Energy Changes

Almost three weeks ago, my family moved to a new home. As much as I love it here, I’m finding that I’m missing our old home’s energy systems, which were fairly sustainable from a climate crisis perspective. Over the course of our decade-long occupancy, we had gradually replaced all the existing appliances with new EnergyStar models, and all the lighting with CF sources. We phased out our furnace and learned how to heat entirely with wood, a renewable local resource we burned in a catalytic stove. Our hot water came from electricity, which in Vermont comes largely from our one nuke plant and from Hydro-Quebec. (I know both of those sources have some serious environmental problems associated with them, problems for which I’ve actually been arrested protesting, but from a carbon POV, they’re alright.).

Now we do it all with oil. And because the new place has no basement, the furnace sits in a utility room directly behind my home office. Whenever anyone runs the hot water longer than 15 seconds or so, I hear it kick it in and burn, burn, burn. The carbon counter in my head starts spinning. It’s driving me completely nuts, and the heat’s not even on yet. Combine that with old appliances, too much track lighting, and a wood stove so ancient it looks like Ben Franklin himself built it, and I’ve suddenly got an energy problem.

So, inspired by Dan’s tales of his own home energy adventures, I’ve made rearranging my new home’s systems a top priority. Because the climate crisis solution really starts at home. I think the only way we’re going to solve it is if each of us take care of our own corner of the cosmos. It’s each of us working on our own homes and communities that’s going to effect the change we need. Governments can help, but ultimately I’ve got to fix my house, you’ve got to fix yours, and then we’ve both got to get together in town to fix the school, the town hall, public transportation, etc. If everyone does that everywhere, we’ll get where we need to go.

So I’m starting at home. First up is an on-demand hot water system. I’m just starting to explore that territory. (If anyone has any recommendations or tips, I’m all ears.) A new EnergyStar dishwasher to replace the one that’s in pieces will further increase our hot water efficiency. We moved our nearly new EnergyStar fridge to the new place so our savings there can continue. We’ll check out new wood stoves, though ultimately we’ll need to take down some walls and move the stove pipe to better distribute that heat. And obviously, there’s a big pile of CF bulbs now making its way to all the new fixtures, though I still have to hunt down an alternative for those track lights in the living room. With four zones to control the oil heat and the institution of some other steps like insulated curtains, increased attic insulation, line-drying clothes, etc,. to compensate for our new home’s somewhat larger square footage, I think we should be able to get our carbon footprint back to about it’s previous small size, but it’s going to take some significant investment and about a year’s worth of time. I’ll have to triage it and plot out the financing a bit, but I think reducing the oil usage is the place to start. Here’s hoping winter’s not too cold, my bank account doesn’t get too empty, and the world doesn’t get too hot before we can finish.