Evan X. Merz

musician / technologist / human being

Tagged "climate change"

Save the planet. Wear a hat

One of the odd sacrifices of our modern way of life is hats. Hats used to be everywhere. Everyone wore a hat every day. Just look at this 1940 painting by Jacob Lawrence. Do you see anyone not wearing a hat?

Painting of a busy railroad station where everyone is wearing a hat.

Why did everyone wear a hat? Because their hair was a greasy mess. Today we tend to shower more often than our ancestors, so we've dropped some of the layers of clothing that they preferred, including hats.

People still wear functional hats. Baseball players need to shade their eyes from the sun. Construction workers and football players need to protect their fragile skulls.

People also wear hats that form part of their uniform. The pope's hat is particularly famous, and the Queen's Guard wouldn't look right without their characteristic bear skin hats.

But outside of the occasional horse race, nobody wears big, fancy hats any longer. Like when was the last time you saw someone wearing hats like the ones worn by the Duke and Duchess of Urbino in this dual portrait by Piero della Francesca?

Painting of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino wearing fancy hats.

I think I'd look good in that giant red hat.

And anyway are we really better off showering every day? Between the dry skin and the lack of hats, I'm not entirely convinced.

Plus, showers are a massive waste of water and energy. I know I don't need to turn the hot knob all the way up, but I can't help myself. So the planet would be better off if we skipped a shower now and then.

And that would be much easier to do if I owned a few good hats. One artist who definitely liked a fancy hat was Rembrandt van Rijn. I had a hard time picking just the right self-portrait to feature in this post, but I think this hat with two feathers down the front would turn a few heads if someone was bold enough to bring it back.

Self portrait wearing a white feathered bonnet by Rembrandt.

So if you are a connoisseur of haberdashery, and you care about the planet, then do yourself a favor; buy a fancy hat and skip the shower.

My Electrification Budget

2023 was the hottest year in human history, and 2024 looks like it's going to be even hotter. This has everyone wondering what they can do to lower their carbon footprint.

If you're thinking about electrifying your life, then you aren't alone. Millions of people are starting to rid their lives of gas burning cars and appliances, and replacing them with safer, more efficient electric options.

Still, there are a lot of barriers to electrification, and budget confusion is a big one. In this post, I'm going to walk you through our electrification journey so you can get an idea of how much it cost for us, and maybe avoid some of the mistakes we made.

Small home lifestyle

We live in a small house. This was a choice partly dictated by where we live; Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive places in the world, so we could only afford a small house. But it's also something dictated by energy efficiency; it's much more energy efficient to only maintain as much house as you need.

Our house is 990 square feet. This makes it an especially good example for other people to look at. Round it up to 1000 square feet, then the math is easy for figuring out how electrifying your home might relate to ours.

Still, we live in one of the most expensive parts of the country, so you might want to divide by some cost of living. The 2023 median home price in San Jose was $1,100,000 million according to realtor.com. The median home price in the us for the same time was around $412,000. So you might reasonably divide this total in half for your area.

The total cost

These prices include the cost of installation, but they don't include rebates, and again, this is from one of the most expensive parts of the country. Also, we generally didn't purchase the cheapest of anything; we opted for the devices we wanted rather than the most affordable ones.

This work was done over more than five years from 2018 to 2024, so this table was created from memory, and most of the costs are rounded to the nearest thousand dollars.

Item Cost
Initial solar $8,000
More solar plus battery $25,000
Heat pump water heater $8,000
Induction stove $2,000
Electric vehicle $45,000
Heat pump HVAC $17,000
TOTAL $105,000

As you can see, electrifying our lives wasn't cheap. Even with the incentives offered by local and national governmental organizations, we still paid nearly $100k to go green. Obviously, this isn't practical for most people. Fortunately, we did make a few mistakes that made this a bit more expensive than what most people will pay.

Mistakes and savings

The biggest mistake we made was adding solar to our garage in the initial installation. The problem is that we eventually wanted to add a battery in order to ensure we aren't hitting the grid. Well, the battery has to be connected to our house for it to be useful, but we added the solar to our garage, which is on a separate electrical panel. So we either had to trench out to our garage in order to connect the panels to our house, or we had to install a new solar setup on our house. The latter ended up being cheaper. We should have just installed our initial set of solar panels on our house.

The biggest cost on this chart is the electric car. We bought an Ioniq 5 because we thought that it had the best range at the price when we bought it. Still, you can get good used electric cars for less than half that cost. On Carvana, there are 2023 Hyundai Konas listed at under $20k. Generally, you shouldn't worry about range. Most people drive less than 40 miles a day, and modern electric cars will charge more than that overnight.

So the total cost here is high, even for California. If you eliminate the battery and install your initial solar setup correctly, then you can save $25k, bringing the total cost down to $80k. If you then buy a used EV, you can shave off another $25k, bringing the total cost down to $55k.

$55k is still a lot of money, but when you add government incentives, I think it's possible for anyone who owns a home.