Ice dam at the edge of a poorly air-sealed roof

Ice dam at the edge of a poorly air-sealed roof

Welcome to 2014! Our record-breaking storm of January 2nd that brought us blustery winds and a foot of white stuff seems like a great way to start talking about how to keep our homes warm at the least possible cost to our wallets and the environment.

In Medford, as well as across the country, energy efficiency is gaining ground rapidly. According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, “the average amount of electricity consumed in US homes has fallen to levels last seen more than a decade ago…Because of more energy-efficient housing, appliances, and gadgets, power usage is on track to decline in 2013 for the third year in a row.” The article mentions new building codes, upgrades of older homes, and electronic devices that use less energy than their predecessors as factors in this reduction.

Because this article only focused on electricity use, one major factor that this article did not highlight is the enormous contribution of home insulation to home energy efficiency.  Coupled with air sealing (closing up all the gaps that let cold air into your home and let warm air out), insulating your home is hands down the most beneficial thing you can do (for both your budget and the environment) to keep your home warm while using less energy.   

No matter whether you use electricity, natural gas, or oil to heat your living space, you will benefit enormously from a good insulation & air sealing job. And you may not have to spend any money up front to get this work done! This is because of insulation incentives and 0% loans for energy-efficiency projects, which are offered by many banks, including some in Medford.

You may be thinking, yeah, right, it’s not going to cost me much–what’s the catch? There isn’t one, and here’s why: The utilities (in Medford’s case, National Grid) find it much less expensive to help residents use less energy than to build new energy plants and plan for ever-increasing pressure on the grid.  And Massachusetts has passed legislation requiring, you pay a tiny fee in each utility payment toward a fund that supports home energy audits, and you are owed the benefit from that.  Finally–and most important–if your home needs insulating and air sealing, you will probably save more money by getting this important work done than you will pay back on any loans you do take out.

So if you think your energy bills are high, or any rooms in your home are cold, or you don’t know if your home is insulated, get a home energy audit and find out whether you need insulation or air sealing.

To set up a no-cost home energy audit, which is the first step in having your home insulated, you can call Mass Save at 855-838-7817  or fill out the online form here.

What’s an energy audit? It’s a no-cost energy checkup for your home, which is run  by the Mass Save Program in cooperation with the utility companies. Mass Save will send out an energy auditor who will:

• Look at your present heating system

• Ask about your home’s insulation

• Use a thermal imager (depending on the temperature that day) to show you where there are heat leaks in your walls, floors, and ceilings

• Replace at no cost your incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs

• Give you (also at no cost to you) a programmable thermostat

• Check your weather stripping and suggest improvements

• Explain financing options for improvements you could make, such as insulation incentives and 0% loans for energy-efficiency projects. These are offered by many banks, including in Medford.

So call Mass Save for a home energy audit, and get ready to save money and energy!

–Susan Altman


Susan has lived in Medford for 24 years and is a member of the Medford Energy Committee.

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