My Mass Save Home Energy Audit

Our 1900 house. We heat with natural gas and have almost no insulation in the attic or walls

Our 1900 house. We heat with natural gas and have almost no insulation in the attic or walls

Did you know that houses are like snowflakes, each one completely unique in its energy usage and weatherization needs?

I did not know this until I had a Mass Save energy assessment done this week. Talk about an education!

As a brand new, first-time homeowner, I know almost nothing about the mechanical workings of my house. When asked if we had a forced hot air or a hot water heating system, my response was a confused shrug. So I didn’t just learn how to improve my home’s efficiency, I learned quite a lot about the home itself.

Our assessment started in the kitchen. We need a new refrigerator. This was determined by plugging the fridge itself into a device which determines how much energy it’s using. We were already considering buying a new one, because of the giant puddles of water it creates on the floor every day. Now that we know it’s highly inefficient, we are definitely going to replace it. But here’s the best part: We get a $150 rebate from our electric company towards our new refrigerator through the assessment (We’re going to combine that with the tax holiday the weekend of August 10!).

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Our refrigerator was not operating efficiently and qualified for a rebate.

The basement revealed that both the electric hot water heater and forced hot air furnace were relatively new and operating at peak efficiency. For those with older heating systems, incentives are available, including 0% interest loans on new heating systems.

Our furnace was functioning efficiently.

Our furnace was functioning efficiently.

Things got a little ugly when it came to inspecting our insulation. The attic contains vermiculite. Some vermiculite contains asbestos, and is dangerous to handle or remove. Does ours? It’s impossible to test for the asbestos because it arrived in many different bags, potentially from many different sources. Some may have contained asbestos. You’d have to test all of it to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, the Mass Save program won’t remove it, so until that’s taken care of, our attic has very limited insulation.

The attic needs to be insulated.

The attic needs to be insulation.

There was also hardly any insulation in most of the exterior walls. This is interesting to me. It’s more than 100 years old. I would have thought that the builders of the house wanted insulation, seeing as how energy was likely acquired by one’s own labor at that time. I also would have thought that someone over the next 100 years might have considered insulating it. I guess we will be the owners who finally do!

The estimate for insulating our exterior walls is $2,715. Through Mass Save, all but $765 will be covered. The computer model that Jesse, our auditor, used to estimate our gas savings for insulation indicated that we’d take 5 years to pay back our investment. However, he thought that the computer model was underestimating in our case. (Remember that bit about houses being like snowflakes? These figures are very specific to our house, and every house’s will be different!)

But aside from just the money to be saved, we need to factor in the environmental impact of insulation, the added comfort, and the reduced noise from the street. Needless to say, we’re going to do it!

All Massachusetts residents are eligible for weatherization incentives. Contact Mass Save to schedule yours (most residents will be served through Mass Save, though a few will use other programs. Mass Save will be able to direct you to the appropriate agency).

 

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