I’m a Boston-area contractor who specializes in energy-efficient construction and remodeling. My company recently completed an energy retrofit and remodel of my own house in Medford, Mass., undertaken as part of a pilot program administered by the regional electric and gas company National Grid. To demonstrate the feasibility of reducing energy use in existing structures by 50 percent or more, the utility provided partial funding for this and several other deep-energy retrofit projects in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The house is a two-family Dutch colonial built in 1908. It has two apartments totaling about 3,200 square feet. Though previous owners had replaced the siding, its thermal performance was dismal. The wall cavities were uninsulated, as were most of the third-floor ceiling cavities. The gambrel rafters had some loose batts, and there was spotty...

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