John and Susan also wanted to convert their unfinished basement into a family room and home office, so it needed insulation for comfort. Tom opted to install InSoFast insulation: 24-by-48-inch tongue-and-groove panels of polystyrene foam with embedded plastic studs 16 inches on center and precut channels on the back sides for snaking wires. Designed for basements, the system delivers both framing and insulation in one easy step—and greatly simplifies the wiring process, since an electrician can use a hole saw to make access ports in the panels, then glue the cutouts back in place with spray foam. Wallboard then goes directly over the whole assembly.
Tom, who's given many houses similar envelope upgrades in his 30-plus years as a contractor, estimates that these measures will slash the house's heating and cooling costs in half. Plus, the improvements allowed the HVAC system to be downsized in power, saving the couple a significant upfront investment.
Hybrid HVAC Equipment
Since they were adding central air-conditioning, John and Sally scrapped the old radiators and boiler, opting to let the new ducts carry both AC and heat. TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey designed a unique and highly efficient forced-air heating system that uses hot water as the "fuel" to heat the air supply. The water is warmed in a Lochinvar condensing boiler, which captures and uses heat from its own exhaust system, making it about 96 percent efficient—better than any furnace. This heated water will travel through insulated PEX pipes to two air handlers in the house. There, the water warms the air that's then channeled through 2-inch high-velocity mini ducts supplying heat to each room.
Shown: TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey designed an innovative HVAC system: It uses a Lochinvar condensing boiler to efficiently heat water that acts as the "fuel" for warming up the house's air and hot water.