You have memories that will be with you forever. A birthday party when you got sick from eating too much chocolate. The day you met your spouse.
I vividly remember a day that changed my life. At the WERU fair, Charlie Ewing convinced me that I could easily build my own solar electrical and water heating systems. It is easy if you know as much as Charlie Ewing, but it took me several years.
Yesterday I witnessed two things I will never forget. The first one was a visit with David Bright. He showed me how easy it is to install a radiant heating system on top of the floor in an old house.
I already knew that radiant heat entailed a concrete heat sink in new construction. I also read that the little PEX pipes could be up between the stringers beneath the floor. Before I put radiant solar heat in my new cellar floor I visited my neighbors Hilly and BB Davis and Jim Kinney’s daughter in Cushing. They had radiant heat in their floors, and I wanted to see what radiant heat looked like. But until yesterday I didn’t know that it is possible to put radiant heat on top of an old wood floor. It was a memorable occasion.
Because simple innovations that pay large long-range dividends are often rejected by any community on religious, moral or practical grounds, radiant heat in kitchen floors will take a long time to catch on. But now, being aware of it, we would be remiss if we did not at least mention it here.
You will recall from Charles Lamb’s “A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig” that people didn’t realize how much better pig meat tasted when it was cooked – until a pig was accidentally roasted in a house that burned down. It was believed that you had to put a pig in your house and then burn the house down to cook the pig. So there was a rash of house fires in that neighborhood.
Burning down a house just to roast a pig sounds silly, but it illustrates how difficult it is to come up with a better way of doing things. I made many costly mistakes while building my solar water heating system. Were I to build another one, it would be much better than the one I have today.
Does it bother you to see a friend or neighbor doing something the hard way? Don’t you want to get your hands on the project and show them how to do it? That’s how some of us feel when we see our neighbors building garages or workshops that don’t have a heat sink in the floor. Why buy oil or split wood when your shop can be heated on so many days by the eternal free rays from the sun? If I were 20 years younger, I’d even put a heat sink in my driveway to automatically melt off snow and ice.
There will probably come a day in rural Maine when it will be taken for granted that you do not even build a garage or gazebo that does not have PEX pipes in the floor so it can be heated by the sun. Even if you don’t put up your home-made solar water heaters for years, at least the pipes will be in place when you do get around to finishing the project.
Solar radiant heat is not often a consideration in new construction in Maine, simply because most people have no idea of what it is or how it works. Too many contractors who design and build houses are in the same boat. Solar panels on a Maine house or out in a field are still somewhat of a curiosity. Mike, a solar technician who was instrumental in installing my system, lives here weekends but spends all week in Massachusetts, where he can find work. Many of my friends and neighbors consider generating your own electricity to be un-American.
There is nothing wrong or unusual about being suspicious of the unfamiliar. The first time my grandfather saw a car go by his house was in 1902. It was such a memorable event he wrote it in his diary.
Were most of the three innovations that lifted us from barbarism to what we call civilization greeted with skepticism, if not outright derision? Seeing your first wheel, gun or coffee maker must have been memorable occasions.
Did I mention the other thing I saw yesterday that I will never forget? It was President Trump telling the folks at the U.N. of his administration’s achievements. The delegates laughed. The next time Tim Sample entertains at the Fryeburg Fair, he would do well to have the president open for him.
The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website: