Mike Murphy

I recall one spring day in 1970 getting out of school for about one hour in the afternoon to walk around the neighborhood with a black trash bag hunting debris. It was like an Easter egg hunt; everyone was racing to see who could find the most garbage. While most of the 8th grade class bounded through the yards of neighboring houses, sweeping the curbs and gutters for trash, I and a couple of enterprising buddies took a different tact on the first Earth Day - a passing fad in our estimation. We circled one house and made our way to the back of the school where we transferred a goodly part of the dumpster into our six trash bags. We were done early and, to the surprise of our teachers, had been curiously productive.

In 38 years, that may well be the lamest thing I have ever done to celebrate Earth Day. Oh, I have also gone to the other extreme - once. I organized a bunch of schoolchildren to pick up trash around a neighborhood creek. Novel idea, huh? But, that was just so the neighborhood association could get on the local Dallas television broadcast to promote our Save the Creek campaign to protect an endangered species. Nothing works on the five o’clock news like the shameless exploitation of little children.

Call me an environmental slacker, or call me a liberal, tree-hugging environmentalist. I can answer to both.

Earth Day 2008 fell on Tuesday, April 22. It is “a time to celebrate gains we have made and create new visions to accelerate environmental progress. Earth Day is a time to unite around new actions. Earth Day and every day is a time to act to protect our planet.” So says the government portal www.earthday.gov, which also happens to be populated with numerous photos of President George W. Bush “participating” in various earthy things, looking exceptionally earthy without his suit and tie.

I naively thought I was the only person who had ever worked the Earth Day thing for political gain.


A more credible location, www.epa.gov/earthday.htm, offers a bit more substance in my humble opinion. From there, one can find several options for conservation measures and energy-efficiency suggestions. One of the links is to www.epa.gov/earthday/work.htm.

There, one might find links to the Energy Star program. There are other links, but this is the most important one. The home page of the Energy Star Program, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), has four key components: products, home improvement, building and plants, and new homes. Nearly every bulleted item under these main topics has some HVACR angle.

Sadly, not enough HVAC and refrigeration contractors are really working the angles. HVACR expenses, heating and cooling, represent more than 40 percent of a building’s energy usage. Add the heating of water and the importance of energy efficiency climbs tremendously. No other single industry has the potential to impact America’s energy future more than HVACR.

The residential sector alone offers sizable opportunities for helping the environment through energy efficiency.

The following was excerpted from the Energy Star Website: “The home sector, consisting of more than 100 million households, contributes about 17 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions [according to the EPA], and offers potential energy savings in the range of 25 to 30 percent compared with current consumption.

“However, this sector presents a large challenge for improving energy efficiency. To capitalize on the possible savings, homeowners face numerous decisions. They receive information on energy-efficiency options for the home from manufacturers, utilities, retailers, and contractors.

“Frequently this information is inconsistent, and leaves homeowners with more questions, such as:

• Which products (or homes) offer the energy savings claimed by the manufacturer, product vendor, or homebuilder?

• Which products of those that cost more upfront offer a reasonable return on the additional cost?

• Which products offer the desired features and performance in addition to greater energy efficiency?

• What design and installation issues are important to obtaining the claimed energy performance of a product?

• How do owners find a heating and cooling contractor or home improvement professional who is well versed in the best practices for home energy efficiency?”

Perhaps the two most important questions that homeowners should be asking themselves are these last two. So, how does one get the guaranteed performance that an HVACR product claims to provide? By finding the best contractor and working with them to create energy-efficient solutions.

If you forgot to find your Earth Day angle, give it some serious thought. Consumers need your help.

Murphy’s Law: Stay out of the dumpster.

Publication date:04/28/2008