Retrofitting home means energy saved
COTTEKILL – If anyone would be expected to live in an energy-conserving home it’s Manna Jo Greene.
Greene, after all, built what’s called the Sustainable Living Resource Center, a hexagonal meeting place for seminars and discussions on the topic, in her back yard. She’s also the environmental action director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc. in Beacon.
Discussions nowadays on energy conservation also occur in her four-bedroom, 1940s-circa home that underwent a New York State Energy Research Development Authority deep energy retrofit in 2012-13. That dropped her utility costs by more than 50 percent.
“I had an energy audit when I built the center 15 years ago,” Greene said. “A couple of years went by and I had another audit. Like a lot of people, I was busy: full-time job, I had just gotten on the (Rosendale) Town Board. I had good intentions.”
Her intentions gave way to action following another winter’s utility bills. “I said ‘This is ridiculous. You have to walk the walk. You’re living in a leaking sieve,” said Greene, an Ulster County legislator.
For her project, the retrofit meant energy-conserving windows, doors, and insulation from the basement to the roof. Aluminum siding was replaced with boards made from cement and recycled wood fibers.
Greene pointed on Monday to multi-pane bay windows that draw in more light and release less heat. Cloths were on the sills for her cats, Marvin and Ruckles, who like napping in the sunlight.
“They think all of this was for them,” Greene jokes.
She leads the way down narrow basement stairs to show a heat recovery ventilation system, and an electric hot water heat pump using the heat of the room as well as a power source.
“My electric bills haven’t gone up as much as my propane bills went down,” she said.
Ventilation compensates for 4 inches of insulation in the walls and 8 inches at the roof donated by the Dow Chemical Co., a sponsor of the deep energy retrofit projects, said Lloyd Hamilton. His company, Verdae LLC in Rhinebeck, did the Greene house and two others. Vents draw air from the bathroom and kitchen, while others direct outside air around the house after warming by a heat exchanger.
“I like to think of it as a set of lungs,” Hamilton said. NYSERDA spokesman Alan Wechsler said 29 houses in the state received similar treatments.
“They were all older homes that were brought to a modern level of efficiency,” he said.
NYSERDA’s investment – about $50,000 for the Greene job – is expected to pay off by spawning similar efforts.
“We’re teaching the developers to do these things, and they’re passing it on to their employees and colleagues,” Wechsler said. “The more they do, the more efficient it will become.”
Greene said her costs were about $16,000, being paid as a surcharge on her Central Hudson bill.
“I’m still saving money,” she said. “My oil burner uses half the oil it used to because the heat in the building stays in the building.”