For his part, John's favorite energy-saving devices to be installed in his house are the Nest thermostats—one for each story—which make programmable units look hopelessly wasteful and outdated. Using motion detectors and sophisticated algorithms, they learn the routines of John and Sally's household and constantly program and reprogram themselves based on real-time data. Of course, each one can be set manually as well, either at the thermostat itself or with a smart-phone app. "So I'll be able to dial back the temperature if we leave town for a few days and then raise it again on our way home to make sure the house is nice and toasty when we arrive," John says. Because these units eliminate the human error that's rampant with programmable thermostats, the manufacturer estimates they can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 percent.
With these improvements wrapping up, John and Sally look forward to seeing how low their energy bills will go. Consider this: During last year's record-setting warm winter, the family lived in a house of similar age that was about 30 percent smaller than this one. "Yet with everything we've done to the new place, even if we get a typical, ice-cold New England winter," John says, "I still anticipate spending less here."
Shown: Tom cuts InSoFast framing and insulation panels for the basement. They're typically adhered with construction adhesive directly to smooth concrete basement walls, then covered with wallboard.