The Inside Outside Guys: Get energy efficiency done now

Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
Special to The Detroit News

Are you too hot or too cold in your own home? Given the choice, which do you prefer? Let’s be honest, when you are too cold you can always add layers of clothing to the desired comfort level, but when you are too hot, how much can you really take off?

How about a third option? Your home is equipped to keep you comfortable year-round regardless of the outdoor temperatures. And you can afford to do it.

Government regulation notwithstanding, the Guys have always been advocates for making improvements in your home or office space that increase energy efficiency to provide comfort and savings.

We have long said the best value investments you can make in your home begin with air sealing and thermal insulation. Right behind that are great windows and doors properly installed, then mechanical systems that compliment the structure and layout.

All of this depends on the correct design and implementation of materials and equipment, and we would push for further value improvements as time and money allow.

But the point is this: that first hole sealed with good caulk or that first inch of good insulation placed in the thermal envelope will begin to pay you back immediately in comfort and savings. The savings will continue to flow throughout the life of the building and the comfort and health benefits will be enjoyed year-round.

So, the question always begs; “Should we invest in additional insulation and good air sealing now?”

If you are focused strictly on comfort, the answer is “yes.” If you are budget minded and concerned about each dollar you spend, the answer is “yes.” If you are concerned with the long-term value of your property, the answer is “yes.”

Nothing related to the home is getting less expensive whether you are talking shingles for the roof or natural gas to heat the home. The one guarantee we can all trust is that whatever it costs to install spray foam in those walls this year will be a bigger number next year and even bigger the year after.

We are barraged with things we should purchase to “save” money from the jumbo toilet paper pack to the overpriced hybrid we drive to the market.

But true savings can be realized through the types of projects we are discussing. The professional addition of dense-pack cellulose or spray foam in a wall that is insulated with old R-13 fiberglass batts or less could cut your cooling bill by a third or more — forever.

The professional retro-fit of energy efficient windows will save you money day one — and will provide such savings for decades.

These improvements will improve comfort in the home and add value to the property and neither is going to cost less next year.

Insulation plays a vital role in keeping your home temperature stable.

Mechanical systems that are more efficient in energy usage will also provide legitimate daily savings, but we do add the caution that if you are looking for return on investment, you have to look at installed cost compared to real savings over a specific time frame.

As an example, changing out your functional 85% efficiency furnace for one that is 95% efficient will certainly lower the monthly energy bill, but if the cost to upgrade translates to a seven- or 10-year payback, the money might be better used somewhere else in the home.

Should you borrow money to make such improvements? Cost of money is a very real part of the transaction. Despite the fearmongering by economists, interest rates are still historically very low.

We all know that cash sitting in a savings account is not making us any money. Many of our providers offer options on financing from “same-as-cash” deals for 12 to 18 months to low interest loans through third party financial institutions.

So, if the financial side of the transaction makes sense to you, our advice is to get it done sooner rather than later by professionals like those you will find at Insideoutsideguys.com.

You will not regret the improved comfort or the lower monthly energy bills.

For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at insideoutsideguys.com.