The case for making energy-efficiency improvements in your home.
By Mark Boudreau
Why is improving the efficiency of your home a “no brainer”? Simply put: Efficiency pays.
We New Englanders are a practical lot, so let’s talk practicalities. Efficiency improvements pay in at least three ways:
1. They pay directly to your wallet
We have done many audits over the years and find that one of the driving factors for people wanting to improve the efficiency of their homes is the ever-increasing cost to heat and cool their homes.
For example, let’s take a standard 30-year-old, 2-story, 2000 square foot home:
A house like this might cost $3000 per year to heat. A reasonable goal might be to improve the efficiency of a home like this by 30%. A quick calculation illustrates the costs and savings (note that this is hypothetical and based on average results – your actual mileage will vary).
Current Cost to heat this house per year: $3000
Investment to make energy improvements (if you hire a pro): $4500
Potential savings per year (30%): $900
Years of energy savings to pay the initial investment back: 5 Years ($900 per year times 5 yrs)
Money back in your pocket after 10 years: $4500 ($900 per year from year 6 to year 10)
You can save even more if you do the work yourself. You might spend half the costs in making energy improvements by doing it yourself and see the return of your investment that much faster.
There are cash incentives, too. Most New England States have programs that support energy efficiency through education, cash incentives, and low cost loans. They are wonderful resources to help get you started. Contact your state efficiency organization. You can simply Google your state name along with the words “energy efficiency programs.”
Energy efficiency improvements just make good financial sense.
2. Efficiency improvements pay by giving you greater comfort.
It is pretty hard to be uncomfortable on a beautiful sunny August day so let me take you back to early February. It is dark at 4:30. We are only half way through winter. It is 8º outside and the wind is howling. You are paying the utility bills at your desk. Your nose is cold. You are wearing 5 layers topped by a thick wool sweater. Your spouse is mocking the fact that you haven’t taken your wool hat off in the house since New Year’s Day and your feet are numb despite the fact that four Canadian geese contributed to your slippers.
You pay that month’s $400 oil bill pausing to wonder why the house is still only 64º.
You have a couple options to get warm: Take a 30 minute hot shower (too expensive and indulgent for this Yankee), do 1000 push-ups in the living room (more like the Yankee my parents raised), go outside for a ski in the darkness (like the modern, hip Yankee I wish I were).
They are all strategies for making the best of winter in New England for sure, but sometimes we just don’t have that ‘get up and go‘ – we just want to be warm! My kids used to collect behind the wood stove all in a row getting their ‘fix’ of heat before sprinting upstairs to do more homework. We improved our house and all of this stopped. My shoulders are no longer around my ears, my nose doesn’t run all over my desk and people are genuinely more cheerful around the house. Really!!!
Let’s face it. Winter is long and cold. I like the cold but I like to be able to leave it outside where it belongs. We hear all the time people reporting how fantastic their homes and lives are after they have done energy efficiency in their homes. It’s true!
3. Efficiency improvements pay to the environment by lowering fuel consumption, reducing strains on our infrastructure, reducing greenhouse gas production and improving air quality.
It is true that a few people want to debate the existence of climate change and environmental decline in this country, but we can leave that aside. It is indisputable that lowering our use of heating fuels of all kinds reduces our environmental footprint. There are many factors that bear on the environmental impacts of various fuels, such as their extraction, processing and delivery to our homes. Simply put, if we use less of those fuels we are having a smaller impact on the environment. Most of us can agree that having a smaller impact on our home and environment is good for us, for our communities, and for our children and their children.
Mark Boudreau is Co-owner of Lewis Creek Company, a full-service design-build company consisting of both trades-women and men located in North Ferrisburgh, VT. They create homes that integrate a holistic approach to new building and renovating weaving together people, homes, the environment, beauty, economy, and performance.