Berta is one of america's energy treasures. She lives right in
the middle of a small town in Connecticut, yet she has taken firm
control of her energy destiny. To accomplish this doesn't take
effort as much as consciousness, and Berta has plenty of that:
My main issue all my life has been electricity. I was born and
raised in Seattle, where my dad was an engineer. He loved rivers.
He was always telling us about great construction projects. One
I remember particularly was the Grand Coulee Dam. He worked for
the State Department of Fish and Game, and we used to drive all
over the state looking at his fish ladders. I grew up thinking
in terms of how many gallons it took to make a kilowatt, and about
those fish ladders, so I've been really shocked to learn that
they don't work. Oh, Dad, if you only knew! It just proves that
we have to be more holistic in our thinking.
To make a long and interesting story short enough to fit on the
Web, Berta bought a house just about her size and set about getting
its energy use under control. She started out right, by making
an energy audit.
I thought we had single 40-watt bulbs, but we were burning double
60s, things like that. I had a big garden, and was doing a lot
of canning, and so I got this ancient beast of a second hand refrigerator,
El Monstero, we called it: noisy but I needed the big freezer.
Suddenly my electric bill was through the roof. The utilities
really have you by the nostrils! 300 Kilowatt-hours a month, how
are we using all that electricity?
Berta took a class in energy self-sufficiency from two other energy
treasures, Carol Levin and Richard Gottlieb, perennial candidate
for the Vermont governorship, and vowed to reform her household
energy use. She invested in a super-efficient refrigerator and,
for good measure, relamped her house with compact fluorescents
wherever it made sense.
What's the good news? As you can see if your browser can read
the chart of Berta's Kilowatts, there was a dramatic reduction
in electrical use on the order of 75%. I calculate that Berta's
two wise but expensive up-front purchases will have paid themselves
off in 5 to 7 years, assuming steady electric rates (which is
akin to assuming the sun will not rise tomorrow.)
Let me attempt an Amory Lovins-like assertion here: if everyone
on the north american continent replaced their monstero refrigerators
with energy sane models - even the golden carrot box is pretty
good, and you can get it at your local appliance store - we could
stop burning coal to make electricity.
There is much more about Berta and other american energy
treasures in my revised book, The New Independent Home
For the second step in reforming your energy homelife,
jump directly to Home Energy Audit: drawing