joanna irl

Arguing with the DoD

The housing manager for our community has just come and gone. He took a couple of photos and really was only here about five minutes, but we accomplished something important: I now have documentation that my house is badly insulated.

Anyone that has come to visit me knows that the upstairs (especially the guest room) is always about ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house, and I have to have two or three floor fans going at once just to make it bearable for sleeping.

I wasn’t going to worry too much about this as I only have guests every couple of months (not to mention, it’s not like they hang out in that room anyway, it’s just for sleeping) and because we living in “military” housing, we pay a flat rate for everything.

That’s about to change.

Late last week, I got a letter in the mail from the Department of Defense (you know, the government agency that takes a nearly 20% chunk of our national budget and does… well, something with all of it, including paying my spouse) saying that they were no longer going to simply pay for our “high” energy consumption. Starting in January, for every time we go over the “average” usage of energy in our neighborhood, we will have to pay the difference. If we’re under the average, then we get “credit” (which I’ll get back to in a minute). They’ve been monitoring everyone’s energy usage for two years and have decided to use us as the “pilot” program (aka the guinea pigs) to see how it goes.

Now, I’m all for cutting down on energy consumption, but here are the problems I see:

  1. We already give our entire housing allowance to be able to live in a place at a flat rate, including all utilities (water, electricity, waste disposal, etc). This should already be accounted for somewhere in the budget.
  2. They claim they are going to only compare our usage against other “like units” in our community. This is supposed to account for things like different building standards in each community (which believe me, there are) and for different size homes (though there are several sizes just in my neighborhood). With these inconsistencies, how can they make a fair comparison?
  3. Our homes are not energy efficient in the first place. If they (the Department of Defense) are truly cutting back because they are tired of paying overages on our energy bills (which I am told are around $19 million a year), then why not fix the houses?

And now we come to my real problem. My house is badly insulated. There are gaps around the doors and windows because we don’t have weather stripping. The outside is covered only in a plastic/composite siding instead of wood or stucco. The appliances are the cheap kind and not the energy efficient kind. We have no ceiling fans in a tropical climate. Just having fans upstairs would make a world of difference. They have them in other communities here on the island… but those communities were not built by the DoD. How then can they penalize us for not being energy efficient when they require us to run the air conditioner (because of mold and mildew problems) but have houses that leak that air conditioning out through the doors and windows. And they want us to use less water, but we have high-use appliances. It makes no sense.

Anyway, I’ve got a group of neighbors going with me to the “Town Hall” meeting that’s being hosted by the DoD and we’re going to tell them exactly what we think of all of this. I’m hoping they’ll at least give us some weather stripping and ceiling fans.

It’s not that I’m worried about getting charged for energy usage. I’m usually far below the average in my use anyway. It’s more the principal of it, to be honest.

And this whole thing about getting “credit” for being under the average? We can either have a $5 check (whoop-ti-do) or “bank” it for a month when we “might” go over. DUMB.

Y’know what else I just realized? You can measure the level of my irritation with the number of times I use quotation marks. Heh.

2 thoughts on “Arguing with the DoD”

  1. Ugh. I’ve had it up to here with bureaucratic rocks and hard places and nonsensical runarounds. The fact that they BUILT the units makes all the difference. All my sympathies!

    The only place where the credit could make a difference is if you lived in a colder climate, where you might not use much in the summer (i.e. a climate that doesn’t necessarily require full-house air-conditioning), so in the winter the credits could come in handy with subsidizing the heating bill. I guess I’m mainly thinking of my own home in Italy! But in Hawaii where there aren’t going to be big fluctuations in weather and thus AC/heating use, that makes no sense.


  2. I know! The houses that were built after the DoD started hiring outside companies to manage the communities are much nicer, and don’t have all of the, shall we say, “shortcuts” in them that frustrate me. And you’re right, it would make sense to do this in a colder climate. The reason I’ve been given is that Hawaii has one of the highest energy rates (in terms of price) in the country; for an average size house it can run between $300 and $500 a month (much like paying for heat in Italy can be). It seems like that cost should be factored in to the housing budget here, though, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for the sympathies. I hope you’re well!


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