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Mass Save? More like Mass Frustrate for some homeowners

WBZ reports that Mass Save - an energy-conservation consortium funded by a surcharge on your electric bill - isn't always giving consumers the rebates they were promised on newer, energy-saving heating equipment, at least not until a reporter from a TV station calls it up.

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I worked with MassSave to insulate my house with blown in insulation. The discount was substantial. It's actually an outside contractor that does the insulation but the approval and paperwork comes from MassSave. Timing was important because after the insulation was completed, I wanted to paint my house.
After weeks of "I'll get back to you", and one time "it's somewhere here on my desk", I finally went on an agressive angry rant, refused to be put on hold, and then and only then was the paperwork found and approved. It was too late to get my house painted that season, but I finally got the insulation.

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I purchased a home that Mass Save insulated the year or two before. I'm sure the owners enjoyed their tax incentive - good for them.

I enjoy having heating bills (gas) less than $80 in the dead of winter. I can shut of my central AC in the summer and the house remains cool for hours.

Friends have since viewed the insulation in my attic and are thinking about doing the same, if anything they will enjoy a nice tax break.

I may mention to them if they choose to go with Mass Save, to be persistent.
Thanks for the heads up.

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Also the cost of the insulation was substantially discounted, by about 50%.

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I haven't been able to get the insulation because apparently few electricians will sign the form saying there's no active knob and tube wiring unless they've actually gone in the walls and looked. Did you have an issue with that?

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The $3,500 rebate to a Cambridge homeowner, paid for by more than $3,500 (including overhead) surcharges to everyone... does this pay off for everyone, well over the $3,500+?

Or is it a misguided program to take and spend taxpayer money on something that sounded good at the time?

Or is it there not enough money to pay the rebates, at least not after overhead?

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One of the fundamental flaws of programs like this is it promotes more consumption and more waste than letting the market set prices.

A for instance is I just recently bought a condo with maybe 80 bulbs in it. All of the bulbs were functioning, but most were incandescent. Due to the fact that LEDs are effectively free in the state of MA I now have a trash bag full of bulbs that I have no home for, worse a number of them contain mercury. By encouraging me to be 'green' the state spent a bunch of cash and encouraged me to dispose of products that retain a usable life. Not so green after a bit of thought. Particularly when you consider that maybe 10 of the bulbs quite similar in efficiency to LED (CFL). CFLs are stinky light, so why not get the free LED to replace? When new generations of LEDs come out so long as they remain effectively free in MA I will be first in line to upgrade, generating even more waste.

The same can certainly be said of rebates for furnaces. It encourages furnaces with lifespan left to be disposed of. Not quite as drastic as my LED example, but still resulting in waste. It is like cash for clunkers, albeit on a smaller scale.

BTW: LED bulbs are pretty much free at Ocean State.

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Sometimes to reduce one's footprint one must like, DO something. Put your bag of bulbs on craigslist for free, or leave them out in a box on the street with a free sign in it. I would take them if I saw them. I haven't paid for a light bulb in YEARS. I salvage them out of equipment we pull from job sites at work. I have an old 12-pack box at home filled with bulbs. They are not all high efficiency but they work to illuminate the basement when I'm doing laundry. Not buying bulbs lessens demand to produce new ones (producing NEW goods of almost any kind is a thousand times more devastating in terms of carbon/environmental footprint that re-using something old- there is an ongoing, raging debate about this re: cars).

Number 2, programs like Mass Save work if people take advantage of them. My home had blown in insulation put in through Mass Save. the heating bill in winter went down from like $300/month to $90. So within a couple winters it pays for itself, and less fossil fuels are used to heat the home. Some of the other things they do I am not sure about, but the insulation thing is a huge improvement. For newer construction homes and/renovations, yeah, there's probably not too much they can offer aside from rebates on better efficiency appliances/bulbs/ etc.

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There's a good chance they will get broken on the curb.

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I will be disposing of those the next time the town takes hazardous waste. Those things are bad news.

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"producing NEW goods of almost any kind is a thousand times more devastating in terms of carbon/environmental footprint that re-using something old"

This is the entire point of my post. Glad we agree. Most glaringly the replacement of CFL bulbs will see no meaningful reduction in my carbon footprint, that was a luxury buy.

I now have LEDs in bulbs that might be used 20 minutes a week, talk about wasteful consumption encouraged by Mass Saves.

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The amount of mercury in CFLs is generally far less than the amount of mercury emitted in generating the extra electricity used in incandescents.

http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2007/07/31/cfl_mercury-2/

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The difference being the mercury release is point-source and concentrated for you. (...instead of for whoever is downwind of the coal plant.)

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It may appear to you that removing those bulbs before they burned out was the more wasteful outcome, but in fact, removing them from service early certainly resulted in significantly less greenhouse gas emmisions and industrial fuel waste.

