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Yes a Comfortable Home! But at What Cost?

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Fuel costs have become an issue for many. Years ago, filling up the oil or propane tank or paying the utility bill was just another annoyance. It wasn’t something you needed to budget or worry about. Now planning for that expense has taken on new urgency. While some still use as much fuel as before, many are using less; some have sacrificed comfort to save money they don’t have; but most are just paying the higher cost and doing with less elsewhere.

Thankfully, there are other choices. It seems a paradox, but you can use less fuel and be more comfortable. As I discussed in “Strategy to Make A Big Old House Comfortable” you can use more heat in a small area where you do most of your daily activities and use a lot less heat in the rest of the house. This can save a good deal of energy and money and you can be very comfortable! However this strategy does not work for everyone.

Others can make their whole house a lot more energy efficient. Air sealing, insulation, an efficient high performance heating system and perhaps improved family energy efficiency habits are the main opportunities. If you wonder if there are opportunities for you and your house, calculate your Home Heating Index (Heating BTUs/(HDD X Heated SF)) or use this handy Calculator. It takes just a few minutes and you will have a pretty good idea about your potential to save energy and money.

If your Home Heating Index is 7 or more you have some pretty obvious energy saving opportunities. NYSERDA offers a free or reduced price audit to help evaluate your home to identify some of those opportunities. Because each home and family situation is unique, you still have the task of sorting out your priorities and making the best choices. Because everyone (auditors and me included) has a personal opinion and may be selling something, it is important that you understand the audit process and get at least two opinions before deciding just what to do.

If you are in the Troy area looking for  a quality heating system contact  Ed Biship of Enhanced Living. In the Glens Falls area, call Marty Devitt of Thermal Associates for heating and geothermal systems. These sponsors have been doing quality work in our area for over 25 years at a fair price.

Here is a Check List that provides an overview of the key areas a premium home energy audit should cover and relative indicators of how various opportunities are evaluated and prioritized.

Below the Check List in RESOURCES is a .pdf of the Check List and another .pdf with my comments on each of the areas in the Check List. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me. Good luck and Godspeed in saving energy; our future and your financial security may depend on it!   

Disclosure: I am writing this article as a contractor and sponsor of OEIC. I still do home energy audits and energy consulting as Home Energy Advisors LLC, but no longer work through NYSERDA’s Home Performance Program.

Dan Gibson is the Reporter and Chief Coordinator of Our Energy Independence Community (http://www.oeic.us/). Previously he was a participating contractor in NYSERDA’s Home Performance program and a rater in the New York ENERGY STAR Home program. He is currently building a 100% Solar Home. He can be reached at [email protected]




.PDF Document:   Check List

.PDF Document:   Check List Overview

Comments on "Yes a Comfortable Home! But at What Cost?"

  1. cdecesare February 23, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for coming to our class and sharing this information with our students. Multiple students checked the insulation levels in their attics and told their parents about the value of getting a home energy audit performed. Also, I showed them the results of the calculation that I made to obtain the Home Heating Index (HHI) for my house and encouraged them to try it for their house. It was a great learning experience for all.

    Thanks again,
    Carl DeCesare
    Niskayuna Central School District

  2. cdecesare February 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    In case you were wondering, the HHI that I calculated for my house was 5. In addition, I found a copy of an older utility bill before I had attic and wall insulation installed. I used those numbers to calculate my HHI and the resulting value was 8. So, I went from an HHI of 8 to an HHI of 5 because of the insulation. I also compared the heating therms directly for the two scenarios and that showed a 40% reduction in energy use for heating (natural gas). I would encourage everyone to give these calculations a try.
    Thanks, Carl

  3. Dan Gibson February 24, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Hi Carl,
    Your students are exceptional and it was a pleasure meeting with them and you. I’m glad you have been able to incorporate some of the home energy aspects into your class. I think it is a real opportunity for students to learn when they get to see your examples and then look at their own homes. I’m ready to answer any questions that might come up. And yes, very nice improvement, going 8 to 5! Cheers, Dan

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