roof, inner and outer walls, and foundation, This is about as far as one can go to prevent energy loss, as I do more down the road, I'll post it and show the guts of the initial construction and remedies to improve on them.