How Do Wealthy New Englanders Fight #ClimateChange?

This article title, “How wealthy New Englanders fight #ClimateChange” is one we have used thrice previously. In the first, we noted the PBS television series This Old House and its renovation of the Seaside Victorian Cottage, in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Those wealthy New Englanders didn’t choose electric heat pumps, but warm, dependable gas heating for the cold, Rhode Island winters. Their HVAC system appears to allow the large, new exterior condensers to be used for heating as well, but the gas furnace is new and in place. The homeowners had a new, fairly sizable gas fireplace installed, an oversized Wolf gas range, and three gas-fired instant hot water heaters. More, they had a gas fireplace installed outside, on their backyard patio. The series was filmed following the panicdemic — This is not a typographical error, but spelled exactly as I saw the whole thing, an exercise in pure, unreasoning panic. — restrictions of 2020.

The second featured the remodeling an 1880s Cape Cod style home, outside of Concord, Massachusetts. It was filmed after the COVID-19 panicdemic had mostly waned, enough so that I saw only one person wearing a face mask in the whole thing. In episode 13, we saw an older gas-fired boiler for the heating system replaced by a new, more efficient, but still natural gas fired boiler. Episode 16, “Cinderella Story,” shows how the homeowners had installed a high end, professional gas stove. There was a corner unit gas fireplace briefly shown, as well as a restored wood-burning fireplace more prominently featured. It seems that the wealthy New Englanders who have supported politicians and policies which would deprive the commoners, the working-class, of gas appliances, aren’t quite so eager to sacrifice their own comfort and own lifestyles.

In the third story, the 1894 Victorian in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, the homeowners opted for winter-capable heat pumps, but nevertheless retained the original gas furnace for the depths of a Massachusetts winter. The finished kitchen showed a smooth-topped electric, possibly induction, cook top, so if they weren’t going total electric, they were at least not quite the hypocrites that so many New England voters have turned out to be.

Under Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat, there are proposals for a new statewide building code in which the use of natural gas systems could — not immediately would — be banned in new construction by municipalities, and includes the interesting, and I believe smart, provision that new home construction should be pre-wired for conversion from natural gas to electric appliances should future homeowners want to make a change, without the need for expensive rewiring. It also mandates wiring be put in place for electric automobile charging units, though it does not require that those units be installed. I can’t complain about the Rubinoff family and how they spent their money. They did add features to the home that would make sense for those worried about global warming climate change, but they also showed that they have some actual sense, in maintaining a gas hookup and heating system capable of keeping the place warm when it gets bitterly cold.

Gas boiler installed in Newburyport house. Screenshot by D R Pico from the television broadcast.

And so we come to this article. In This Old House, Season 44, the subject was the Newburyport Forever Home, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Newburyport is in Essex County, where the voters gave 267,198 votes, 62.93%, to Joe Biden and his climate change proposals, to just 144,837 votes, 34.11%, to President Trump.

The Newburyport project was first broadcast in early 2023, and was filmed in 2022. The ‘before’ photo of the project house was shown in the snowy wintertime, while the ‘after’ photo shows full summertime foliage, giving us some idea about the actual remodeling dates.

So, what was done during the remodel? We were shown a brand new natural gas boiler, for both heating and hot water. Well, who can blame them for wanting to have a warm house during a Massachusetts winter!

Newburyport kitchen, featuring a gas range. Screenshot by D R Pico from the television broadcast. Click to enlarge.

But, while the homeowners in the West Roxbury project opted for an electric cook top, not so in Newburyport; Season 44, Episode 14 showed a brand new, high-end gas range in the kitchen. Well, perhaps the homeowners there were among the smarter voters in Essex County, the 34.11% who voted for Mr Trump, who had certainly not stated that he’d try to ban new gas appliances.

Newburyport gas fireplace. Screenshot by D R Pico from the television broadcast. Click to enlarge.

I have previously mentioned that we installed a gas fireplace in our home, as backup heat in the event that the electricity failed, something which has happened here. So I certainly can’t fault the Newburyport homeowners from choosing to have one installed in their abode. Even if the electricity never fails there, note the comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace. We have two recliners in front of our gas fireplace, and there’s nothing like sitting there, in front of the fire while reading a book, or talking with my wife, and just enjoying life during a not-quite-as-cold Kentucky winter. And yes, we have used the fireplace even though the electricity has not failed yet this winter. But we’re not hypocrites about it, because I wholly reject the attempts to ban gas appliances.

So, how do wealthy New Englanders fight global warming climate change? They fight it by voting for politicians who seek to ban new gas appliances . . . for other people! For themselves? Maybe not so much.
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