Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Lower your utility bills and earn cash back

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Greg Peck
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make no mistake, our utility bills are higher than my wife and I would like. I noticed our front door was rather drafty and meant to improve the weather stripping this fall. But we went on a two-week vacation to New England in October, and by the time we got back, it seemed winter had already set in. I don't recall having time on a nice, warm day when new weather stripping might have stuck. So that task didn't get done. As I write this, we have a throw blanket up against the inside of that door to reduce the draft of subzero air seeping into our living room.

Despite that, our home is much more energy-efficient than it had been. As I wrote in a blog in August 2009, we spent almost $3,000 on home improvements that year. However, those costs were offset a tad by a rebate check from Focus on Energy for $525.

That, I think, was a reasonable return on our investment, and I'm confident we're quickly paying off the rest of those costs in lower utility bills.

Just what did we do? First, we hired a contractor who used an infrared gadget to analyze our home and the leaks in it. That analysis helped us qualify for the energy rebates.

We hired a second contractor to pump more insulation into our attic and use foam sealant around floor joists and pipes in the basement. He also replaced a leaky basement bathroom window with a glass block window and installed a fan in that bathroom. The low-flow fan helps with air exchange so our home doesn't build up too much moisture. That fan qualified for a small part of our energy rebate.

The contractor sealed three doors to our rarely used attic, and I also negotiated with him to weather strip our exterior doors at no extra charge to his initial estimate.

We must have had contractors in and out at least a dozen days as they did various parts of the job, the analyst checked their work and the insulators returned to do touch-up tasks. It got to be a headache, but in reflection, those interruptions and disruptions were temporary and a small price to pay for work that keeps giving us lower energy bills today.

Focus on Energy is the Wisconsin utilities' program designed to help make homes and businesses more energy efficient. Wednesday's Gazette editorial provides more insight into Focus on Energy. If you're struggling to pay your power bills this winter, you might want to consider checking into this program's services. My wife and I are glad we did.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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