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How can I tell if I'm overpaying for insulation installation?


spup345's Avatar
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12-08-13, 06:59 PM   #1  
How can I tell if I'm overpaying for insulation installation?

I live in NY, Zone 5, had the NYSerda free energy audit performed and then a BPI-certified installer provided me with recommendations to lower my 5820CFM50 down to around 3000CFM50. I can post the recommendations here along with details of my home assessment if that is acceptable for this forum...

The quote I received is ~$15k for sealing/insulating various parts of my 3400 sq. foot home (more if you include my finished basement) with blown-in cellulose (and another ~$6k for a new boiler going from 80% up to 90%). I do get 10% back from NY though...Again, I have all the details...

Payback they indicate is ~15yrs (I recently upgraded to this new home and hope to live in it for at LEAST 15 yrs, if not 20-30yrs).

It just "sounds" like a large number to me...I'm happy to do something like this if I can truly recoup in 15 years (they use TREAT and again must follow the NY program rules and can get audited at anytime on any project so I must "assume" it's fairly accurate...)...but again, I just don't want to overpay someone simply because they know that I must use them since there aren't many other BPI-certified installers in the area...I don't want to feel "cheated"...

Any thoughts? Should I post more details so someone here can do a quick glance and at least give me peace of mind that they are within 1-2k of what is reasonable for my type of job? It's a 4-day job they said...I need to decide within a few days since it's end-of-year. Tnx a TON!

 
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12-09-13, 02:53 AM   #2  
We need to have an idea as to what condition the house is in now and then a list of what they feel is necessary.

I'm an auditor as well, in Maine, but I do not work with these programs because they always seem to end up like yours, a huge project. Very often there are fixes within their list that will account for 80% of the improvements, but only 30% of the cost, especially if the home owner can either DIY or knows a local contractor who they trust who can do some of the work.

Having said that, an old house with no insulation in the walls and a long list of other issues can very well cost as much as the numbers you quoted. Need more information.

Bud

 
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12-09-13, 06:19 AM   #3  
Please use the below hyperlinks to download 2 pdf's of my house specs and the recommended work. I blanked out any identification information for myself and the company providing the quote, it's just the facts "ma'am". Please let me know if any issues accessing:

My House specs:
-->http://www.filedropper.com/housespecs

The proposal ($14,800...doesn't include the boiler which is separate at $6300 for a Lennox GWB9 90% Energy-star compliant boiler installed)
-->http://www.filedropper.com/proposal_1

Also I know they would do a whole house sealing process of weatherstripping all the doors & patching any random holes to the exterior (pipes through sheetrock, etc.)...I've asked for them to email me those specifics, but just assume it's fairly thorough, although nothing I couldn't do myself slowly but surely.

Sounds like I can do a lot of this stuff over time myself except blowing in the 6" extra cellulose & installing all the accu-vents & building the retaining walls, not sure what % of cost that is of the overall project though (I realistically will never do that myself).

 
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12-09-13, 07:07 AM   #4  
You answered one important question, you can do some of the work.
Sorry, I don't download anything for a one time use. Maybe one of the mods can offer a different option? Or, if necessary I can PM my email address and you can send the PDFs directly. Mods, let me know if that is unacceptable.

Some more questions.
1. Is this work being done through a program that requires your work to meet a certain level of improvement? Example, they must project at least a 25% improvement. There have been concerns in NY and other states that home owners don't always enjoy the level of projected savings.
2. If your current heating costs are not in the above PDFs, then I will need that information.
3. How old is the existing boiler and who determined the current 80% efficiency? Replacing an 80% with a 90% doesn't always make a lot of difference, especially after other improvements have been made. Plus, if improvements are significant, the size of the new boiler may need to be reduced. There is a great bunch of HVAC pro here to help determine size and savings.

I'll give the mods a chance to help on the download or other option so I can come up to speed.

Bud

 
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12-09-13, 09:44 AM   #5  
I have the two files. They are too big to post on the board.
Bud... if you PM me your email I'll send them on to you.

 
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12-09-13, 09:46 AM   #6  
1. I am awaiting word back from the contractor on this. I know there are certain criteria with regards to the % of savings and payback period, but can't recall what. Will reply once I have that and what the repercussions are if they don't achieve that. However, they do show the following info for the proposed changes which probably answers the question indirectly:
a) All changes except boiler: $14800 cost, 96.5 MBTU annual savings $1472/month savings, 32% overall savings, 10.1yrs payback period, +$169 cashflow/yr., SIR=2 (not sure what that is....I need to ask)

b) All changes incl. boiler: $21300 cost, 73.9 MBTU annual savings, $1127/month savings, 25% overall savings, 18.9yrs payback period, -$750 cashflow/yr, SIR=1.03 (I asked why my overall savings went down if I "upgrade" my boiler and I didn't fully understand the explanation, something to do with the way the software interprets the math of the cost of the boiler)


