May 15, 2020

The Pantry: Starting on Phase 2

Last summer, I blogged about my pantry problems and plans. The goal at the time was a "solar pantry," by which I meant putting the auxiliary fridge and freezer located in the pantry on solar power. After much analysis and planning, we moved the fridge and freezer onto the back porch and set them up on solar there (phase 1).

Phase 2 of this project focuses on the energy efficiency of the pantry itself. As part of my analysis last summer, I kept track of the pantry air temperature, and discovered it can get into the lower 90sF (upper 20sC) in the heat of summer. Not ideal for food storage.

The plan for phase 2 is to replace the old single-glazed windows with energy efficient windows, increase insulation in the walls, and experiment with passive cooling methods. It's going to be another pay-as-we-go project, so it won't happen overnight. But we've made a start.

Dan started with this wall.

My 4-foot chest freezer used to live along this wall.

Our first idea was to take down the paneling and put this stuff between the studs.


The 4-foot by 8-foot foam board sheets come in several thicknesses, with this 2-inch having the highest R-value. At roughly $30 a sheet it's pricey, but Home Depot carries it so we could buy a few sheets at a time and gradually work our way around the room. Unfortunately, Dan found it extremely frustrating to work with.


The ad video makes it look super easy to install. The sheets are pre-scored at 16-inch intervals, so just cut and pop in. Except, our studs are 16 inches on center, meaning that 16 inches is the measurement from the middle of one stud to the next. Our wall space between the studs is more like 14⅝ inches. On top of that, it was difficult to cut the foam cleanly, and Dan completely lost enthusiasm for the project after finally finishing that one wall.

So the project sat for awhile, until one recent rainy day, when we headed over to our discount builders supply warehouse to look for replacement windows.

One of two original pantry windows.

We found two brand new, still in the wrapping, energy star rated windows, the exact same size as the old windows, for $80 each. Perfect!

The first step was to remove the window trim and wall paneling.

Old window.

We had the old window removed and the new one installed in less than an hour! That's a first for this old house, where replacing windows usually takes several days from start to finish. Having the same size replacement helps!

New window. The first thing we noticed
was how quiet the room had become!

We have the other window to replace, but also, we have to decide what to do about the walls. Adding the 2-inch foam board is out for several reasons, the first because it was so difficult to work with. Even if we did want it, Home Depot is now out of stock, which no projected restocking date. Another deterrent is that the current batting insulation is stapled to the outer wall, which would make it a mess to remove.

So the plan under consideration right now is to apply 1-inch foam board directly on top of the studs. We'd lose a couple of inches of floor space, but it would still work. The batting is R-11 and the 1-inch sheets are R-5, which would give us and R-16 insulation value for the outer walls. Then we'd have to replace the old paneling, because it pretty much splintered when Dan pulled it off. (Ha! Not heart-broken over that!)

While we're mulling that over, Dan is replacing the window trim on the outside.

Old window out, new window in.
We had a beautiful day to do this!

Besides the walls, we still have to figure out a ventilation system and explore passive cooling ideas. More on that one of these days.

28 comments:

Tracy Chadfield said...

Looks very complex :) Good luck!

Retired Knitter said...

With all the work you have put into the structure and the surrounding lands, I bet you have greatly increase the value of this property over what you paid for it.

Mama Pea said...

Isn't it funny (no real humor there) how a plan looks so good . . . until you actually get into the implementing of it? (Thinking of your original insulating of the walls idea.) Oh, we have banged our heads up against a dilemma like that so many times! Nuthin' like the logistics of actually getting to the hands-on part of a project to make one take two steps back and go to Plan B. But you and Dan seem to be able to conquer any and all glitches you've encountered so I know we can look forward to seeing a beautifully designed pantry before long.

Ed said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that doesn't like foam board for the reasons you mentioned. Also, when there is a lot of stuff to work around in the walls it becomes even more difficult. Plus, rarely have I redid insulation in the house and found studs perfectly straight up and down meaning you are left with lots of gaps to fill with spray foam which is messy to work with or making complex parallelograms to fit the space. I usually just go with batt insulation. The thin foam insulation over the studs will do wonders as well as it breaks the thermal bridges (i.e. studs) spaced around the perimeter.

