I’m not what you would call a “radical environmentalist”. Nevertheless, when it comes to pollution and waste, there are a few bright lines that I try not to cross. One of those is heating the outdoors. If you find yourself doing this, you should rethink the choices that you’ve made that have brought you to this point in life. For example, I’ve always been a bit scandalized by outdoor patio heaters. My neighbour has one on her back deck. Every time I look at it, I think to myself “Seriously? You can’t just put on a sweater?”
As if this weren’t bad enough, there’s a new lifestyle trend sweeping upper-class Toronto that’s irritating me to the point of distraction. It’s heated driveways. People are installing heating coils in their front driveways, so that they don’t have to clear the snow. It’s just like a radiant heat floor inside your house, except that it’s, you know, outside. Actually, it’s not just driveways, but sidewalks and front steps as well.
Here’s your friendly neighbourhood heated driveway and front walk (click to enlarge):
People sometimes don’t believe me when I tell them this, so I took a picture of this driveway that shows the heating pipes:
Here’s someone who has decided to heat the front walkway and steps.
This one is strange, it’s just the walkway between the houses. But hey, who wants to shovel? Again, you can see the heating pipes (note the gas-powered backup generator on the front lawn too… ostentatious!):
Last but not least, buddy here decided to simplify and just heat his entire yard (but he seems to be having contractor problems with the gate!):
Two points are worth making about this. First, in Toronto the homeowner is still responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalk in front of the house. Now it’s not as though these people with the heated driveways are going to be out there shovelling. They all pay someone to clear the city sidewalk in front of their house. So what is the point of heating the driveway? If you just waited a bit, the guy you’ve hired to clear the sidewalk could do the driveway too. In other words, what is the point is wasting all that energy? Answer: it’s pure conspicuous consumption.
Second, next time you come across a political party campaigning to take the HST off home heating, remember that this kind of subsidy goes to everybody, not just the poor but the rich as well. Do we really want to give these people a tax break on their heated driveways? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to give poor people money, rather cheap power to everyone?
Anyhow, in case you’ve been wondering what the 1% do with all that money, now you have a better idea. This will be the first of many reports.