Five Questions with Susan Varn, NH Activist
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Susan Varn, aside from being my mother and a wonderful human being, is a community member who cares deeply about her impact on the Earth, both near and far. She picks up trash on the side of the road; she reports invasive species sightings; and, when she found out her home’s carbon footprint was a problem, she fixed it. Here is her story!
1) What made you decide to have your home assessed?
A couple of years ago I heard about a regional movement called ENERGIZE 360 to help homeowners save energy and help the environment. A couple of young environmentalists paired up with a prescreened solar company and prescreened winterization company to offer communities the opportunity to get their homes assessed and take remedial action at discounted prices. I worked to get the program into my small town, Kensington and, because our home is older and we wanted to be more proactive against climate change, we took advantage of the work.
2) What was the assessment process like? How much did it cost?
ReVision Energy did our free solar assessment. They looked at our electric history and evaluated our home’s orientation, configuration, and nearby trees using a tool that predicted the impact of their shade cover. It was a fascinating process.
Yankee Thermal did our winterization assessment. We paid $100 for the assessment, but the fee was later deducted from our bill. The assessor sealed the whole house and then ran air through it to check for leaks. He was very thorough.
3) What retrofits did they recommend?
We were given two major suggestions: To add solar panels to our garage and to tighten our older home with new insulation.
Although ReVision Energy (an awesome, employee-owned company based on Brentwood, NH) determined our south-facing garage roof was ideal for solar panels, the return from the panels would offset only about 2/3 of our electric usage. In part this was due to the number of panels they could fit on the roof, and in part due to two large maple trees nearby. That was good enough for us. Installing our solar energy system cost about $13,500, including $845 for a structural upgrade to the garage roof, as required by the town’s building inspector. However, we also received a NH PUC rebate of $840, a 30%, ongoing Federal tax abatement to our property tax bill, and continue to receive small renewable energy credits. ReVision helped us document and apply for all these benefits, and also gave us a discount of $840 for taking part in the Energize 360 initiative.
WINTERIZATION Since our home is older, there were a lot of drafts coming through, especially in the attics and crawl spaces. Yankee Thermal used a combination of insulation technologies to tighten our drafty house, especially in the basement, attics, and crawl-spaces. They also changed all our lightbulb! The winterization process for our eighty-year-old house ended up costing around $5,000.
Weatherization is not as flashy as solar panels, but it is less expensive and makes a big difference. The photo on the right is the Thermax insulating material.
4) What changes have you noticed since taking these steps?
Since our solar doesn’t offset our entire electric usage, we still have electric bills – but they’ve gone way down. The combination of the solar panels and the winterization means our energy use – and our carbon footprint – has decreased. Our home stays much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter because of the insulation. It is just a more pleasant place to be. We lost a bit of storage space to the insulation, but not enough to make a difference.
5) Would you recommend this process to other homeowners in NH? Absolutely! At the very least, invite reputable vendors, like ReVision Energy and Yankee Thermal, to help you evaluate the cost-benefit of an installation on your home. Although we paid outright for the installation, there are other ways to finance solar, and we’ve learned that increasingly a good solar system can enhance the value of a home. Our solar display is easily visible from the road, and a good promotion!
To learn more about Revision Energy and Yankee Thermal, please visit their websites: https://www.revisionenergy.com/