One of the things I want to do with my blog is help the average person (if there is such a thing) know how to be more eco-friendly and energy efficient. Not everyone wants to go out of their way, but there are still small things we can do. There are also bigger things we can do, especially if we own a home. I do not – I’m a renter with no control over the fact that my windows don’t always shut properly. My parents do own a home. They have recently decided to make some changes and I think they are worth sharing.
The first thing they did was put solar panels on their roof. It was something they had thought about because of the established technology that gives clean, efficient energy. However, they had found out that it cost $40,000 to put them on. A friend of theirs got some help and put them on for half that, but it was still too much. Then Vivint Solar came to their door with a proposal which they accepted. Two of their friends who lived in the area (including an engineer who looked at the schematics) had already had the solar panel installed. The basis for the deal is that Vivint Solar is ‘renting the roof’, and so there is no upfront cost. My parents get a percentage of the electricity generate by the solar panels and the rest Vivint Solar sells to NStar (or whatever energy company who is the energy provider). Their bill to Vivint Solar fluctuates based on the amount generated and the amount used but has been about $60-80. Their electric bill used to be about $200/month. This summer they have been paying nothing or a few dollars to NStar. They expect to pay more in the winter, but it should still be about half of what they were paying before. It seems like a good deal economically as well as environmentally.
Their next step is changing their heating and cooling system so that they are much less dependent on oil. This proposal came from Next Step Living. My parents knew nothing about this, but are interested in helping the environment and this proposal also came with no upfront costs. Two of their friends also have this technology in their homes. It is a Total Climate Control system made by Fujitsu that works with condensers outside of the house. Each room gets a heating and cooling unit or a vent in the ceiling from a unit in the attic, each of which has an individual thermostat. The oil system stays in place because the system doesn’t work when the temperature gets too cold (as in -5 degrees Fahrenheit). Before it is installed an energy audit is required. My parents had Next Step Living do it. They were given a list of suggestions and free energy efficient lightbulbs. They are only paying $500 of the cost of implementing the suggestions. In terms of the money, Next Step Living works with Commerce Bank, NStar and MassSave, and my parents are securing a zero interest loan of about $23,000. It will take them about 7 years to repay after which they will own the system and not have to pay. It means that instead of paying $340/month for oil, they will pay whatever small amount they use when it gets really cold in the winter and $274/month to repay the loan for those 7 years.