Adding insulation to top-floor apartment?
December 28, 2016 12:53 PM   Subscribe

We recently bought a top-floor apartment; a 1940's 10 story building in Philly. It seems to have no insulation above our ceiling (maybe 2 ft. of clearance) according to the Super. It is hot in the summer, cold in Winter.

I would like to propose to the Board blown-in cellulose insulation in each top-floor apartment.
Questions- what is the most cost effective manner to do this? how disruptive would it be? What insulation is the best w/out toxic, or petroleum-based ingredients, if any. Is there some way to calculate cost-savings?
Finally, we need to make a convincing case to the building, one that other Tenants can see the sense of; e.g. cost-savings to all.
posted by ebesan to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When we replaced the (flat) roof of our condo building we added insulating board under the new roof for a cost that was such a small percentage of the total bill that the other floors didn't bother breaking it out. Previous to my owning the condo the whole association had pooled together to get blown insulation in all of the outside walls - if y'all were doing that, the roof might also make sense. They got a group discount for doing all of the units at once.

You might also talk to your heating provider - many will do energy audits that will help identify areas that need insulating for free and provide a cost and savings estimate. If you did that and showed that you could save $X by insulating the walls and roof in your apartment, it might be easier to convince the association as a whole to do the whole building (and thereby get a group discount).
posted by ldthomps at 1:53 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

We have blown in cellulose insulation in our house, which has been in place for 30 years. The drawback seems to be that the insulation is slowly breaking down and is generating dust in our living space. I would vote for fiberglass instead. A reputable installer can probably give you a current heat transmission reading and an estimate of the effect of adding insulation.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:02 PM on December 28, 2016

Finally, we need to make a convincing case to the building, one that other Tenants can see the sense of; e.g. cost-savings to all.

Does the same heating system serve the whole building, or does each unit have its own furnace and pay its own energy bills? If the latter, then roof insulation will only benefit the top-floor residents.
posted by jon1270 at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some people who do energy audits could put together the savings you are looking for. They estimate the R-value of the existing installation, the average temperature inside and out, and calculate how much energy is lost, compared to the same situation but with insulation. It's going to be a lot -- probably 25%-50% of the cost of blowing in insulation (cellulose or fiberglass, doesn't matter) provided you have standard plaster ceilings and no insulation. It will be costlier if there isn't a way to get in the attic except breaking the ceiling.

They should leave space above the insulation, below the roof. There needs to be ventilation from this space to the outside that won't be blocked by the insulation. Make sure your contractors know this or convince you otherwise, or your roof can rot away.
posted by flimflam at 3:55 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding the energy audit. There are a lot of incentive programs out there that will subsidize energy-saving improvements (both minor tweaks like swapping out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs and bigger things such as boiler and insulation upgrades). Your local utilities should be able to direct you to someone who can do the cost/savings analysis, help your building figure out what incentives you qualify for that make sense, and find you a contractor to do the work. You'll need to get some initial buy-in from the board for the initial audit, but hopefully "free assessment of ways to reduce energy bills" will make it an easier sell.
posted by yeahlikethat at 3:58 PM on December 28, 2016

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