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Fall fixes: Money-saving insulation


Upstate New York in the fall

I can’t live in my world of denial any longer…. it’s fall here in Central New York. The leaves are turning. Mornings are frigid. Fresh apple cider and craft fairs abound. It’s my favorite time of year, but with fall comes the threat of winter and  a list of chores that prepare our house for the onslaught of snow and ice.

One of our pre-winter rituals is adding insulation to the house. When we bought the place, it was an energy There was some old blown-in in the attic and a few thin bats in the downstairs bathroom. That is all we have found thus far. For a 2,200 square foot house, that was pretty scary. You should have seen our first gas bills! The previous owner’s were apparently using one of those stand-alone propane heaters to keep the place warm, so when we saw their utility bills (which we asked for prior to buying) they looked deceptively reasonable.

The first year here, we ran around with “Great Stuff” (expandable foam in a can) and caulk filling as many cracks and gaps as we could. We insulated the pipes and hot water heater, and put rolled fiberglass insulation in strategic spots throughout the basement. We also fixed most of the big holes in our living room walls, since you could feel the wind blowing right through them from a few feet away. This was about all we could get to because we bought the house in November.

The next year, we had started major demolition on the kitchen, so nice thick r-22 batting went  in every wall and r-38 went in the ceilings. We fixed some broken windows and added piecemeal  insulating throughout the  basement, a few crawl spaces, and the attic. This made a difference in our utility bills, but not a huge one.

Last fall, our most ambitious, we chose to use blown-in insulation on the coldest sides of the house and a few needy ceilings.  A messy and tiresome project, but well worth it. We also gutted about half of the upstairs, so those walls and ceilings are newly insulated.

Because of our yearly efforts, we managed to cut our energy bill by over 50% – from over $430 a month in fall 2004 to less than $200 a month in fall of 2007 – and that reduction doesn’t even factor in the rising gas prices. (Note: We are signed up for National Grid’s “budget plan”, so we pay the same amount all year round whether it’s hot or cold. This keeps us from vomiting when we open a bill in February!)

This year could be even better, since gas is a wee bit cheaper than last year. If we can find any motivation, we might do some more blown-in. That seemed to make the biggest impact on our bill, and it’s very cost-effective. All the little efforts really do add up, and it’s fun to see our budget payment amount keep dropping every few months.

Looking to chop your own energy bills? Here are a few posts you might be interested in:

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