We've been in major house project mode lately. Our bathroom was finished a few days before Christmas and now we are diving deep into weatherization (and by we, I really mean Porter. He's the muscle behind most projects, which I am whole-heartedly grateful to him for). A few months ago we did an Energy Assessment, offered at a steep discount due to Anacortes' participation on the Community Energy Challenge. A guy came out for FIVE HOURS and tested every nook and cranny of our house using lasers and infrared and a giant fan hooked up to the the door to tell us where all the house leaks are. He suited up in a hazmat suit for the crawlspace (see below). Our house is more than 100 years old, so there was no surprise that there's a lot of leaks. Also, it's freezing outside, and often very cold and drafty inside so the report was 16 pages of validation for me wanted to keep the heat on. (I married a heat miser, did you know?)
So last week Porter ripped out all the insulation in the attic in preparation for blowing cellulose, which is more eco-friendly and has a higher warmth per inch factor. We borrowed a truck from a friend in the ward (I use friend loosely. I barely know her, but I ran into her at the gas station the night before, mentioned I was looking for a truck, and she offered hers. We're friends now.), and I made several trips to the dump, which led me to two observations:
1. Going to the Dump is weirdly fun.
Maybe it's because I don't do a lot of full body physical labor in my day-to-day life, but jumping up and down on insulation batts to make them fit, then chucking them out into a pile is enjoyable. I wasn't dumping anything stinky or gross, which I'm sure helped (I did have gloves and a face mask to keep the glass shards from getting me too bad...). It was like the summer I sold firewood out of a truck at a campground at Snoqualmie Pass. There's just something rugged and physical about it that feels good.
2. Experiencing the Dump is super depressing.
I'd been to the Bellevue Transfer Station before, and that's a different kind of depressing. There, you dump your stuff into a hole and it smells awful. At my local dump, it's just a giant warehouse, and they have you back in a make a pile, so there are a dozen trucks all at different angles in the open warehouse. You can see all the stuff out in piles and bags on bags on bags. What's worse, I made two trips, maybe one hour apart, and between the first and second trips, the entire warehouse had been cleared and there were all new piles of garbage. And a garbage plow waiting in the wings ready to clear again. SO MUCH CRAP! And this is a tiiny fraction of the waste made by my community, county, state, country, WORLD. Mountains (or rather, deep, toxic holes) full of garbage just rotting and stinking and getting into water and soil and acid rain... I'm not recycling evangelist, but going to the dump is getting me there.
Then on Friday, we blew insulation, which looks like a big machine on our front porch loading up and breaking up blocks of cellulose fiber, which are piped up through a tube into the attic, where Porter was holding the hose. Cellulose insulation - in blocks it looks like cement, once blown it looks like volcanic ash - what it's made of is predominantly post-consumer waste material. I guess it's mostly newspaper, but I definitely ID'd the following: a plastic Safeway shopping bag, a blue Stamp Out Hunger (NALC) food drive bag, and Victoria's Secret tissue paper (it's a very distinctive shade of pink). It was surprisingly cool and inspiring to see the same type of stuff I recycle used to make my house warmer.
And it IS warmer! Noticeably so. Porter and I worried that we'd spend all this time and money insulating the attic and we'd wonder about the difference. NOT SO. Immediately it feels warmer.
Just a few big projects to go...