NHSaves – How to save on heating and cooling costs

I know it’s a bit early to start thinking about heating costs for next winter, but this past winter should have been enough to at least get you to consider that inevitable expenditure. If just the thought of it stresses you out, you’re not alone. Whether you rent or own, you know that heating your apartment or house can be expensive, and depending on your source of heat, the bills associated with keeping your home warm are no joke.

Thankfully, New Hampshire makes it possible for homeowners (sorry renters) to do something about high heating costs. If you’re a homeowner, check out the NHSaves program. You may find you are eligible for a 50% incentive up to $4,000 for weatherizing and making insulation improvements to your home. That means that $8,000 worth of work will only cost you $4,000. Yes, that’s still a lot of money, but you won’t know how much you need until you start the process. So before you dive in, let’s go through how this all works.

Energy Audit

After exploring the NHSaves website, one of the first things you’ll do is get an energy audit. An energy auditor will come to your house with an infrared camera, a blower door, and all sorts of other fancy equipment and spend 3-4 hours going through your house. They will examine insulation, find air leaks, look inside walls with the infrared camera, and crawl under the house and into the attic if they can. Plus, you’ll typically get some LED bulbs and a carbon monoxide detector out of it. All of this work costs $100 and will help the insulation company figure out exactly how much work your house needs and how much it will cost. Plus, the $100 will get deducted from the weatherization project should you move forward.

A blower door tries to suck all the air out of a house to determine how “leaky” it is.

Weatherization Plan

After the auditor does their work, they will email you a weatherization plan that outlines all of the work they are proposing. This plan includes all the types of insulation they want to add and how much of each type. In addition to the cost of the project, the plan includes how much heat energy the weatherization will save, and how much you will save each year in heating costs with the payback period. This will help you figure out whether the project is worth the cost (it usually is).

Infrared cameras measure differences in temperature and can even make it easy to peer into walls.

Work Day(s)

After you sign your plan and contract with the weatherization company, it will be time for them to get to work. The amount of time it takes depends on how much work you are going to have done. When Emily and I did this in our house, the work took almost three days and included all types of insulation all over the place: cellulose all through the attic, spray foam under the porch, a vapor barrier in the basement – the list goes on. Depending on the work being done, it can be helpful if you can be around when the work is being done, but remember if you get to this point, you’ve hired professionals and they know what they are doing.

Cost

Although you will probably pay half before the work and half after, I’m separating “cost” out to illustrate the power of the 50% incentive from NHSaves. When Emily had the audit done on our house, our auditor came to us with a plan that cost $8,000, which is a lot (we had bought an old house that had been updated, but clearly the insulation had not). Thankfully, the 50% incentive meant the project would cost only $4,000 which is still a lot, but our auditor pointed out that we would make that cost back in about 6 years with the savings in heating costs. That means after 6 years, it’s money in the bank!

Ultimately the decision about whether to pay for work like this depends on two factors: the results of your energy audit, and the length of time you plan to own your home. I point out these two because if your energy audit shows your home is already fairly efficient, you may not qualify for the program or the payback could be too long. At the same time, if the payback is longer than you plan to stay in your home, you may decide it’s not worth the cost. Of course, you won’t know until you check out NHSaves, so get on over there and see if this works for you!

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