Two years ago, I faced some major home maintenance challenges. My roof, boiler and hot water tank all needed replacing. It was not an emergency, but that’s what I wanted to avoid. The contractors I consulted urged me to first contact Mass Save for a home energy audit which was a precondition to receiving rebates for some of the work I contemplated doing.
I called and made an appointment for a Mass Save technician to come to my house and do a home energy audit. He spent at least three hours roaming around the basement, the living areas, and the unfinished attic. He used sophisticated-looking instruments to take measurements and described the work that needed to be done to increase the efficiency of the home. Some of the things were simple, like installing programmable thermostats, replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, and replacing standard power strips with “smart” power strips. The technician actually replaced the thermostats as he went through the house and left me with a large supply of LED bulbs and a couple of the hi-tech power strips. All of that was free.
The technician also recommended some more substantial work including better distribution of existing insulation. I had already doubled the original amount myself but hadn’t done a great job with its placement. If I hadn’t already added extra insulation, Mass Save would have done it. They would also properly install baffles at the edge of the attic floor to promote proper airflow on the inside of the roof; properly install bathroom ventilation fans; install spray foam insulation between the top of the foundation and the sill of the house; install rigid foam insulation on the basement door and hatches leading to the attic; and a few other things. After completing his survey, the technician said he’d go out to his car to write up a proposal and would be back in 20 minutes.
Because these were all things I knew were needed, I was receptive to receiving the proposal. Had I not already made that decision in my mind, I likely would have been skeptical or suspicious of a sales pitch.
The technician returned from the driveway with a full proposal on his iPad. It itemized the work to be done, provided a cost for it, and then indicated how much of that cost would be paid by Mass Save. The gross charge was about $5,000 but Mass Save would pay nearly 80 percent of that, so my cost would be about $1,000.
Like I said, this was all work I wanted to have done, so I gladly signed the proposal (using my finger on the iPad) and gave the technician a check for $50 as a down payment. The technician in turn emailed me the proposal from the iPad, so I had a copy of it before he departed.
A few days later someone from Mass Save called to schedule the work and on the appointed day a large box truck pulled into my driveway with three workers inside. They had the proposal in hand and did a quick survey of the areas to be addressed. Next, it was out to the truck to don Tyvek suits and masks and head back into the house with their tools and material.
They worked fast. An entire day had been budgeted but they finished in about four hours. Everything they did looked first class and they thoroughly cleaned up. Before leaving, they asked me for a check for the balance owed – I knew that was the procedure – so I gave them the check and they drove off.
A few weeks later, Mass Save called back and said they had to come back to do an assessment of the work. I expected a single technician to show up, do a quick walk through, and sign off that all the work had been completed. But this visit was a bit more extensive. Another big truck showed up. The crew hauled out various instruments including a big fan which they placed in my front door after draping the opening with an airtight plastic cover. They had me ensure that all the windows and doors were closed and then cranked up the fan. The purpose of this was to test for any air leaks that had been missed or inadequately blocked. My house passed so they packed up and left.
Although I could have purchased a new home heating system from a Mass Save designated vendor, I opted to use the local plumbing company that had kept my old boiler going for years. They recommended a high efficiency gas-fired forced hot water system that was about the size of a suitcase and hung from the cellar wall. For hot water, they recommended not a separate hot water tank that had its own heating system, but an insulated storage tank that would store water heated by the boiler and make it available whenever needed.
Both the high efficiency boiler and the hot water storage tank qualified for substantial rebates from Mass Save. With the digital copies of the plumber’s invoice and the canceled check that had paid it, I logged into the Mass Save site and submit my rebate application. In less than two weeks, the rebate check arrived.
Overall, I was very pleased with my entire experience with Mass Save.
Finally, there’s been much written recently about using heat pumps as the primary home heating system. They were also being promoted back when I was deciding what to do in my house. Although I opted for a more traditional boiler, I did learn a lot about heat pumps and will write a separate blog post on that topic in the coming days so be on the lookout for that.
Information on the Mass Save partnership with the city of Lowell is available on the Mass Save website.