Small Steps Toward Energy Efficiency (and Away From Moving Anxiety)

| 6/6/2010 5:09:56 PM

This is my internal refrain: “I don’t know how to do this.”

This is my beloved friend Eric’s response, “Yet. You do not know how to do this yet. You are the alpha and the omega.”

What he means is there is no right or wrong way to do this move. Yet, for me, there has been. I’ve been hesitant to do anything that might reveal I am an amateur or in any way mar my 84-year-old house. Paint a wall? Better leave that to the experts. Hang a painting on plaster and lathe walls? Seriously? I just learned what plaster and lathe are — how am I possibly equipped to drill into the wall? What are all those different drill bits for? And why is every color in my house some variation of red or brown?SimpleStepsPic

For some strange reason, I feel like I should know how to drill, hammer and select perfect colors — and I feel mighty ashamed that I don’t. Fortunately, I have Eric in my life to cut that refrain and remind me that learning is incremental, and I am progressing just fine. There is, however, a reason for my anxiety. Moving is one of the top 10 stressors in our lives, ranking third after death and divorce.

Yesterday, Eric accompanied me (i.e. made me go) get supplies. I try to frequent locally owned, independent businesses because buying local is a key part of being a responsible consumer. It keeps money in our local economies and supports our friends and neighbors. The prices are sometimes (not always) a little higher because a small business doesn’t have the aggregate purchasing power of a big box store that’s buying items for hundreds or thousands of retail outlets, but that small investment goes well beyond the few extra cents we might pay for a bolt or screw.

This particular excursion was to the big box store. We entered the store somewhere in the lumber section. I felt overwhelmed by the dizzying number of planks, fixtures and unfamiliar gadgets and desperately wanted to leave. But, of course, Eric was doing all of this incredible work to help me so I had to pretend I was into it. He looked for fasteners for the plaster and lathe and some of the energy efficiency products on my “to buy” list while I veered off and tried to do the same. Somewhere during hour two of our big box field trip, I started to settle in and — dare I say — get excited about what I was doing. I picked up items I knew I would eventually need (ahem, rake) and almost kind of started to believe I could pull this whole homeowner thing off.

Simran Sethi_1
7/6/2010 1:03:04 PM

Thanks for your feedback. Insulating pipes is a terrific (albeit more labor-intensive) idea. I hope to get there, soon. As for the insulation blanket on my hot water heater, I contacted my friend and plumber Daniel Poull of Watersphere Plumbing and he said he's worked with a number of hot water heaters with insulation blankets on them and has never seen any evidence of rust as a result of condensation nor is he familiar with the use of such items nullifying a heater's warranty. The Department of Energy site (that I linked to) doesn't indicate this is a problem, either, but it couldn't hurt for people to check their manuals.

Charles J_3
7/3/2010 10:07:21 PM

I have a 17 year old waterheater. It has had an insulating blanket on it for about 8 years. The insulating blanket has not reduced its life. Condensation forms on cold surfaces when the air has too much moisture in it. The water heater has a hot surface. Condensation will not form on it. I have also insulated all the pipes running to and from the waterheater. I also insulated the cold water pipes as it is supposed to REDUCE condensation during the muggier months.

6/25/2010 9:29:47 PM

Water heater blankets Void the manufacturer warranty! They also create a pocket for condensation to form inside the jacket of the heater, reducing the service life of the unit. Most newer water heaters have combustion air vents on the outside jacket which be covered by the insulation and destroy the unit within 6months. It is much better to insulate the first 6 feet of the hot water line and the TPR valve housing. Tests have shown these two areas of insulation provide similar if not better efficiency upgrades as the water heater blanket. (and you don't have to replace the unit as often think of the environmental impact of reduced service life.)

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