The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

September 18, 2011

Itching to save green without going in the red | Tom Lavis

Shadows are getting longer and the evening air is getting crisper, so that can mean only one thing: High heating prices.

I used to love fall because of high school football, drives in the country to see foliage and spending money at weekend craft festivals.

My enthusiasm for autumn is fading faster than my summer tan.

Nowadays, the only color I’m worried about is red from the deficits in my bank account.

I’m discovering that it takes money to save money.

I have lived in my home for more than 35 years. In that time, you would think there would be no secrets to discover, right?

Wrong.

I thought all of my major home-improvement projects were behind me.

But when a homeowner is searching for more energy-efficient ways to save a few bucks, stockpiling money is not an option.

How did I know that an oil furnace should be replaced after 45 years?

My American Standard furnace has been burning oil since Pampers introduced the first disposable diaper in 1966.

It turns out, I was the one getting dumped on as my furnace’s efficiency has petered out.

With heating oil well over $3 a gallon, we bit the bullet and replaced the furnace.

The average cost of a gallon of gas in 1966 was 32 cents, and a new car was about $2,650.

That’s nearly the amount I paid for my furnace and it didn’t come with a radio.

I have shared my experience with readers about the lack of insulation in my attic and how I had to dig deep to double my home’s layer of pink protection.

I’m hoping these investments pay dividends, but I won’t know until spring if it was worth it.

So I called a family meeting to see where we could cut heating costs without spending more.

Family meetings aren’t what they used to be since all of our children have left the nest, leaving me and mother hen to fend for ourselves.

“The reason I called this meeting was to see if we could change any portion of our lifestyle to save on heating costs,” I said in my opening remarks.

A hand rose in the back of the room.

“No need to raise your hand; if you have a question, just ask,” I said.

As it turns out, my wife didn’t have a question, but more of a statement.

“We could say good-bye to high heating costs if you would quit wearing shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter,” she said.

I stood my ground by reminding her that sweaters and sweatshirts make me itchy.

“Then buy a back scratcher,” she said.

As I pounded the gavel to bring the meeting to order, I reminded the audience that we were here to find ways to save money, not spend it.

Again, a hand was raised, but this time I knew it wasn’t to ask a question. The wordless statement she made was clear.

“We could cuddle up on the sofa each evening to keep warm,” I suggested.

Rejecting that proposal without any discussion, my wife proceeded to list ways I could cut heating costs.

She began with telling me to cover windows in plastic, caulk all suspicious areas around windows and doors, clean or replace furnace filters regularly and turn down the thermostat at night.

“You also could plug the hole in the basement wall that I told you about two years ago,” she said.

I protested, saying I didn’t remember hearing anything about a hole.

It was only a matter of minutes that I was standing in the basement staring at a mortar joint.

“That hole,” she said.

I was speechless as I observed sunlight coming from an opening about the size of a shirt button.

“If sunlight is coming in, I’m sure winter’s chill also can enter,” she said.

It appeared that her suggestions had me doing all the work.

She must have heard me thinking.

“Before you say anything, when I bake cookies for Christmas, I will leave the oven door open in order for the heat to flow into the house,” she said.

I was relieved. I thought she was leaving the oven door open so I could put my head inside.

Meeting adjourned.

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