November 10, 2010

Workshops help residents "Button Up" homes for winter

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- As another winter season settles in, Rockingham Community Action has your back with a series of regional workshops designed to help consumers save on the rising cost of keeping warm.
Button Up, New Hampshire is a spin-off of a successful pilot program that launched originally in Vermont, said Tom Pfau, one of four energy auditors with Rockingham Community Action. He will also lead one of the workshops at Derry Public Library on Dec. 1.
In a unique partnership with several area agencies and the University of New Hampshire, consumers
can find just about everything they need to get started at, which provides a one-stop resource for ways to reduce energy consumption and save money this winter, said Pfau. 
The workshops provide a layer of expertise when it comes to cashing in on renewable energy, Pfau said. There are many things that can be done that don’t require any expertise — just some energy enthusiasm, said Pfau, whose efforts with Rockingham Community Action are focused on providing weatherization assistance to low-income and elderly residents. 
“Air sealing is more important than insulation, and something that anyone can do,” said Pfau, who explained that air leaking into a basement seeks an escape hatch in the attic, creating a conduit of continuous energy loss. 
“What you need to do is get up in the attic and pull back the insulation and seal up the cracks, which will cut down on the amount of air flow coming in from below and escaping up above,” said Pfau. “It can be tedious, but it’s one of the most cost effective.” 
Another cost-effective alternative to purchasing all new windows is simply caulking and weather stripping, Pfau said. 
“There’s a 15- to 20-year payback on an investment in new windows, whereas caulking and weather stripping has a two- to three-year payback. People will save money faster by doing something that’s much easier to accomplish without a lot of investment up front,” Pfau said. 
Even simpler: turn down the thermostat. 

Reducing the heat by just 5 degrees for eight hours of the day saves 5 percent in energy costs — and the savings increase exponentially. If you reduce your heat setting from 70 to 65 permanently, you will save 16 percent in heating costs, Pfau said. 
Beyond that, there are more resources available now than ever for professional energy audits — although they will likely cost you money one way or another, they are the next step in making your home more energy efficient, said Pfau. 
“Weatherizing is really the best way to save energy and money, but if you don’t know where the problem spots are, it’s hard to address them,” Pfau said. 
“There are some outfits that may do a free energy audit for you provided you agree to use their services, while another may charge you $500 for the audit, then say ‘good luck; you’re on your own’ to find a contractor to do the work. Your best bet is to do your homework and shop around.” 

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