despite the heavy rain (that lasted all day), i had my next step living energy assessment this morning at 11:30. i made the appointment when i chatted with somebody at one of their outdoor kiosks at the somerstreets festival last sunday. originally i wanted to get some solar power info for my parents, but i ended up scheduling an assessment because it was free.

a young man (john) showed up with a tool bag stuffed with gadgets. i thought it'd take an half hour at the most, take a quick look at my house, give me some suggestions on how i can save more energy. but i read online that appointments normally take 3-4 hours, and thought that must've been a mistake, or maybe for a mansion, definitely not for a 778 square feet condo.

turns out this was going to be a thorough energy assessment, with a lot of measurements and readings and even drilling a few holes in the walls to see what type of wall insulation currently exists. john measured the pressure inside the basement at normal state and when i have the dryer turned on. he measured the exhaust for the gas hot water heater and the furnace (i had to start it back up after shutting it down for the season back in april). my basement was fine except my furnace seems to be producing a lot of carbon monoxide, which normally gets vented out via the exhaust, but should the exhaust ever fail, it could produce a dangerous situation during wintertime heating.

while in the basement, john saw my wheel truing stand and was impressed. i asked if he bikes and he told me that last summer he went on a 2-month cross-country tour from boston to san francisco, stopping at various places like niagara fall, cincinnati, st.louis, and the grand canyon. after that i didn't even care about the energy assessment, i just wanted to hear his biking stories (he even had a blog while on the road). he traveled with 2 other girls that he met online through meetup.

the only thing left to do upstairs inside my house was drills a few holes to see what's inside the walls. one hole was behind a wall outlet (which was simply covered up by the plate after getting patched up), the other hole was in an inconspicuous corner of the guest bedroom closet.

when that was done, john came back inside with a large plastic bin full of various replacement CFL lightbulbs. now i heard about the lightbulb program, but i figured they'd just give me a few free samples. but actually, the assessment includes replacement of all my incandescent lights to CFL bulbs for free. how could this be? where's the catch? the program is actually funded through nstar/national grid. apparently every time anyone pays their utility bills, a small percentage of that amount goes into a reserve to fund these energy saving programs. i never even knew this existed!

so john went around the house installing new light bulbs, starting with a row of recessed lights in the kitchen. the CFL flood lights didn't sit flush with the ceiling and although they were dimmable, it took a bit of time for them to reach their maximum brightness. i decided to pass on the CFL recessed lights. as part of the program, i was also given one LED bulb, which i installed in the drop light above the dining table. that bulb turned on instantly, but was a little flaky with the dimming.

john also installed a new water-saving showerhead. the one that i had before was a heavy all-metal-chrome speakman S-2292 showerhead (sells for over $20 online). the new one i got - niagara earth showerhead (around $10 but i got it for free) - is much bigger in size but actually lighter because it's chrome-coated plastic. the speakman used 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm) while the new niagara only uses 1.75 gpm but with a higher pressure. it's actually pretty nice but i don't know how reliable it is since it's mostly plastic; i'm saving the speakman for when the niagara breaks. i soaked the old showerhead in a jar of vinegar to remove all the hard water deposit.

when he was finally all done, john got his laptop from his car to enter in all my data and print out a report for me. we went over the paperwork. based on what he saw, he gave me an estimate of about $2600 to insulate my house: fiberglass batting around the basement rim joints and pumping cellulose insulation into the walls. but get this: through the program, i get an instant $2000 credit, so i actually end up just paying $600 for the insulation work. i've always thought pumping new insulation into the walls would cost upwards of $10k, i didn't realize how cheap it was. surprisingly, even with insulation, i'm only looking to saving an extra 13% on my heating bills (i thought it'd be a lot more). however, there's one condition: i have to get my furnace cleaned out first, to take care of the carbon monoxide issue. once that's done, i can call next step living to schedule an appointment. however, it's not too bad, because there's another credit i'm eligible for, a $250 credit good for CO repairs. basically there's no good reason not to get this work done (furnace maintenance, insulation addition) and i look forward to the coming winter and having the house nice and toasty with less money.

john finally left around 3:00. he had another appointment at 4:00 in everett but they cancelled last minute, so he was done for the day. i called my mother who called me earlier to ask if she could bring my grandmother for another bath, and also bring over some homemade zongzi for me to eat. so they came over with my 2nd aunt as well, and while my grandmother used the bathroom, i ate my zongzi. they left around 5:00 when they saw my aunt had arrived at the cafe.

i tried my blueberry kombucha today. it definitely has a distinctive flavor, but not sure if it's blueberry. not sure if i'd repeat this recipe, not that it's bad, but just because it's not very memorable.

for dinner i heated up the other half of my steak & cheese sub. i only managed to toast the bread, the steak on the inside was still cold. i watched game 4 of the penguins-bruins game. i feel like the more i watch hockey, the more i'm getting drawn into the excitement. it helps to have a home team that seems to be on fire right now going into the finals. boston ended up winning 1-0, heading into the stanley cup match. might there be a bruins parade in boston in the near future? tuukka!