BFP: Energy efficiency in Vermont homes remains untapped resource, experts say

Aug 05, 2011 No Comments by

Reposted here from the Burlington Free Press.

 

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Despite the benefits of home energy efficiency upgrades, Vermonters have been slow to adopt low-tech solutions to high utility bills, according to industry experts.

The reasons? Uncertainty over financing and the home improvement process, according to studies released today by the Middlebury-based nonprofit High Meadows Fund.

 

“It’s hard to value something you can’t see,” said the fund’s executive director, Gaye Symington at a news conference this morning in South Burlington.

 

Marc Companion, who hosted the event at his modest home on Maple Wood Drive, said 12 years of cold walls, chilly drafts and a perennial crop of ice dams inspired him to invest about $5,000 in mostly invisible improvements late last year. Federal and state rebates of $3,200 softened the up front costs.

 

No solar panels deck the roof here; no wind turbine whirs.

 

But, thanks to blow-in cellulose insulation in the walls and attic, the family’s comfort levels in January and February soared, Companion said. Heating bills tanked by 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

 

Unlike automobiles, for which miles-per-gallon data is readily available, homes like this one typically tout their efficiencies through word-of-mouth, Symington said.

 

More effective marketing for souped-up home efficiency could help save Vermonters more than $800 million during the next 20 years, she added.

 

The fund’s recent collaboration with Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment; Efficiency Vermont and The Regulatory Assistance Project aims to build momentum with lenders and legislators.

 

Defining pay back periods — or the amount of time before the improvements pay for themselves — remains a challenge, said Efficiency Vermont’s finance and development manager Peter Adamczyk.

 

Companion’s rehabilitation will take between six and eight years to pay for itself.

 

But, as Adamczyk pointed out, cash flow typically remains steady during the “pay back” period – combined monthly loan repayments and lower fuel bills will, in most cases, approximate the pre-upgrade heating bill.

 

The formula immediately increases creature comforts, and results in dramatic savings after the loan is repaid, Adamczyk said..

 

“You’ll be ahead from the very first day,” he added, “It’s a very compelling economic case.”

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