November 30th, 2009


in virtue's clothing

Cold, cold, wet, cold. I grew up on a smallholding, sleeping in the cheeseloft of a 300 year old cottage heated with woodburners* during the better years, in an unheated caravan for the worse (or, when the snow got thick, on the sofa in the living room, next to last night's fire). This back to the land game is an eternal romantic popular in the UK; there are children, I'm sure, doing the same right now, huddling up to their parents' copies of Winter in River Cottage, dreaming of someday being someplace where they can not be cold, cold, wet, cold.

I've been looking at how I could save energy, carbon, and money! Except, of course, that I can't. I could run my heating for fewer hours or at a lower setting. Except I'm already running it for two hours at 18, which is about the minimum. Any lower, and the damp cold begins to cling, and your house begins to fail at habitability and fall apart.

Insulation is going ahead, but it won't save me money. I've done the home energy calculators, which optimistically advised me that my saving per annum could be £113-117ish. This would require me insulating the loft, replacing three small single-glazed windows with double glazed windows, replacing the front door and either drylining or exterior coating my exterior walls (three sides of the property). It's obviously not going to save me money**, I'm unconvinced of the environmental benefits (everything involved will have a manufacture cost, after all) and in the end will come down to a purely selfish decision; something I do in order not to be cold, cold, wet, cold.

*We mostly used a stand of alder trees as fuel. They grow fast and chop easily, but the wood takes a long time to dry. We also burned coal and smokeless fuel, firelighters and other types of wood, including some things I'm sure you don't want to think about being chopped down and burned, like oak and yew.
**Please feel free to run my maths again, it's mildly amusing.