Energy Audit Revelations

| 10/14/2008 2:58:34 PM

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I am confused. The more questions I’ve asked, the more I’ve learned—and the more confused I have gotten. 

I have a big, old house with only one child left at home, but I’m not ready to sell it. At the same time, I want to be proactive about reducing my energy impact, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the biggest bang for my buck and what investments I can make that will increase the value of my house if and when I do decide to sell it. I’ve talked to several real estate agents, including someone who bills himself as an eco-broker. The consensus seems to be: It would appear to be a good idea to make energy improvements, but no one really knows yet when or how that will translate into higher values or faster sales. 

Well, then, start with simple things first, right? Like compact fluorescent light bulbs. Except that an informed source recently told me that she thinks that the next generation of LED lightbulbs will be so far superior that it isn’t worthwhile to buy a lot of CFLs now. How about my big, old fridge? One energy auditor told me not to buy a new efficient fridge—that the energy the manufacturing would consume offsets my energy savings. Another expert told me that that’s one of the first places he’d invest. 

I got an energy audit with a blower door and an infrared camera, which told me that my house is incredibly leaky and that tightening it up is essential. 

One insulation expert recommended tearing all the stucco off my house, putting on solid core foam and then re-stuccoing. That sounded like a good idea until I learned that it would cost more than $100,000. The next expert advocated blowing in cellulose and patching. Another expert opinion: forget the walls and concentrate on the attic. And then there was suggestion that I start by sealing all the places that are particularly leaky and then have another blower door and infra red test. 

I renovated a while back, so half the windows in my house are new. I decided to defer replacing the rest of them. But I heard about a guy who comes to your house and replaces the old ropes and weights with a new track and then insulates the hollow frames. This preserves the house’s character but tightens the windows up a lot—and for a very reasonable price. But of course my windows turned out to have unusual dimensions. Anyway, I don’t know where windows fit on my priority list.