We took advantage of MidAmerican Energy Company's free energy audit last month to find out how we can make our home greener and save some money in the process.

The audit, which is part of the EnergyAdvantage program, took about an hour as a MidAmerican energy-efficiency specialist checked our insulation and the heating, cooling and water heating systems. Then he made several recommendations regarding how much money we could save by making the home more energy-efficient, and he outlined several rebates that MidAmerican offers to help defray the costs.

The first thing the consultant recommended was replacing our furnace and air conditioner, which are older than I am, with new, energy-efficient models. Depending upon the energy-efficiency rating of the models we choose, we could get up to $750 in rebates from MidAmerican in addition to a federal tax credit that would pay 30 percent of the costs up to $1,500. And that's not even including the money a more efficient model would save on our utility bills over time.

The second suggestion was to install more insulation in the attic, sidewalls and basement. In that case, MidAmerican will provide up to 70 percent of the cost of buying and installing the additional insulation up to $600.

The only catch is that the insulation has to be purchased within three months of the audit, plus the rebate would be paid back in discounts on our monthly bill over a period of several years. We have until the end of the calendar year to replace the furnace and air conditioner to qualify for the rebates.

We have a home warranty that covers the repair and maintenance of the heating and cooling systems, and we can renew it after our first year in the home for about $500. Considering that the cost of replacing the units, even with rebates and credits, is significantly higher than the cost of the warranty, I think we're going to continue renewing the warranty until the units either break down and have to be replaced for a small fee or we can budget enough money to get new ones.

We need to do some rewiring, which means we probably won't be adding any insulation to the attic right now so we can have easier access to any electricity running through the ceiling. And I'm not about to rip open my freshly painted walls so we can get a few bucks off our utility bill by adding insulation to the sidewalls.

But we are thinking of purchasing insulation for the basement. We want to go with 48-inch foam board insulation because it will handle any water that might seep through the block foundation walls better than the roll kind that makes you itch if you get too close to it. Considering all the mold we found when we gutted the basement, spending a little extra on mold-resistant materials will be well worth the price in the long run in case the waterproofing system we're installing ever fails, a floor drain backs up or any number of situations occur that would result in water in the basement.

Now we have to figure out how much insulation we need and how much it will cost, determine whether we can save that much in the next three months and decide if getting a maximum of $16 per month off our utility bill for the next three years is worth tying up about $200 in materials we won't use for a year when we have a long list of other projects that could be done now.

Ah, the fun decisions that come with home ownership!


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