Note: This house is on the 2012 Solar & Green Building Tour. See Tour Details...
Our home is close to 200 years old and has gone through many renovations prior to our purchase in 2000. Our first efforts at energy conservation were to improve upon previous renovations: although the walls were well insulated, we added more insulation to the attic and sealed up all cracks and crevices. In 2001 we replaced all the windows with Pella double-paned thermal window inserts that we ensured were well sealed during installation. We also insulated the ceiling of the basement to isolate this unheated space from the rest of the house and insulated the hot water heater and associated piping. There were many other simple things we did to save energy – we replaced incandesce bulbs with CFCs, looked for Energy Star ratings on any appliances or electronics that needed replacing, and started using a clothes line instead of the dryer, and simply turned off lights and devices when not needed.
Then we started on the bigger projects – we installed a high efficiency pellet stove in 2005 which provides most of the heat for the house. This reduced our fuel oil consumption from 600 gallons per season to 250 gallons, on average. Factoring in the cost of the wood pellets, our heating bill has decreased anywhere from $150-$300 per season, depending on the price of oil and pellets.
We installed solar panels on the roof of our garage in 2008 with help through the NYSERDA and NYS tax rebate program, which uses a net metering system. Any power generated that we don’t use goes back to the utility grid and we are credited annually. The system has proved to be maintenance free and provides 100% of our electrical needs. Our utility bill has dropped from an average of $80 per month to $16.54 per month, which is the fee to stay connected to the grid. The return on investment is probably about 15 years, but the panels and system are expected to last much longer than that time period. There’s much that one can do to update a beautiful, older home; you don’t necessarily have to start with new construction!
Patricia Watt, CIH, CSP