Solving Comfort Issues and High Utility Bills in Cape Cod Style Homes

The Fifth Fuel Blog 1, VA
April 26, 2016

Cape Cod-style homes date back to 17 century New England, where these charming homes were designed to withstand the elements. The homes are compact and have a simple rectangular footprint. A steep roof helped shed snow, relatively low ceilings made it easier to heat, and shutters helped keep wind out during storms.

The revival of the Cape Cod homes began in the late 1920s and lasted for several decades. We now have many such homes throughout Northern Virginia and Metro Maryland.

Comfort Issues in Cape Cods

Although Cape Cod home look cozy, many homeowners experience comfort issues. One of the most common concerns we hear at The Fifth Fuel is that the second floor is colder than the first in the winter. The floors in Cape Cods are often cold too, especially on the first floor. Although it is logical to think that this is a furnace issue, these uneven temperatures are rarely related to the heating system.

Pinpointing Home Efficiency Issues

A common source of comfort and efficiency issues in Cape Cod style homes originates in the space between the wall on the second story and the unfinished space behind it (in the front and back of the home). These second-floor walls are typically just 4 or 5 feet tall, with a triangular space behind them. This space is typically unconditioned and not adequately insulated and air sealed.

Outside air enters through the soffits and circulates around. In the winter, this triangular-shaped area can suck heat from the second floor, creating uneven temperatures and drafts in the home. Some Cape Cods have doors to access this space, which can further encourage air leakage between the conditioned and unconditioned spaces on the second floor of the home.

The unconditioned triangular-shaped space on the second floor also affects the energy efficiency of the first floor. This unconditioned space is typically located over the first floor ceiling, and pulls heat from the living space below. Cold air is also drawn into the cavity created by the floor joists on the second floor. This pulls heat from both the first and second floor, creating drafts and temperature imbalances.

Vented dirt crawlspaces can cause numerous home performance issues in Cape Cods, including cold floors on the first floor and poor indoor air quality. Insulating and encapsulating crawlspaces offers an effective solutions, both by controlling moisture and preventing cold air from entering the first floor.

Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Cape Cods

The Fifth Fuel has extensive experience identifying energy efficiency issues and finding solutions for Cape Cod homes throughout Northern Virginia and Metro D.C. Addressing the unconditioned space behind the knee walls on the second floor is an important place to start.

First, The Fifth Fuel efficiency experts stop the flow of unconditioned air from behind the knee wall into the second floor and into the ceiling joist cavity on the first floor. We air seal the walls, floor, and weatherize around the access door in the knee wall if there is one.

Although most homes have some insulation on the attic side of the knee wall, a lack of backing prevents the insulation from functioning properly. The Fifth Fuel adds backing to knee walls and then blockers between the knee wall and the floor cavity to prevent the flow of unconditioned air into the home.

The Fifth Fuel: Your Energy Conservation Experts

With over 30 years of experience in home performance, The Fifth Fuel is highly experienced in getting to the root of home performance issues and creating lasting solutions. We use infrared cameras and blower door testing, taking a scientific approach to strategic energy conservation.

The Fifth Fuel has helped many homeowners throughout Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Mclean, and the Metro DC areas save money with energy-saving home improvements. The longevity of our energy efficiency staff has allowed us to create a team with extensive expertise in saving energy.

Want to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient? Call The Fifth Fuel today to get started.