How much money will I save? 

When will it pay back?
                   Should I go for Super - Insulation?
What about a whole
 Deep Energy Retrofit?
Quick answers:
It Depends:  
Retirement sewed up? Spare Income?  Care about the world's future?
If YES, then the answers is YES YOU BET!

If NO, seek government aid, and it does exist, at least in NYS.  

If SORT OF, then keep reading to see what might give you the shortest payback times.
The payback time or what new buzz term for it, return on investment, depends most of all on how good you are at avoiding scope creep. Google deep energy retrofits.  Often while insulating old houses you'll see near guts, additions, and price tags easily hitting $100,000.  Now, deep energy retrofits, cutting energy use 50% from standard code, great idea, and often acheviable without ripping your siding off and installing windows that each cost more than a wide screen TV.  It won't be quite as energy efficent, you might loose 10 - 20% in energy savings, but save over 50% in construction costs!
What is the payback time for a reasonable insulation project?  4 - 10 years probably.  What would make a 10 year payback sound good?  Try this, you'll be giving yourself a multi - thousand dollar bonus every year, FOREVER, indexed to rise with the REAL rate of inflation. 

Super Insulation - Will always need additional framing, and is therefore more expensive.  It can also reduce your heating bill, even in the North to a few hundred a year.  None the less, if starting with a code insulated building that does not need residing anyway, this could easily be a 20 yr pay back project.

Frost Proof Shallow Foundation - is certainly cheaper than digging out your foundation 4 feet deep, it's more effective, and there are many synergies, from stopping air infiltration to ants.  Payback time is going to be long, 7 - 10 yr.
What gives you the lowest cost insulation project? 
DIY, yeah, do it yourself.  Contracting the work out can double the costs.  Insulating, even super insulation, is something that is pretty good for DIY projects. 
Light weight materials, easily cut, easily secured. 
An old house retrofit for insulation is easy enough for the whole family to do as a team, but for crying out loud, don't make it slavery reinvented, be a team, the personal development becomes a moral synergy that helps justify the cost, speed the payback. 
Having said that, you MUST install properly, but some insulation is harder to mess up than other.  

Some unedited notes on my costs and paybacks to super insulate an existing building 

Fuel Costs:

(actual to date, and projected for completing of super insualted attic and super insulated walls and the dream of a ground source heat pump)


Uninsulated:  300 gallons oil a week, $1,200 a week, $4,800 a month, oh about $25,000 a year (in todays dollars)

Insulated to 1980 standards:  300 gallons a month, $1,200 a month, oh about $6,000 a year.

With Frost Protected Shallow Foundation:  200 gallons a month, $800 a month, oh about $5,000 a year.

With Super Insulated and Air Sealed attic:  170 gallons a month, $680 a month, oh about $3,800 a year.

With Super Insulated Walls:  140 gallons a month, $560 a month, oh about $3,000 a year.

Total:  Deep Energy Retrofit (due to insulation):  140 gallons a month, approximately a 90% reduction, no only kidding, I couldn't take credit for ALL that reduction.  I've probably taken it from 300 to 150 gallons a month, 50% plus reduction!!!!!!

With a ground source heat pump and Heat Recovery Ventilator, I'd get to the equivalent of 50 gallons a month, a further 50% reduction, about 18% of the energy used to heat the house in 1980 (insulated to 1980 standards).


Which brings up one of the points where comparing deep energy retrofits to previous conditions becomes fuzzy.  Due to high electric costs, I won't be paying just $200 a month, or $1,200 a year for heating.  It will be more like $400 a month and $2,400 a year.  However, my carbon footprint will be representative of 50 gallons a month.  This is why many convert all energy use to KWH, to compare apples to apples consistently.  That however generates false indicators also.  Origional heat for NE buildings was almost always oil and coal, so their carbon savings when switching to gas or ground source heat pumps is more significant that would be indicated by converting everything to KWH.


Construction / Retrofit / Our Old House Rehab Costs:

(actual to date, and projected for completing of super insualted attic and super insulated walls, along with dream of a ground source heat pump)


Uninsulated:  300 gallons oil a week, $1,200 a week, $4,800 a month, oh about $25,000 a year (in todays dollars)

Insulated to 1980 standards:  300 gallons a month, $1,200 a month, oh about $6,000 a year.

With Frost Protected Shallow Foundation:  $2,000 material, savings $1,000 a year, 2 yr payback.  If contracted work, $6,000 and 6 yr payback.

With Super Insulated and Air Sealed attic: $1,000,  savings $1,200 a year.   Yes, a one year payback.  If contracted work, $3,500 (including clearing attic, air sealing, ventilation, and hazard pay for nails in ceiling - ie, poor work site conditions), 3 yr pay back. 

