Home Energy Efficiency Upgrade

Sammy and Suzanne Massingills’ house is over 50 years old and in need of some energy efficiency improvements to lower their utility bills.

Energy efficiency improvements included:

    • Replace Sliding Glass Doors: While the single-pane windows on the house had been replaced with insulated glass windows, their sliding glass doors had not. Window World removed the old sliding doors and installed new, energy efficient ones with argon gas filled insulated glass with a low-E coating.
    • Attic Insulation: Since the attic had very little insulation, we added two layers of Roxul stone wool insulation. The first layer was installed in the space between the joists, and a second layer installed on top perpendicular to the joists. Stone wool insulation is easy to cut using a serrated knife.
    • Install Programmable Thermostat: The old mercury bulb thermostat was replaced with a more energy efficient programmable thermostat from Carrier. A programmable thermostat saves energy by allowing you to set a different temperature when you’re away from home or asleep at night.
  • Insulate Electrical Outlets: To reduce drafts in the house, the covers on the electrical outlets and switches on outside walls were removed and insulating foam gaskets from Duck brand installed.

Read episode article to find out more.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re helping Sammy and Suzanne give their home an energy efficiency update.

Sammy Massingill: We would love to replace our sliders.

Suzanne Massingill: It’s cold in here in the winter, and it’s hot in the summer.

Danny Lipford: Sammy and Suzanne Massingill share this 50-plus-year-old home with their son Raleigh, their daughter Grace, and their family pet Belle.

Suzanne Massingill: All right, well, we’ve been here 15 years, we’ve been married 19 years, and he does the grass and I do everything else.

Sammy Massingill: I do it when I’m told. I don’t like getting out of my comfort zone.

Danny Lipford: Apparently Suzanne’s a pretty good motivator, though.

Suzanne Massingill: Just a few years ago, maybe five years ago, we opened up the layout and we took down the walls. And we redid the kitchen with new cabinets in granite and everything, and it really made a big difference.

And we painted the brick, and we put in the new front doors, and we had the trim painted, and we stained the shutters.

Sammy Massingill: I mean, yeah, it’s got character, but it’s really not energy efficient.

Suzanne Massingill: We haven’t been very good about the efficiency.

Sammy Massingill: We haven’t been very good about that.

Suzanne Massingill: We probably don’t know enough.

Sammy Massingill: Yeah. We don’t know a whole lot, other than we do know, in our trips up and down to the attic to store things, that we could use insulation in the attic. We know it would help.

Danny Lipford: Not much has been done to improve the energy efficiency of this home since the middle of the last century.

Suzanne Massingill: And a cute thermostat.

Sammy Massingill: Yeah, and get rid of the 1954 thermostat.

Danny Lipford: So it sounds like we have our work cut out for us.

Sammy Massingill: Hey, Danny.

Danny Lipford: How you doing, Sammy?

Sammy Massingill: Good morning. Come on in.

Danny Lipford: Hey, thank you, thank you.

Sammy Massingill: Come on in.

Danny Lipford: Man, I love this nice open floor plan. I wasn’t used to, not thinking about that in this age house.

Sammy Massingill: Thank you. Thank you. I owe it all to Suzanne. She’s the one that did all that.

Danny Lipford: Hey, Suzanne, how are you doing?

Suzanne Massingill: Hey, how are you doing.

Sammy Massingill: My wife Suzanne.

Danny Lipford: OK, so you guys are frustrated with the energy bills, like so many people.

Suzanne Massingill: Too high.

Danny Lipford: The windows, that’s fantastic, the vinyl windows like that that are double, double-paned, so you’ve got energy—

Sammy Massingill: The previous owner did that one for us.

Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s good.

Suzanne Massingill: They did us a big favor.

Danny Lipford: Absolutely. That helped a little bit in saving some of the energy dollars. But what are some of the other things you’ve thought about?

Sammy Massingill: Well, we would love to replace our sliders.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Oh, the single-pane. Yeah, you have one big one over there and one really big one right here.

Sammy Massingill: That’s right. And as you can tell, they have been here quite a while.

Danny Lipford: Just rattle, huh.

Sammy Massingill: You can see the outside through the top.

Suzanne Massingill: Not to mention it’s really hard to kind of get in and out of them because they…

Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah.