Ed said...

The easiest way I've found to cut that foam board it using an oscillating multitool with a large rounded semi-circular blade on it and using a 2x4 or something as a straightedge to run against. A lot faster than a utility knife.

tpals said...

If your experience is like mine, you will find the new windows make a massive difference on their own. It's funny how popular wood paneling was but now I wouldn't want it at all, which might be why mine is covered in wallpaper. :)

wyomingheart said...

Love the idea of putting the sheets over the studs, as simple is the key to any tedious project. Have you and Dan considered the roll foil insulation? We have used it a lot, and are quite pleased with not only the installation, but also the insulation factor, when added to the batting. Great that you found the same size windows. That is on our summer project list this year, and we are like you in that these old farm windows are very irregular sizes. That, however is farther down the list for now, Lol ! Have a great week, Leigh!

wisps of words said...

Wonderful project!!!!

Hope many people, use this horrrrrrible Wuhan Virus, as a prompt, to do similar things. Each, as they can. We certainly should have learned the wisdom of a well stocked "pantry."

Gentle hugs,
✨💛✨💛✨💛✨

Sam I Am...... said...

You two are so inspiring! You motivate me and researching your projects and planning appeals so much to my anal personality! I'm not as much of a perfectionist as I used to be...thank goodness but it did come in handy as a systems programmer.:) So glad you found those windows...that's always a great feeling and makes up for those other frustrations like the foam insulation board. As always, congrats on all your accomplishments!

Lady Locust said...

Nice! I think the R5 is easier to cut (w/ box knife) and could possibly go between the studs??? Looking forward to seeing the progression of the project. Love pantries.

Cockeyed Jo said...

We decided to put padded foil in our stores building. It's rat and bug proof. My old house and this one has the time worn paneling. We spackled the grooves, taped and mudded the corners, and painted them. You'd never know it was paneling instead of drywall. It's bright and easier to clean.

Now about those windows you took down, use them in the goat or chicken coop.

Fiona said...

Passive cooling is a challenge...we use our winter quilts as both extra insulation and darkening in summer. We have good new r rated windows but the quilts do help.
We do not have AC in the house so we do pay attention to shade and cross breezes.

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Your new windows look great! We use some of that foam paneling to insulate the inside of our metal garage door but we were lucky that it was an easy job due to the size. sounds like a great plan and sleep the walls and new windows and keep everything more comfortable in there for y'all and your food!

Leigh said...

Tracy, the hardest part is the brainstorming and then deciding which idea to choose!

RT, could be! I know our property taxes have gone up because of our "improvements." :) Really, though. We don't think of it in terms of increasing value, just in terms of meeting our needs.

Mama Pea, very true!!! I don't know if we actually conquer anything, but after several false starts we eventually settle on the most likely option, even if it isn't perfect. :)

Ed, thank you for mentioning that! It will make Dan feel better. :) I don't figure anything is worth getting frustrated over. There's always another way!

I'll pass on your cutting method, because we still have one more sheet of the stuff and will have to use it. Between the better quality windows and thinner foam (that we don't have to cut) we should stop a lot of the energy leaks, and that will help, for sure.

Tpals, I conquer about those new windows. We've noticed a huge difference in the rest of the house!

That wood paneling really dated that room, but since it was already there I wasn't going to change it. I wanted to paint it but Dan said paint probably wouldn't stick. Your idea to wallpaper is a very good one@

Wyomingheart, we have worked with that roll foil insulation, but it's been awhile. I'll have to mention it to Dan so we can compare it to the foam board. I think the only reason we found same-size windows is because the addition was built in the 1960s, whereas the rest of the house in the 1920s. Apparently windows haven't changed a lot in size since then!

Wisps of words, thank you! I so agree with you about the wisdom of a well stocked pantry. Preparedness just makes sense on so many levels. And now is a great time to do something constructive!

Sam, thanks! We've had to let go of some of our perfectionism too. Sure makes life easier! lol

Lady Locust, the R5 is one-inch thick, but I think we won't bother to cut it. The studs themselves result in some energy loss. "Thermal bridges" as Ed called them. Stapling the foam board to the studs would insulate them as well. Fortunately, the room is several inches larger than 8' by 12', so we've got a little room to spare to get the job done.