2. Do you just need the supply charges or how much CCF & KWH I have used broken down by month, etc...?
If it's just the rates, my most recent bill dated 12/6 for 1 month are:
CCF Delivery: $.43 on avg per CCF (307 CCF)
CCF Supply: $.51cents on avg per CCF (307 CCF)

KWH Delivery: ~$.06 on avg per KWH (962 KWH)
KWH Supply: ~$.086 on avg per KWH (962 KWH)


3. Boiler = 1983 around when house was built. The energy auditor sent in by NYSERDA determined the efficiency (not sure how he did it though, I wasn't with him at that time). I can get exact make/model this evening when I get home if needed.

Happy to send the pdf files over PM or whatnot...will await moderator response for a day, hopefully they let us know as the PDF files are 2mb & 5mb respectively (50kb limit for upload here...)

 
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12-09-13, 09:50 AM   #7  
Thanks moderator for the quick turnaround on this!!! And Bud, really appreciate the help here. It DOES sound like the 10% credit for these changes could very well extend beyond 2013 so I may have more time to make my decision....along with this cool on-bill finance program to minimize the impact to my pocket:
New York : Welcome to Energy Finance Solutions

 
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12-09-13, 10:18 AM   #8  
PM sent PJ,
I have a doctors appointment now so will be back this evening to digest.

Bud

 
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12-09-13, 11:55 AM   #9  
I would like to touch base on the boiler selection firs off...

What is the make and model of the boiler installed now?

What type of heat emmitters in the home?

How many feet of heat emitters? Element only is copper finned basboard...

Your home at 3400 sq fy shows a rough estimite of a heat loss of 85k btu. You should of really had a heat loss done of the home to get exact #..

What boiler do they propose to intall? Make and model?

They may not be educated in boiler install and even so called pros out there have no clue....




IMO I dont think its a good deal at all....


You may be able to save fuel by just a boiler change depending on what you have... Insulating you can do yourself to seal up drafts and such..

It may be beneficial to just have a blower door test of the home to find the main areas of concern. That should cost a few hundred bucks. Caulk and elbow grease probably...



Let us know....


Mike NJ




"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them".


- Albert Einstein




Last edited by lawrosa; 12-09-13 at 12:13 PM.
 
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12-09-13, 01:18 PM   #10  
Quick reply - Whole-house blower door test results mentioned in original post. --> "recommendations to lower my 5820CFM50 down to around 3000CFM50." --> I was in the house when he did this, I know my doors are def. leaky (i.e. need weatherstripping, they are solid wood so it's just the edges), plus the attic entrances and new garage doors would help eventually too along with plugging up all holes in exterior walls...the obvious candidates...

But yes, agreed, it just "seems" like a lot for what they are offering to do (see the pdf links I posted above). Most of it I can do over time slowly but surely except the blow-in of additional cellulose on top of my existing fiberglass in the attic and various walls...it's not like I have NO insulation. But doing the sanity check here. The boiler is 30 yrs old though...I'll be back with more info later.

 
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12-09-13, 01:28 PM   #11  
I have not opened the links... Post back with info I requested in my last post regarding boiler and heat emmiters...


Mike NJ




"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them".


- Albert Einstein



 
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12-09-13, 01:33 PM   #12  
"1. Is this work being done through a program that requires your work to meet a certain level of improvement? Example, they must project at least a 25% improvement. There have been concerns in NY and other states that home owners don't always enjoy the level of projected savings."

-->Heard back from contractor on this...they guarantee the CFM will be lowered from 5820 CFM to 3201 CFM at 50pa. They will not leave until that is achieved. Savings mentioned above calculated using the TREAT software as managed & regulated by the NYS Energy R&D. He mentioned that if the living conditions are constant, the savings will be there.

 
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12-09-13, 02:18 PM   #13  
I read that report.... I cant see how that totals almost 15K.... I dont think materials would be close to 2k......

And did I read right? 4% interest?


Mike NJ




"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them".


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12-09-13, 03:45 PM   #14  
I'm still digesting the reports, but there appears to be a lot of good DIY work here. They talk about a major bypass around the flue. That is an easy fix and probably contributing a lot to the air leakage.

You say much of the basement is finished, but is the rim joist still accessible, even where you have the fiberglass. This is another major leakage area and if accessible, an easy fix. The 2-part foam they suggest is very expensive and caulking plus fiberglass or Roxul will do very well.

The Treat software is great, if the numbers entered are correct. Your concerns about the savings going down when they include the new boiler are justified. I'm still looking for what they might be implying, but not seeing it. If the Treat is telling them that, they most likely have fed it the wrong information.

I'll keep reading, but sounds high and looks like you can catch some of the important stuff yourself.

