Diane Blanks, Blue Ridge Mountain Views #12: Warmth and Shelter

Published Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 11:40 am

Blue Ridge Mountain Views

“Warmth and Shelter”

By DIANE WARMAN BLANKS

In my ongoing mission to keep from freezing to death in my ancestral home, I made an appointment with the local power company for a free home energy audit. It’s a deservedly popular service, so you have to take them when they have time available. The home energy consultant, from a progressive green company, comes up from Raleigh to do the audits.

Wild asters

Wild Asters. Photo by Diane Warman Blanks.

On the appointed day, a very nicely dressed college professor type showed up at my door, accompanied by a equally nice employee of the local power company. They sidled their way through my poor white trash back porch, which still holds a box or two from the move back home here, an indoor laundry line, mops, brooms, two vacuum cleaners, assorted bags of birdseed, two toolboxes and random gardening implements. When you live in 644 square feet, things have to find a home where they can.

I don’t think the very polite gentleman from Raleigh had ever been called to do an audit on a house quite like mine. It’s my grandmother’s house and nearly 100 years old. And I am sure I had already implemented a few solutions here that had never occurred to him and his colleagues in green energy. Evidently he’d never heard of insulating an unused window with bubble wrap, because when I asked him if the bubbles were supposed to go toward the window or toward the living space, he just looked at me blankly.

During his trip through the house, the nice man made several excellent suggestions, including my lowering the three storm windows he found up. Well, they’re old ones and they’re jammed open and the tracks are a bit corroded. So this summer I will have to clean the tracks with automobile chrome cleaner and try to ease them down. He lauded my ceiling fans with the blades turned up for the winter to direct the warm air at the ceiling back down into the living space. He was pleased to see the rope caulking I had installed in the cracks of the loose old window frames.

He graciously crawled up the folding stairs into my 100-year-old attic and said that yes, I should leave both attic vents open in the winter, maybe add a bit more insulation and be sure to pull the stair-insulating bag I had purchased back over the stairs before I closed them.

After admiring my compost bin and rain barrel in the yard, he bent his head to go into my low basement, making suggestions as he went. He praised my drooping insulation, some of which was inexplicably installed backwards by some long-ago tenant, saying encouragingly that at least I Had some. He suggested I might put some new plastic sheeting over the bats of insulation that are stapled to the door, and he applauded the door sweep that I had added to try and stop the perpetual cold draft that seeps up from the basement door area through the floor into my office, where it winds around my ankles. He finally made it through the basement clutter and suggested an insulating jacket for my hot water heater, located on the far side of the basement.

As we walked out of the basement door and through the yard toward the back door, I pointed out the bags of leaves laid against the foundation for extra insulation–an old mountain winter tip I had picked up from someone here. Suddenly, a giant possum scurried up the creek and into the culvert under the driveway, bound for some unknown hidey hole. All at once, I thought I heard the faint strains of “Dueling Banjos” in the background.

In retrospect, I believe that I was as much an education to the nice gentleman as he was to me, though he was invariably kind and gracious. Overall, this house is already much warmer than it was when I moved in and, with his good help, it’s going to be warmer still.

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