The corona virus quarantine has given us all the chance to do some reading, if reading is one’s thing, as I hope it is for readers of this post. I bought Our House is On Fire, (1) and closely read it in two days. Note the red tags marking what I found to be particularly interesting passages. Lots of them. It’s an easy read, constructed as a series of short scenes that help focus attention on the matter at hand.
I am hoping that members of my family will read this book, as well, with the red tags in place. Perhaps adding their own yellow, pink, or blue tags.
There are many powerful lessons between these covers. Lessons about the scope of climate change, yes, but also lessons about heroic parenthood. Lessons about cultural changes required to save our environment (there is no other way). Lessons about the power of sticking to a commitment in the face of adversity in the family and in the world in which we live.
I have said in earlier posts that management of the global climate crisis is not an economic matter – except that it is a new economic opportunity. It’s not old economy before new ecology, because, believe me, if our leaders continue to take that approach, as Greta Thunberg and her family know, as careful thinkers know, as scientists know, both will come tumbling down in a sudden, violent, and unstoppable human disaster. Our House Is On Fire does not seek to show a hopeful outcome with respect to global warming. That’s the approach contemporary politicians tend to take. Our House Is On Fire is alarmist, as it should be.
The first 12 month’s energy consumption and cost numbers are tallied. While I was disappointed with the raw percentage solar, the projected annual cost came in just a little higher than expected for the house. The HERS (1) estimate was $950, and we ended up at $1058.67. But — (and BIG but) that annual cost includes one year of driving our electric car. Because the HERS calculations on our basis document do not include a car, as nearly as I can figure we are doing better than expected on total building energy useage, which I really thought we would. The data is below.
We do have Sense monitoring equipment on the house and on the garage, so it is possible to make an educated guess on the amount of power being used by the car. An educated guess only because the Sense gear cannot combine data from the two devices and only one of them is tracking the 20 solar panels. Very confusing. I do not recommend Sense for anything but simple single sensor installations. In any case, if we throw out the solar assuming that it was split proportionally between the car and the house, the educated guess is that the car is using about 1/3 of our juice. If that is so, the house annual energy bill is about $705 and the car annual energy bill is about $353.
The spreadsheet above shows that winter energy consumption is higher, and that central Ohio is a cloudy place during fall and winter. No big surprise on either point. We had originally planned for 24 solar panels, and that might have been a better choice, but we thought we’d wait and see how things panned out. I think we’ll wait another year before putting panels on the main house (just on the garage, now). If we do that we’ll probably go to 28.
We have made some other little changes that may show up in the next 12 months. The hybrid water heater has recently been switched from hybrid operation to heat pump only operation. We see no difference in hot water availability, and that should reduce power use. We have also switched to a renewable power generation supplier. That lowered supply costs a bit and makes us totally renewable.
I was walking in the neighborhood yesterday and it struck me how bright and clear the sky suddenly was. Of course, that’s because people have been driving much less. (1) We are staying close to home as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
There is a teaching moment here, and that is that we have been dumping easily noticeable amounts of fossil fuel junk into our atmosphere for 100 years or so, and it’s piling up. A lot of that dull brown cast on the horizon we are used to seeing comes out of car tail-pipes, and it’s pretty well dispersed right now here in Lewis Center, Ohio. Just think how much better things will be when we are all driving renewable sourced electric cars, and the planet has had some time to cleanse its lungs.
Teaching moments too often do not stick around very long in our brains, however, especially if the lesson is inconvenient or expensive. And, right now, just as we are clearly seeing the immediate effects of reduced vehicular fuel consumption, our short-sighted and conflicted leaders are backing off efforts to compel car makers to meet 2025 CAFE fuel economy standards that would have made permanent air quality improvements pretty much equal to what our COVID-19 travel restrictions have done. (2)
Though they complain, car makers can meet the 2025 CAFE numbers. Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, and Toyota can pretty much do it today. But, the real answer is not better fossil fuel economy, it’s electrification. Maybe we should just stop all combustion engine car manufacturing in 2025, instead. It’s not a new idea. (3)