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Beating Winter Costs Without Money (Part 2)

Paul Kando

Last week we followed the example of a Midcoast family as they improved the energy efficiency of their home, relying not on grants or other incentives, but on their own dogged determination. They spent no money, except what they would have spent on energy anyway. Nor did they borrow any money. Still, they have reduced their monthly energy bill by $102.40 or 29%. Let’s follow this household further as they continue to improve their home.

Healed Piggy Bank
Healed Piggy Bank

In the first month of the second year of the family’s home energy improvement effort, they install the remaining 21.6 square feet of interior storm windows. They add 27.2 square feet of interior storm skylights in the second month. These two steps realize an additional $4.15 reduction in their monthly energy bill. Cumulative monthly savings now stand at $208.20, so they decide to spend nothing for an additional two months, to allow their savings to accumulate. By Month 5, with $408.75 in the “piggybank-account”, they have enough for an independent energy audit. The energy audit report will guide them in what to do hereafter.

During Months 6 and 7 the family uses up 4 cans of spray foam ($28.00) and 2 tubes of caulk ($8.00) sealing air leaks identified during the energy audit, being careful not to air-tighten the house more than specified. They finish Month 7 with $409.17 in spendable savings. By Month 8 there is enough money to insulate half the crawl-space ceiling under the house (207 square feet; $306.36). Month 9 sees only $14.00 spent on more spray foam, as savings are allowed to accumulate to $350.60. This allows completion of insulating the crawl space ceiling (another 207 square feet; $306.36). They finish the second year, with $189.43 in the piggy bank and the monthly energy bill reduced by 43.9%.

The third year begins modestly, with the weather-stripping of four doors ($18.20), as the piggy bank balance grows to $316.95. The family now takes time out to allow this balance to increase further over the following five months, to $1,046.54. This is enough to insulate half the basement ceiling (668 square feet; $998.64) during Month 7. Now the piggy bank balance is $229.82 and the family’s original energy bill has been reduced by 52% . Months 8, 9, 10 and 11 are spent air sealing and correcting minor flaws in insulation – only 2 tubes of caulk and 2 cans of spray foam are purchased, for a combined $22.00. In month 12 the remaining half of the basement ceiling is insulated ($988.64), finishing the year with an impressive 64.8% reduction in the household’s energy bill and $158.98 in the piggy bank.

The first half of Year 4 sees no expenditures, allowing the piggy bank balance to increase to $1,444.47. In Month 7 the upstairs knee walls are insulated($605.41) and more insulation is added the attic floor ($629.58) . In Month 8 new storm doors are installed($400). Months 9 and 10 are spent air sealing to the tune of only $13.00 spent on caulk and spray foam. Months 11 and 12 see no spending at all, allowing the piggy bank balance once more to swell to a year end $1,234.10. The past four years’ energy cost reductions now stand just above 74%.

Year 5 begins with the installation of heat recovery ventilation ($1,200.00). More caulk and spray foam are purchased, to finally complete air sealing the house ($13.00), Energy cost reduction now stands at 77.4%. The family allows the piggy bank balance to grow over the rest of the year to $2,833.85, enough to insulate a heretofore under-insulated 1470 square foot roof directly above the heated living space ($2,940.80). This results in reducing the family’s original energy bill further to 19.4% (a total reduction of 80.6%).

As far as weatherization goes, the family settles in for a well deserved, comfortable time off. If oil costs remain level, they will accumulate over $2,500 in annual energy cost savings by year’s end, compared to what they would be spending, had they done nothing about energy efficiency. Should oil costs rise – as inevitably they will – their savings would be proportionately higher.

Before any of us says “I can’t afford an energy audit, let alone an energy-upgrade of my house”, consider this: It took five years for this family to reduce their energy bill permanently by over 80%, spending no extra money at all, investing their time and labor instead. So, if we were in position to lend ourselves some cash from our savings, or borrow it from a credit union or bank, we could easily accomplish the same feat in a single summer season. Imagine! My last oil bill, at $3.99 a gallon came to $3,192 for the 800 gallons burned for the season. For next winter, I could be planning to buy only 160 gallons, costing only $638.

Something to think about!