Home Weatherization Paying Off Big Time
Over the past year or so (2009-2010) we undertook a series of weatherization and energy conservation projects on the home we bought in 2009. The first thing we did before undertaking these projects was to have an energy audit conducted (you can read about the energy audit here). Although the audit cost us $415, it was a very important first step in weatherizing our home as it helped us prioritize projects to make sure we used our weatherization budget in the most cost effective manner possible.
I'm way behind on my plans to document the projects we undertook, but now that I have a year's worth of energy usage data collected, I do have some hard figures to report.
We replaced our boiler at the beginning of November 2009, replacing a 20 year old oil boiler with a 96% efficient gas fired boiler. We don't have actual numbers on the fuel usage of the old oil boiler as we had replaced it before having gone through a winter with it. With that said the disclosure provided by the previous owner stated that she used 1,200 gallons of fuel oil per year (for heat and hot water). In our first full year with the new boiler (2010) we used 760 gallons of propane (for heat and hot water). Due to the BTU difference between a gallon of fuel oil and a gallon of propane, this works out to the equivalent of around 500 gallons of #2 fuel oil. We didn't even take extreme measures to save on heating by reducing our thermostat to sweater temperatures; rather keep our thermostat set at a comfortable 72º F.
That's right, based on what the previous owner reported, we have already reduced our home's annual fuel consumption by around 58% and this reduction is accomplished without sacrificing comfort.
It should be noted that due to contractor delays and call backs, the bulk of our weatherization projects weren't completed until March of 2010, so three of the months of propane usage (the coldest months of the year) were before weatherization was completed. Our weatherization projects during the winter of 2009-2010 included adding insulation to the attic, applying two inches of spray foam insulation to the rim of the floor joists in the basement, and air sealing wall/ceiling joints in the attic. This past summer we gutted and totally renovated our bathroom, including replacing the exterior wall insulation. In the fall of 2010 we undertook more air sealing projects to eliminate drafts between the wall and floor joints, better air seal doors/windows. We also undertook repairs to some of the weatherization completed by our weatherization contractor that had come undone.
It will be another full year before we see annual fuel consumption figures that include all of the weatherization projects we have thus far completed. However, I can compare December 2009 (the first full month on our new boiler) to December 2010. In December of 2009 we used on average 5.03 gallons of propane per day or approximately 156 gallons for the entire month. In December 2010, we averaged 3.48 gallons of propane per day or around 108 gallons for the month (the equivalent of 71 gallons of #2 fuel oil). This works out to around a 31% reduction in energy consumption as a direct result of weatherizing our home.
In real dollar terms, in December 2010 propane cost us $3.059/gal or about $270.60 for the month. If we had not weatherized our home and as a result had used the same amount of propane in December 2010 as we did in December 2009, it would have cost us around $477.20 or $206.60 more than what we actually spent. We don't yet know what our annual energy savings are. If, however, December of 2010 is any indication, it is very significant. Certainly from a monthly budget perspective the amount we pay on our weatherization loan is way less than what we would have spent on the extra energy we would have been using otherwise.
You may not be able to control how much energy costs, but you can certainly control how much energy you need to use. Even if you have to take out a modest home improvement loan to pay for it, weatherizing your home can be one of the best investments you make. You may not be able to reduce your energy costs by as much as we have, but done right your savings could be substantial. Conducting an energy audit and carefully planning out your weatherization priorities will help ensure that the cost of servicing the loan is less than the amount of money you will save on energy costs.