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There are countless ways to make your home more efficient, but habits make the greatest difference. Stay on top of your maintenance, turn off your lights, be mindful of your water consumption and be strategic while insulating. It will save both resources and money!


There are rebates and grants available for energy efficiency upgrades through CBA, ComEd, Peoples Gas, the City of Chicago, and the State of Illinois so be sure to do your homework first.

Mechanical Systems

Mechanical systems have become much more efficient in recent years, so if you have older systems in your home, you may want to upgrade them to energy saving models.

  • Check all electrical connections to prevent excessive heat and failure when you’re using your systems most.

  • Check all gas heating components, gas valves, flame igniters, heat exchanges, safety limits, and temperature rise through the system to ensure safe operation during the heating season.

  • For central air conditioning, check all cooling components, compressors, contactors, capacitors, motors and cooling operation temperature drops to test the unit optimized capacity and economical operation. Clean the evaporator and condenser coil of all dirt and debris to ensure better heat transfer.

  • If you use window air conditioning units, be sure to remove them when you are no longer using them or the cold air will pour into your home during the colder months.


Airsealing and Insulation

Vintage homes, while built with high quality sustainable materials, are a
bit leaky. The good news is that CBA has been working with contractors
for over a decade to help reduce air infiltration, and these contractors
have literally gotten the solution down to a science. Often, the hardest
part is finding the right installers to work in a smart, efficient, and
effective way!


Determine your thermal boundary:

The thermal boundary of your home is a continuous boundary that
separates living space from unconditioned areas. This boundary is
determined by what spaces you wish to heat and cool in your home.
You're going to want to airseal and insulate your attic, first and foremost,
but what and how you insulate is determined by whether you plan to
live in the space, use it for storage, or leave it empty. Your thermal
boundary will be impacted by these decisions, as will the cost to insulate
your attic, so be sure to think ahead!

Never insulate both the floor joists and the attic ceiling. This will trap

hazardous gases in your attic space.

Thermal BOundary of the Home


Interior Airsealing

Always airseal first! Airsealing is the least expensive and most important part of keeping out air infiltration. Do this before insulating and it will make a huge difference.

If possible, have a blower door test performed on your home to determine where air is entering and escaping to be sure you have sealed all of the points of infiltration. You may be surprised!​

Typical places to airseal:

  • Behind your knee walls

  • Gap at the perimeter between the exterior brick and interior wall surface

  • Around any can lights (be very careful with these as insulation can cause a fire hazard if not installed properly)

  • Around all attic pipes: chimney, furnace/water heater, plumbing chase

  • Around your rim joist​



After you've airsealed your unfinished attic:

  • If you don't plan to store items in your attic, blown in cellulose insulation can be added to the proper R-value and be left as-is (least expensive option). R-value is the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.

  • If you do plan to use the space for storage, add rigid foam board on top of the cellulose in areas to act as a platform for boxes.


After you have airsealed your finished attic:

  • If you plan to use your attic space as an office or bedroom, do not insulate the attic floor, insulate the rafters instead.

  • You can insulate your wood beam roof in a variety of ways. Foam insulation has the highest R-value, but is also the most expensive.

  • The overhanging eaves that give your bungalow character and control the amount of sunlight that enters your home need some special attention when it comes to insulation:

    • These outer joists should be insulated to R-49, and rafter vents (also called baffles) should be installed for airflow (see "Ice Dams" to learn why)

    • Knee walls should be insulated with R-19 batt insulation and covered with a moisture barrier


Enclosed back porch:

Most bungalows have a (very cold) enclosed back porch, but there is hope!

  • Attach rigid board to the underside of the floor joists

  • Fill the cavity with cellulose

  • Insulate the frame walls of the porch


Exterior Sealing

Caulk is a sealant that fills gaps, cracks, nail holes, and similar imperfections on the surface. It is applied where moisture would otherwise penetrate and cause deterioration, and can be done with just your fingers and a caulk gun. The trick is knowing where to caulk. Caulk will eventually deteriorate and need to be replaced, but don’t worry about removing the old caulk beforehand. Unlike your bathtub caulk, you should leave the previous coats where they are or risk damaging the materials when you pull and scrape it out.



  • Where corners meet other planes

  • Butt joints (vertical joints), unless cedar siding is used, though likely that will not be the case on your enclosed back porch or dormer walls

  • Trim boards and wood windows

  • Garage door trim (but never any part of the garage door itself)

  • Imperfections in the siding, such as gaps, cracks, etc.


Do Not Caulk:

  • As an alternative to flashing! (see "Flashing" to learn why)

  • Window weep holes, or along the bottoms of siding boards which are designed to let water drain out

  • Metal flashing and wood-to-metal joints

  • Siding nails

  • If the gap is larger than 1/4”, don’t try and fill it in with caulk unless using foam cording as well

Where and where not to caulk
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