I found an interesting article by Aubin Tyler offering information and direction to beginning the process of making changes in your home that not only help the environment but essentially save you thousands on utilities.
Changes that pay: Households use about a fifth of the total energy consumed in the United States each year and generate twenty-one percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the US Department of Energy. With growing concerns about climate change, government subsidies for renovating existing homes to a higher standard are rolling out as never before. Whether homeowners are looking at extra insulation, new heating equipment, or even solar panels, it’s easier—and more economical—than ever to lower monthly utility bills by a third or more. Here’s how to get started.
1. Get Audited:
The first order of business in improving energy efficiency is to set up an energy audit. This is typically a room-by-room inspection, often with specific tests to assess air tightness and insulation. An audit will “quickly reveal the weakest link in the chain,” says Mark Price, a sustainability specialist with building systems consultants Steven Winter Associates in Maynard. Often, the priority is to stop leaking air. “If there’s air leakage, extra insulation won’t work.”
MassSAVE, a partnership among the state, energy efficiency contractors, and utility companies, offers free basic energy audits for homeowners in one- to four-family structures. It will pay up to $2,000 for weatherization and up to $1,000 for efficient gas heating upgrades. Most state residents already contribute to the MassSAVE program. “Every utility has what’s called a conservation charge of $1.50 or $2 per month per customer,” explains program manager Jerry Hanna. “All of that is thrown into a pot for energy efficiency programs.”
Phyllis and Marc Theermann, who live with their two elementary-school-age daughters in Wellesley, accelerated their efforts to improve their 1920 home’s energy efficiency in September after a call from a Woburn company, National Energy Audits, which guaranteed a twenty to thirty-five percent reduction in energy bills. “I almost never answer those kinds of calls,” says Phyllis, a writer who blogs on sustainable living for Sears. “But we knew we had [air] leakage, because it’s an old house, and we knew there wasn’t enough insulation.”
The Theermanns’ audit included a blower door test. A powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an open exterior door pulls air out of the house, depressurizing the inside; higher air pressure on the outside then forces air back into the home through any openings. “You can actually feel where the draft is coming in,” Marc says. An infrared camera is often used while the blower door is running to detect hard-to-find air leaks and areas of missing insulation. The blower door and infrared tests can cost several hundred dollars or more, but both MassSAVE and National Energy Audits provide it free if the homeowner opts to go ahead with energy upgrades, as the Theermanns did.
It’s easy to research the availability of these programs, each state offers different options. I suggest you start the process and start the savings!