CSI: Thermal Police Looking For Leaks

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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."

tinmen image

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.

More in New York Times

TreeHugger on Renovation and Insulation
Insulate! Insulate! Insulate!
British PM Putting Unemployed To Work Insulating Attics
Green Jobs Now! Campiagn Promotes "Home Energy Makeovers" to Stimulate Green Economy
Green-Collar Jobs or Rust-Belt Future?

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