Ever since I started living in the North East, known for its bitter and unforgiving winter weather, I have not had a moment of respite from friendly and not-so-friendly advice on making my home energy efficient. What started as a serious attempt at saving money on energy bills has morphed into making my house a status symbol and a fashion statement.
As a novice in the stupendous task of understanding the various aspects and components that make up the structure of my house, I was bewildered when someone asked, “Do you have adequate insulation between your walls? What is the r-factor of your attic?” I was not aware walls had spaces that could be filled. Nor was I remotely aware of what or where the attic was. I resorted to the only option available to me – to call in an expert. After several hours of lecturing and a few hours of actual work, the expert left my house with the comment, ‘You are now all set’, leaving me poorer by a few thousand dollars.
The beauty of the energy efficiency game is that there is no defined end. Yes, no house is deemed to be fully energy efficient. Depending on your gullibility and penchant for spending money, there are innumerable ways to make you feel more efficient even when the feeling is not supported by any changes in your utility bills. There is a bizarre array of light bulbs (LCD, LED and other acronyms) to sink your money in. If not still satisfied, you could invest in dimmers and timers that will quickly make every room dark as soon as the sun sets. You could keep replacing your shower heads and toilet tanks, and even washing machines, that are said to consume minimal to no water.
The greatest weapon for the critics has been my windows. I have suffered excruciating pain and humiliation because my windows are always said to be inadequately insulated. I have tried everything from duct tape to various sealants to even cement to seal every minute gap in my windows. I have allowed so called experts to relieve me of my hard earned money by throwing terms such as double glazing and energy star rating. I strongly suspect that I have spent more money on replacing windows than the total amount paid towards the stubbornly non-diminishing utilities bills which only I am privy to.
To provide more legitimacy to the whole affair, there are Government approved agencies who invade your house with offers of free advice and free service. I was very stressed out from the night before the visit from these inspectors. True enough, they pointed out hundreds of ways in which my house could be made – yes, you got it – more energy efficient. They generously offered to replace my thermostats and chimney parts, whose names I cannot recall. Walking around in a daze, I signed a few forms that they put in front of me. Before I could say a prayer to myself, I received a hefty bill in the mail.
Nowadays, I am a very subdued human being who keeps warm by simply wearing multiple sweaters, sitting around at night using candles and eating prepared food from the grocery store – I do not use any source of energy. I have no need to become more efficient!