“Conservation is just another word for a Ponzi scheme in many respects. What I mean by that, is it is not that conservation is bad, conservation is very, very good if you do it properly.” This is a quote from Maine Governor Paul LePage from the Bangor daily News last week.
The Governor, in the article, is critical of the home energy audits process required by Efficiency Maine since, as he suggests, “If they are recommending $15,000 in improvements and a person can’t make that much of an investment, it is all a waste,” he said. “That’s where the policy is not working and we are going to work on that.”
I think it is throwing out the baby with the bath water to say that a homeowner can’t afford to fix everything in a home all at once then the audit was a waste. In Maine as everywhere else, a good audit maps out short and long term solutions to save homeowners money, increase their comfort at home, and reduce our dependence on heating oil with increased efficiency. The audit should be your roadmap to a safer, more comfortable, and more energy-efficient home.
Of course, the right audit needs to be accurate and actionable. The audit needs to look at the whole house to determine the specific energy upgrades that make the most sense for your particular house. And it needs to be specific enough so that you can get the work done, but it is the work that improves your house, not the assessment. We can agree with the governor on that point.
Certified, established contractors, performing energy audits and even more important, performing the work needed to fix the problems, are what we need in every state. We ask doctors to be certified, drivers to be licensed; it is for the public good and our safety. Homes are often the most significant investment people have, and issues left unchecked affect the occupant’s health and safety, heating systems and indoor air quality issues, all part of an energy audit…and we haven’t talked about air sealing and insulation yet!
Shortcuts don’t work well, and can create their own problems. Wrapping the “state in pink” suggesting insulation for everyone is in the right spirit, but the wrong approach in most homes, unless we find and seal air-leaks first, for example. Air sealing without insulation is not only a waste of insulation, all that good “pink” will only act as a filter as all the heating dollars pass through it. The slogan for fixing homes should not be get r’ done, but do it right the first time. The right audit points the way.
Homes are complex and often times so are the solutions. Ponzi scheme? I think not. Investing in energy efficiency is no simple task and any good investor begins with informing themselves of the risks and benefits or else looses their shirt rather quickly. The right audit makes sense.