Okay, I was talking about insulation, which is a subsection of alternative utilities because it is part of heating the house, by whatever method.
Our options are few because of where we live: in the wettest, moldiest part of the world, apparently. Nobody does blown-in cellulose insulation around here because it just rots in the walls (this is according to a conversation I had with the manager of the biggest insulation business in town). They will do it in new construction before the sheetwall is up - I guess because they can take action to retard/counteract the problems? - but not in existing homes. The spray foam chemical stuff (which I'd rather not use anyway) is falling out of vogue (according to the same dude) because it's performance over longer periods of time is not what it was hyped to be. It shrinks; it warps, it makes your walls bulge, it cracks.
They can and will insulate the attic and crawlspace. That's better than what we got now, which is nothing in the crawlspace and very, very old fiberglass batting in the attic. Like maybe thirty years old. I haven't seen it personally but Homero says it is not really even attached anymore. Unfortunately, I don't know, in general, what percentage of a house's heat is lost through which various avenues. Attic seems likely to be a fairly big one. If I were to guess, I'd say it is either one or two, along with windows. Crawlspace? I just don't know. Heat rises, not sinks. But in any case, at some point the law of diminishing returns has to kick in. Walls are the most expensive to insulate. How much does it really help?
The the issue of cost must be addressed. Everything I've looked at so far -solar electricity, insulation, wood burning insert, diesel generator, handgun - costs about three times what I expected it to. I'm not naive, I don't think. I figured that outfitting this place as a true homestead, making it as self-sufficient as I could, would cost about one third of all my available funds, or $100,000. Now, I think that estimate was horrifyingly low.
Of course, if I truly believed that the survival of my offspring is on the line, I'd spend whatever I got and the consequences be damned. But that's not sustainable. My offspring will need cash into the foreseeable future. Cash may lose a lot of it's value, but it's not going to become obsolete anytime soon (and if it does, then probably things are in a state such that the only thing my offspring will have that might be useful is a gun). I envision that we will still be paying property taxes to a government for a long time to come. And we'd better be able to. We certainly don't want to give anybody the slightest legal reason to take any of our land. Land will be the king that displaces cash eventually, of course. As it always has been in the past.
But back to reality for a minute. Worry-time is almost over and I don't just want to spend it in a negative-utopian trance. We're pretty broke. Moving Homero's operations up here has proved - like everything else - to be much more expensive than we planned for. And he hasn't been making any money for a couple of months. We've been getting by by not spending any money. The farm and the trade network is providing us with most of our food because it's high summer. But large expenses are due now: house insurance on two houses, car insurance for the year, tuition, fall property taxes.
Bottom line - I think I will only be able to swing attic insulation this year. Luckily we are in good shape vis-a-vis windows and doors. Okay. Worry time has ended for the day. See you tomorrow.
A place where one woman has gathered resources and information to help her family survive in an uncertain future; together with occasional personal musings.
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