Posted by davidg on January 20th, 2010
David Greene writes…
When I was growing up on the Canadian prairies (where, at this time of the year, your eye lashes freeze together), hot water was divine. To soak in a hot bath after being outside all day, shoveling snow, cross-country skiing, and building snow forts, warmed the soul. It turned my pink cheeks rosy red and made me feel so comfortable. When my partner and I moved onto our sailboat and began our circumnavigation of this beautiful world, hot water became a luxury. The hot water tank on our boat held only 5 gallons. It was very hot water, so 5 gallons mixed with cold water went a very long way. Our water was heated in two ways – by running the engine, or by running the generator. Either way, hot water required the consumption of fuel. And because we were often visiting in places where we couldn’t get water, we made our own by desalinating seawater. The generator was needed and fuel was consumed so that we could have water, hot or cold.
By the same token, fuel is consumed to heat the hot water you use in your home, and with some hope, some of that fuel is solar or wind. Becoming personally aware of the impact of the choices we make is the first step in finding a healthy balance between sustainability and creature comforts.
One bad example is our condominium in New York City. Hot water was constantly heated by mixing steam with cold water. To add insult to injury, hot water was constantly pumped through the entire building, so that when we opened the hot water tap, the water was instantly hot. Even at 3am! It struck me as a complete waste of energy to keep the water hot and to keep it circulating! But, we likely used way less water in total because the water was instantly hot, and therefore we weren’t running the water until the hot stuff came up through the building. On balance, I’m guessing that our carbon footprint for hot- and cold-water consumption was bigger than it needed to be.