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Today some heating experts came by my house and inspected our insulation and heating and cooling options. They estimated our current insulation has an R value of about 20 and for our high altitude coolish climate here in Bend, Oregon an R value of 50 is recommended. We had noticed that during this last winter when it snowed that our roof lost its snow cover more quickly than other nearby houses. Oregon law required us to remove our wood burning stove within a month of occupancy, which we did and replaced it with the approved and much more efficient pellet-burning stove. Our new stove uses bean size wood pellets which it automatically drops from its hopper into a cup size fire box where they are ignited and fanned with an electric blower. This system burns them completely and makes virtually no smoke and leaves about a cup of ash for every hundred pounds of wood burned. The stove is very efficient at getting heat into our house but our modest insulation was letting it out more quickly than is desirable. There has been only one problem which annoyed me about the pellet stove. It blows out its heat which soon rises to the ceiling and flows throughout the house. The source for the air coming into the stove comes from the rest of the house along the floor and because I sit along the path of the returning air I am sitting in a draft of the coldest air in the entire house.

We spent about $600 to heat the whole house for the winter, mostly spent on the pellets, but we were gone for week and the house was heated with electric baseboard heaters which was costing about $10 per day. If we had the much better insulation we might have cut our heating costs in half and been more comfortable too. Our pellet stove is probably better than what the previous owners had for the last fifty years. The house had been upgraded to double pane windows at some point and more insulation too, but we are living in a much more comfortable house than the previous tenants. All the same we plan on living here for the rest of our lives, so why not put in maximum insulation and a forced air heating heat pump system. That system keeps the air at the same temperature from floor to ceiling summer and winter without any further human input – except installation expense and a said to be lower utility bill. The insulation costs will be amortized in less than then years but the heat pump forced air system would take maybe twenty years and the question becomes, is it worth the expense?

The house is now fifty years old but it is probably a much better house and outside property now than when it was new because of the numerous upgrades. The physical structure of the building is easily good for another fifty years and probably two hundred years, so the money spent on our personal upgrades will be enjoyed by who ever owns the house during those years. Furthermore, the money and impact on the world environment will be greatly reduced by the increased efficiency of the well insulated building. At my age I may not live to recoup the costs of installation, perhaps my wife will, but we both will have our older years spent in greater comfort and ease of daily maintenance of our house. The moral question of spending the money on personal pleasure and comfort is overridden by the saving of natural power resources, which in our locality is electric power from hydro-electric dams. I hope this is more than just a facile rationalization for purchasing more than the very cheapest available hovel, which has been what I typically did.

“Buying maximum house insulation is a responsible thing to do.”