One year later: a home energy upgrade

A lifetime ago I did home energy audits. Last January I had my home in Ithaca, New York insulated and sealed up.

Eleven years ago I worked on the Weatherization Assistance Program of Washtenaw County, Michigan as an energy auditor. Through that program I learned how to use a blower door, inspect a home for insulation gaps and air leaks, and make recommendations for energy saving improvements. It was a satisfying way to help the community and the environment.

From a heating and energy perspective, my current house is far from perfect. The “three season room” in the front is not clearly indoor or outdoor space. Several additions to the original structure caused the house to have a variety of insulation conditions. There is little southern exposure to provide passive solar. The roof is poorly suited for solar panels.

While I was keenly aware that this house was not on track for LEED Platinum (or any other energy certification), I still knew it could perform a lot better. That is why in January of 2020, I hired Snug Planet to:

  • insulate and air seal our primary attic up to R-60
  • insulate our basement and crawlspace using closed cell spray foam
  • replace our rusty old gas water heater with an electric model

My last NYSEG bill included the following table:

Billing PeriodAverage Daily UseAverage Daily Temp
January 20212 therm27° F
January 20205 therm30° F

In spite of colder weather our natural gas bill has gone down substantially. I also find it remarkable that our gas use is lower even though we are not setting back our thermostat during the day. (Both Ashley and I continue to work from home most weekdays.)

Snug Planet’s blower door tests showed that our house was 20% less leaky after they completed their work in our attic and basement. This means that under normal conditions it now takes 20% longer for all the air in the house to be replaced with fresh outdoor air. Basically it means the house is less drafty.

On the flip side, our electricity consumption is up from an average of 7 kwh to 25 kwh daily. Some of this is explained by our decision to install an electric water heater. I also suspect that our work-from-home habits of daytime laptop charging and lighting cause us to use more electricity than last year.

In the long run, I would like to get this house off fossil fuels completely. Switching the water heater was a small step toward that goal. The much bigger gas burning appliance is the furnace. When the time is right, I would like to see it replaced by an air source heat pump which would provide the added benefit of air conditioning in the summer.

I have found that the path to making my home more efficient has required patience and commitment.