Yes, It’s Easy Living Green
By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | March/April 2009
I've been thinking a lot about windows lately. Windows, and flues, hot water heaters, insulation, and showerheads. Oh, and faucets.
I live in an 1882 brick rowhouse about 10 minutes from the offices of Preservation in northwest Washington. Reading through the collection of stories in this Green Issue has helped me to see our house in an entirely new light.
Those uneven bricks near the old coal bin? Historic and positively brimming with embodied energy. The north-facing windows that admit bracing gusts of air? Easily repairable beauties constructed of prized old-growth wood.
Last Saturday, aging field spaniel in tow, I started greening our house. The basement was easy: I turned down the water heater and unplugged the empty freezer. Then I jotted down a reminder to call the plumber about the dripping showerhead. In the living room I measured the double-hung windows out front for wooden storms, and closed the fireplace damper. In the kitchen I set the refrigerator thermostat to 40 degrees. Forty-five minutes later, having filled several pages of a yellow legal pad, I'd finished a sweep of all the upstairs rooms and the crawl space below the roof. No surprise there: It needs insulation.
The good news is that within 72 hours we had storm windows on order, compact fluorescents illuminating the front and back doors, and new washers in the faucets. Did the repairs—and the projects we've forecast—cost time and money? Absolutely. But the exercise also proved that sustainable solutions are easy.
Give these quick fixes a try at your house: Unplug your television, stereo, and cell phone charger: Together they can consume as much energy as a 75- or 100-watt light bulb burning continuously. Enable the sleep mode on your computer so it uses less power when you're not at the keyboard. And, for a touch of romance, hold a birthday candle in front of your bedroom window. If you're illuminated by a wildly flickering flame, make a note to buy weatherstripping. More green tips
Energy is precious, something all of our parents and grandparents understood. (My father can't have been the only Depression-era child who went through rooms turning off lamps.) Take a cue from their example, and get inspired by the tales of the homeowners we feature in this issue. I know I was.
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.