"Our friends, who believe in global warming, ought to be happy about
this," remarked the technician who had come to clean our heating boiler,
an annual procedure.
It was early afternoon, in our spruce- and pine-shaded yard it was 78 degrees F. It was March 22.
This customer, I, was wearing shorts for the second afternoon in a
row. For two afternoons now, when we drove either of our little Toyotas,
Dolores and I had the air conditioner working.
It was March 22. The temperature was 78 degrees F in the shade.
Dolores and I are two of "our friends," who believe in global warming.
This time of year, Downeast Transportation is starting to check the
air conditioners in the buses to be sure they are operating correctly
because summer is two or three months down the road.
On March 21, as I was driving my bus in Bar Harbor in that same
78-degree weather, I pondered whether the air conditioner was operating
correctly. A passenger said it was 73 degrees on his little thermometer
No, I don't know why he carries a little thermometer. Probably a feature of his cell phone or other gadget.
In Bar Harbor, so many younger women and girls were out wandering the
streets, the women gathered around their baby carriages, all the women
wearing shorts and tight jeans with T-shirts or some kind of tank tops,
that it looked like a scene from TV's Desperate Housewives. It was March
21, and the same gatherings occurred on March 22.
In Bar Harbor, I noted -- but didn't look at -- a college-aged young
woman wearing some kind of skirt thing that was so far north at the
bottom that the top of south couldn't have been far away. She was also
wearing those stocking-like things that stretch so far north they cover
south in case the skirt doesn't. A group of college-age boys were
At least that hasn't changed. But it was March 21 rather than the middle of summer.
The TV weatherman, pronounced "meteorologist" these days by the local
readers of the news who introduce them, announced that this was the
hottest spell on record for this time of year. I heard this on March 21
and March 22.
The technician said that our heating boiler is basically worn out
from all those years of heavy duty. He noted that the pollutants from
the burning oil had eaten away part of the side wall of the unit, which
he had repaired and insulated. Thankfully, he assured us, the
maintenance insurance we carried with our oil company would pay for
either repairs or a totally new oil boiler, depending on what the
company manager decided to do.
Ah, that at least sounded like March 22.
A few years ago, I was preparing one April morning to drive a bus
north to a tiny town in the woods north of us. The general manager
happened to be at the scene, talking with someone else.
He turned to me and said, "Where are your pants?"
I was wearing shorts because of the heat this early April morning.
"Oh," I replied, "I'm heading up to Mariaville, where there's
probably snowdrifts. I didn't want my pants cuffs to get wet from the
snow, so I wore shorts."
This was April.
This March we're considering what to do about our worn-out heating
boiler. The technician said it would last a year or so, so we have time
to think about it.
I wonder what the temperature will be in a year or so, say next February.
One of the reasons, a minor one, I moved to Maine from Pennsylvania
in 1965 was to escape the heat and humidity that pervaded Penn's Woods.
Now, in Maine, we're expecting more than the usual number of
mosquitoes this summer, because the bats are dying. The bats are dying
due to some new disease that's coming to Maine from away -- away down
South somewhere. It's getting warm enough in the North to attract all
those buggy Southerners.
I recall in the late 1950s, while vacationing in Belgrade, a
then-farm country northwest of Augusta, our family tip toeing out into a
field one evening to see if we could spot any deer. We were dressed for
the August evening, warmly, because it was cool -- cold for us
Pennsylvaniacs. A lot colder than it was this March 21st and 22nd and
I recall those April snowstorms of years past. I remember leaving
Maine for a vacation in Virginia one May. I remember it because there
was snow on the ground in the as-yet-unwood-pelleted Pine Tree State
when we left.
On this hot March 22, 2012, we were thinking about replacing our
worn-out heating boiler. Talking about it outside in the summer heat of
Because "our friends," including us, are concerned about pollution
that may be adding to what could -- or could not -- be a normal climatic
heating trend, we're thinking about a more pollution-free form of heat.
A week ago on public TV's Maine Watch, the discussion was about wood
pellets and how more and more people are buying either the stoves or
expensive central heating units that burn wood pellets, according to a
spokesman from the wood-pellet industry. This man, who also owns a
wood-pellet-manufacturing company, said that as Maineiacs' old furnaces
and boilers wear out, they are seeking a more environmentally friendly
source of home heat.
