Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Save Money on Your Winter Home-Heating Costs

Some people muse idly about the coming winter's fuel costs as if it were a storm over which they have no control. However, you do control your heat costs. Moreover, if everyone did these smart actions, lower demand would put downward pressure on fuel prices.

  • Insulate: What would you think if someone left his/her front door wide open all winter and then complained about his/her heating costs? Lax insulation is like leaving your front door open in winter. First, inspect your current insulation. You can upgrade from minimum to average or from average to super-insulated. The roof is the most important because heat rises. Control air infiltration/leaks with caulk, etc. When it comes to heat retention, windows are only the next best thing to a hole in the wall, so use the best combination of storm windows, shutters, plastic films, thermal drapes, etc.
  • Use Free Heat: Manage your windows to use free solar heat gain (insolation) through the glazed surfaces (eg, glass). Make a solar space to trap solar-heated air against your building (eg, cover the interior of a screen porch in black, fill it with thermal masses (water jugs, lawn mowers), and cover the exterior screens with clear plastic). Manage your yard to landscape for best solar gain on the whole house in winter. Basically, do the opposite of summer home-cooling techniques. Basements are free passive geothermal heat sources, when even their typical geothermal-heat 40-50F degrees are better than zero-degree (0F) outside air temperature (check radon gas if necessary). Earth-sheltered homes maximize free, passive, geothermal heat.
  • Reduce Usage/Lower Demand: Conservation (not burning fuel) is the cheapest and easiest method to keep heating costs low. Insulation helps after you already have heated a space, but consider all the heating and fuel-burning that you do not need to do in the first place. Size/service/clean your furnace to peak efficiency, which is like raising the MPG on your car (otherwise, you are burning gallons without any heat benefit, simply burning money). Get a programmable thermostat that lowers heat while you are at work or sleeping under blankets. Lower your "standard" temperature a few degrees and wear a sweater (yes, the cliche actually works extremely well). Make "winter rooms," the old-fashioned method to keep the key part of the house at standard temperature (keep water-pipes above freezing or shut-off/drain the pipes from, say, an upstairs bathroom) and close-off unnecessary square footage (adjust heat registers/vents, close/add doors between rooms, etc.), such as the "exercise room" that is more of a junk room anyway. Winter rooms simulate the efficiency of studios, tiny homes, or other low-cost, efficient, simple-living lifestyles.
Let me know if I forgot anything.

Good luck.

Crossposted from Inexpensive Home Building

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Girl Pregnancy Pact Gloucester MA High School: School Subsidizes Teen Pregnancy (Savers Are from Mars. Debtors Are from Venus. Episode 6)

School Subsidizes Teen Pregnancy

Media Reports Miss the Main Point on Spike in Teen Pregnancies

A large number of high-school girls intentionally got pregnant or were happy to get pregnant at Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Earlier reports of a formal group "pact" to get pregnant are now disputed to be a post-pregnancy pledge for the teen mothers to somehow support each other, although the point about the girls' enthusiasm to get pregnant appears undisputed:

"But at a press conference today, Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk emerged from a closed-door meeting with city, school and health officials to say that there had been no independent confirmation of any teen pregnancy pact. She also said that the principal, who was not present at the meeting, is now "foggy in his memory" of how he heard about the pact.

[Gloucester High School, principal Dr. Joseph ] Sullivan has not spoken publicly about the teen pregnancies since he told TIME earlier this month that several girls repeatedly requested pregnancy tests at the school clinic and that some had reacted to positive test results with high fives and plans for baby showers. Pathways for Children CEO Sue Todd, whose organization runs the school's on-site daycare center, told TIME on June 13 that its social worker had heard of the girls' plan to get pregnant as early as last fall. She noted that some of the girls involved had been identified as being at risk of becoming teen mothers as early as sixth grade, when they began to request pregnancy tests in middle school." (TIME)

Various reports blame the depressed, working-class, blue-collar, fishing economy or a poor, anti-social home-life:
""What we've seen is the girls fit a certain profile," Todd said. "They're socially isolated, and they don't have the support of their families."
The Real Point

People with no job prospects and no family support should be trying to INCREASE income and DECREASE outgo. Teen, single, diploma-less mothers are DECREASING their income potential and INCREASING their outgo expenses.

The schools apparently utterly failed to teach math, logic, or home economics.

The schools apparently do manage to teach and subsidize teen pregnancy (according to public radio and other reports):
  • The school(s) teaches sex to children: School-district health coordinator Ann-Marie Jordan blamed budget "cutbacks" for stopping sex education after the 9th grade, leaving 'only' the years of sex taught in middle school and freshman year: Exactly how many YEARS does it take to figure out? One pair of unfixed neighborhood dogs or cats should do it.
  • The school(s) conducts "health surveys" that ask children to describe their sex lives: Behavioral experts know that people are more likely to do something when you make them discuss, imagine, and visualize doing it.
  • The school(s) provides/conducts pregnancy tests on children: Children can see grown-ups' tacit acceptance and expectation of teen sex (and usually failing tests in school is bad).
  • The school(s) provides a FREE in-school daycare center for teen mothers: "The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers. Sex-ed classes end freshman year at Gloucester, where teen parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center. Strollers mingle seamlessly in school hallways among cheerleaders and junior ROTC. "We're proud to help the mothers stay in school," says Sue Todd, CEO of Pathways for Children, which runs the day-care center." (TIME)
Gee, can anyone think of where the girls got the idea to get pregnant?

The school is one step away from providing wine coolers and a Jacuzzi.

"Experts" continue to miss the point:
"Dr. Joanne Cox, director of the Young Parents program at Children's Hospital in Boston, said that in-school programs for birth control are shown to be effective, as is education. Upon hearing of the situation in Gloucester, she said that considering birth control distribution in school would be wise. "When 10 are pregnant — that's the time to have the political courage to do it," she said. She added that the lack of easily available birth control — which, she said, pediatricians are often hesitant to prescribe — is "probably the No. 1 reason" for an increase in pregnancies." (Gloucester Daily Times)
1. Basic economics: Subsidize something and you get more of it.

2. Birth control is useless when the girls WANT to get pregnant, which is the reported case with the Gloucester girls.

Maybe there would be fewer teen pregnancies if the schools spent less time and money teaching and subsidizing sex -- and instead spent more time and money teaching math, logic, and economics.