Mass Save Plus
by Paul Eldrenkamp
Despite some of my misgivings about Mass Save, we’re figuring out how to use the program to our clients’ advantage.
A large part of our strategy has to do with Jason Taylor of Co-Op Power, our first-choice Mass Save vendor. Jason is the single most fanatic chaser of air leaks that we have ever met. There is no crawlspace or attic that he’s afraid to enter in the hunt for carbon reductions. In fact, the more disgusting the space, the happier he is to dive in. It’s an inspiration to work with him; we feel like he’s a secret weapon in our crusade to improve the efficiency of our clients’ homes.
Here are a couple of examples of how we can team up with Jason and Co-Op Power to help our clients take full advantage of their potential Mass Save rebates.
It’s not unusual for us to find an attic that has really poorly installed fiberglass batt insulation in the floor. Not only is the fiberglass doing a poor job of insulating, it’s getting in the way of additional efficiency improvements and, even worse, increasing the risk of winter-time ice damming and roof leaks. Unfortunately there’s no way to fix this situation without taking out the fiberglass. But Mass Save, for the most part, will not provide any incentives to do so. Their position is that the attic is already insulated, so there’s nothing they can do.
What we do is provide the homeowner a budget to remove and safely dispose of the fiberglass. Once it’s gone, Jason and his team can come in under the auspices of Mass Save, air-seal the attic floor and install 12” of cellulose. 12” is the maximum amount the program will subsidize, but Jason also provides a price for upgrading to 18” of cellulose. That additional 6” of insulation is typically very inexpensive yet it takes the R-value from 40 to 60, which is what is recommended for our climate by the nationally-renowned building science consulting firm Building Science Corporation.
In this way we combine market-rate work (the fiberglass removal and the additional 6” of cellulose) with Mass Save-subsidized work (the air-sealing and the first 12” of cellulose), and the homeowner gets a state-of-the-art attic insulation improvement for a subsidized rate.
I realize it may seem like a waste to pull out insulation only to put in insulation, but trust me—it’s often necessary. This past winter we had several clients who’d had chronic ice dams with their old fiberglass batts, but no ice dams at all with their freshly air-sealed and cellulose-insulated attics.
Another example is an old Victorian with a finished attic. There’s often no easy way to gain access to the eave areas behind the kneewalls (the short vertical walls around the perimeter) to be able to air-seal and insulate that space. Many of the worst ice dams we saw this past winter were a direct result of poorly insulated attic eave areas behind kneewalls.
The Mass Save program has no answer for this problem either. Our answer is obvious and straightforward: We install access panels, so Jason and his crew can get into those eave areas and do the work that needs to be done. Once again, through a combination of market-rate work and utility-subsidized work, we can make significant efficiency and durability improvements in our clients’ homes and help them maximize their Mass Save benefits.