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A first-time homebuyer's guide to energy efficiency

Marc Lefkowitz  |  01/04/18 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Home efficiency

On this frigid #TBT we look back on a personal story of home energy improvement. This series of posts follow a first time homeowner as he navigates the ins and outs of energy efficiency inside his family’s century home. Drafty and cold in the winter, he set out to do something meaningful about the energy literally flying out the window, walls, and up the chimney.

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The three-part series follows his discoveries like what to look for in a home energy test, how to weigh the greenest insulation options, and more.

Part one opens with our enthused blogger finding out about something called a home energy audit. The professionals arrive with the equipment, like an infrared camera, to locate exactly where his home needs the most improvement.

Armed with this knowledge, he decides on how to balance cost, environmental benefit and safety for his family in the work ahead. He totally geeks out on insulation, but pulls it together to watch his hard-earned money go into a plan. He gains a new appreciation for how a house works.

Finally, it’s decision time and installation begins. In the aftermath, he learns a few things for the next phase in the journey.

Lessons learned? Here are some take aways from each post:

Part One—"How to Get the Most Bang for Your Home Energy Improvement Buck"

“After seeing the blower door test and infrared camera, I'm convinced that if we don't act, if we don't get serious about plugging the leaks with caulk and slowing the transfer of air with insulation, we're throwing our son's college education money out the window.”

“It's hard for most of us middle incomers to shell out thousands of dollars, even with partial reimbursement, and a payback on energy bills that could be 10 years. We're faced with a real (difficult) situation.”

Part Two— "What Goes Into a Home Insulation Decision"

“We've all heard the reasons for insulating our homes—buildings are the main culprit (40%) in our consumptive energy use. Insulation is a place where we can intervene. To me, it may be the single most empowering "local" action in my quest to lighten my ecological footprint. But, looking for what insulation works best with an existing home, the process is long and fraught with trade offs.”

Part Three—"Air Sealing and Insulating Our House: The Big Day Has Arrived."

“This week we had a contractor start working. We're doing the project in two phases—to fit with our financing. We're air sealing and insulating the attic and basement now, and the walls of the whole house later. And, boy, am I glad we did, because we're already seeing an impact.”

The Afterword

“We did figure out how long it will take to pay the bill for the work with the energy saved. It made the case to borrow a few thousand dollars seem less risky. Making our home more comfortable was another tangible goal. In that regard, we have not been disappointed.”

More Reading

“Help Me Understand Home Insulation”

Houses have the equivalent of a “miles per gallon” rating

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David G
4 years ago

I did this ten years ago and got back most of the costs. We must get the Ohio legislature to fund insulation and weatherization.

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