The Village Green

A blog about how Canadians can achieve energy independence by powering down and then powering up the right way.

30 tubes of caulking 

At an event I spoke at recently, someone came up to me and told me he had just used 30 tubes of caulking plugging up all of the various holes and gaps in his home. All those places around windows and door frames and cracks and things.  I don’t know if he did a good job or not but it’s a lot of caulking and it likely did a bunch of good, both in terms of making his home more comfortable and energy efficient (which saves money).  

I’ve worked on homes whose energy audits found total leakage areas (the total of all of those cracks and things around doors and windows and wall plugs) of 2 and 3 square meteres. That’s like having a big bay window open all year round, even in the winter.  Chances are that you don’t keep your living room window open in the winter.  But that’s essentially what these homeowners were dealing with.  

A good quality tube of caulking costs around $6.  The cheap stuff is less than $3 a tube.  (When we work with clients we always advise them to buy good quality materials and equipment because it’s almost always cheaper to do things right the first time).   That 30 tube caulking project probably cost no more than $200 and a weekend’s worth of time.  The project probably paid for itself in energy savings in one heating season giving the total project a 3 month pay-back in terms of savings. That’s a 300% + return on investment.  Most people count themselves lucky if their RSP’s grow by 10 a year.  

We need to start seeing energy efficiency projects as investments that are every bit as valuable as our mutual funds. 

Create a $40 an hour job for yourself 

A couple of years ago a friend of mine re-insulated his home from the inside over a period of about a year and a half.  Like most late 1940’s bungalows, it didn’t have a lot of insulation in the place.  

Room-by-room, wall-by-wall, bit-by-bit, he took down his drywall, reframed the wall, put in new insulation, put up new drywall and repainted.  It was messy, disruptive – his partner didn’t really mind but drywall dust really does get around – and he spent hundreds of hours on the project.  

I haven’t done any kind of complex analysis on the project but I suspect it’s not unreasonable that he increased the value of his home by $10,000 with all those nice, clean, new walls.  And then there’s the energy savings he’ll get forever.  

Spread out over the time he spent on the project, I wouldn’t be surprised if he generated the equivalent value of a $40 an hour job on his re-insulation job.  It’s probably significantly more than he gets paid at his “real” job, the earnings of which by the way are taxable as income.  By comparison, money saved with reduced energy bills is in the form of after-tax income so it’s even more valuable on a before-tax basis.  Also, increases in equity in your principal residence are tax-exempt.  

In addition to making our homes more comfortable for years to come, our energy efficiency projects are investments that save us money, grow the value in our homes and are essentially tax-sheltered.  

Cheap tricks

Check out where the spiders build their webs in your home.  They use drafts as a way of trapping flies in their webs so chances are, there are energy-robbing drafts near their webs.  

Also, a professional would check for drafty places in your home using a smoke gun. You can do the same thing with a ten cent stick of incense 

Gabriel Draven 

November 2009

Village Technologies 

Image Courtesy flickr_seier+seier+seier