by Mike Todd
“It’s here! It’s here!” I yelled, nose pressed against the window.
Our dog Memphis went berserk barking, which is what she does to alert us to things we already know about. It’s an annoying habit, but at least it comes from a good place. A good, stupid place.
This time, at least she was right that something was happening: oil delivery day was finally here. Oil delivery day is when a big tanker truck beeps backwards down your driveway, hooks a hose to the side of your house and sucks all the money out. As homeowners, it’s a day we generally greet with mixed emotions because even as the oil delivery makes us poorer, it also allows my wife Kara to keep the thermostat set to “broil.”
Last week, though, the truck wasn’t just delivering oil. It was delivering the results of our big experiment. “I keep my thermostat set to the same temperature all winter long. It’s much more efficient than bringing the heat up and down,” a heating guy told us many years ago, convincing us not to bother programming our thermostats.
For years afterwards, we continued not to bother. In retrospect, taking oil-conservation advice from the heating guy that the oil company recommended is much like taking dieting advice from a nutritionist that Krispy Kreme recommended (or from Chris Christie). “Oh, your body doesn’t notice the calories if you cover them in glaze first. Also, did you know that lard is the new kale?”
For the last several winters, our house has been guzzling oil like a Louisiana pelican, so we decided to try a few different things this year. I put insulated covers under our attic fan and over our pull-down attic stairs. The regular reader(s) of this column may also recall that we recently installed a Nest learning thermostat, the only thermostat clinically proven to get people to spend $250 on a thermostat.
Nest recently made headlines when Google paid $3.2 billion for it, which probably means that pretty soon, to turn the temp up a few degrees, we’ll have to join Google+, the social network you join when you need some alone time.
After making these improvements, I hoped that we would put a dent in our heating bills, but we wouldn’t have any solid data until our next delivery. We’re usually at work when the oil truck sidles up to our house, but a stroke of good fortune enabled us to be home this time: A virulent stomach bug had struck our kids’ daycare, sickening most of the kids, teachers and parents, including our whole family.
Say what you will about violent gastrointestinal distress, but I lost four pounds in two days, almost canceling out my holiday indiscretions. If you’re looking for a great crash diet, just stop by our kids’ daycare and lick a few toys. You’ll be ready for the cover of Cosmo by the end of the week. Better get there soon, though, before this epidemic subsides and the next one begins. Show up a day too late, and you’ll probably just get pinkeye instead.
As the oil truck pulled away, I ran outside in my slippers to grab the receipt the driver had hung on our garage door. The bill showed the smallest delivery we’d had in at least two years, about 20% below average. Of course, the sample size was still too small to know for sure if any of our changes had really made a difference. It could have been a fluke.
“Dude! The oil bill is smaller! It wasn’t a fluke! We rule!” I said, in triumph, to the inside of the toilet.
Sometimes, you have to take your victories where you can get them.