Suzanne Massingill: …come right off, so…

Danny Lipford: You know sometimes super glue won’t even fix things like that, will it?

Suzanne Massingill: No.

Sammy Massingill: We’ve looked. And they do not make those. We cannot find them. It’s not something you’ll pick up just at any hardware store.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, truly, with it being single-paned, with it being, you know, that large of an opening and so forth, the sliders are still popular, but—

Suzanne Massingill: It’s cold in here in the winter, and it’s hot in the summer.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, well, you got to have, you’ve got to have a better set than that. And that’s a big opening, too. That’s probably eight-foot by six-foot-eight times two.

Suzanne Massingill: It’s a lot.

Danny Lipford: That’s a lot of surface right in there.

Sammy Massingill: It is, but we love the open plan and the natural sunlight that comes in.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. I wouldn’t make it any smaller.

Suzanne Massingill: No.

Danny Lipford: A lot of people will replace that with, like, patio doors, and that seems to really close it in a little bit more. So we’ll see what we can do about that.

Water heater, that’s another thing. That uses about 13% of your energy every year. How long has it been since you replaced the water heater?

Suzanne Massingill: Four or five years, maybe?

Sammy Massingill: Probably five years.

Danny Lipford: All right. You’re probably in pretty good shape on that. What about the heating and cooling system?

Sammy Massingill: Well, that’s another story in itself. I can show you how old our air conditioning is by our thermostat. This is it right here.

Danny Lipford: All right. That is an–that is an older one. Well, that’s a no-brainer there. We can take that off, put a programmable thermostat on there that’ll adapt your heating and cooling to work along with your guys’ schedule, and that’ll definitely save a lot of money on that.

Sammy Massingill: Great.

Danny Lipford: That’s easy. OK, let’s see, scuttle door. Is this my only way to get in the attic? I need to check that insulation.

Sammy Massingill: That is it.

Danny Lipford: OK. Let me get my ladder. All right, let’s see. All right, yeah. Not much at all. Well, anytime you get in your attic and you can actually see your ceiling joist, you know you don’t have enough insulation.

In this case, he only has about this much. Needs about that much. So, clearly, one of the best things we can do to recommend to the Massingills is to add another layer of insulation here, and boy, it’s going to be quite a project.

So, after I share what I found with Suzanne and Sammy, we make a plan.

Sammy Massingill: How much of the attic will need insulation? All of it?

Danny Lipford: All of it, the whole thing, whole thing.

If they haven’t recently installed these new front doors, adding a door sweep might be a good idea. A friction fit model, like this triple sweep from Duck brand, makes that very easy and quick.

They also have a great solution if your windows haven’t been updated, like Sammy and Suzanne’s. Their roll-on window kit can be added to single-pane windows to seal out drafts and create an insulating cushion of air between you and the outside.

Joe Truini: If you’ve cleaned the inside and the outside of your glass oven door and you’re still seeing streaks, it’s because there might be food dripping down on the inside between the panes of glass, as you see here.

This looks like, this streak looks like it’s on the outside, but it’s not. It’s actually on the inner surface of the outer pane, and that other streak is on the inside surface of the inner pane. So, there’s no way to reach it from the outside the door.

So, what do you do? You make a cleaning wand and you go in from below. I removed the access panel from underneath here, and on the edge of the door—the bottom edge of the door—are slots. And you can slip this wand, which is just a bent piece of wire with a moistened glass cleaning wipe on it.

Force it up in there. And there it is. Now, that’s between the glass. So, you have to bend the wire a little bit, but by working it back and forth, there you can see some of that’s already gone after just a minute.

And because there are two or three slots on the bottom edge of this door, you can pull out the cleaning wand, move it over, and clean the entire glass pane from the inside.

Danny Lipford: Sammy and Suzanne Massingill have done a lot to update the look of their home, but their energy efficiency is lacking a bit.

Suzanne Massingill: We haven’t been very good about the efficiency.

Sammy Massingill: We haven’t been very good about that.

Suzanne Massingill: We probably don’t know enough.

Danny Lipford: So, I’m making some recommendations to help them reduce their utility bills, and one of those is replacement of their old, leaky sliding glass doors. The pros from Window World have come by to measure the openings so they can create custom insulated sliding doors for them.

Another recommendation is a regular visit from a heating and cooling contractor. So my friend Steve Davies is here today.

