I’ve been paying attention to two different things about my house for the last year or so (while I’ve gone dark). The first is that it’s unusually cold in parts of the house, the house is showing its age, and the single-pane windows always seem to be wet. The second is that it costs me an arm and a leg to keep the house warm or cool depending on the time of the year.

So, last week I had a crew out to do an insulation check. Turns out that there really wasn’t any. The walls, except where we had remodeled, were empty (and cold to the touch), and the ceiling above the bedroom area had something like an R8. Oh yeah, and none of the knee walls – those vertical walls between living space and cold space, like in the attic – had insulation. None. Just drywall and paint between.

Step one was to fix that problem because it’s the least expensive, there’s an energy rebate available from my local energy provider (PSE), it’s quick, and it has immediate benefit. Yeah, immediate. The first night after having the new insulation blown into the attic and stuffed through little holes in the outside walls was uncomfortably warm.

The next step was to remove all those single-pane, aluminum framed windows with something that is energy efficient. We noticed that the rooms where we had already done windows – the living room, kitchen, and other main-floor spaces – had a very different feel to them already. No drafts, no damp windows, no uncomfortable spots.

Side benefit – the new windows are exactly the same size as the old windows, but the egress size was more than doubled, that means that in case of an emergency where we need to get out of the house ASAP we can easily do so without squeezing out of the old opening. Oh, and if we open the windows upstairs there’s a breeze now. Ah, fresh air.

I’m looking forward to seeing a few of my energy bills this winter to see what the bottom line looks like. I suspect that this will be a long term investment (about $12k worth) that will take a few years to pay back, but the impact on my family’s comfort and the environment is well worth it.

Call me a greenie cheapskate if you want. But this is one of those cases where spending (a lot of) money is well worth it.