The "Wall of Shame"

Years ago I went bowling with my children and three sisters in Nashville, where my sister Norma Jeanne was living at the time. NJ and her partner had a fun way of dealing with gutter balls and other horribly and embarassingly bowled frames- you were pointed towards the "wall of shame"- a nearby wall in the bowling alley, upon which you would place your head for a moment (think dunce cap). This seemed to provoke everyone that didn't laugh the first time at your clumsy ball toss, including yourself, to laugh all over again. When you came back to the lane, it was all behind you, and the next frame you could begin anew.

Beginning anew is what I would like to do after my second "Home IQ" class, sponsored by Energy Trust. The class is a five part series, two hours a week, that firstly, helps assess ones current energy use, then teaches what changes and improvements can be made with an existing home, an existing budget, and existing habits to save energy.

I've been to several classes on new Earth Advantage and LEED homes. and these homes minimally exceed current code by 15%- with substantial energy savings, but most of us need to work with what we have. And after all we are "re-using" an existing home, which is a good thing, right? So why did I have a premonition I was not going to score well on our home's energy use?

For one thing, we had an extremely inefficient electric radiant heating system, which I'm sure was the cat's meow in 1950, but was costing us a fortune every month, and still we were freezing, running around with space heaters before company came over to keep the frost off their noses in the winter months. Although this was the winter we changed it out- to an efficient system with a heat pump- why is our energy use still so high?

Here's where the "wall of shame" comes in-this chart shows our classes current energy use in therms (natural gas use), killowat hours (electric use), and then both converted to show our total energy use in BTU's. Although our home did fine in therms, compared to the rest of the class attendees, our electricity use was abysmal, my premonition proving true. There was some solace having more square footage than most to heat, but a fellow classmate's home was virtually the same size and used 82 million less BTU's a year less last year than we did. A waste of money and power.

I went home in quite a state and showed my husband J the numbers. Last week he killed (turned off) our hot tub. Is my blow dryer the next to go? Stay tuned and see how we can bring these numbers around. I'm using a tool called the Kill-O-Watt that measures the power usage of our appliances, computers, even phantom power usage. In the meantime, I do feel a little better now that I've confessed.

If you would like to take elements of the class with me, here is the the home-energy-tracking-sheet, where you can make your own calculations. It's quite easy to sign on to your account at PGE or NW Natural Gas and see your past years energy use.

Interesting Fact: Heat does not rise- it does follow cold. Imagine, with the proper sealing and insulation in your attic, or walls how less likely your heat is to follow the cold up into the attic, or outside.

Slide Show for the Energy IQ Class