Suzanne Massingill: So, what’s the news?

Steve Davies: The system does appear to be old.

Suzanne Massingill: A little aged?

Steve Davies: This system was installed in 1990. So the average SEER, which is seasonal energy efficiency ratio, it’s like miles per gallon on a car, was about 10. Which this particular system was a 10 SEER. The minimum SEER level available today is 13 SEER. So that’s about 30% difference in operating cost.

Suzanne Massingill: OK.

Steve Davies: It’s pretty significant.

Suzanne Massingill: All right. So if you upgrade and buy a new one, then your power bill goes down. So it just all evens out in the end.

Steve Davies: Absolutely. You’re saving money every month…

Suzanne Massingill: OK.

Steve Davies: …by investing in a newer system.

Danny Lipford: Steve’s a Carrier dealer. And one of the systems he’s talking about is their Infinity 16 heat pump. When its two-stage compressor is combined with their variable-speed blower and Infinity control unit, it almost doubles the efficiency of what Suzanne has now. So when the time comes that she does have to replace it, she knows what to do.

Steve Davies: You know, one of the things that we can do today that will help the system run more efficiently would be to replace the thermostat. Thermostat you have is a mercury bulb thermostat, which they don’t even make that anymore. The government said we can’t have mercury.

Suzanne Massingill: I grew up with them, I know it’s old.

Steve Davies: So what I would recommend is it be replaced with a programmable type thermostat.

Suzanne Massingill: OK.

Steve Davies: It’s a digital thermostat, but you’re able to program in set-back periods for maybe that fits the lifestyle of your family.

Suzanne Massingill: OK.

Steve Davies: Which, which helps. There, again, helps on the operating cost.

Danny Lipford: Once Steve gets the new thermostat installed, he gives Suzanne some quick instructions on how to use it to make their existing system more efficient.

Suzanne Massingill: It’s all set for me now.

Steve Davies: Right.

Danny Lipford: Meanwhile, I’ve been picking up some insulation so Sammy and I can tackle that attic.

Sammy Massingill: OK, good.

Danny Lipford: Hey, Sammy.

Sammy Massingill: How you doing?

Danny Lipford: How are you. Doing good. You’re about to have some fun now.

Sammy Massingill: Sounds OK.

Danny Lipford: I got just a whole truckload of fun here for you.

Sammy Massingill: All right.

Danny Lipford: Now let me tell you, when you see insulation like this, you probably start itching because of all of the other insulations that will make you itch. This won’t, though, even though they still recommend the dust mask and the gloves, but this is actually stone wool.

And I’ll show you all about—first of all, this is the magic tool. You’d be surprised at how easy all of this cuts when you use just a regular cake knife—serrated knife. So let me show you. This is the key with this. So easy.

Sammy Massingill: Oh, wow. You’ve seen the fiberglass, and how hard it is. That’s it. And it makes it real easy, like when you’re up in the attic and you’re cutting around light sockets or pipes.

Sammy Massingill: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Just like that.

Sammy Massingill: Wow.

Danny Lipford: So, it’s pretty cool. So, I’ll bring it to you, since we can’t–that scuttle hole’s so small, we can’t really get a whole package up in there. S I got you some gloves.

Sammy Massingill: All right. Great. Thank you.

Danny Lipford: I got you a little dust mask here. And, of course, attic’s so tight it probably can’t get two people up there, either, so, you know…

Sammy Massingill: Sounds fun.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah.

Because the level of existing insulation is so low in Sammy’s attic, we’re adding the new stuff in two layers. The first layer will go down directly on top of the old insulation between the joists. That gets us up to or just above the joist. The second layer goes on top of that at a 90-degree angle. This way we reduce the air gaps and the opportunities for air to pass through the insulation.

I’m adding some weather-stripping around the lip of the scuttle hole and gluing some insulation to the back of the cover to seal it thoroughly. Now, if you have a folding attic stairway, you can buy a folding insulating cover from Duck brand to set over the opening, creating a similar insulating effect with much less effort.

Jodi Marks: You know, I love these displays over here in the lighting department because it just gives me so many fun things to play with. And if you’re in the market for a light bulb, look no further than right here.

