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From Whack-a-Mole to Caulk-a-Hole: Energy Conservation Gets Its Game On

June 15, 2010

by Ashley Akin

I heard somewhere recently that squirrels and small children like shiny things. And games, they definitely like games. And now I feel that I must have either a small child or a squirrel living inside of me because I, too, like such things. And I just realized how creepy that last sentence sounds, so I’ll clarify: It’s more likely an inner redneck pageant-participant that lives inside of me and likes shiny things (a fact I fight every time I go to the discount section at Macy’s and see sequined tube tops), and I am deathly afraid of children, so you can save yourself a call to D.C.S. I’ll let you know when to be nervous.

Opening rant aside, games just make everything better. Road trips, doctors appointments, Christmas, drinking – all are made more pleasant by the addition of a points system. How, after all, are we ever supposed to feel good about ourselves if we don’t know just how much better we are than everyone else? (That’s for you, PBS – why can’t you ever do an After School Special with a little thing called “brutal honesty” for the wee ones?) That said, I’ve found an easy energy-saving task that can quickly be made game-worthy with the addition of a small (preferably shiny) prize.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that you can save up to 30% of the energy you use in a year just by reducing the drafts in your home. Now take a second and think about how much that is. Are you crunching those numbers, math majors? If I told you that you could reduce your mortgage, your student loan debt or even just your rear end by 30% in a few hours, you’d either call me crazy or ask to have a hit off my crack pipe. But I tell you, Smallest Users, it can be done.

Here’s what you do: Close all of the windows and doors and turn off the furnace (if you want to get real “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, you can kill the lights, turn on some Nine Inch Nails and play Sardines, but that’s a whole different game and the mere suggestion of it makes me want my Mom). Then start the dryer and the fans in the bathrooms. This will creative negative pressure and suck the air out of any existing holes. (Ideally, this should be done on a windy day, but my experience has been that the wind has recently forsaken Memphis for cooler pastures, so just do the best you can).

Then, light a candle (or an incense stick if patchouli doesn’t fill you with nausea and/or give you flashbacks of your first Panic show) and pass it along places where you think air might escape. These could be windows, doors, fixtures, outlets, baseboards; you name it. Once you’ve identified the hole, you can whip out your caulk gun and get to the fixing.

And that’s precisely where the gaming portion of our evening would begin. Equip every player (i.e. friend, family member, listless grifter walking down Central who “looks like a nice guy and just wants 5 bucks for a burger” – your choice) with a caulk gun and keep tabs on who finds and fixes the most holes. Then reward appropriately. In your house, maybe the winner doesn’t have to cook dinner for a month; in mine, maybe the winner gets the power to stop a roommate’s  latest flavor-of-the-month from watching ESPN and Swamp Loggers in the den in his ratty PJ bottoms. The game can, in essence, help you create your own little army of energy-savers and provide you with some interesting results if the stakes are high enough. Oh, and you’ll save some energy too – I have to keep reminding myself of the point…

Now go get that caulk and hit the holes. And light that incense for your little sister. Kids and fire are a no-go, right? See, I’m totally learning.

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