Here in the Northeast winters can be long and cold, so how to save on heat is a significant concern. Back in May, it seemed as if all sidewalk conversations were about how to make our houses more energy efficient. And if it wasn’t energy efficiency we were talking about, it was energy generation. By now, I’ve lost track of the friends and neighbors who’ve taken advantage of installing solar panels, collecting their tax rebates, and selling power back to the grid.
Tim and I looked into the feasibility of installing some of these new technologies. Our house is extremely well insulated and faces south. The house came with oil-fired radiant heat in the floors, but we only use the furnace for domestic hot water. We burn about three hundred gallons of oil a year.
We heat with wood and—on sunny days—benefit hugely from passive solar gain. Built tight to begin with, we added insulation when we replaced the roof a few years ago, and we’ve added some insulating shades and replaced a leaky storm door.
In the twenty years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve also reduced our electric usage by twenty per cent. As the original appliances have broken, we’ve replaced them with Energy Star units. We switched to compact fluorescent bulbs years ago, and now we’re replacing them with LEDs. Most recently, we’ve learned to shut off our printers, computers and other electronic devices that draw a surprising amount of power just to glow.
Still, despite our low energy profile, we didn’t want to be left out of the green revolution. We wanted solar panels the way our oldest once wanted her bellybutton pierced. But just as we told her no, we stopped ourselves from this green impulse.
When alternative energy becomes more cost effective for us, we’ll reconsider.
For now, we’ll continue to do what has worked so well—simple measures with big returns: We don’t heat our bedroom. In the winter, our bedroom is just over fifty degrees, and even flannel sheets are cold. Our solution? We climb in bed together.
It doesn’t take long for two people burrowing under the covers to warm up. As far as I’m concerned, one of the best things about cold winters in the northeast is the imperative to snuggle up. So go ahead: save on heat, sleep with a friend.
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