Chris Robbins and her husband, Middlebury College music professor Peter Hamlin, returned to Vermont in 2004 after years spent living in the western United States, including California, Iowa and Minnesota. Both alums of Middlebury College, they always liked Vermont, and returned when Peter was hired by the College to teach music. The couple is now saving money, thanks to several energy efficiency improvements made to their home and lives in recent years. Follow the steps below to see how Chris and Peter have reduced their energy use.
First, do an energy audit, then weatherize...
A main component of Chris and Peter’s commitment to reducing energy usage was the weatherization of their home in 2013. The couple decided to weatherize their home based on an audit and blower door test conducted by Absolute Comfort, an in-town weatherization service provider. Energy efficiency improvements included adding insulation in the attic and sealing cracks around the foundation of the house. Openings were also made in the basement to increase the flow of oxygen and allow the furnace to operate more efficiently.
Thanks to the improvements in the efficiency of their home, Chris and Peter can now use rooms in the house that were seldom used prior to weatherization. A room off of the kitchen that served as a storage space because it was too cold and uncomfortable is now an inviting living room because it can be kept at warmer temperatures. They have also seen a reduction in gallons of oil used since weatherizing their home.
Second, heat your water with the sun, and your home with wood...
Chris and Peter installed a rooftop solar water heater in 2009. By using energy from the sun, the rooftop unit is capable of heating domestic water without using any fossil fuels. Since installing the solar water heater, the couple is able to turn off the oil burner used to heat water for two to three months during the summer, when the sun’s rays are most intense. In 2009 they also replaced the two existing propane stoves with a new wood stove and a new pellet stove.
Third, walk whenever you can...
While Chris and Peter have spent money to incorporate energy saving products and technologies into their home, they also maintain a low carbon footprint through their preferred method of transportation: walking. They walk in all weather conditions, all year round. Peter walks daily to and from his office at the College, and both make the trek to local grocers on foot.
Fourth, change your behaviors with the seasons
Chris and Peter alter their behavior according to the season and time of day. During the warm, summer months, they do not use air conditioning. Instead, they turn on fans in their room at night to keep them cool. During the colder months, they close the shades and curtains at night to better retain heat inside the house. They also maintain their thermostats at 62 degrees during the winter.
Chris and Peter consider themselves environmentalists, and cite caring about the environment as critical in their decisions to improve the energy efficiency of their home and to make the change to a low-footprint lifestyle. However, they also greatly enjoy the additional cost benefits of reducing their home energy usage! Whether it is walking to work or the grocery store, or the solar water heater on the roof of their house, you can see your neighbors Chris and Peter doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint.