Extreme Green

HGTV Star Gives His 70-year-old Home a Total Energy Makeover

Feeling a draft or getting the shock of one too many high utility bills makes a homeowner start to think about energy efficiency. This may lead to steps to winterize a home – adding some insulation, replacing the windows, and other small but important steps.

However, the star of numerous programs on HGTV and the DIY network, Jeff Wilson—known as Jeff Wilson, Regular Guy—took it a step further.

His southeast Ohio home, a 70-year-old Cape Cod house, had issues.

“We had 1,000 feet of conditioned space, and I use the word ‘conditioned’ loosely,” Wilson said. The house, which he shares with his wife and two daughters, was in bad shape. Wilson said it was drafty and cold, and that his gas bills routinely hit $200 during the winter.

“We faced a serious decision,” Wilson said. “Should we build a new house or fix up this one?”

They chose to stick with their house and undergo a deep energy retrofit, which is a natural choice given Wilson’s family history: His blood runs green. His father built a passive solar energy home in the early 1980s, and his grandfather—an architect—helped design it. Even as a child, Wilson kept files of energy-efficient home designs.

Wilson’s goals were pretty simple. He wanted a home that was easier to heat, more comfortable and healthier to live in. His first step was to seal up the building envelope.

He relied heavily on engineered wood technology in a variety of applications for his retrofit. Wilson used LP® TopNotch® 350 Sub-Flooring, LP® SolidStart® I-Joists, LP® TechShield® Radiant Barrier Sheathing in the attic, and LP OSB Sheathing.

These products were also used in a small addition. He tore down an old, rotting garage and built a 350-square-foot addition in its place.

“Engineered wood is a big part of the lower environmental impact,” he said. “Its manufacturers make use of sustainable, smaller diameter, fast-regenerating trees.” He added that the engineered wood products required only normal woodworking tools and were simple to use.

Additional parts of the retrofit included utilizing two-and-a-half-inch spray foam in the walls and attic as well as replacing old double-paned windows with triple-paned, krypton gas-filled windows and the old doors with fiberglass insulated doors.

After the envelope was complete, Wilson focused on other mechanical aspects.

He installed an energy recovery ventilator, which is used to replace stale air in the home with fresh outdoor air. He has installed a four-kilowatt solar array, which he believes will produce 100 percent of the electricity he uses, and he has replaced his old furnace with a more efficient, newer gas furnace. He also has made all kinds of little replacements to increase the energy efficiency of the house.

“We focused on where energy is used,” Wilson said. This included replacing the HVAC system, installing a tankless water heater, switching to a front-load washing machine, and using only LED or contact fluorescent lighting throughout the house.

Even the stove got a makeover.  “We recently had to replace the stove,” he said. “We went with a gas convection oven that uses 25 percent less energy to bake.”

The deep energy retrofit is not quite finished yet, but Wilson estimates they are about 95 percent complete.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “We should have it complete by Christmas.”

You can find out more about his deep energy retrofit at www.thegreenedhouseeffect.com and at www.hgtvpro.com/retrofit. His website is www.jeffwilsonregularguy.com.


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