Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Castles and Carbon Emissions

Twenty years ago we bought a huge stone home for a song - it was in terrible condition, in a neighborhood thought a little on the edge by some. It cost 1/3 of what our New York coop sold for, and was at least three times the size, so by downsizing our living expenses, we expanded our space hugely and also hugely enjoyed our 1 to 9 conversion. Of course now the joke is on us, since we have to heat the place.

We never enjoyed paying our heating bills, but when they crept into the four figures for a typical cold winter month, it seemed crazy. Around that time I learned about carbon emissions and climate change, so we set out on a campaign to increase our energy efficiency, simultaneously lowering our bills as well as our emissions. (As it happens, the bills aren't all that much lower, because the cost of energy has continually increased, but the bills would be astronomically higher if we hadn't made these efforts.)

Over the past four years we have
- replaced an ancient boiler with a modern, efficient boiler. ($10,000.)
- insulated several rooms. It turns out you can blow insulation into stone walls! ($1700.)
- purchased room heaters for all the rooms we normally use ($200.)
- added a gas fireplace insert ($1000.)
- lowered the thermostat to 63. No charge for this!
- winterized our exterior doors ($300.)
- purchased a heated mattress pad ($70.) This is the best invention ever!
- purchased a lot of long underwear, microfiber socks, and vests.

I just compared our heating bill to one from 5 years ago, and we are using about half the natural gas we used then, which means we have cut our carbon emissions in half. I don't know if we'll ever make back these investments, but I consider these investments in global warming crisis management, so I don't really care.

The bigger your house, the greater your consumption, by definition. I feel guilty about that, but the perverse irony is that the greater your consumption, the larger your impact when you decrease it! Taxing carbon emissions will help spur this along, but until then, it's nice to have the means to make these changes on our own.

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