Here’s an example of what a German family are doing to lower their environmental impact and make the world a little better for their children:
Georg FÃ¼rtges’s pride and joy is a green monstrosity standing in the basement of his house in the western German city of Essen, hissing quietly and consuming dark little pellets that look like worms. The pellets, stored in bins reaching up to the ceiling in another room, are made of compressed sawdust. And the monstrosity is a furnace that is at least three times as big as a modern condensing gas boiler. FÃ¼rtges, 55, and his wife Karla, 49, have 6.4 tons of the pellets stored in their basement, enough to meet their heating needs for a year and a half. The couple has decided to live in an environmentally friendly way.
They have been doing so for more than 20 years, partly because they have three children and are thinking ahead, beyond their own life spans. They have made mistakes, but they have also learned a lot. They remain convinced that their approach is the right one, but they also know that a life devoted to living green can only be had at a high price. Georg FÃ¼rtges spent an entire year researching heating systems before he recently replaced his old gas furnace with a pellet furnace combined with a solar thermal heating system. Some of the pipes in the house had to be replaced. All told, it cost FÃ¼rtges â‚¬27,000 ($40,200) to retrofit his home. He would have paid about â‚¬10,000 for a modern gas furnace.
“We believe that it will pay off in the long term,” says Karla FÃ¼rtges. The couple bought their small 1930s house in Stadtwald, an Essen neighborhood, 16 years ago. The heating system was old, the windows weren’t insulated and the house lacked effective heat insulation.
The couple began by insulating the outside walls. Then they purchased the costly new gas furnace and had vinyl thermopane windows installed. The insulation alone brought down their annual natural gas consumption from 22,000 to 12,000 kilowatt hours. An average household currently consumes almost twice as much gas.