Bud

 
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12-09-13, 07:14 PM   #15  
Thanks a ton guys. Yea, it's sounding more & more like DIY after learning the right way to do it (i.e. the rim joist is very accessible around the entire basement via drop ceiling & in unfinished areas totally exposed). Anyway, here's the boiler/heat info:
-HydroTherm - Model R-1808, Nat. gas, Input = 180k BTU, Heating capacity= 141k BTU (I have the serial # but assume you don't need that). 4 heat zones (1 basement, 2 main floor, 1 upstairs).

-All my baseboards are indeed copper fin with copper pipe running through them. I just measured the entire house, ~260' total (88' upstairs with the 4 BR's, 115' main floor, 56' basement)

-They are willing to install any boiler, the quote of $6300 was for the Lennox GWB9 (must meet Energy Star standards to qualify for the program & 10% credit)

Ultimately, if I can get most of the benefit as DIY (with the exception of the added insulation in the main attic & garage attic....although I can easily unroll fiberglass in the garage attic as it's not very large and I never plan to go in there, just dead space)...and save myself 10G's, then sounds like that's best... it certainly does sound like labor is the major cost here...(and my labor is free!).

I would still love to know if it's worth replacing the boiler now and get the cost benefit over a greater period of time since it's 30yrs old (and I plan on staying here 15-30 yrs), or wait 15 yrs until it's nearly dead and then doing it... I can start another thread to prevent hijacking this into a boiler discussion though if that's best.

Thanks for all your time & energy here, I know we all have full plates so I really do appreciate the help.

 
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12-10-13, 06:10 AM   #16  
Ok, the first thing we need to do is get their numbers straightened out. You can't be expected to make an informed decision based upon incorrect or incomplete information. Now, I may just not be seeing all you have, but in either case we need good info.

Your instincts are correct, their suggestion (or the computer's calculation) that your savings go down when the new boiler is added is incorrect (I'm being polite).

Yes, your "use" numbers will help, although they may not have used them. Some people live in an igloo while some live in a sauna, thus for estimating your savings they will often calculate a before and after energy use. You want to know what numbers they used, yours or theirs and what they were, both gas and electric. From what I'm seeing, the electric was a large portion of that annual savings, but I need to improve my confidence in their numbers.

In post #5 you listed a) and b) as $1472 and $1127 as monthly savings. I assume that was supposed to be yearly savings, typo or their data??

To convince them to rework their numbers, assume you went with option one without the boiler. Payback and savings as listed. Then, replacing the boiler must increase the savings. The payback will change but not what they show.

Your 307 CCF of gas and 962 KWH for last month are not outrageous, especially for the size of your home. They can be improved, but you want to know what improvements are saving how much.

Here are some questions to ask them:
1. Of the 96.5 MBTUs annual savings, how much is gas and how much is electric?
2. What are the initial gas and electric use numbers they used? Yours or from their model?
3. They need to correct or explain (?) their numbers when a new boiler is added.
4. They need to itemize the workscope the suggested and detail the savings each improvement will provide.
5. Is there more to the work they propose than the 2 page workscope you provided? What they listed is nowhere near $14,000.

As far as being BPI trained and certified, there are plenty of good contractors out there that simply choose to not go through the hassle of being BPI.

Bud

 
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12-10-13, 06:56 AM   #17  
They are willing to install any boiler, the quote of $6300 was for the Lennox GWB9
There are 3 models.. 50,75, or 100... I would say the 100 right?

But this is a boiler direct vent, aluminum heat exchanger, non modulating 90% boiler...

That is a good price but I would not want aluminum heat exchanger....What is the criteria for you to pick a boiler?)

I assume dirct vent? 90% and better?

You would be best off with a stainless steel heat exchanger if you went that route to change the boiler, but I really see no reason too... You dont change a boiler for fuel savings because you will never recoop the cost IMO....If anything you would want a modulating boiler....

But regardless, what wrong with the old boiler? Can you take some pics of it?

I see the HC/R here.. That is a good boiler with an IBR of 130k btu About 40k btu oversized for your home... Although oversized, as trooper would say you want to be able to pass a semi on the highway!!!! Plus its a cast iron boiler...

cast iron, boiler, hot water, hydrotherm, heating, efficient, residential, commercial, industrial, stainless steel




My suggestion would be to save the $6300 bucks and just add a new control that has thermal imaging to your current boiler....( Lowers temp of boiler and works off the t stats.) This should save you some $$$$

Here its $150 bucks...

48-3200 - Hydrolevel 48-3200 - Model 3200 Fuel Smart Hydrostat (Temperature Limit, LWCO, & Boiler Reset Control) for Gas Boilers


Last note... Like I said hydrotherms are great boilers IMO.. Especially the older ones... This is my relic.. Somewhere in the 40 yr old range... as yours is a lot newer.. The only way I will change my boiler is if it splits in half...LOL

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Mike NJ




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- Albert Einstein




Last edited by lawrosa; 12-10-13 at 07:15 AM.
 
