FROM THE CREW: The Revolution Starts at Home

The RE revolution begins at home

Trump’s “energy independence” executive order, asserts Brandon Hurlbut, former Department of Energy chief of staff, “has nothing to do with energy independence.” Signed in late March, the order calls for weakening federal regulations on carbon emissions and fossil fuels under the premise of achieving greater energy independence and expanded economic growth.

But Hurlbut doesn’t buy it, saying that the “administration is being disingenuous, just as they have on many other things, including the fact that he promised coal workers he would bring their jobs back. That’s like saying we’re going to save the VCR industry. We have moved on. We have better technology out there.” One responsibility of effective governmental leadership is to drive advancements that improve citizens’ health, safety, and standard of living. A second is to support its citizens with vocational retraining policies and programs that protect individuals when new—and hopefully better—technologies and industries surpass old ones.

After being an active part of the sustainability, renewable energy, and regenerative design community for a quarter-century, I find it surreal that the new administration is attempting to turn back the clock on energy progress. But this threat gives me new resolve to make sure I’m channeling my energy into positive, life-affirming projects for myself, my family, and my community—for a better future for all.

We have strategies that should supersede technological fixes—like conservation and energy efficiency. Then overlay these actions with appropriate technologies, such as high-efficiency and water-saving appliances and renewable energy systems. Finally, replicate them—household by household, and business by business. There’s action to take on many fronts, but some of the most powerful ones we can implement are in our own lives and in our own homes.

My family and I are getting ready to renovate a 1965 ranch-style home that has an electric furnace that is more than four decades old, a 20-year-old water heater, R-11 walls—and $300 electricity bills. We’ll first do an energy assessment, including a blower-door test and infrared imaging, to see what we’re starting with; then we’ll start implementing the necessary upgrades, adding insulation and air-sealing. Once we’ve buttoned up the house as much as possible, and replaced old energy hogs with efficient appliances, we’ll do another audit. Only then will we design a grid-tied PV system to match our new load profile. Along the way, we’ll also be sharing information with our neighbors and the wider community to spread the knowledge and inspiration that everyone has the power in her (or his) own hands to be an everyday agent of positive change.

Think About It...

“Joy is a radical act in a world of depressing news. A warrior’s life isn’t easy, but the beauty of transformative action is the great, joyful nectar that sustains us and reminds us of what is real.”

—Lyla June Johnson, musician, public speaker, and performance poet

Comments (1)

Peter Gruendeman_2's picture

For politicians, "long term" means getting to the next election and being re-elected. Those of us who need to live on earth for a few more decades and have kids and grandkids who need a planet for way longer than us, well we have some serious work ahead of us.

Here in Wisconsin, the thermal imaging season has ended. I have tried blower door testing with incense to detect air leaks and found that this was not particularly helpful. I have thermal imaged on very hot summer days, with the AC turned down cold. That's actually quite good for the side of the house that is sunny during testing and for detecting attic defects. It's at least somewhat useful for the other sides of the house as well.

Your 1965 ranch house likely has no insulation what so ever on its foundation. R1.6 (one-point-six) concrete block can be improved considerably with only modest cost by trenching around the foundation and slabbing on 2 or 3" of XPS insulation board; then mud it over with a concrete mixture to protect it from sunlight. It's a HUGE amount of work to trench by hand--I remember this all too well. Trenching with a backhoe costs $$. You won't need a blower door and thermal imaging to decide if you would benefit from insulating your foundation.
Those whose home is slab on grade can benefit from insulating the edges of their slab and then trenching down a few inches to 2-3 feet, depending on climate and ambition.
Pete Gruendeman
La Crosse, WI

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