There are a few people reading this who probably remember earlier blogs where I described the house we live in and what challenges we deal with in trying to “go green” with it. However, since I get about a new subscriber every week, I’ll do a brief recap.
First, our house was built in 1930. It is solid brick – by which I mean that the exterior is brick, the interior is brick, and the only wood is the floor, roof, and interior paneling. There is no insulation or dry wall. The electrical outlets are almost entirely built into the floor, like they were an added afterthought – quite likely since indoor electricity and plumbing weren’t particularly common in 1930. The house inspection listed our water heater as “approximately 18 years old” – and the HVAC system was installed in 1973.
So, one of our focus points on investing in our house has been looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency. We’ve replaced about half of the windows with energy-efficient double-pane vinyl windows – with good results. Every window we replace shows an almost immediate reduction in our utility fuel use. We have also planted nearly a dozen trees around the east and south borders of our home, to eventually provide shade in the summer.
But, one of the things we’ve been keeping an eye on was that hot water heater. Knowing that the average water heater lasts around 10 years, ours was nearly 2x expectancy when we bought the house. So, we started a special savings account just for putting aside money against the day it would fail. That day arrived – today. I first suspected a problem when I went to make coffee at 0300 (3AM for those who don’t work with international time) and it seemed to take a very long time for the water to warm up at the kitchen sink. Later, when my wife got up and started getting ready for work, she couldn’t get any hot water for her shower. She tried 3 different water faucets with no hot water, and pronounced a state of emergency. So, I called our plumber at 0800. After I described the situation, he said that it did indeed sound like the unit had finally failed, and told me that he’d stop at the store on the way over to get a new one. He’d be here within an hour.
He left here, job completed and all trash cleaned up, at 1030. He didn’t even give me a bill – saying, “We’ll mail it to you.”
Then, completing the cycle of spending this year’s income tax refunds, we had our electrician come over to give us an estimate on upgrading our outside security light. The one we currently have uses mercury-vapor bulbs, which (besides being an incredibly BAD idea for the environment) drink electricity like a drunk goes through beer. We’re going to have him replace the fixture the mercury-vapor bulbs go in with one that uses standard light bulbs – which would be an energy savings in itself. But we’re not going to use standard bulbs, which would still use about 200 watts. We’re going to put in an LED bulb, which will use about 40 watts for the same amount of light we get right now. He thinks he can get this job done within the next week. His fee? $35 plus parts.