We recently had our forced air furnace, (the old one was 44 years old), replaced, and are in the process of having the water heater replaced. It was all part of a low interest, energy-efficiency loan we got. The water heater was a long story. The short version is, I was expecting a very high efficiency water heater, and the contractor brought me one that was not even energy star, as stated in the contract. I blew up, and in the process ordered a 90% efficient AO Smith that they're installing tomorrow. (God, I hope it fits in the utility closet. It's going to be a tight squeeze).
The one they put in is estimated to cost $309 to operate, and the one I purchased for $1660 is estimated to cost $102 to operate. Theoretically, it will pay for itself within ten years.
Here's the thing though. I was looking at my "year-to-date" utility costs, and my electricity was just over $180 so far this year, and gas was just around $350 for the year, even with our ancient furnace and older energy star water heater. We've just barely cracked $500 for the year on our utilities.
How much of an improvement are we going to see with this 95% efficient furnace and 90% efficient water heater? I'm also dutifully replacing our compact fluorescents with the new LED lightbulbs.
From a frugality standpoint, I feel like I'm hitting the point of diminishing returns. Is this roughly $9000 in borrowed money to insulate our floors in the crawl space, replace our water heater and furnace, and insulate the heating ducts really going to positively impact our finances? (I am hoping to pay the loan in two years rather than fifteen).
From an environmental standpoint, I still feel better about it. But sometimes I just have to wonder if I'm doing the right overall thing, or just making myself feel better without really changing my impact on the planet. Are my kids getting the right lesson from all this?
I hope so.