Community Voices - Tom Geller

Posted by Carley Stein
Carley Stein
Carley Stein is a second year Environmental Studies major from New Jersey. She i
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on February 11, 2015 in Community Voices

Tom Geller is a freelance writer who chose to use the services of Providing Oberlin with Efficiency Responsibly (POWER) to insulate his home.

Q: How did you hear about POWER?

I’ve been around Oberlin for about five years now. It’s a small town, so you find out about everything pretty soon. I’m actually friends with somebody whose mother is one of the people who runs POWER. Also, I’d gone through a different program called CHIP, which the city offers, and I found it really lacking. I figured I’d give POWER a try; I’d seen the signs around and so forth.

Q: Why did you contact POWER?

Well, [my house] was a fixer-upper when I bought it. I bought it really cheap: The entire kitchen had to be torn out, there was no insulation in the attic, there were a lot of problems all over. And so I did a few things when I first bought it, including putting insulation in. But I knew that the windows were leaking and the insulation wasn’t great, and so forth. So really [contacting POWER] was just out of need. It’s too bad [the work] couldn’t have been done before the winter started, but the insulation company was too busy.

Q: When you bought your home was energy efficiency a consideration?

To be honest, I didn’t really think so much about energy when I bought the place: I knew I was going to improve the place. And when one of the original contractors said, ‘Yeah well, we’re tearing out these walls we should put in insulation,’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I never even really thought of that’ -- that when you tear out walls, you put up new insulation... so it really was kind of the last thing on my mind. But then with the polar vortexes coming through, it became forefront of my mind.

Q: Have you done any previous work to improve the energy efficiency of your home?

No, this was the first home I owned. But I did do some work before POWER got here it: It just wasn't as good as what they did.

Q: How would you describe your initial walkthrough with POWER?

It was great, especially compared to the CHIP program, which was very badly run. [Greg Jones] came over, described the program, and gave me some papers. [Later] they sent somebody to actually do the assessment, and he was terrific. They put a big fan in the door and they close off all the windows and such and basically see how airtight the house is. It was a good six hours of stuff, and the guy was really good with me. Then I got Ritsko insulation, who were terrific, who actually did the work. So, pretty much from beginning to end it was good.

Q: Have you saved money on energy?

It’s kind of hard to tell, because they only did the work a couple of months ago. And it was sort of as the polar vortexes were ending, and my energy bills had been so variable up until then. I will say that the first thing I notice is that smells stay around in the house longer: It's not as drafty. That's for better or worse, of course.

Q: How would you define sustainability and what actions have you made to contribute to sustainability?

I think, generally speaking, the lifestyle I enjoy is not sustainable in any way. I’d say that's true for Americans generally -- and I don't pretend that it isn’t. And there are small things that we do: I’m glad that Oberlin has a recycling program, for example... But, yeah, my energy consumption personally is way out of line with what I give back to the world generally.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

I really do want POWER to do well. They did such a good job by me, and God knows there are plenty of places in Oberlin that could use it. The housing stock here is not great, and partly that’s because the value of the houses is so low. If you have a $40,000 house and it's going to cost $10,000 to fix it up, well, it's not as worth it, because you’re never going to get more than $40,000 for it, no matter how fixed up it is.

So having something like POWER makes it possible to make the houses more livable and certainly more energy efficient.

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Carley Stein is a second year Environmental Studies major from New Jersey. She is an Outings Club officer and member of Harkness Co-op.


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