As of September 15th it’s heating season again. If you live in New England, or more specifically, Maine, then you know that means it’s time to fill your tank with Fuel Oil again. It’s a sad reality for me, that Natural Gas lines are less then .25 miles down the street, but just out of my reach. Our street was paved last year, and city ordinances require that you can not rip up the pavement for a certain number of years.
I knew the city was going to pave our street, so prior to paving, I reached out to the natural gas company in our area. I was told that I would need to petition my neighbors and convince several of them on our street to switch to natural gas. If you are a homeowner or building owner, you know that replacing your heating system is a costly upgrade and very few people are willing to do so. Sure i’m an Energy Consultant and I could have run the numbers for all of my neighbors on the savings and payback for moving to natural gas – but let’s be honest, who has that kind of time!
So instead I leave you with a few nuggets of wisdom that I use when I do all of my residential energy audits.
1. Have an Energy Audit done on your home. A great energy auditor is trained to understand your home as a system and figure out where air leaks are coming from and what the best solution for your individual home is. Even homes built from the exact same plans will be totally different, so make sure you hire the right energy auditor, that will give you an assessment on your unique home.
2. Air sealing is the cheapest and nets you the most savings for the dollars you put in. Everyone has heard the term “hot air rises” so start in your attic – seal around anything that protrudes through your ceiling and into your attic space. Grab a tube of caulking and a can of 1-part spray foam from your local hardware store and make that first adventure into your attic. Air sealing isn’t rocket science – but be very careful to stand on the joists and not fall through the ceiling. If you’re not agile, or willing to climb around in your attic on a saturday afternoon there are plenty of hungry contractors out there willing to do the job!
3. Add insulation – adding insulation to your attic is the best place to start because it is usually easy to get to. If you haven’t done the air sealing mentioned in number 2, don’t even bother with the insulation – you’ll just be wasting your money.
3. After you’ve done all the insulation and air sealing – then consider upgrading your heating system. You ask – why do I leave this for last – I have an old heating system and it will save me the money I need to add the air sealing and insulation. Well that might be true, but once you add the air sealing and insulation, your heating system will be oversized and you’ll lose money from short cycling.
So this heating season – as the leaves begin to fall and we start thinking about winter again – keep in mind – that a good energy audit can tell you a lot about your home, and save you money all year long.