He said Maine's vast supply of wood makes that decision easy, wood
pellets, which also produce very little pollution because they are so
seasoned and then dried further in the manufacturing process.*
I, of course, partly because I'm left handed and can't quite ever
think within the commonly-accepted norm, and Dolores are thinking of an
electric boiler. People generally scoff, when I say this in their
presence, adding that the price of electricity is "way higher" than the
cost of even expensive oil or propane.
Not true. I have checked -- with a couple of college professors -- in
the past three years, and, using fuel-comparison charts they emailed
me, found that electricity is actually less expensive than oil. A
little. Of course, each year the price of oil is rising, while the price
of electricity is being reduced. (Electricity is more expensive than
And our state governor, bless his questionable soul and motives, is
pushing to expand new pollution-free sources of electricity to help free
us from the grip of expensive oil. If he has aimed at one thing that's
correct, that is it.
I believe in wind power, just not where it's not appropriate, such as
scenic areas where folks have been vacationing and living in for a
century, the great forests, mountains, and lakes of Maine. For about ten
years, we purchased hydropower -- the kind that Belfast is thinking of
developing from a couple of hydroelectric dams built by the late Larry
Gleason in the 1970s. The city is thinking of buying those dams.
Now we don't buy pure hydropower, because the company that was
selling it to us, First Wind, suddenly and without any notice to us, the
customers, stopped selling it. My opinionated guess is that they have
stopped selling it, because it is more profitable to obtain government
subsidies to develop wind power than earn money by selling hydropower.
That's only my simple-minded opinionated guess, of course.
So now we buy from an Auburn company, paying a tad over seven cents a
kilowatt hour. This is standard electricity, about 30 percent of which
comes from "green" sources. I also am guessing that this 30 percent will
increase as new "green" electric sources, such as tidal power and more
wind power in appropriate locations -- and even hydropower, which
doesn't seem to be in the current popular discussion of "green" power,
are developed. In Ellsworth an unused hydroelectric dam and equipment
remains in place along the Union River. I wonder how many more of these
facilities there are in Maine going unused while we seek clean electric
Dolores and I are considering an electric boiler because it seems that more and more electricity will be "green" in the future.
A website I read stated that more and more people are buying these
electric boilers for the same reason we're considering purchasing one.**
The boiler can be plumbed into our existing baseboard system.
Of course, we'll miss the noise the oil boiler makes, a comforting
sound on a cold winter night. We won't miss the pollution discharges.
Today it's cooler, supposed to be into the high 40s, maybe even 50. The "meteorologist" on TV last night described it as cold.
Cold? I thought the 40s, 50s, and even 60s were normal March temperatures.
Maybe the TV guy (There are, of course, TV women "meteorologists"
too, who, by the way, in my opinionated view, are nicer looking than
those TV guys and at least as intelligent.) has already become
acclimated to global warming.
*When I was a child, I may have spoken like a child, I don't
remember. I do remember my parent's heating our suburban house with
coal, a large coal boiler for the radiators and a smaller one for
domestic hot water. The coal truck driver would place a wooden chute
into a cellar window and pour the dirty, dusty stuff into the proper
coal bin my father had built in the basement. My father would shovel it
into the respective boiler. When oil came along, they were smart enough
to change to a better heat source, which happened to be a lot cleaner
than coal. Now, most of a century later, it's our turn to be smart
enough to be looking for a better heat source than oil, which happens to
be a lot cleaner than oil.
**One website stated that electric boilers are smaller than oil
boilers, so small that they can be installed in a closet or hung from a
wall or a rafter. We have no closets in our basement, but we do have
rafters. One site stated that an electric boiler, which can also include
heating hot domestic water, maintains the water at 180 degrees. In
warmer weather, it stated, some boilers allow you to reduce that
temperature to save electricity.
I searched for the cost of one and found just one possible answer,
$2,000 for the unit itself. When I first began investigating electric
boilers two or three years ago, the cost I received from somewhere was
$8,000. If any reader has cost information or knows who sells or
installs electric boilers in Maine, I'd sure love to hear from that
reader. I filled out two online forms to obtain "quick" quotes. The
first one responded that they were sorry, but no one handles electric
boilers in our area. The other responded that we would receive up to
five phone calls with information costs and other details.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012