The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 16, 2009


Confessions of an energy saver

Our family doesn’t often agree with political correctness, but reducing our carbon footprint is one item that seems to make sense. Our energy-conscious approach is just above “accidental” – we simply try to be responsive when we stumble on an easy opportunity. The projects we’ve completed so far are described below. We have no idea what the specific savings are, but everyone seems to think there are some.

Energy-saving projects

• In recent years we have changed all our lighting to compact fluorescents. The earliest bulbs didn’t last as long as advertised, and they’re not quite as luminous as claimed. Try the next larger size. You can pay $2 or $5 each, depending on the store. O’Connor Hardware in Billerica often has $2 specials.

• Most recently, we upgraded the weather seals on all three of our exterior doors. We went from drafts you could feel a foot away to no drafts at all. The weather-strip we used cost about $30 per door, but we wanted top performance and durability.

• Around 1995, our single-glazed windows made the house uncomfortably drafty, and winter condensation was ruining the walls below several windows. My solution was to mount Plexiglas inside each window with rubber magnets and steel strips so they were removable and could tolerate expansion. This worked so well that we assembled the non-Plexiglas components into kits and put them on the market as “Window Savers.” The customer buys pre-cut Plexiglas locally. Son Bradford now sells them nationwide ( In my biased opinion, you’ll never find a bigger bang for your buck, or a faster payout.

• For ten years now, we’ve had two water-saver products. The showerhead uses about half as much water as its predecessors and it works well. One of our toilets is supposed to work well on 1.6 gallons per flush, but it sometimes doesn’t.

Energy savings include the cat

• We have also consciously adopted many so-called energy-saving practices, some of which might even do more than just make us feel good. We dry our clothes outside when we can and use only the energy-saver setting on the dryer when we can’t. We use the dishwasher only when we have guests. We turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms. We close the freezer door immediately. We turn off the pilot light in the workshop every spring, and run the furnace only when we’re working out there. My favorite energy-saver is to give our cat only five seconds to go out.

• There were also two occasions when we brought in the pros and spent real money. Our plank roof now has rubber roofing with three inches of urethane foam insulation. The house used to be roaring hot in summer and expensive to heat in winter. But now we trap morning cool air and stay comfortable all day without air conditioning. In winter, the furnace runs less often and our interior climate stays balmy. The roof no longer leaks, but it’s not perfect; rubber roofing turns out to be more sensitive to falling branches than our old double-coverage.

When the furnace dies

• Four years ago, our 40-year-old oil furnace died. We made a point of replacing it with a really good one, with a high efficiency blower. This led to two lessons: first, we had our oil company do the installation and they fumbled a lot before coming through in the end; second, all furnace blowers are now noisier than those of 40 years ago. We had to acoustically isolate the furnace room from the rest of the house.

As you can see, we’ve had both easy and hard successes with our energy projects, but we ultimately achieved good results and almost certainly some savings, too. We’ll probably do more as good ideas come along. Any suggestions? ∆

Prescott Behn lives on East Riding Drive.

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito