Here’s a story from Maine this morning about the phase-out of a federally-funded local “efficiency” program. The Green Energy Alliance aimed, in theory, at improving the heating efficiency of homes around here, but in reality, seems to have spent a lot of money to achieve not a great deal. Specifically, they completed “200 energy audits and help complete 50 home retrofits”, and in doing so spent $355,836.
Okay, honestly, I don’t know if that’s a reasonable or unreasonable amount so spend for that particular amount of work. What I do feel pretty strongly about, though, is that even when it is managed well, the effort and and money thrown at “retrofitting” and “weatherizing” and, here, “homeowner coaching” towards the same, is mostly a rather inefficient way of reducing heating fuel use– the exception being the odd house that is truly horridly underinsulated– I mean, like, zero insulation left between the studs, holes in the windows, that kind of thing. Barring those situations, I think the first forms of “coaching” homeowners (and renters) should be aimed at changing behavior, rather than renovating houses. Specifically, I’d tell people to:
1) Strongly consider moving to a smaller place, especially if your kids have grown up and left, or you don’t have any.
2) If you can’t or don’t want to move, strongly consider living in less of your house in the winter. Heat only what you need.
3) If your house is too big, and for some reason you can’t or don’t want to heat only part of your house, consider getting a housemate.
4) Try living at lower temps. Try it. Do it.
Also, I can tell you this definitively: That money spent by the Green Energy Alliance would’ve heated our house for over 1,000 years. Or, looked at differently, it could’ve heated the homes of 1,000 people this winter– if they agreed to follow steps 1-4 above.