Now, this is the Philips SlimStyle LED light. I love this thing. Look, I’ve got it for display here. And you can see it’s got the round shape of a typical light bulb. The LED lights are dimmable. I’m going to go up one more time, and bring it right back down. Look how bright that is.

You would think that because using an LED light bulb, it doesn’t pull as much power, you’re not going to get as much brightness to the bulb, but that’s not true. This right here replaces a 60-watt incandescent bulb. And you can see when I was dimming it, I mean, it gets really bright.

I think the best thing about this, though, is it doesn’t cost as much money to operate one of these. This thing can last, they say, about 22 and a half years. That’s about 25,000 hours of light time. And do you know, to run this bulb over that time is going to cost you under $30. That’s amazing.

So, not only is it bright, it’s beautiful, it can be used in floor lamps and also in table lamps. Its going to save you a lot of money, too.

Danny Lipford: This 50-year-old house belongs to Sammy and Suzanne Massingill. They’ve done a great job updating the look and the floor plan, but the home’s energy efficiency is stuck in the last century. So we’re helping them bring that up to date.

So far we’ve checked out the heating and cooling system and added some insulation to the attic. Now the pros from Window World have arrived to replace those old, leaky sliding glass doors.

The first chore is removing the old units. Every joint is carefully scored to cut through decades of caulk so that once the glass panels are removed, the aluminum frame can be unscrewed and pried out without damaging the surrounding surfaces.

Then they begin prepping the opening to accept the new door unit by adding or subtracting material to get the opening dimensions just right.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: All right. What do you think about this big hole, Suzanne?

Suzanne Massingill: Oh, my gosh, that’s a big hole.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Looks even bigger without the doors in it. So, what’s this new wood here for?

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: Well, actually, that’s a filler for your new door. What it is, is the stud pack is behind it, the original stud pack of the framing. You have 96 inches between the studs here.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: We put these on this. You have 94 and three-quarters between the two boards.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: The new door is actually 94 and a half. So you have a quarter-inch for leveling and squareness.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: And then you just screw the frame of the door to this?

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: It screws right to this.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Great.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: Once we get everything level and plumb, it screws right to this. And then the height from the slab here to this board here, we have 79 and three-quarters. The new door is 79 and five-eights.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Totaling.

Suzanne Massingill: Totaling.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: Totaling. So you have a little room for leveling.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: So, what we’ll do now is we’ll dry set the door.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: We’ll put it in place. Make sure everything’s right. Take the door out. We’ll put a bead of sealer on the bottom…

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK, great.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: …and then we’ll reset the door, level it and plumb it, put the screws in it.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: And kind of go from that.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: And I guess this gap serves a purpose.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: Yeah, what we do here is this is where the return that butts to your new door.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: This is just the yellow pine wood. We’re going to get some finished wood, paint grade, that goes here…

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, great, OK.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: …and then we’ll rip it on the table saw to exactly an inch and a quarter.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, that’ll be nice.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: And that way, it’ll fit in here and the door will fit plumb to it.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Very cool.

Suzanne Massingill: Sounds like a big job.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: Yeah, it is. It ain’t too bad. The finish is what you’re looking for, and that’s what we try to get to.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, awesome. Well, we’re glad you’re here.

Suzanne Massingill: I know. Better than the big hole.

Danny Lipford: So for Tank and Sergio the next step is assembling the vinyl frame for the new door. Vinyl is the preferred material for these frames, because it doesn’t transfer heat as easily as the old metal frame. Plus, it requires no paint at all for a great finish.

Once it’s all together, tank confirms the dimensions.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: All right, that’s great.

Danny Lipford: The opening has been checked for level and plumb, but with something as big as this door, the way your eye perceives it is just as important.

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: You want it to go with the house, because when you walk in, you want all of your lines to look good. If you level it and it don’t look even, then it’s going to catch your eye more than it will with you walking in and everything’s level.

See, here I can see a quarter there and a half here. So automatically when you walk in, it’s not level. You know you know that. So, let’s work on getting it even with the house and then check it with the level again.

Danny Lipford: While these guys fine-tune this big door with shims, Chelsea is helping Suzanne with a smaller issue.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK, so, in energy efficiency, all the little things add up, and this is definitely one of the little things. What we have is some gaskets to cover up your outlet. But you only have to put them on the interior of an exterior wall.

