Are You Cool Enough to have an Insulation House-Warming Party?

Some people work because they need a way to pay the bills. They hate what they do, but they see it as a means to an end. They live for weekends.

I too, live for weekends. However, instead of them being a respite from the drudgery of the workweek, I live for weekends because the most gratifying part of my job as a community organizer comes from attending weekend events. Being present at Andy Bauer’s Solar and Geothermal Open House on February 11th was reinvigorating and inspiring, illuminating the joy of working with passionate volunteers to help effect meaningful change in their communities.

Andy Bauer’s claim to fame is that he no longer needs the oil company to make delivery stops at his house. On Saturday, around 70 friends, neighbors and fellow teachers from Portland, East Hampton, Glastonbury, and Lebanon passed through his home as he proudly showed them the geothermal system that has replaced his dying oil burner. Couple this with the solar panels you see lining his south-facing roof and you get the impression that Andy might have a passion for cool gadgets that don’t use fossil fuels. Talk to Andy for more than a minute and this inkling will be confirmed; he is a staunch advocate of reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

People get excited about solar and geothermal because it is flashy– you can invite all of your friends and neighbors over and display your bragging rights. Do you think Andy would have gotten 70 people to show up to his house if he called it an Insulation House-Warming Party? Coupling weatherization with renewables though we were able to stress that insulation is sexy too; just because you shouldn’t roll around in your fiberglass for hours doesn’t mean it won’t do you a world of good. By properly air-sealing and insulating his house before installing his geothermal unit, Andy was able to decrease his demand for a 3-ton system down to a 2-ton system. That is a huge decrease in installation cost with a major takeaway message of the day –decrease your energy needs by tightening up your home to save thousands if you are considering renewable energy.

The best part about the day was the energy of people together, passionate about reducing their energy use. Friends were asking great clarifying questions and becoming empowered to address their own energy issues. Seeing what a success the day was, Lou Pear on the Task Force turned to me and said, “I can do this. I can have a house party. I don’t have geothermal, but I do have solar panels. I’ve added insulation to my house.”

Andy too was pumped from the positive response. “I should send out an email to all of the task forces in the state and encourage them to have house parties! Grassroots organizing, people talking to their friends and neighbors, is a very effective way to get people to reduce their energy use. If you get something in the mail from the utility company, you are just going to throw it away. The same way you tell your friends what movies they should see, we should be sharing our stories about what works in our homes. You want information from people you trust.”