NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 15, 2014

Consider insulation as a long-term investment

Energy Tips
Tim Gould

---- — According to those who track and maintain weather statistics, the mean temperature in Boston for January 2014 was 27.4 degrees Fahrenheit, hovering just around the normal average of 29 degrees. The city’s lowest January temperature was 2 degrees F, set on Jan. 4, “when the polar vortex was gripping most of the country.”

This reference to the “polar vortex” takes on new meaning with all the current discussion about climate change. Basically, the theory is that due to less snow and ice cover over the North Pole and warmer ocean temperatures, polar air is becoming less stable. Thus, as jet streams move air around the globe, the polar vortex is becoming sloppier, dipping down more frequently as it did this winter over the Midwest and the Northeast section of the U.S. This caused lots of complaining and significantly higher heating bills.

What about winters to come? Well, it appears long-term prognosticators agree that what we experienced this winter is likely to happen again and again and again.

Last year, I bought a Honda CRV to replace an older vehicle to save on gasoline. I will save about $24,300 over the next 300,000 miles, which is not bad. If I had convinced myself that the hybrid subcompact was not too small for a family of four with a dog, I would have saved $43,750 over the next 300,000 miles. Similar to the savings you can achieve from buying a more fuel-efficient car, efficient home heating offers potential savings over the long term.

For example, it is possible to reduce your home’s heating bill by more than 50 percent through a combination of air sealing, insulation and high-efficiency mechanicals, particularly if oil, propane or electricity is the energy source. Therefore, if a homeowner is paying $3,000 per year for heating and can save $1,500 annually by making the home energy-efficient, the savings would be $30,000 in 20 years and $45,000 over 30 years. Not bad, plus you have an asset that has gained in value — quite the opposite of a car.

As I conduct energy audits on hundreds of homes of all ages, I am often left amazed at how we keep living as if we don’t mind — or we just have to put up with — high energy bills and uncomfortable homes. We absolutely don’t. We just have to get our priorities straight and invest in our properties. We can then use the savings for something else, or use them to finance the work so we can protect ourselves and our family against next winter and the many cold winters to come after that.

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Tim Gould is the director of Informed Energy Solutions, Inc., located in Amesbury. Contact him at 978-388-6349. On the web at www.InformedNRG.com.