You have undoubtedly heard the old adage, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” But does a snow-covered lawn count? As the cold of winter sets in and the new year begins, I have been finding myself starting a fire and wishing for the warmth of the coming Tennessee spring. But I am often reminded by my family from the upper Midwest to not look past the beauty of winter, either. While they genuinely do love the snow, I think they mean to say that each day has its own attributes for which to be grateful.
Thanks to the reliable service provided by my electric co-op, I don’t have to think much about the comforts of my home. In fact, for most of us in Tennessee, the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. We all share a historically amazing standard of living primarily because of the availability of affordable, reliable electric power.
My friend Brian demonstrates many of these recent luxuries by describing some things we don’t generally think about. When people ask him what is causing the most electric energy use at their homes, he often replies, “Warm air, cold beer and hot showers.” And he is right.
Warm and cool air has become indispensable in our society. Can you imagine a modern hospital operating in 95-degree temperatures? Heating and air conditioning systems perform remarkably well at both warming and cooling our homes and businesses. And while newer units are becoming more and more efficient, it requires a lot of energy to keep these machines working. But they run without a lot of input from us. We walk to the thermostat and “set it and forget it.”
It’s hard to imagine, but 100 years ago, the only practical way to preserve fresh food was the icebox. An icebox was a crudely insulated wooden cabinet that held a large block of always-melting ice, which created a cool environment that slowed the spoiling of perishables. Where did the ice come from? Originally, this required cutting blocks from frozen lakes and transporting them across the country (as the ice melted en route) to then be divided into smaller portions and delivered. That’s a lot of work for fresh eggs in the morning!
This is a far cry from today’s electric refrigeration, which is also getting more efficient and using less energy than before. But many of us intentionally erase any energy savings when we buy a new fridge. How? We put the old one in the hot garage and make it work even harder and use even more energy that it did before. Is that a good trade-off for cold beer? I’ll let you answer that question for yourself, but I bet I know the answer.
Another major consumer of energy in your home is the water heater. Today’s cold plunge trend aside, the warm shower is a luxury most of us just can’t live without. But it does come at a cost to your electric bill. As teenage boys quickly learn, neglecting that hot shower comes at a cost of its own.
So whether you’re excited or apprehensive about what 2024 might bring, my hope is that you will take a moment to consider things often taken for granted — especially a comfortable home that warms more than just the thermostat but also warms your heart.