insulating a soffit: Steve Ruark for The New York Times
How many cliches can we throw at this subject? It is truly the low-hanging fruit, the cheapest negawatt. Matthew Wald of the New York Times describes how 140,000 houses will be weatherized this year, with a goal of doing a million,
to reduce energy consumption and cut energy costs for households and taxpayers, who often absorb those costs for the poor. This would represent a historic shift in emphasis for the federal and state governments, reducing poor people's energy bills instead of helping to pay them.
Weatherizing a million homes annually would also create about 78,000 jobs for a year, according to the federal Energy Department's weatherization project director, Gil Sperling.
The current 140,000 annual total creates about 8,000 jobs, Mr. Sperling said.
Although that is a tiny fraction of the five million green-collar jobs that Mr. Obama promised in the campaign, "it's a decent number of jobs per dollar spent," said Harry J. Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit group in Washington. "The work is productive, and the jobs are at a mix of skill levels."
it's much easier to sell siding or windows where you can see the improvement. Image: Tin Men
Weatherizing isn't dramatic, but it is labor intensive and pays for itself quickly. It is not nearly as impressive as, say, changing windows, but a lot more cost-effective. It can be a tough sell.
"I provide something that's invisible," [professional weatherizer] Mr. Kenny said, explaining why there was limited private-sector demand for sealing air leaks, say, compared with the appeal of new windows. But new windows, widely marketed as an energy-saving investment, are not the place to start, experts say.
"We have found weatherization to be a more cost-effective option in decreasing energy bills," said Mr. Sperling, of the Energy Department.
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