The Power of Large Numbers. Of Beards.
I have taken to growing a beard each fall. I think of it as installing the winter upgrade. And this morning, while congratulating myself on a very masculine one week’s worth of stubble, I began to think about how a beard is insulation. My body must require less energy to keep warm with a beard than without one. “Wow,” I think, “a beard must be the original green and sustainable energy saving device.” (I wondered, briefly, if a beard could qualify for a tax credit.)
(I am, by the way, not the first guy to think about the insulating qualities of facial hair. Consider the guy who shaved half his face for the winter to judge his beard’s insulating power. That’s him to the right.
Also, last spring, Budweiser sponsored a Save-Water-By-Growing-A-Beard campaign. They figured five gallons of water per shave, which adds up to a lot of water.)
So then I thought, well I must save some small amount of energy by having a beard. I suppose I could turn the thermostat down by some small amount thanks to my greater bodily insulation. Like Jimmy Carter wearing a cardigan around the White House and turning his heat back to 68 degrees F. Maybe it's only a tenth of a degree, or a half of a tenth of a degree. But it’s got to be something.
Now a half of a tenth of a degree (or whatever) on the thermostat is not going to save much on my fuel bill. Or save the planet. But suppose a large number of men grew beards and all turned their thermostats down? What kind of a difference would it make?
Let’s do the math.
So I went to The Daily Green and there they claim that for each 1 degree you turn down the thermostat in the winter, you save between 1 and 3 percent on your heating costs. I have no idea how accurate this estimate is, but let's say 1%, just for fun.
So how much are heating costs? Using my house for example (a small house in southern Maine), between firewood and heating oil that's approximately 3 cords at $225@ and 500 gallons at $2.50@ . Which makes roughly $2000 a year.
So, if I turn my thermostat down 1 degree and save 1%, then I'd save 1% of $2000 or $20. Now let’s assume that money saved is a linear function of thermostat reduction. (Which it probably isn't, but we should be close enough for beard research.)
Now, suppose my beard allows me to turn my thermostat down only a half of a tenth of a degree. (And, again, I'm just making that up. If you have more accurate figures, please let me know.) So half of a tenth of degree will save half of a tenth of a percent on my heating bill. Which makes (1% x 1/10 x 1/2) x $2000 = .01 x .1 x .5 x $2000 = $1.
I will save $1 on my heating bill by growing a beard!
So a million men could save a collective $1 million on energy by growing beards. (Well, O.K., a million men living in small houses in southern Maine.) --WTP
--Bill Paarlberg is editor of The Measurement Standard blog and newsletter, and of Katie Paine's new book Measure What Matters. The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement.