First of all, the first ceiling insulation attempt had been done with vermiculite—a substance that sometimes contains asbestos fibers. The immediate problem this caused was that it made it legally impossible to use his air door. So some of the big infiltration tests we wanted to run were not going to happen because the air door could suck stray fibers into the house.
Then we encountered the occupational bias of our auditor. His background was HVAC so while we got the 20-minute lecture about our primitive water heater and how it wasted energy, other subjects such as how many vents the roof needed got a much more cursory treatment.
Mostly, however, the audit was a real eye opener. His infrared sensor / camera revealed wall cavities that had been filled with something (what, we could not determine) that had settled over the years leaving a space of at least a foot at the top where there was no insulation whatsoever. And even without the air door, it was pretty easy to tell that the 55 year-old windows and doors were very leaky.
But what was most interesting about our auditor is that he had been trained to suggest solutions that had relatively short paybacks. In practice this meant that new windows were probably not a good idea from cost / benefit standpoint no matter how leaky they were. Even his suggestions about how to upgrade the water heater came with the caveat that it probably wouldn't pay for itself for a very long time "because natural gas prices are so low these days." In fact he must have brought up low gas prices at least a dozen times.
So unless someone like us wants to upgrade the insulation systems for the house to create a more comfortable and less drafty space, there really isn't a whole lot of reason to do anything right now. Of course, natural gas prices will not be forever low and when they rise, all those calculations change.
Because we don't believe it is a good idea to heat the outdoors during the winter, and because climate change is a real problem, we will be fixing our leaky old house. It's just that there isn't any economic pressure to do something right away. This is a good thing because fixing our house will require a lot of careful planning. But at least we have started the process.
Natural Gas Prices Are TankingRob Wile | Jan. 2, 2013
Natural gas futures dropped as much as 9 percent today after a meteorology forecasting group said the country would see above-normal temperatures through Jan. 11, according to Bloomberg's Christine Buurma.
Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland added the low in New York on Jan. 9 may be 38 degrees Fahrenheit, 11 higher than usual, Buurma said.
It was the second consecutive price collapse for the commodity. Yesterday contracts fell nearly $0.25 following a 900-contract order on the NYMEX, she reported.
Futures are way down from fall 2012 highs of nearly $4, although there is usually a decline at the beginning of the year as orders for winter supplies tail off. more