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12-11-13, 04:12 AM   #18  
1. Of the 96.5 MBTUs annual savings, how much is gas and how much is electric?
--->I can ask but if that's not an output of TREAT, then I doubt I'll get a satisfactory answer

2. What are the initial gas and electric use numbers they used? Yours or from their model?
--->Certainly not mine since I never provided it to them...Nor did I tell them how I keep my thermostat (64 at night, 67 off-peak day hours, 70 peak day hours and/or weekend peak hours)

3. They need to correct or explain (?) their numbers when a new boiler is added.
--->Agreed...it does sound like they may not be inputting the data correctly...

4. They need to itemize the workscope the suggested and detail the savings each improvement will provide.
--->Doubt they will do this. From what it sounds like, the savings are entirely based on sealing the house to make the CFM test go from 5820 down to 3200.

5. Is there more to the work they propose than the 2 page workscope you provided? What they listed is nowhere near $14,000.
--->So this is the crux of all of the above...I don't even know if it's worth digging into 1:4 above since it sounds like it is very $$ for what they are providing (and just the sealing of all the doors/holes/outlets/sheetrock holes/etc. is all that is "incrementally" included in the $14k. If I can do 75% of the improvements myself DIY with the exception of the blown in cellulose in the 2 attic spaces (house attic & garage attic), then it sounds like I have my answer? Do you agree?


Supermod --> I will reply with the boiler-related answers hopefully tonight or tomorrow (need to read up on what some of your comments mean so I can answer intelligently & take some pics as well...)

 
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12-11-13, 06:36 AM   #19  
They go into a lot of trivial details on insulating the attic. All good points, marking electrical and such, but all part of a normal insulation job. They are puffing to make it look like a lot of work.

In most cases you can find a good insulation contractor who can blow in any needed insulation, add baffles and so on, for about the same price as you can buy the insulation. And they are in and out fast.

As for bugging them for details, it is a case of getting as much info as possible. Often these contractors don't want you to know what they have to do, if their sealing efforts reach the target goal with minimal effort, they are done and you pay the quoted price. Poor way to do business. Every step should be detailed with anticipated results.

BTW, their industry standard target is old school. They want to stop before they need to install a ventilation system. But that number has been shown to be way too high. Older homes can rarely be sealed too tight. Sealing every frame member can only be done during construction and now after a few years, the wood has shrunk and residual leakage is unavoidable, thus, they should seal everything they can, not just the easy stuff.

I'll attach a link that details where to look for sealing problems.

As for Treat providing the info you need, like electrical vs gas savings, they can remove the electrical features, like the ac, and see what the projections are. The difference would be the decreased electrical from air sealing of the ducts. Do you use a lot of ac?

As for these people promoting themselves as BPI certified, the obvious details that are missing and the mistakes made tell you how good (or not) they really are. The fact that you immediately noticed their error when including a new boiler and it apparently didn't raise a red flag for them and they mumbled some lame excuse, for shame.

Personally I'm a pain in the back side as a consumer and would push to get every detail possible. A nice list of all of the work they are proposing with incremental costs that add up to their total would be interesting. If they refuse or can't do it, they are hiding something.

Keep us informed. I can assure you there are several following this thread with interest.

http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/ste...ide_062507.pdf

Bud

 
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12-13-13, 04:00 AM   #20  
Read all this, will be back with more, just been uber-busy, hope to get to it this weekend. Tnx again.

 
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01-30-14, 08:13 PM   #21  
Starting to get back to this now....I will likely push them on those specific questions above...but the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to think I may be better served with spray foam. My 2 air handlers & lots of ducts are in the attic, so by moving up the conditioned space, I may get more of an overall benefit through improved a/c efficiency...as well as avoid the concern of having cellulose everywhere in the attic (can't imagine it's fun to go in attic to install stuff with all that there) and my concerns with the longer-term health impact it may have on my asthma-sensitive kids (borax, unknown chemicals, possibility of decay/losing R-value over time/shifting around if new ducts & air handlers are installed in attic eventually which would also be more difficult and possibly $$ to install with cellulose everywhere, etc.)...

If I get spray foam, I don't need to have every nook & hole in my attic sealed, right? Because the attic will be conditioned, so all that labor cost would be saved and hopefully somewhat balance out the increase spray foam overall cost? Don't need the attic hatch covered up, don't need the ceilling fan holes sealed, don't need the furnace flue from the basement to the attic sealed, etc. right?

Also with spray foam, after the 1-2 days it's installed, my understanding is that it's then "safe" to live/breathe in the house again (I would probably have it done when I'm on vacation for a week to be extra safe)...is that about right or conflicting/unknown reports on this?

 
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