The Energy Overseer
Guilty Environmentalist's Home Inefficiency Audit
Lovins would shudder with disgust.
shuddering, too-more from the cold than anything else. Although there is the guilt.
Not just the guilt of living in an energy-inefficient home. This is something
Cavanagh would treat me as a leper and never return my phone calls if he knew
the truth. I'm living in an energy-dysfunctional house and it's all my own fault.
since that disastrous fire during the early hours of a late-November day, this
house has been a tragedy. From an efficiency standpoint, it's been a travesty
after the thermal shell was pierced by a firefighter's axe.
used to worry about warm air leaking through the fireplace flue. Now I listen
to plastic tarps wildly flapping in the rain and wonder: what kind of R-factor
does half-inch plywood over an open hole rate? We've got nine of them in three
used to fantasize about living in a self-sustainable efficiency showcase home.
Now I'm dreaming of windows for Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.
I could use some weather stripping. This duct tape doesn't seem to do the job
very well. Neither do these electric space heaters. The big ones the contractor
brought in to dry the water-damaged wood floors were pretty powerful, but I got
paranoid about using them when they started melting the heavy-duty extension cords
we bought at ACE Hardware. These other heaters just lie along the floors like
plug-in frogs, creaking, croaking, and smelling, eating electrons and belching.
an environmentalist, I hate to admit this: global warming is starting to sound
appealing. The most effective heating device in the house is the oven. At least
I can throw potatoes in to assuage my guilt. Would you like a baked potato? They
make great foot warmers.
a while the house seemed decorated by a joint venture of Count Dracula and Cristo.
The burnt-out former offices were a uniform shade of charcoal; everything in the
kitchen was covered with smoke, canvas and plastic. Now the kitchen is soot-free
and repainted and the front rooms are sprayed with sealer and primer to lock in
the smell. It looks and feels like a fantasy ice palace.
sanity's sake and aesthetic reasons, we try to segregate a few heated rooms from
the gaping black hole. Interior doors were either removed or warped by fire. Nothing
stays closed tightly or for long, as the dog insists on open access to conduct
her constant security rounds.
barking at every sound-unfiltered by windowpanes or drywall-only calls neighborhood
attention to our pitiful ecology.
front of the house looks like an EPA Superfund site. When I found out
the asbestos shingling installed decades ago will require a special permit to
remove, I cringed at the added assault to the environment wrought by this
huge debris box, overflowing and soaked by rain, was insult enough. It soon became
a collection point for other local rubbish, used tires, spent paint cans, plastic
jugs of car oil. My secret is that there's still more toxic waste inside the house,
waiting for a second box.
carry the stigma of ecological disaster.
black soot of guilt returns to my hands with everything I touch. Out, out,
damned smudge, I curse while scrubbing with Simple Green cleanser. Then I can
find nothing less than filthy to wipe my hands with, and the cycle begins anew.
are wasting energy in ways that PG&E never imagined. Perhaps
there's a book idea lurking under this mess. 50 Simple Things You Can
Do to Ruin the Earth. Number One, let your house catch on fire; the
are no boards covering the bedroom windows. Nor is there glass, just
brown paper and opaque tarp that breathes like a plastic lung, inhaling cold,
exhaling warm air into the night. The clothes washer/dryer runs baseload.
Some articles require multiple cycles, hot water, and super detergent to remove
the soot. Simple Green is not enough.
then there's the utility bill. PG&E came today. I was hoping the meter
reader wouldn't be able to get through the barricaded garage door and we'd get
a month's reprieve.
such luck. $99.59-ouch! Natural gas consumption wasn't so bad. Of course, the
main was shut for days. But we ate 636 kilowatt-hours of electricity-most of them
at the highest billed rate.
can that be? Most of the appliances got melted; many of the circuits are fried.
The only working light in the kitchen is a compact fluorescent. There's got to
be something wrong with my meter.
utility's computer noticed the big increase in consumption. A note on the
bill suggests we might qualify for industrial rates.
the truth. I'm being punished for my sins.
didn't exactly say that on the telephone today, but she hinted. Just what I need,
a mother's guilt trip added to my environmental impact remorse (EIR).
insurance company may not be able to pin down the cause of the fire, but I know
why it happened. It wasn't the old, dry floorboards, as the insurance inspector
was it the cat knocking papers onto the heater grate, as the fire captain suggested.It
was my own fault, and I must confess to the world.
did it. I left the thermostat on above 55 degrees when I went to bed. Amory,
Ralph, can you forgive me?
2009 Energy Overseer Copyright 1993 Energy NewsData