Skip to main content

Motivating Efficiency and Incinerating Obstinance

By August 7, 2017November 6th, 2021Energy Rant

A few weeks ago in Complexities of Home Energy Retrofits, I wrote about the many factors to consider when making deep investments in home energy efficiency. You didn’t think I just made all that up, right? The basis for that was an 85-year-old home I recently purchased. Regarding floor space, it forces efficiency. It has 1,200 square feet of finished space on a 770 sf footprint with a full basement.

First, I’m going to write about features I changed toward efficiency. Then, I will tell you why. Then, I will write about how the rest of the world might view energy cost, and the disconnect there may be with other spending items.


As purchased, the home had a hot water boiler, cast iron radiators, and a couple window-shaking air conditioners.

The window shakers were gone. The seller was going to install central air conditioning, and I said, whoa, Nellie. I’m not going to pay for a $12,000 “dumb” single zone system and wished I had what should have been installed forever after. Instead, I installed a four-zone mini-split “ductless” system. Ductless is in quotes because the first floor is served by one zone and ducts. That’s ok. Where you really want zoning is from upstairs to downstairs, and in a four season room I will be adding next year.

The system is installed and running at incredible efficiency. How do I know? I can count each revolution – 1, 2, 3, 4… of the outdoor unit. That is slow. That uses practically no energy. It has huge surface area, and as we learned in Design in Series; Operate in Parallel, the fans run at very low speed in parallel.

Just as importantly, the contractor set up one upstairs bedroom unit to operate in dehumidification mode. It runs continuously with air speed so low I can’t hear it in dead silence from across the room. That keeps the entire unoccupied home cool to 73F in 90 degree humid weather. Efficiency.

This is an efficient technology and efficient application. Cool the upstairs, and the downstairs will take care of itself. In the winter the reverse happens. Energy nerds may think, but it’s all the same temperature. Precisely. I don’t have to overcool the downstairs to get the upstairs where I want it cool for sleeping – cool enough.

Hot Water and Laundry

As mentioned in Complexities of Home Energy Retrofits, there was an electric water heater and 220V hookup for an electric dryer. Gone. Both of those would be a poor use for high-cost, high-value electricity. Using them would bug me from day one, and I would pray for the day the electric water heater dies. Why pray when the plumber can cut and haul?

Parting Thought on Home Efficiency

Imagine the energy that could be saved if the shackles of outdated program rules, like fuel switching, were tossed into the incinerator of obstinance[1]! Imagine the savings available with smart design versus ignorant widgets!

Efficiency Motives

As an Amazon Prime member, I am entitled to free returns through annual user fees. Each of the last several returns they tried charging me for UPS pickup of the items. What the? I carried through each return process and then burrowed in to find their customer service to get my money back. (remember this?)

For the most recent return, the pickup and shipping charges would have been over $20.

Do you like being overcharged for your stuff? Have you booked a hotel through a travel site, needed to cancel, and couldn’t get your money back? Ever buy a beer and think – Jeez Louise man, take it back and fill it to the top! How about getting your car wheels aligned and wonder if the mechanic even touched your car? Or worse yet, after leaving the shop, the Acura A on my steering wheel that is supposed to be pointing straight up is pointing in the direction of 10:30 on the clock!

Yeah. That’s right. All of those things have happened to me, and I got hot when they happened.

Why, for the love of Pete, do consumers and businesses not care to know that they are throwing $20 a month away for no reason whatsoever? How about $200 a month? $2,000 per month?

No One Needs Electricity

No one needs electricity or natural gas or any other energy. We need what they do for us.

I need to charge my phone. I need to keep my beloved Torpedo cold. I need ice for my shaken martini. I need lights in wintertime. I don’t need more electricity than is necessary to provide these things.

Start with Benchmarking

The cost to provide the above things is highly variable – like the cost of a hotel in downtown Beantown is over $500 versus $250 for a comparable stay in most other major cities. Gee, I just benchmarked the price of lodging in Boston. Will I shop around for a better deal? Yes, but to no avail, unfortunately.

Being in the 50th percentile is pathetic to me, so you know where being below average ranks. Certainly, this won’t bother millions of people. However, it will bug the crap out of many customers. Here is a place to start. Let’s go!

[1] Microsoft wants to change this word to abstinence. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

More posts by Jeff Ihnen

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Kevin DeMaster says:

    Jeff – great article on your own home experience and making wise choices. Energy efficiency solutions should be rewarded as you indicated and not be SHACKLED by outdated and antiquated policy on fuel switching. It had it’s purpose and time but with advancements in technology and baselines doesn’t energy efficiency all come down to the most cost effective way to produce BTU’s? Policies like this HURT the educated consumer to discourage an optimal energy solution (20+ year decision impact) because they are not given incentives and so customers resort to a 50% adequate solution to your point to get utility incentives.

    On another note ductless heat pumps by design provide superior efficiency (and yes heat to well below zero). So you got the comfort you desired with your zoning and off course all the energy savings by not conditioning unoccupied spaces by displacing the whole home load, seems like we should have some research and studies on that….know anybody :). On to your zone conditioning, why would anyone think that is such a novel concept…..oh yeah we already zone homes with lighting and water….so it’s been done and we do it in our own vehicles with comfort settings for the passengers vs the driver that are within 2 ft proximity. So why are we so slow in zoning HVAC properly and efficiently in homes (without duct-work and the losses that go with it)!

Leave a Reply