Q: Years back, we converted part of our attic into a nice guest bedroom for my mother, who visits every June. Now my mother is coming to live with us full time, but that room is uncomfortably cold in the winter, even though we put hot-water baseboard heat in there. Whats the best way to insulate the room? We put beautiful wide-plank knotty-pine boards on the slanted ceiling/walls, but without insulation. We dont want to touch those boards, so would it work to insulate the floor of the room instead? A: Insulating the floor would make the space colder because you would prevent any heat from rising from the room below it. It would also raise your heating bills because the baseboards in the space would have to put out more heat. (Think of the insulation in attic floors. Thats designed to keep heat in the house instead of escaping upwards.) You can, however, nicely insulate the walls of this room without disturbing the interior that you love. A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR certified shell specialist can do the job. (Shell is a construction-industry term for a buildings skeleton, to which the finished exterior and interior are applied.) He or she can gain access from the roof or the side attics. A tube can be inserted along the slope of the ceiling. Then, insulation is blown-in through the tube. You can find a contractor through
. After the insulation is installed, this beautiful room may end up being the most comfortable part of the house. Q: Im helping my son furnish his first home. Its a condo that needs lots of new lighting -- ceiling fixtures, table lamps and floor lamps. Can you tell me what the energy-saving difference is between buying an energy-efficient lamp versus buying compact fluorescent light bulbs and putting them in a regular lamp? A: You will get the same energy-saving benefit from compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) no matter where you use them. For readers who dont know, Ill mention that the benefit is as much as a 75% reduction in energy use, plus non-energy benefits like high-quality light and as much as 10 times longer bulb life than incandescents. The advantage of an energy-efficient fixture is that youre guaranteed to use less energy because its designed specifically for CFLs. So, youll never be tempted to put a high-energy light bulb in it. The best times to consider getting energy-efficient fixtures is when youre renovating, decorating, replacing non-functional fixtures, or fitting-up a newly constructed space. So, it sounds like your son is a good candidate for energy-efficient fixtures. You and your son can find Vermont stores that carry energy-efficient lighting by visiting the residential marketplace section of
. I hope your son enjoys making his new place a home.