Energy Audit- RowanLark at Headwaters Farm

April 19, 2016 Written by  Comments Print
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greeNEWit conducted a residential energy audit on Olney’s only Bed & Breakfast, RowanLark at Headwaters Farm, in March of this year. Built in 1926, the building had lots of energy-related nooks and crannies to investigate.

Interestingly, Headwaters Farm was the home of Harold L. Ickes, one of the most influential voices for President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and a strong supporter of civil rights and fair housing. The current owners, Sue and Nancy Eynon Lark, love old houses and want to do their part to preserve historic properties in Montgomery County while providing unusual and spacious accommodations. They have four guest rooms, but plan to finish the attic for additional usable space.

With that in mind, they had some learning goals for the energy audit experience:

  • Find out how to stabilize the temperatures across the living spaces and bedrooms without constantly fighting with the thermostats

  • Identify tactics that could help them spend less on utility bills

  • Take energy efficiency into account when designing a plan for the attic renovation

greeNEWit’s approach to this and all energy audits is to analyze the comprehensive performance of the building. We know that the building shell (roof, walls, crawlspace, attic) affect the equipment in it (heating, cooling, water).

In the B&B’s case, the attic area, which covers the building's entire footprint and has really high ceilings, does not have a lot of insulation and is a major source of air leakage. This means the heat and AC they’re paying for is actually leaking out and not doing it’s job, causing uneven temperatures and high utility bills.


To fix this, we recommend they apply an even coating of spray foam insulation along the ceiling and side walls of the attic area. Spray foam insulation provides air sealing qualities while also retaining thermal energy. Then drywall can be installed over it and the space can be finished off for living space (see image above).

Similarly, the crawlspace underneath the building is not sealed or insulated to today’s recommended levels. This is the final piece of the puzzle. With cold air hanging out below the floors, it’s hard to keep the rooms above an acceptable temperature. To illustrate, take a look at this picture taken from the crawlspace looking up at the bottom of a bathtub.

Right now, the cold air in the crawlspace is able to access the bathroom area and make it chilly. To fix this, we’d insulate the walls of the crawlspace and also install a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from coming up from the ground. Sealing and insulating the perimeter of a crawlspace like this is often more cost effective than treating the ceiling of the area. (see image below)

rowanlark bathtub

The ceiling surface can be uneven, making it difficult to attach materials. Also, any equipment or ductwork located in the space will benefit from operating in what we building science experts call “conditioned space.”

If all of these energy efficiency projects were undertaken, we estimate that about $1,500 would be saved annually across all utilities.

We appreciate the fact that Sue and Nancy let us spotlight their B&B. By no means is this blog saying that the building is “bad.” In fact, every audit we do is so customized to the needs of the people living there that there is no real “grade.” RowanLark at Headwaters Farm is a beautiful and historic place to visit or stay. Sue and Nancy enjoy hosting guests from around the country and the world, so stop in and see them!

Which of these concerns do you experience in your own home? Which of these recommended projects do you think would apply to you? Let us know, and see what makes greeNEWit's energy audits and retrofits among the best in the country!

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