Jeff Wilson shares his views on how the ordinary DIYer can perform acts of patriotism while improving things around the house!
It’s not often that you pick up a hammer, get back to work on that DIY home improvement project, and consider it an act of patriotism, but that’s exactly what we should be doing – each and every one of us.
Right now, we’re being held captive by our own energy use. We, as Americans, are tying our own hands behind our backs (via our energy inefficiency) and then sending money (via both our energy use at home and in transportation) to our adversaries – corrupt petro-dictators – so that they can fund the “other side” of our war on terror. On top of that, our energy use defiles the environment through air and water pollution and barbaric practices like mountain top removal coal mining. Additionally, energy companies reap outlandish profits while the American public suffers in a lousy economy. All the while, no matter how much we drill, energy prices can and will spike because one rogue country makes threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large portion of the world’s energy flows. Then there we are again, putting American soldiers’ lives at risk and spending taxpayer dollars to straighten things out.
Think there’s nothing you can do about it? Think again. Why is it that our economy teeters on the brink of disaster every time energy prices go up? Why is it that the fish in our rivers and streams are so laden with mercury that they’re inedible? Why is it that we spend American lives and billions of taxpayer dollars every year to keep energy flowing from the most volatile parts of the world? It’s partially because we – you and I – waste so much energy in the first place.
By retrofitting our homes for energy efficiency, we waste much less and avoid the necessity of relying so heavily on capricious foreign sources of energy. We also rely less on dirty, environmentally devastating sources of domestic energy. We even prepare our homes for the coming “Smart Grid” technology, plug-in electric vehicles, and renewable energy like solar and wind, which will squeeze even more work out of each and every electron.
That’s why one of the most patriotic and political things a regular guy (or gal) do-it-yourselfer can do is to pick up a hammer (and maybe some spray foam or cellulose insulation) and get to work making our homes as tight and well insulated as possible. Want to help the economy? Spend some money on new windows and doors – watch your energy bills fall and American building product companies thrive. While you’re at it, hire a couple of professionals to help and put a few un- or underemployed workers back on the job. When the work is done, the turbines at your local coal-fired power plant will spin that much slower, spewing that much less pollution into the air for your kids and grandkids to clean up. Since you’re not using those electrons, let’s put some of them into the battery of our plug-in hybrid cars instead and drive to work without depending entirely on gasoline from petro-dictators and terrorists.
Attacking energy efficiency in your home has other, more immediate benefits. Most folks think of energy efficiency as “freezing in the dark,” since they’re told to turn down the thermostat and turn off lights to save energy. While that works in the absence of good building or renovation techniques, carefully retrofitting your home turns that idea on its head. At my house, after our recent Deep Energy Retrofit, we added 350 square feet of living space to our 1,000 square foot home; we turned UP the thermostat that winter and still saw our heating bill drop by 80%. We also added an Energy Recovery Ventilator, which brings in fresh air and exhausts stale air while keeping the heating or cooling energy inside the house. The retrofit has also evened out the humidity in the house, so we’re more comfortable in all seasons. Not only have we helped to solve major problems of the economy, environment, and national security, but we’re also saving money and have a more comfortable home with healthier indoor air quality.
Wow ... all that from working on my house? Sure. It has to start somewhere. When you make an example of your home, the guy next door is likely to have “energy-efficiency patriotism envy” and want to retrofit his home as well. Pretty soon, armies of patriotic handy-people will be putting their muscles (and brains) into the kind of effort it would take to make America a stronger, more resilient nation, less dependent on the whims of foreign energy.
This, my friends, is real patriotism – not red or blue, left or right, but the American thing to do. This is the “roll up your sleeves and get down to business” kind of patriotism that leaves the whining and defeatism to the cable network pundits and political candidates.
So let’s get to it – get an energy audit done on your home, and get to work doing your patriotic duty. Let’s have an Energy-Efficiency Revolution.
Jeff Wilson, author of The Greened House Effect and host of Buildipedia's Everyday DIY series, many HGTV and diy network shows and 25-year veteran of the construction industry, lives with his wife and two daughters in a perpetually half-renovated home in a small college town in Ohio. You can see Jeff’s most recent project, the Deep Energy Retrofit of his 1940’s Cape Cod style home at thegreenedhouseeffect.com.Website: www.jeffwilsonregularguy.com