Trim the Fat Tuesday: The Insulation

Remember how we had a home energy assessment back in April? Well, in addition to all the free lightbulbs, they also offer some serious discounts on another way to save money by lowering energy costs. We took advantage of the offers to

Air-seal and insulate the house to lower our home heating costs.

Part of the energy assessment involves the representative from MassSave inspecting your home for insulation — they run the furnace and measure heat loss, scout out the drafty spots, etc.

Turns out our century-old house has no insulation at all. This explains why we're so miserable (even inside) when the wind blows, and why we pay through the nose for our heating, despite our willingness to keep our programmable thermostat set pretty low during the winter.

Because Massachusetts is a totally awesome place to live, they offer a nice subsidy to encourage homeowners to insulate their homes. It’s good for the environment, good for homeowners' wallets, and good for local contractors. If you're local and live in an old house, check it out: the Commonwealth will pay for 75% of the cost of adding insulation to your home, up to $2,000. They also pay for air-sealing to fill in any drafty cracks, and will install door sweeps and weatherstripping for free. It's a really, really good deal.

For example, we just had $4,600 worth of work in air-sealing and insulation completed for just $1,700. That's like a 63% off sale. Thanks, Massachusetts!

The other great part is that you can also apply for a 0% interest micro-loan to help you pay for your share of the cost. We will probably pay ours off quickly, but it's nice to have it available to spread the cost out into smaller payments (this will allow us to finish more of our ongoing kitchen renovation this summer as well). Thanks again, Massachusetts!

So here's how they do it. Every 16 inches (to get between the studs) they remove a shingle and drill a hole in the house. Then they pump the fluffy insulation in until the cavity is filled up. They plug the hole (the three on the left are plugged, while the others are just filled with insulation) and fix the shingles, and keep going all the way around the house until it's all done.

The insulation itself is cellulose, which is made from recycled newspaper and other paper products. It looks like this:

This tiny bit on the ground behind a rhododendron is the only trace the workers left behind. And if you've ever had contractors track dirt into your house and not clean up after themselves, you know that that's pretty outstanding. We used The Green Cocoon in Salisbury, Mass for this job, and I can't recommend them highly enough. Everyone who works there is friendly, organized, efficient, and clearly takes pride in their work. Plus they are dedicated to using a lot of eco-friendly products, so if you need insulation work, definitely give these guys a call.  

In addition to blowing insulation into all of the empty wall cavities, they also used some fiberglass insulation in the basement:

This was to insulate the rim joist, around the edge of the house where it meets the foundation, which will also help us with our draftiness. Again, it's almost like they weren't even here, except that today it was hot and the upstairs stayed nice and cool. 

After five years of being at the mercy of our crazy New England temperature swings, this is all incredibly exciting.

And the math? Well, this winter we spent $2,528.23 on our heating oil, which is $210.69 per month. (Ouch.)

The energy assessment includes the estimated annual savings once insulation is installed. Our report projects a savings of $1,294.29 per year, which is $107.86 per month. We'll have to wait and see if the turns out to be true, but we're already noticing increased comfort, so thus far we have no reason to think the estimate is out of whack. That cuts our costs in half!

Savings per month: $108


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