Stopping climate change starts at home
Our homes can produce more energy than they use
AS OUR NATION RECOVERS from the damage of three devastating hurricanes and ravaging wildfires it is clear to most Americans that this increasingly severe weather is caused by a warming atmosphere. While we are lucky to live in Massachusetts, a member of the US Climate Alliance, and one of the 14 states on track to meet and potentially exceed their portion of the US commitment under the Paris climate agreement, we can’t rely solely on our cities and towns, states or the federal government to solve the issue of climate change. It’s up to us, the American people, to take charge of the fate of our planet – and the time to act is now.
Our homes can be a dynamic and restorative force in society and a powerful tool to address the climate crisis. If every home in the United States were renovated to be energy-producing, we would meet most of our Paris carbon reduction commitment. A positive energy home does just that – it produces more energy than it uses.
I created Massachusetts’ first positive energy renovated home several years ago in Gloucester. Behind the simple exterior is a super-insulated home that has no carbon footprint, no net energy bills, and is good for the planet. It is also a change agent in our neighborhood, inspiring twelve other neighbors to install solar on their homes.
While some carbon reduction strategies, such as dietary changes or reduced air travel, may be seen as restricting personal choice, our positive energy home actually enhances our lifestyle and our community. In addition to zero carbon and zero energy bills, this energy-producing home provides significant benefits that redefine what a house can do.
- Improved comfort: Due to increased insulation, we feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
- Improved health: With reduced air leaks and a ventilation system, the relative humidity stays in a healthy range where viruses and allergens don’t thrivs — so less missed work and trips to the doctor.
- Increased property value: With no net energy bills, solar power on the roof, and greater resilience to power outages and storms, our increased property value is estimated at over $40,000.
- Benefits our community: We recently donated $1,000 of ‘banked’ solar electricity on our electric bill to two Gloucester families struggling to pay their own electric bills.
There are numerous resources, programs, and tax credits available to Massachusetts’ residents who want to take control of their home’s carbon footprint and make a positive impact. Tens of thousands of dollars in free services, rebates, and incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy are available through MassSave, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
To manage upfront costs there is a 0 percent HEAT loan product available through MassSave for up to $50,000 for deep carbon reductions. Even using standard loan products, bundling solar with energy renovations can often result in positive monthly cash flow.
The 30 percent federal tax credit and $1,000 state tax credit help significantly to offset the cost of installing solar. The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association is a great resource to help you find a designer for your home energy renovation project.
Below are the costs for the home energy renovation of our 2,400-square foot house. They factor in all rebates and tax credits but do not include my time. The cost of solar continues to decrease so the expense would be less today.
Project Cost Breakout (approximate):
Lumber and materials: $9,000
Closed-cell foam insulation: $7,000
High performance windows/doors: $19,000
Solar hot water system: $11,500
Solar PV system: $9,000
Other materials/labor: $4,000
John Livermore is founder & CEO of the non-profit Healthy Home Healthy Planet, and creator of Massachusetts’ first positive energy renovated home. See the award-winning documentary video at www.HealthyHomeHealthyPlanet.org.