It was a long winter. A long winter. I think it’s pretty much over (technical labels like “spring” mean nothing up yere in the New E.): we’re in the forties now with some splashes of fifties. The glaciers have receded (mostly). So now I can look back and assess the damage.
I guess I had never really spent a whole winter in an old, drafty house. I grew up in a rotation of anonymous apartments and condos, few of which could be said to have any historical legacy beyond, say, the Roaring Seventies. When Jane and I were looking at houses, I jumped at the chance to live someplace with… y’know, character. The sort of house you could name and not feel like an asshole. We wound up in a house with a turret, built in 1886. Just oozing character.
With all that character, of course, comes challenge. They didn’t hold much truck with insulation back in the day. They believed it was normal to wipe the frost off your blanket in the morning.
So it was a long winter. Kind of like a tribute to the 19th-century heritage of the house. Much oil and many wood pellets burned. Many pairs of thermal underwear worn.
A terrific learning experience. But one I preferred not to repeat. I wanted to make sure that by the time next winter rolled around, the house would be much warmer. I started doing research. Visions of geothermal energy danced in my head. I talked with a guy from an outfit called Energy Squid. He made an appointment to come out for a free estimate and then never showed up.
Undeterred, I called a different geothermal energy company. And then I talked for about twenty minutes with a man there, who recommended— before I do anything else, be it investigating geothermal or solar or rigging a dog-sized hamster wheel in the basement for Burleigh to run on— that the house get an energy audit. Even the most efficient heating system will be wasted on a house full of leaks, y’dig?
Here’s what the windows in the basement look like:
Yes, Virginia, those are huge effing cracks, and there’s even a piece missing on the outside pane. And you can see in the header image of this post what our solution was for a missing window pane in the door of a cold closet. But there are probably also plenty of less obvious leaks in this vessel.
You need to have your house “right and tight,” as my boss would say, before your heating can do you any good. This makes sense not only for your bank account, but also for the health of the planet, particularly if you’ve been burning a lot of oil (as I have). That’s carbon emissions, baby. The EPA includes sealing and insulating your house as one of the things you can do to fight climate change.
That’s what the energy rater will help us start figuring out when he visits this afternoon.
Why am I rambling on about climate change and house repairs? See this post for the storied beginning of the Fool’s Errand.