Cold, harsh reality

For a week last month, it was possible to walk around in Ashland without a coat — without freezing.

I was ecstatic. In yoga class, I added extra gusto to my sun salutations. My Ashland Yoga Center teacher was thrilled. I was thrilled.

And then, the next week — straight from the Arctic — came the frost, the rain and the wind. After a day of disbelief, I dug out my jacket, my scarf and my gloves from my closet.

"You see, what we had here," said my friend, an Ashland native, "is a little thing we call 'The February Fake-out.'"

"Well, I definitely feel like I've been duped," I said.

"Sucker," he said.

So, it's a real phenomenon. And it's really too bad.

To help save the Earth from climate change — and to save myself some cash — I've endured the arctic cold this winter.

My house has no central heat. There's a fireplace and a couple of space heaters. The insulation? It's from the early '60s. Enough said.

The fireplace is temperamental. One of my housemates has taken to using a propane torch to light it.

"Wasteful," I say.

"I'm freezing," he says, his breath a vapor.

Having grown up in Southern California, where we had a fire about once a year for the "ambiance," I'm not a skilled fire-maker either. I was never a Scout. What I know, I learned from camping, where there's no fireplace damper or door to snuff out the blaze.

To cope with the frigid temperatures in my room — at the back of the house, farthest from the fireplace — my housemate bought me an eco heater. It's a thin ceramic square that mounts to the wall and sucks cold air from the ground and releases hot air at the top. It uses hardly any energy and it hardly even works.

Actually, it's great if you want to maintain a comfortable temperature in a room all day, but it takes a few hours to make the space toasty. Another friend reports the same is true with his oil heater, which looks like a small radiator and also plugs into the wall. "It's cold for the first two hours, but after that, I'm set," he said.

But some of us have to leave home to work during the day. Energy-wise, and fire-wise, it doesn't make sense to leave a space heater on when I'm not home.

I wanted something I could turn on when I got home and have my room warm within minutes.

But before deciding to switch to a conventional space heater, my housemate and I did the math. We figured using the eco heater for eight hours would be the equivalent of using a standard space heater for two hours. Either would use about 3,000 watts and cost 15.7 cents per day in Ashland, not including the basic electric charge and tax.

So I got a standard space heater, with temperature settings. And I use it sparingly, hence my happiness at the warm weather last month.

If I had cash to spare, I'd consider investing in the city's solar program, as a friend of mine does by paying extra on his electric bill every month. Annually, the city credits the electric bill of participants for the amount of renewable electricity their solar panels have created. A panel costs $784, but residents can also purchase half or a quarter of a panel.

Eventually, my housemate wants to redo the insulation in his home and implement solar. But until then, we're bundling up in blankets or huddling up around the fire.

And for the last few days, I've been busy chanting these words as I do sun salutations to stay warm: "Sun, come out tomorrow."

And, please, no more fake-outs.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or with your ideas for this column.

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