The View from Faraway Farm: Bill of shame

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Please allow me to state my bias right up front. I am no fan of Green Mountain Power. While I had some respect for Central Vermont Public Service as my electricity supplier, GMP as an entity gets none. The folks working the lines will always have my utmost respect and gratitude, the bureaucracy, not so much. I'm still displeased by the fact that a public utility with a somewhat sullied reputation was able to leverage a buyout of a relatively reputable utility such as CVPS. Of course this is all totally subjective, based on what I learned from news reports, anecdotal accounts, hearsay, etc., over the past decades. So that you know, that's my ignorance-based bias, and I'm sticking to it.

The latest brilliant gem that public utilities are adopting across our nation is the comparative energy usage report in your statement. This is in comparison to your neighbors. I don't fare very well in that report; I will admit. This shaming strategy has worked, which causes me even greater enmity towards GMP. How dare they point out my energy usage shortcomings! In my rather weak defense, I will say that there are reasons for my excessive use of electricity. First off, please allow me to attempt to shift some blame back on GMP. Their stupid smart meters run faster than the old manual units, thereby causing my energy usage to appear higher than the old method of measurement. Just saying. That aside, I will cop to greater energy consumption by design. Here's my side of the story;

When I purchased my home, it was a 700-square-foot cottage with natural pine paneling that was almost black from the constant use of a top loading wood stove for heat. It was very dark in here. Over the years, I have completely had the house gutted back to the studs and rebuilt, with lots of windows to take advantage of the abundant natural light, including a big addition that more than doubled the size of the building. In that process, my builder informed me that I had specified twice the amount of recessed and specialty lighting that is commonly in a home of the same size. I also requested and got about twice as many power outlets as you'd find in the average home, thereby requiring double the amount of wiring. You can imagine my feelings of shame and humiliation when my GMP statement informed me that I was using 21 percent more energy than my neighbors. Did I mention that I also have a hot tub?

They got me. Guilty as charged. The hot tub is drained, and it sits idle. I installed some solar lighting over my home's entrance and the side door to the garage. Last week I went on a manic search and replace mission of energy-wasting light bulbs. A lot of the specialty lighting employs high-intensity incandescent bulbs. Twenty seven of them. Another 17 bulbs are equivalent to reflectorized outdoor spotlights. Many of these lights require heat dissipation boxes and have a built in thermal switch that shuts them down when they get too hot. I wouldn't be surprised if simply flicking on the lights in the pantry make the numbers go crazy on the meter. Simply stated, I have a lot of lighting in my home.

Now that we have entered the dark months of the year I realize that it is even more critical to save electricity, hence the decision to change all the bulbs. It's not that I don't have a few efficient CFL bulbs here and there, I just don't like them. They have to warm up until you get the full amount of light output. LED bulb technology is better in my opinion. They light instantly, give off almost no heat, rendering my thermal switched fixtures useless, which is OK with me. The light is brighter while the bulbs last a very long time, as in years of service. In a couple of regular shopping trips, I managed to pick up more than half the bulbs I needed. The energy saving is quite impressive according to the bulb packaging. I replaced 21 indoor flood light bulbs that were 35-watt units with LED floods that are 3.5-watt units. Each bulb is claimed to eighty-six dollars in electricity cost and is supposed to cost just 42 cents a year to operate. Very impressive. Now I eagerly await my next GMP statement to see if I have made a measurable impact on my excessive energy use. My goal? To convert that bill of shame into an affirmation of purposeful energy conservation.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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