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I just moved, in many ways to a better place. The move was a surprise to me, but I found a good new place, thanks to my social network. Now I'm in a place that's less treed, and farther out from the city, but closer to most of my work, and in many ways more suitable to walking/biking/carpooling. So hooray.

There is one thing that's bothering me - energy inefficiency/heat waste. My last place was a complex of 3-story buildings built in the late 40s/early 50s, with brick walls, radiators, and individual AC units. I live in the DC metro area, and work from home, so I do need a relatively hospitable environment. At my last place, I could for the most part get through winters without using the heat, and summers without turning on the AC. I'd dress warm in the winters, and go mostly naked in the summer, taking cold showers to cool down. I had windows on opposite sides, so I could set up a cross-draft for ventilation, and run the ceiling fans as needed.

My new place was built in the 70s, and it's far less energy efficient! It basically requires dependence on external heating/cooling systems. I only have windows on one side, so no cross-draft, the windows and patio doors are the original 70s single-pane energy wasters, and the foyer is open, so there's no energy buffer there. And what's making me crazy is that I haven't found a way to improve the situation yet.

The heating wasn't working the first few days after I moved in, which slowed me down quite a bit. I dressed in layers, but it's still kinda challenging. I don't mind camping and hiking in low temperatures, but it's harder to concentrate on work. The fact that it wasn't much warmer inside than out made it very clear that the windows weren't providing much insulation. It got better when the heat started working, except for the fact that I know I'm just pouring energy out as waste.

I'd only used the radiator a few times this winter at my last place, and often kept windows cracked open (without the heat on) for fresh air. Here, everything's shut, and the furnace kicks in every 20 minutes, to keep holding at 60F. Both places have utilities included (which is a complete disincentivizer for those who would be motivated by financial concerns to waste less energy), but my new place is a condo complex, which means that I'm renting from the owner of my apartment, but the condo complex covers the energy costs.

I could ask the owner to upgrade the windows and patio doors, but they won't see any actual value from that, aside from improving the resale value. I could ask the condo complex, but they have no way of measuring actual value in reduced energy costs by subsidizing improvements to my unit. I could pay for it myself but I get no value from that either.

What makes me crazy here is that we were building better buildings in the 50s, before air-conditioning became ubiquitous, and that even in a building built in the 70s, forty years of awareness of the importance of reducing energy consumption has not resulted in tangible improvements in this apartment. And I, a dedicated environmentalist, have no effective path to a solution, short of going down the "A Pail of Air" path.

I live in a basically progressive county, am connected with a very effective environmental community, and yet I don't have an effective way to address 40 year old windows. Welcome to the tragedy of the commons!

PS, I'm very aware that I'm living in luxury, when many others can't afford to pay for heating, and/or are living in actually challenging situations.

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