Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Staying Comfy in a Post-Peak World

With oil prices ten times what they were a decade ago, and with all energy prices set to soar even higher (if not in actual dollar terms, then at least in terms of our ability to pay) over the coming years, I've recently being trying to change my mode of thinking about comfort as it applies to heating and air conditioning.

Since the age of fossil fuels began, it's been ever more ridiculously cheap and easy to keep warm and cool without doing it with clothing - so we've become lazy - we wear shorts and T-shirt indoors and in the car, because why wear bulky sweaters and coats when you can keep your house and car perfectly (and cheaply) air conditioned?

The only problem is it's incredibly wasteful to be heating and cooling 50,000+ cubic feet of home and driving around 2 tons of air-conditioned car to ensure that a mere 3 cubic feet of human being stays comfy. After the current shale oil bubble bursts (which it must), and with the coming age of energy insecurity, such luxuries are going to seem more and more unreasonable, and the more we try to deny and ignore the coming changes, the harder and more expensive it will be to adapt to the coming reality.

So I've decided to make some efforts towards personalizing my comfort (and conserving energy) rather than socializing it (and wasting energy). As a cyclist, I'd already done this when it comes to my commute - and I already don't drive, so no wasteful spending there. I just have to start doing it at home. This winter I took to keeping the heating a lot lower and wearing a sweater indoors - not a huge change, but it did reduce energy use (and our monthly bills). This summer I'm going to see if I can install some ceiling fans to recirculate cooler air rather than losing it through the ceilings. I'm also going to make some efforts to add insulation so that whatever desirable heat and cool there is in the house stays here. Baby steps - get the low-hanging fruit first.

Maybe next year I'll look into cheap ways of implementing passive solar and doing some strategic plantings around the house to help keep the house warmer in winter and nicely shaded in summer. There's lots that can be done without spending tens of thousands on the rooftop solar and passive radiant heat slabs that are en vogue with the Jet Set environmental crowd right now. Heck, if I were a millionaire, I'd be able to spend $100 grand and ensure I didn't need to pay another bill for heating and air conditioning in my life, but I'm not, so I have to do what I can with what I've got.

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