House of Questions

"To upgrade our Eichler's insulation, what is the smartest way to spend our money?"
Fridays On the Homefront
We've learned much about energy use and conservation since the Eichlers, such as the one pictured here, were built 50 years ago. But, today, where should we insulate first? Photos: David Toerge
Fridays On the Homefront
General contractor Cindy
Carey of Starburst Construction.
Fridays On the Homefront
General contractor Michael Spehar of the Building Company.

The same single answer to that question may not be shared by all.

But one thing is certain: original Eichler homes were not prime examples of energy efficiency. We've learned a lot about energy use and conservation since the homes were built, and today's upgrades can go a long way in boosting R-value and energy efficiency and the comfort level inside the home.

But what are the best ways to proceed? To gain insight, we contacted two San Jose-based general contractors who have been insulating mid-century modern homes for decades: Cindy Carey, COO and co-owner (with husband Phil) of Starburst Construction; and Michael Spehar, head of the Building Company.

What is the most important part of an Eichler to insulate?

Spehar: The windows, because the single-paned windows are going to really let a lot of your heat out, and also allow a lot of the warm air in in the summer months. And because of the floor plan and all that glass, it becomes a major issue. Replacement is, in my opinion, the best way to do it—replace them with dual-paned glass.

Carey: Double-pane windows are probably the biggest change you can make to increase the 'comfortability' in your Eichler. There are window manufacturers that closely mimic the style of the Eichlers, so those are usually the ones that we recommend. They are double-paned, and they're what we call 'thermally broken,' meaning that there's no transfer of energy through the old aluminum frame.

And you know, there are rebate programs in California right now that are really cool. When you do projects that are going to improve the efficiency of your home, you can get rebates. So, we've had a lot of clients with Eichlers who are not only improving the comfort of their house and its value, but they're also able to get money back for their investment.

Well, heat rises, so what if your heating dollars are rising up through your existing roof insulation?