Jo, we'll have to look into the padded foil to compare. Great idea about spackling and painting your old paneling! And yes, those windows will definitely bet put to good use. Likely the greenhouse. :)

Fiona, I figure as long as we don't raise our expectations too high and can keep it cooler than outdoor summer temps, it will be a success. It's interesting to explore ideas people have. Whether or not they work we'll have to see.

Nancy, thanks! Time will tell!

Tom Stewart said...

Leigh,
No, I am not Blogging again, But I still come back to your page to keep up to date on you and Dan.
This post is kind of like what we have been doing here on "The Big Island". We bought a new house Last year that was not finished on the inside and we have spent the past 14 months getting it put together.
This is a kit house and the out side walls, Windows, Doors and a little Pluming were done. But the 640. Sq. Ft.inside was nothing but Studs.
We decided not to use Dry-Wall, But 3/4 inch ply. for the walls. We also insulated walls and chillings.
There was no water on the place, So we installed Water Catchment (5000 Gallons) and a new Power Pole was put up.
We wanted to make sure the the new place was fully Permitted and we completed all the inspections just last month
Our next big project will be getting raised beds built (From Pallet Wood) and next week we will have 4 TONS of "Cinder-Soil Delivered. We already have a Tomato bed up and planted. Also Water Mellon, Beets, Kohlrabi, Cucumbers.
I will keep you updated on life in Hawaii later.
Tom

Leigh said...

Tom, please DO keep us updated! Sounds like all kinds of interesting things going on. I'm so glad you resurfaced and am glad to hear you are still working toward the dream.

Goatldi said...

I am commenting prior to reading the other comments. So forgive me if someone already asked this question.

Could you not put in something similar to a whole house fan but smaller in scale to pull the air outside when the room reaches a predetermined temperature? Also is there a product that runs on solar panel ?

Impressive project. I will admire from the front porch as this one is not in my future lol.

Goatldi said...

Mama Pea

You said a mouthful! Big or small projects are sneaky devils. I had a 5 minute projects that quickly morphed into a 30 minute one. Ugh!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Standardized things can be a pain sometimes. Ugh. I understand why Dan lost enthusiasm.

Helsyd said...

probably excessive to your needs - but I was just reading a post by "manhattan nest" and he recommends rockwool insulation https://manhattan-nest.com/2020/04/15/bluestone-cottage-kitchen-insulation-walls-and-floors

I read your post after his and thought I would pass it on :)

Renee Nefe said...

I like the new insulation plan and the new walls will also provide some insulation. :D
I am wondering if the air from the crawlspace is cool enough to work as a coolant for the pantry.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, those are exactly the kinds of things we're looking in to! And I agree about projects and their time tables. They always take longer than we hope!

TB, especially when there is no standard! Whoever built this room wasn't particularly mindful of his measurements!

Helsyd, rockwool! I admit we hadn't considered that because we've never seen it sold locally. It is a good idea, though, although with this room, we're just trying to add to the existing insulation. Thanks for passing this on!

Renee, that's one of the ideas we're considering, although our crawlspace isn't all that cool in summer. Compared to outside it is, so that makes it a viable idea. Right now we're thinking about using the crawl space for cooling combined with a solar fan like Goatldi suggested to pull the air through. We'll probably have to label this as an experiment because there's no telling how well it will worK!

Quinn said...

I have never once found windows the same size for replacements - what a stroke of luck! Making big progress on this project :)

Leigh said...

Quinn, it was astonishing that we were actually able to find perfect size matches, especially since we were selecting from odd lot windows! Very thankful for that. :)

Renee Nefe said...

maybe some more trees near the house?

Leigh said...

Renee, trees make a huge difference. I'm also thinking about a trellis with something growing on it to shade the afternoon sun window.

Chris said...

This sounds so much like how my projects go. I start something, find it challenging to complete, then start something else. Eventually I figure a different solution for the original project, and away I go again! It's still counts as progress. ;)

Great to see your pantry project coming along.

Leigh said...

Chris, even a little progress from time to time boosts the moral!