Insulation and Retrofits

Environment Personal Writings

            Pearl River      This has been one of those monster cold fronts that everyone around the world knows about. A brother in Quito, asked me about how New Orleans was making it.  As just one example, our Little Rock office has been essentially closed all week, and there have hardly been a half-dozen live shows on KABF, but luckily, the tower stands tall, but I’ll say no more for fear of putting my dirty mouth on it.

And, compared to what we read around the rest of the country, we remain in the banana belt, even if most the bananas and papayas will have to start over in the spring.  Another brother, who has been temporarily displaced from Little Rock to Chicago suburbs, sent around the single-digit figures and pictures of his wee grandson as an icicle.  As sister on Victoria Island, sent words of solidarity from coast to coast without regrets that she was long gone from the times she lived in Hamilton on the other side of Canada.  It was like that, so we’re not complaining. On the other hand, it made me think about ACORN’s demands all around the world for public and private investment in retrofits.

Several things come with hard freezes in the Southern states.  One that hits the hardest for low-and-moderate income families is the soaring cost of utilities that cries, “help, mama,” for retrofits.  The heaters are juiced up.  I dread the next bill from the much-maligned Entergy for the office, since we had the central heat cooking all week. For many of our members, that means small electric space heaters on HI, which are even more expensive to run and do a crummy job.


The other utility bill that will hurt hard will be for water, because to keep the pipes from breaking in a mid-20’s or lower freeze, hoses and faucets are left dripping to get one step ahead of the freeze, hopefully.  Living in New Orleans for decades through one winter after another in our homes and buildings, we’ve replaced almost all of the old pipes with copper or insulated pipe or that new blue plastic stuff.  That doesn’t mean that nothing will break at the joint.  I’m taking a break from dealing with two of those right now that we had overlooked even though the water had been shutoff at the main.


Do all of this, and you’ll still be cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, because there’s little to no insulation in the 100-plus-year-old houses where we live. The floors are cold and the pipes are running along the crawl space.  There’s nothing in the walls, unless you put it there after Katrina or crawled up in the attic and did the best on your hands and knees.  A real retrofit would go house to house in one ward after another filled with shotgun doubles and singles from another era and insulate them from top to bottom.  Biden is going after lead service lines that connect to the houses, but some of those pipes running under the floorboards are lead or amalgam.  We need to make sure that’s on the list as well.


With retrofits we could win on several fronts.  We could make homes more efficient for winters and summers, reducing the huge climate footprint where “leaky” homes with their inefficient systems are doing as much work for the outside as inside.  Then we could also reduce the utility bills for electric, gas, and water making housing both cleaner and, very importantly, more affordable for families.


Walk outside for a minute and remember this time, so that when it passes, you are still with us and saying, “why not, more retrofits?”