Suzanne Massingill: Oh, OK.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Does that make sense?

Suzanne Massingill: Yeah.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: And you can kind of—sometimes you can feel a draft coming from them. So what we’re going to do is just go ahead and unscrew this. If you want to open this and get one of them out?

Suzanne Massingill: OK.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: That kit actually comes with some for your light switch plates, too.

Suzanne Massingill: All right.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So it’s pretty much—probably do a whole house with one box. You can see all the empty space between the box and the wall where all the air is coming through and causing a draft in the house. So we’ll put this on here and seal it up.

Just one outlet doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you add up all of the outlets on the outside of your house.

Suzanne Massingill: All around the house.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Yeah, that’s a big…

Suzanne Massingill: A big difference.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: …a big hole in your wall. Tighten it up right here and it’s like we were never here.

Suzanne Massingill: Power bill goes down.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf: There you go. Like magic.

Danny Lipford: OK, so it’s not magic. It’s more like math. All the little savings really add up, like this silicone caulk seal Sergio is applying beneath the sliding glass door frame. It will keep out moisture and air.

Once the frame goes in and they’re happy with the position and fit, they begin securing it to the wood framing, monitoring the fit at each step.

With the frame secure…

Darrell “Tank” Epperson: That should do it.

Danny Lipford: …the glass door panels can start going in. These doors include Window World’s solar zone insulating glass package. That means that the spacers between the panes of glass are specifically designed to block heat transfer while the space itself is filled with argon gas, which conducts less heat than air.

The glass is treated with a low-E coating to block heat gain from the sun’s reflective rays in the summer but allows in shorter solar rays for winter warmth. Sergio artfully applies a bead of caulk to every joint and seam so there’s no chance of air leakage around this unit.

Suzanne Massingill: Oh, my gosh. Look at the difference.

Sammy Massingill: Oh, wow, wow.

Suzanne Massingill: That looks awesome. So pretty.

Sammy Massingill: Lot different than the old ones, right?

Suzanne Massingill: I know. Look at a big difference.

Sammy Massingill: Unbelievable.

Suzanne Massingill: They look new, they look like french doors. They work. They have a door handle.

Sammy Massingill: Listen. No sound when you open and close it. No grinding.

Suzanne Massingill: Nice.

Sammy Massingill: Look how smooth. Unbelievable.

Suzanne Massingill: What a difference it makes. They’re very pretty.

Sammy Massingill: Great.

Suzanne Massingill: They did a good job.

Sammy Massingill: Excellent work.

Danny Lipford: People often want to know if a portable generator is sufficient to power their homes during a power outage.

If you only want to power a few lights, small appliances, and maybe a refrigerator—the answer is yes. But to also energize a central air conditioning system, furnace blower, and most other circuits; you’ll want a standby generator.

Besides usually having more capacity, a standby generator is also wired into your home and will automatically turn itself on when the power goes out. So you don’t have to spend time fueling it, starting it, and running a lot of extension cords.

And when the power comes back online, it shuts itself off automatically and switches you back over to the utility like nothing ever happened.

Sammy and Suzanne Massingill have a beautiful home, it just wasn’t as energy efficient as they wanted it to be—thanks to some very old heating and cooling equipment, two leaky glass sliding doors, and inadequate insulation.

Now they’re on the path to updating the heating and cooling system, the new glass sliding doors are both beautiful and energy efficient, and the attic has a brand new blanket of insulation.

As you can see, making your house more energy efficient is all about taking those small steps. We got Sammy started up in the attic there putting his insulation in. He’s quite a trooper, even though it was terribly warm up there.

And the two glass sliding doors that we added will definitely make a difference. And even the small things, like the outlet gaskets, will all work together to make the home more energy efficient—the envelope of the home tighter. And that’s going to save those energy dollars all year long.

Hey, we’ve got a lot more information at our web site at TodaysHomeowner.com that’ll help you save money on your energy bill.

Hey, thanks so much for being with us. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week right here on Today’s Homeowner.


  1. On today’s show at 6 a.m., they mentioned a doorbell that has an app for your cell phone and when someone comes to the door, you can see who it is and answer on your cell phone. Where would you be able to find this doorbell with camera and app? Loved your program and wish my Dad was still living as he could do all that your man did on the program today. Loved your program today. I will watch it more now that I have seen it.


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