It’s not easy being green

We got the results of our EnergyStar audit on Saturday. They’re recommending $20,000 worth of work, and promising that we’ll probably save at least $150 a month on average based on last years energy bills. They also said we could save another $150 a month if we did the windows, but doing them in a way that’s sensitive to the age and architecture of the house (ie. not replacing leaded glass windows and wood frames with modern plastic crap) would be really expensive – maybe $30,000 to $40,000.

The problem is that the net present value of $150 a month for 10 years (which is the expected lifetime of the new furnace) is only about $14,000. Obviously energy prices will go up, and the only energy year we have records for, last year, was unusually mild, so the savings might be greater in a year like this year. But it’s still hard to say “go ahead and spend that money” with such an uncertain pay-back. So I have to think about the non-monetary pay-back as well, like the fact that the house will be more comfortable, and it will reduce our carbon footprint, and it might have a small positive affect on the value of the house.

Still, $20,000.


5 thoughts on “It’s not easy being green”

  1. $150 per month for all 12 months? (I’m guessing that since 150x12x10 = 18,000 which would work out to around 14,000 in today’s dollars). Plus a potentional additional $150 per month? $3,600 per year in savings?

    Wow. Your utility bills must be killer. We have a hundred-year old house (this year, happy birthday house!) with no insulation, etc. and over the past 12 months our total electric & gas bills are only $4,166. And while our winters aren’t as bad as yours (but the gas bill range is from $16 in August to $756 in January) our summers are worse.

  2. hi Paul, wow, $6K a year?? Our condo here in Boulder is fairly recent (10 years old) and takes advantage of double pane windows and energy star appliances everywhere. As a result, our December energy bill was the first one since we’ve lived here that even hit the triple digits. Less space, new appliances, double pane windows and a generally cooperative climate all help to keep our average energy bill to around $80/month, for gas and electric.

    The windows make a huge difference, especially in your climate. There’s a company out here that makes custom windows out of vinyl that can be made to mimic older style frames and can be painted to match existing. Check them out at

    Perhaps there’s a vendor near you for this stuff.

  3. I don’t know if the improvements will actually increase our asking price when we sell, but it will make people more likely to be interested. It’ll be more saleable, perhaps.

    I think anyone would be crazy not to buy our house anyway.

  4. I know what you’re going through. We’ve spent a lot of money in the past several years upgrading our 1925 house. New furnace + a/c; several new windows (old house == custom sizes == $$$); basement waterproofing; new epoxy/stone basement floor; some plumbing upgrades… and it feels like the tip of the iceberg. We also need more insulation, but we should replace the knob & tube wiring first, making it a huge job. The good news is that we don’t regret spending the money. The new furnace is much quieter, the basement is much more useable, the new windows function much better. I think if you go ahead you’ll be glad you did. An average of $500/mo for gas + electrons is very, very high for a typical house.

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