Those of us who have spent the last couple of months working from home, or even just sitting at home, have had a lot of time to think about the little things that surround us in our houses or apartments. Since climate change and conservation are two of the things I blog about regularly, my topic today is going to be the petty annoyances and occasional satisfactions associated with saving energy at home.
Let’s start with light bulbs. Those good old Edison-inspired incandescent bulbs. How we loved them — except when they burned out, which they did regularly. Somehow the one that burned out most often was the ceiling light in the hall that couldn’t be changed without dragging a ladder into the house.
But if we loved the incandescents, how we loathed those ugly little compact fluorescents that replaced them! In the name of being a good citizen of the earth, we had to put up with something that gave us bad light quality while being undimmable, hazardous if broken, and not really all that long-lived.
The early LEDs that replaced them were even more expensive and sometimes even worse in light quality, but at least you didn’t have to put on a hazmat suit to clean up if you broke one. Soon the LEDs got both better and cheaper. The old bluish ones have now been retired to light the garage or the crawl space. Finally, thirteen years after the first light-bulb efficiency standards (no, you can’t blame Obama, that was on Bush-43’s watch) we have reached a sweet spot to where we can read without eyestrain, save money, and save the planet, too.
The lowly low-flush toilet is another example of an earth-friendly home appliance that draws a lot of complaints. Even our president has gotten in on the act — “Ten times!” he rants, pantomiming a flushing motion.
Personally, I’ve never experienced that problem, although I understand it was real with some of the early models. By the time I got around to installing several low-flush toilets during a remodel of our house a few years ago, they flushed fine, even better than the old thirsty ones they replaced.
Showers are another matter. People get really picky about showerheads. My daughter used to have a boyfriend who actually carried his own showerhead around with him when he traveled. He’d unscrew the host’s or the hotel’s and put his own on each time he needed a fresh up. That’s true devotion.
But the showerheads I’m thinking of today are the low-flow varieties. They are a true environmental twofer, saving water and saving energy — unless you’re a fan of cold showers and don’t have to worry about all the carbon your water heater is responsible for. The question is, though, can you make it a threefer? Can you save water, save energy, AND still get clean? That can be tricky.
The first low-flow showerhead I installed was definitely not in the threefer category. It gave you the lamest shower you can imagine. Then I figured out that it was just a regular old high-flow model to which someone had added an extra washer with hole so tiny that only a trickle of water could get through. I took the extra washer out and went back to comfy, warm, and wasteful showers for a while.
Eventually, though, my guilt became unbearable. On an impulse, I bought what looked like a high-tech, low-flow showerhead at Costco, brought it home, and screwed it on. It was better than the one with the cheater washer, but I can’t say I fell in love with it.
Finally, an on-line doer of good deeds called my attention to a showerhead he thought I’d actually like. This one comes from High Sierra Showerheads, and it’s frankly quite amazing. It’s got some kind of magic booster mechanism that takes a stingy amount of hot water and accelerates it into a stream that feels like a firehose. Figuratively speaking, that is — a real firehose would knock you over. But I do like a brisk shower, and I have finally found a real threefer. It looks nice, too — sort of like you’d imagine the showerheads on the Starship Enterprise would look.
Now that the lockdown is over, I suppose I’ll be spending less time at home and more on the road. My next environmental love letter will be about how I minimize my carbon footprint on the highway. Not with an electric, not yet at least. Since my local power company still burns a lot of coal, I am sticking with my 3-cylinder, 1-liter, turbocharged Ford Fiesta which gives me a thrifty 50 miles for each gallon of regular gas. Unfortunately, Ford has abandoned that sweet little chariot, so I suppose I will go EV eventually. But that is another post for another day.