With super insulated walls: $6,000 material, savings about $1,000 a year - math gets fuzzy here, all projected, 6 yr payback.  If contracted work, $10,000 - I believe labor will be lessened as siding is only being removed and reset, lots of cutting and fitting already done.  10 yr payback - this is pretty marginal payback really, but since I'll DIY, out of necessity, it's a slam dunk at 6 yrs.  However the high initial cost will mean it will take me 6 years to do this.

Total due to insulation:  $9,000 material, savings $3,000 a year, 3 year payback.  If contracted out, $20,000, and a 7 year payback.


Here gets fuzzy again.......

With a Ground Source Heat Pump and HRV, (Heat Recovery Ventilator):  $15,000 material and some labor, mostly to install and config heat pump and distribution pumps.  $600 a year savings (the pro who did the feasibility for a GSHP conversion quoted double that, $1,200 a year in savings, I'm cutting that in half due to press reports saying often costs end up higher - but if the pro was right, and he is THE pro for the Hudson Valley, then I'd have a 12 yr payback, not too shabby for a whole new system, and at worst I'd have a 25 year payback - acceptable as I plan to be there.   If contracted, $40,000, payback of 35 to 70 years.  This is why ground source heat pumps are not slam dunk solutions.  I'm a worst case scenario.  Entire heating distribution system also needs replacing to move to ground source heat pump AND the NE has really high electric costs.  Might it still make sense to contract out, maybe, it might make the resale value that much more.  Might it make sense in you were earning six figures and cared about the world, about your children, then, a slam dunk. 


Inflation, Fuel / Energy Escalation, and Discount Rate (Thats the return on investment you'd have made say..... betting on the horses, loaning it to your aunt's first cousin to start that LED bait shack in Rio...... etc.)

The above does not delve into future energy costs, possible alternate return on investments (less than 1% a yr passbook savings, less than 5% for you typical investor, only the top 10% who can invest big time see double digit investment growth - yes you know someone who gets...... really good returns, great, is he / she sharing that portfolio with you, are YOU getting those returns, are 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1 out of 100 people you know getting those returns (and mind you, surveys and studies have shown people lie MORE about how much money they make then how much sex they get).  This is all why I don't delve into future costs / returns.  I short cut it assuming they cancel each other out.  I know in reality, or 90% of the population, energy inflation will out pace any possible investment return they can get, but, I let that slide because insulation, retrofitting insulation, adding insulation, super insulation, etc almost always have good paybacks anyway.


See how the simple energy payback analysis degnerated into a philisophical / sociologic debate?  That's a big problem in green building and the sustainable industry overall.  Payback and analiysis are rarely slam dunks, and are often justifed only in multi - generational / society and world wide viewpoints. 


Now, imagine presenting the above to a client, and lets say, doing your best to get someone you know can afford it, to go that last mile, stretch and to do the right thing, even though at BEST they'd need to own the building for their entire lives, or bet they'd recoup expenses via. a higher sales price.  Ekkkk?  Yeah, but start thinking about it now will prepare you to DO IT and make it happen.


** Why don't I like foam?  Well, it's made from oil, rockwool has the same aged low temperature R ratings (yes foams 'magically high' R values are based on new material, at optimum testing temperature - SURPRISE.  Click here for more on why I'm not fond of foam.  Yet, if it works for you, go with it, it's a million times better than not insulating!


***  Side effect of DER's with additions, whirlpool spas, gourmet kitchens - many of these energy retrofits use just as much energy, as they are bigger and have more energy consuming equipment in them.  I believe National Gas (as in natural gas) has a great demo project that subsidizes the costs of deep energy retrofits.  Sounds great!  Then why are the all 6 figure projects which over 1/2 of home owners can't even dream of.  To prove if you gut and rebuild you can make it just like new?  No secret there!  It's almost like they don't want to prove you can do a deep energy retrofit for an economical sum of money, with a reasonable payback.  Sound silly?  The gas industry is desperately trying to convince everyone to let Frack for gas everywhere, who want to build gas import / export terminals off the East Coast.  So, the more energy used, the more desperate we are for cheap gas, the more we let them drill.  Still silly?  Remember, Detroit bought out all the communter light rail in the country after WWII, so they could close 'em and sell busses to replace them. 

Foam - Insulation
Nothing is that easy.

Click Here

For a ton of information on wrapping your building in foam.


Experiences w/

Old House Rehab


It is saving me the $40,000 or so it would cost to underpin the house, install a foundation and insulate it.  Nor would this have addressed the rim joist, a major source of heat loss.


For those concerned with vermin and bugs, termites, etc. in the skirt.  I've had one element in 3 yrs, in a vermin and bug heavy area, with only a few spiders taking up residence.  I suspect in addtion to being pretty well sealed, it's dry and foodless.


We have noticed that we no longer have ants invading the kitchen every spring, and flies infesting the area outside the kitchen in the summer.  There might even be fewer mice.


In addition, the boxout is a great ledge for planters at a real easy height to maintain, with the plants and flowers visible from inside.


I'm going to try some parsely and carrots that we can't grow in the garden, the moles keep eating them.


(Click Here For More)