Warmth With Weatherization and Wood
Energy independence starts with you and me. I’ve already started. How about you?
This year the government will even pay you to do it. But that’s not the best reason to weatherize your home.
Wife Linda and I started in the fall of 2007, with seven new energy-efficient windows spread across the front of our 1790’s home in Mount Vernon. We received a small tax credit as encouragement.
We liked the result, a significant savings in oil consumption that winter, so we ordered up an energy audit in 2008 to see what else we could do to keep Old Man Winter outside our porous old house.
The Franklin County CAP sent an exceptionally knowledgeable guy to do an energy audit. The basic audit cost only $150 and I opted for the complete written report with recommendations for an additional $100.
It’s foolish to spend thousands on energy conservation in your home without the guidance of an audit.
When Randy Burguess fit the blower into my front door, turned it on, and aimed his video camera around the room, I was astonished to learn that we had been heating all of Mount Vernon! Air infiltrated around every door and even poured in through the electrical vents.
The best thing about the audit is that Randy prioritized our conservation needs so we could spend our money wisely, focusing first on those that would do the most for us.
Here’s what we opted to do.
We foamed the basement. One end of our house sits on granite blocks and rocks. Despite my best efforts to bank the house in the winter, wind whipped up through the living room floor and wild critters often spent the winter in the crawl space just three feet below the floor.
Dixfield Foam Insulation covered our basement walls with spray foam insulation, a water based product. It’s more expensive than fiberglass but has many advantages.
About a month later F&E Builders of Phillips arrived to blow cellulose into our walls and under the upstairs floors. We decided to close off the upstairs during the winter and shrink our living quarters to the first floor. This involved draining a bathroom and shutting off one heating zone.
Live small, that’s our new motto.
Favoring Maine-grown wood from our own woodlot for heat, we removed an inefficient Franklin stove in the living room and replaced it with a Vermont Castings stove from Rocky’s Stove Shop in Augusta. Rocky helped us select a very efficient stove. It emits about the smallest amount of pollution of any stove on the market, using a secondary burn of all gases before they go up the chimney.
The stove runs all weekend and almost every weekday from the time Lin and I get home to the time we go to bed, and heats all of the downstairs rooms. Yet we burned only about 3 cords of wood all last winter.
Weatherization cut our oil consumption by an amazing fifty-five percent (613 gallons). We feel positively patriotic, and frugal.
After seven or eight years of no use, we’re using our kitchen wood cook stove again for those chilly mornings when we used to crank up the oil burner.
I also moved my home office into the kitchen for the winter months, enjoying the wood cook stove and working on the kitchen table (yes, this column is being written there). Also, it’s handy to the fridge and snacks. I try not to break out the Shipyard until 4 pm.
One of the best outcomes of all this conservation work is that we had to clean out the attic and basement of “good stuff” that had accumulated there since we moved in 30 years ago. Six trailer loads went to the dump after we asked the question a hundred times, “Why on earth did we keep this thing?”
Sitting down with my accountant early in 2009 to begin preparing our 2008 tax return, I was shocked to learn that Congress had failed to continue the weatherization tax credit in 2008, the year we spent most of our money, but that it would kick in again in 2009. Just my luck.
We did add one new window this year to grab a small bit of the 2009 tax credit, but all of our 2008 projects received no government subsidy.
So you can imagine my chagrin when I opened my newspaper a week ago to learn that the government is now paying up to $3000 (federal stimulus money) to those who do an energy audit and insulate their homes.
The feds borrow the money from China and pay it to Mainers to insulate. We (or our children and grandchildren) will have to pay that money back with interest. Makes no sense to me.
The market (high oil prices) forced Lin and I to insulate, not government credits or cash. The market works and will continue to work. Whenever it is in the best financial interests of homeowners to insulate, they will do so.
What will they come up with next – buy you a wood stove?
The Maine legislature is considering a bill to create a “Cash for Clunkers” program to encourage folks to turn in those old inefficient wood stoves and purchase new models.
Where were they when I was buying my new wood stove?
The truth is this: the government doesn’t have money to spend to encourage us to do what we are bound to do whenever it makes sense financially. It made sense financially to do an energy audit and insulate our home in 2008, sans subsidy, cash payment, or anything at all from the state and federal government.
It makes sense for you to, with or without government help.