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German house insulation vs US?

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I've been watching footage of the deep freeze hitting the NE United States, and have seen some posts on Reddit

of people's houses icing up inside. Can anyone from that region tell me how good/bad the insulation is there

compared to a German house?

 

I have to admit, it wasn't until I moved here that I understood you could actually be warm inside in winter. My German

would always complain bitterly in Australia in the winter, and I never understood why. She came from Germany, she

must be used to colder temps than what we had, and it'll be summer again in 3 weeks anyway so stop whining and

pull on another layer or turn the heater up a notch.

 

I didn't know!

 

A brick over wooden frame house with sheetrock/plasterboard interiors and single glazed windows was the standard.

Even the posh houses were built like this. Australian climate isn't, for example, Chicago climate so i figured those guys

would be better prepared for cold weather - just like here - but i was surprised to see the reddit thread with ice forming 

on the interior walls in someone house.

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I'd say it varies a lot, depending on the region, age of of the house, owners (whether they care and/or can afford to beef up insulation), and more.

 

My house in Boston was over 100 years old, but someone had blow in insulation at some point so it was quite toasty in winter.  On the other hand, the house that I grew up in in upstate NY was built in the 50s, and had no insulation.  And no central heating, just a coal stove in the living room.  And yes it gets quite cold there in winter. But we were pretty poor so that's what we got!  Meanwhile some of my friends lived in "real" houses that were warm in winter.

 

And even in places like Minnesota, there are people who live in trailers and other, more ramshackle structures that are not likely to hold up quite so well against the cold, BUT they do manage to survive.  Not sure how but they do.

 

If I had to sum up, I'd say it's a crapshoot.

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2 hours ago, tokeshu said:

My German

would always complain bitterly in Australia in the winter, and I never understood why. She came from Germany, she

must be used to colder temps than what we had, and it'll be summer again in 3 weeks anyway

Who needs insulation during a hot summer? Electricity (for AC) must be cheap in Australia .. ;)

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8 minutes ago, sneaker said:

Who needs insulation during a hot summer? Electricity (for AC) must be cheap in Australia .. ;)

 

You do realise that insulation works in both directions... dont you?

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I grew up in Fargo ND which makes Chicago seem like Miami (Fargo was -35C yesterday)  Our house was insulated pretty well, better than the older house I now live in in Germany.  The places I lived in Texas and California were not very well insulated.  I think the newer houses in Germany are probably better insulated than most in the US but anything more than 20 or 30 years old probably is not.

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Someone needs to write a book on how to care for a German spouse in Australia. Some topics could include insulation, bread, denominating distance as time, skiing on frozen mud, etc

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22 minutes ago, Auswanderer said:

Someone needs to write a book on how to care for a German spouse in Australia. Some topics could include insulation, bread, denominating distance as time, skiing on frozen mud, etc

 

 

....spontaneous catch ups....

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39 minutes ago, Buzznut3000 said:

I grew up in Fargo ND which makes Chicago seem like Miami (Fargo was -35C yesterday)  Our house was insulated pretty well, better than the older house I now live in in Germany.  The places I lived in Texas and California were not very well insulated.  I think the newer houses in Germany are probably better insulated than most in the US but anything more than 20 or 30 years old probably is not.

Yay Fargo! I'm from Glyndon, I am very tired of people telling me I'm not adequately dressed for the cold German winters. Our house was also well insulated, if you don't want to pay thousands for heating it has to be. 

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The current deep freeze has actually been in the Midwest, not the NE (sorry, I don't mean to be a Besserwisser!) My spouse complains about the 'matchstick' houses and building techniques of buildings over there-- maybe they aren't built the same way some buildings in the GAS countries are-- but in terms of insulation I personally always felt comfortable there. Also I have never heard of the mold issues that you have to watch out for here.

 

I would also add that it is much more common to have AC and window screens for when windows are open, and I felt more comfortable there in all four seasons than I do over here.

 

Also in the GAS the temps just aren't so extreme in the winter. I have lived in these countries for closer to two decades than not, and never experienced, say, a -25 windchill, whereas I experienced it in the Midwest. I don't know how comfortable a building here would feel, if the heating could keep up.

