Homeowner’s Energy Workbook 1

Front of the House

Front of the house

Why can’t you do your own energy audit on your own house?  It’s your house.  Admittedly there are special tools that you need to get real performance numbers, but you can get a pretty good approximation with a few simple items that are available in most houses.  You do need some special knowledge, and that’s what I am going to try to give you, starting here.  I started working on this back in the warmer weather.  Come with me and we’ll figure this out together.

Let’s start at the beginning.  “I am sitting in my house.”  Why?  It’s a beautiful day outside.  Pleasant temperature, low humidity, nice breeze.  It’s July on Cape Cod.  Much of the country is suffering from heat waves, droughts, fires, and tornadoes.  But it’s nice here.  I have lived in this house since 1975.  I guess that’s a long time.  When I got here it didn’t have any insulation in the walls.  It had old, single paned windows.  Oil cost twenty five cents a gallon.  There are a lot of rooms.  It used to be an Inn, after all.  Something like seventeen rooms!  The best way to deal with the cold weather was to reduce the number of rooms, close off parts of the house in the winter, and hope that the old steam heating system could take some of the chill off.

Even then it was better to spend the winter inside the house than outside the house.  That’s why we build houses.  We carve out small blocks on the surface of our planet earth so that we have a space that we can control.  It’s simpler to heat and cool a smaller volume than it is to control a larger volume.  The house protects us from the wind and the rain and the snow and heat and the cold and burglars and sometimes from relatives that you don’t want to see!  It’s our own space.  It’s our castle.  And most of us take the structure for granted.

So there I was in this very big house.  I was young.  My closest experience with dealing with houses was the marginal attempts at tree houses that I constructed as I was growing up.  (I actually attempted a semi-underground house as well, although it was more of a shallow cave.)  So this house looked like a challenge.  I could rip out walls, put in electricity, change the plumbing!  How hard could it be?  But then there was this energy thing.

About that time the folks in the Middle East decided to make it harder for us to get oil and the price started going up.  So now I was not only physically uncomfortable in winter, I was getting economically uncomfortable.  I had never owned a house before so I had no idea about all the bills that come with it.  I was, as they say, naïve.  But being an inventive sort, I started thinking about ways to stay warm, and at the same time books started flying out of the publishers on the Energy Crisis, Solar Heating, Doomsday for Life as We Know It.  It was clear that the price of oil was probably never going to go back down to twenty-five cents a gallon.  Those days were gone.   Maybe I could learn about this stuff and help other people with it.  In fact, I thought, I could make a living at this!  As I say, I was naive.

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