You can't see it, but your home insulation is secretly saving you money. But without adequate insulation, you might be paying to heat your back yard.
Yes, you may notice the cold chill on your historic single pane windows, but what most people don't know is that you are losing the most heat, and the most money, through attics, floors and walls that have little to no insulation. Even newer homes may be short on this important energy saving measure.
What about my windows?
A common misconception is that they are the first priority for energy savings.
When asked about windows, the Housing Services Director at Blue Mountain Action Council, Ted Kohler said, "If you look at all the statistics, windows don't pay back for 20 years."
For the best return on your investment, upgrades are recommended when windows are broken.
Insulation is as basic to staying warm and comfortable as is wearing a jacket in a storm. To save money and energy, and reduce your carbon footprint, proper insulation is a priority.
How do you know if your attic, walls or floors are well insulated?
If heating bills increase considerably during the winter, this may be the first indication that you need more insulation. Another indication is if rooms in your house are stuffy in the summer or drafty in the winter.
How much and where?
More than 200 homeowners in Walla Walla and Columbia Counties have recently answered that question. They received a free home energy assessment from the Sustainable Living Center by participating in the non-profit's Home Energy Round-Up.
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Home Energy Round-Up is providing energy education and financial assistance (30 percent of the cost) to Walla Walla and Columbia County residents needing insulation.
How much does it cost?
Depending on the size, complexity, and current insulation level, the upgrade costs can start as low as $1,000.
However, homeowners see that investment paying back within just a few years. Additionally, some homeowners have covered up to 60 percent of the cost with utility rebates.
With utility rates increasing annually, now is the best time to invest in your home and cash in on currently available incentives. Cascade Natural Gas, Columbia Rural Electric Association and Pacific Power all offer insulation incentives to their customers.
In addition to energy assessments, the Sustainable Living Center assists homeowners with contractor selection, bid review and incentive paperwork, while ensuring that quality work is performed.
On top of the local assistance, taxpayers are also eligible to receive a Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit for insulation upgrades.
While you are saving money each month, you can also feel good about saving energy, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.
Home Energy Round-Up insulation upgrades are creating local jobs and adding $1 million into the regional economy each year. If we invest in energy efficiency improvements we are helping our community become more sustainable on all levels.
Where can I learn more?
Contact the Sustainable Living Center for a free energy assessment at (509) 524- 5228 or attend the upcoming workshop on Nov. 4 from 6-8 p.m. at the William A. Grant Water amp; Environmental Center at Walla Walla Community College.
Topics include home energy use, insulation (how much is too much?), air sealing, indoor air quality and construction styles.
Jenna Bicknell is the executive director of the Sustainable Living Center and holds a bachelor of arts in environmental studies from Whitman College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.