Buttoning up for winter


The conventional wisdom is that you have to spend money to save money. Homeowners find that true when fixing up a house. For example, although adding insulation will save in heating costs over the long haul, it requires an up-front investment.

But even if you’re committed to forking over some cash to make your humble abode more energy efficient, you might not know the best way to spend that money. Is insulating a good idea? Where should you put your limited resources?

St. Anthony Park residents who want to spruce up the old domicile have a rare opportunity to get some free advice from experts and receive products and services as well. On Dec. 3, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., a workshop by the Neighborhood Energy Squad will be offered at the St. Anthony Park Library. For a $30 co-pay, participants will be eligible for up to $400 worth of energy-saving goods and services, and can also receive a year of personalized home energy reporting.

The Neighborhood Energy Squad represents a partnership among the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC), the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT), the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), the Green Institute, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Xcel Energy and the St. Anthony Park Community Council. Funding is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the St. Anthony Park Foundation.

To register for the Dec. 3 workshop, contact the St. Anthony Park Community Council at

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or 649-5992. Activities for children will be provided.

This workshop was also held on Oct. 19. At that session, Erica Schumacher signed up for a Nov. 11 Energy Squad visit. Three Energy Squad members – Chris Vanecek, John Parkes and Daniel Butenhoff – spent a couple of hours at Schumacher’s Dudley Avenue house. They installed weather stripping, aerators on her kitchen and bathroom faucets, a low-flow showerhead, a blanket on the water heater and several compact fluorescent bulbs. They also ran a blower-door test to check her house for air leaks.

Schumacher learned that her attic insulation is adequate. She had cellulose blown in after she bought the house.

However, when evaluting her energy use history, the Home Energy Squad determined that her natural gas consumption was high compared to houses of similar size and age.

“That could be in part because I have an older, 80 percent efficiency furnace,” Schumacher said. “But they also found a leak in my fireplace. The damper isn’t sealing properly in one corner. So I’ve been losing some heat that way.”

The fireplace leak was revealed when John Parkes ran a blower-door test, which consists of creating an air-tight seal on an outside door and running a fan that pulls air through the house.

An inspection of Schumacher’s attic revealed that a bathroom fan had been improperly vented, resulting in the release of warm, moist air into the attic.

“That’s one thing I’ll probably have fixed pretty soon,” she said.

Another thing the Home Energy Squad will install in houses that lack one is a programmable thermostat. Schumacher already had one of those.

Schumacher described her experience with the Neighborhood Energy Service as “a great experience. I care about energy conservation and consider myself pretty observant, but it was good to have my house looked at by people who are experts in that area.”

She also appreciated the personal touch.

“I could go online and get some general information about making things more energy efficient,” she said, “but this way I got a customized diagnosis of my house.”