I know it doesn't seem like an overall win for you because you're holding a bag of 80 bulbs and it seems like a lot, but if we dumped on your house the accumulated emmisions from the power plant necessary to drive each set of those bulbs - all the soot, all the CO2, etc - I guarantee you would choose the much much smaller pile associated with the LEDs.

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While I do not have the hard numbers in front of me, or heck even know where to find them, a general decent rule of thumb is that using things longer is better than replacing them with brand new things. The production process on consumer goods like light bulbs is not exactly environmentally friendly.

In households that use more CFL bulbs it is even worse, I only had a handful. Should nearly all of them had been CFLs there would be zero green argument to be made. LEDs use a minuscule amount less than CFLs, that is a pure luxury buy. The program is fundamentally flawed, I pay for it so I sure will utilize it to its fullest.

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You must be using old data. Newer LEDs are roughly twice as efficient as CFLs.

Also, LED bulbs last much longer than CFLs - without even considering that CFL bulbs never seem to last anywhere near as long as claimed.

Note that LEDs don't work properly in some applications. Some garage door openers won't work if LED bulbs are installed in them. I was skeptical when I read about that online, but sure enough, when I put LEDs in my garage door opener, it stopped working. Likewise, when the incandescent bulb in my very old fridge burned out, none of the LEDs I tried would light up.

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My LEDs consume 9w, my CFLs consumed 14 watts. Both 60w equivalent.

A pittance of difference. Pure luxury spending.

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36% is a pittance to you? Cool can I get 36% of your paycheck? It's probably not much since you are terrible with numbers, hence your initial post. Eyes, STILL rollin hard....

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You are talking about a cost of 2 bucks annually for LED vs a 2.30 cost for CFL.

Yes, a pittance.

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/lightbulbguide.pdf

If you actually think that disposing of CFLs with usable life and replacing them with LEDs is green you know less about being green than a bum like me that only cares about the other kind of green ($$).

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Give them away to somebody.
Ideas:
- senior citizen housing
- low income housing
- food bank
- Craigslist, just tell someone you'll leave them somewhere

And yes, it may be just a few bucks a year to you, but it's also 36% less energy consumed. If everybody put LED's in, that's a lot less power used.

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One of the fundamental flaws of programs like this is it promotes more consumption and more waste than letting the market set prices.

Let's see. You get a bunch of free stuff that's more efficient than your old stuff, and you find a way to whine about it. Congratulations.

To ease your pain, I offer two options.
- Give the old bulbs to someone else that will use them

- Put all the old bulbs back and replace them as they burn out

Feel better now?

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I am pointing out that a program with its main goal of sustainability has a pretty major failure in its fundamental effects. I am not whining about it, I will freely utilize flawed programs that put more money in my pocket, it would be foolish not to.

I did not do much for the environment, but I probably saved myself 150 bucks a year, that is a win in my book. Despite that I oppose such a programs continuance and will oppose similar programs in the future.

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"I will be first in line to do the thing I am complaining about."

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This not a tax payer program. The utilities fund this program. There is a surcharge don each utility bill. So ithe funding is based on utility payers, not tax payers.

The company that managed the program (Conservation Services Group) was bought by a larger national company. Don't remember the name.

The people holding back your rebates might just be trying to hold onto the funds in order to increase their profits from interest that they earn on the funds. Similar to an insurance company.

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Isn't the program mandated? Mandates expense = tax.

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Electricity consumption isn't mandatory. And more consumption -- which results in a higher payment -- isn't mandatory either.

Energy efficiency programs like this actually save ratepayers money, because they help defer or all-out avoid infrastructure expenditures that we would all have to pay for.

Check the "AESC" -- Avoided Energy Supply Costs report. It's all there. ACEEE has some nice materials too.

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x

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While Masssaves does insulation work and free energy audits (during which they often provide you with green light bulbs), the report was about delayed rebates on purchased items - things like boilers, water heaters, etc. You get a great loan and you work with a contractor to purchase and install the product. Then you get a rebate. Some people are waiting on the rebate. This is not an issue for things like insulating a home.

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Beware if the insulation - they did my home and I ended up with an enormous mold problem and after consulting with a mold person (no tie to any type of insulation) - he said that the blown in insulation recommended through MassSave and done by an independent contractor was totally incorrect given the situation in our house (insufficient venting, narrow bays in the attic, converted third floor space, etc.).

We ended up having to rip out what they did and put in spray foam so while we only had to spend $800 for the insulation they did, we then had to spend $3K remediating the issues we had and then another I don't remember what to redo the insulation. The mold guy told me that he encounters plenty of people who ended up with mold problems resulting from the insulation from MassSave. Ugh. It was a huge headache.

That being said - I enjoyed their fridge pick up and $50 rebate offer - that came through really quickly.

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