 

Personally I think they tend to overheat buildings here in the cooler months anyway. I am fine with wearing a sweater indoors in winter but so often I see people peeling off their sweater or whatever and turning up the heat. (And often these are the same people tho tell me how horrible AC would be in summer in terms of the environment! I can add clothes if it is cool inside in the winter, but in summer there is only so much one can take off. For example, in my office I still look professional if I am wearing a cardigan and scarf in winter, but when down to a thin cotton or linen blouse in summer I can't do anything to cool off, and the heat collects in the Dach/upper level of buildings.)

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14 minutes ago, Viennamom said:

The current deep freeze has actually been in the Midwest, not the NE (sorry, I don't mean to be a Besserwisser!)

 

My mistake - sorry!

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It depends on the age of the house and condition it's in.  Modern houses in Ontario are still built with wooden frames and brick veneer (Vinyl in the Maritimes - so ugly).  But, the level of insulation is steadily improving.  Prior to WW2, houses in Canada were wood-frame with no insulation, just a dead air space between the exterior sheathing and interior wall.  Often those houses had an unheated crawlspace or nothing at all below, also with no insulation in the floor joists or attic.  But, they were built with the idea of burning coal or cords and cords of wood to heat them in winter, which at the time were cheap and abundant.  Those places are cold in winter, but very pleasant in summer.

 

After the war, houses started having vapour barriers out of tar paper installed, and occasionally using thin bats of fibreglass insulation between the wall studs and in the attic.  Plus, the houses were generally smaller too, so, snug.    That progressed to pvc vapour barriers, tyvek external sheathing, and better, thicker fibreglass insulation (which I have installed quite enough of in my life).  Modern houses are pretty good.  Now what's available is spray-on insulation which covers everything in between the wall studs, and is enormously effective, done before the drywall goes on and after all of the plumbing and electrics are installed. 

 

My inlaws were very unimpressed with the Canadian style of building, and constantly expressed their worries about us burning up in a house fire in our wooden house.  Honestly, fuck em', wood frame houses are cozy, easy to reconfigure, easy to heat, easy to build, and can last hundreds of years.  In every city here in Germany are prime examples of ancient wood-frame houses that have withstood the test of time - they're called Fachwerkhäuser, there's one here in town that's 550 years old.

 

 

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Yeah, I'd expect German houses to be better at keeping out the cold than Australian houses. In much the same way where I fully understand why houses here don't come with A/C - it's not a requirement for 95% of the time.

Then again, I spent 2 winters in a place where January averages -7°C and my front door was metal. So who the hell knows what some people are thinking when they build their houses.

 

My current house is old. Not old-old, but old enough to have straw as insulation in some parts. The windows don't quite close right. It's not great. And someone in the past has cut a hole in the roof for a winter-garten which is hell to insulate, let me tell you.

So . . . my heating bill could definitely be lower.

 

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My father wrote a few days ago to say he remembers his hometown, Milford, Iowa (northwest region of the state) reaching minus 30 in winter (but not every winter). He lived there from the late 1930s til moving away in the 70s. In the 1960s we kids grew up in, yes, wood frame houses with central heating, carpeted floors, single pane windows with aluminum frames or just wood panes. Though told not to stick our lips or tongue on the aluminum storm door in wintertime, I remember briefly doing so but not forso long that it later ripped any skin off. The houses we lived in had deep concrete basements which had concrete floors covered with carpeting (a layer of foam beneath that). The rooves were tar papered with slabs of thin sandpapery type of shingles and we had metal gutters along the rooves and big drain pipes that splayed out a few feet from the home foundation to try and keep the melt/rain from sitting along the foundation. I remember my father always saying 'set the thermostat at 68 F.' We had central heating so natural gas or propane? The house was very dry so if we shuffled over the carpeting while wearing our socks we could create some nice electrostatic and shock whomever/whatever (e.g. metal lamp) we touched.  Later my father got into using a humidifyer in the home because the dry air caused sinus issues for him. I remember this sort of sloshing rotating wheel sound behind a plastic grill fronted box full of water and a kind of chemical alegea scent when he opened it for the weekly cleaning. 

 

 

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