When it comes to weatherization, it’s really all relative

Posted Jan. 22, 2010, at 7:41 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:28 a.m.

For too many years I have been talking about insulating buildings.

Back when this first became an issue in my little world, the idea of building walls with two-by-sixes and filling them with R-19 fiberglass insulation was thought to be insane and a total waste of money. Oil was 28 cents a gallon.

About 10 years ago, I was talking about R-40 walls and roofs. Oil was 88 cents a gallon.

More recently, I decided that R-60 was the magic number for insulating walls and ceilings. Oil was $1.55 a gallon!

It is a moving target, this energy-efficient building thing.

I recently picked up an article written by a civil engineer about insulating slab foundations. It was an interesting paper. The author is telling his readers to insulate slab foundations more than I do. And I thought I was out there.

Well, he really isn’t out there. Two years ago we had Dana Humphrey, a civil engineer from UMaine, on the radio with us, and he went way beyond what we have been suggesting for slab insulation. And he had some good reasons.

First is energy conservation and second is liability. We want the floor to be warm and if Dana (being an engineer) has a slab freeze and move or crack, he is in big trouble. If you or I do it wrong, we just feel stupid.

But there’s that lesson again. The way we should build houses and insulate them is a moving target.

As energy costs increase in excess of inflation and as fossil fuel resources dwindle, higher insulation values make sense.

This brings me to the plans to weatherize all the homes in Maine by 2030.

This is a wonderful idea. But it is also one that has the potential for a myriad of flaws.

I asked this question before: What exactly is weatherization? How much energy will we save? And how much will it cost? Who gets to pay for this? How do we get the best bang for the buck?

There is a road show that is covering the state of Maine to address these issues.

It is called the “‘Strawman’ Stakeholder Input Implementation Tool.”

It is a planning tool for the Efficiency Maine Trust to sort out these issues and formulate a plan to make Maine more energy-efficient.

All laudable goals!

You can check it out at www.efficiencymainetrust.org.

I think the total estimate for this project is about $3.6 billion.

There are about 500,000 homes in Maine. This is a big job. And the rules are apt to change over the 20 years that it is estimated this project will take.

I have to admit that I am nervous about how these issues will be interpreted and implemented.

This is an education issue that we all should be somewhat fluent in.

Part of my motivation for getting involved in this area had to do with not being uncomfortable in the winter. I like being warm when it is cold out. I am peculiar that way.

A lot of Mainers already have started to make the proper changes. They have had energy audits done, insulated attics and walls and basements, and perhaps switched to alternative fuels.

Given the fact that the state government is interested in doing more, we should at least know the issue. Check it out at the Web address above.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.

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