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How Recessed Dressers Waste Energy and Air Quality

Monday, January 25th, 2016 by Mike Swanson


Built-in Drawers can be an energy wasteTo save space, some homes have added recessed dresser drawers. These are dressers that are built into the open wall cavity, common in Cape Cod, Gambrel, or Mansard style homes where there is enough open attic space to make it good size. These are generally not fully finished behind the drawers, which can cause heat loss from your house and let potentially dirty air get on your clothes.

Built-in Dresserdirt under a built-in dresserInsulation is showing behind the drawers of a built-in dresserI have run across many of these recessed dressers throughout the years, and every single one of them had the same problem -- the are at least partially open to the attic behind them. They seem to be most prevalent in cape-cod style homes, but I have also seen them in colonial homes with roof overhangs. These houses were insulated with fiberglass. When the drawers are shut, the clothes in them are subjected to the fiberglass insulation and other dirt and debris normally found in attics. If you have ever been inside your attic, ask yourself, would I be happy if I stored my clothes up here on the floor with no covering? The best method to show how bad these are is during a blower door test. In many cases, the wind caused by the blower door actually blows open the dresser drawers.

this built-in dresser with a shelf makes this room cold.Beyond the problem of nasty debris getting on your clothes, there is also the waste of energy when the air you paid to heat in winter blows right out of your room thru the dresser and into the attic where it’s lost. In the summer, the heat produced from the sun beating on your roof radiates into your room making it warmer than it should be. Do you ever have to run the air conditioner more because of that room?

If you have a recessed dresser, pull the drawers out and see what is behind, above, and below. If there are openings or exposed insulation, your clothes are not as clean as you think they are, and your energy bills are higher than they should be. Improving the functionality of the recessed dresser can be done along with other air sealing measures.

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