• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
stewards:
  • Burra Maluca
  • Mike Haasl
  • Joylynn Hardesty
master gardeners:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • thomas rubino
  • Jay Angler
  • Tereza Okava

many techniques to reduce heating costs

 
Posts: 81
Location: New Mexico USA zone 6
16
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:... now would be a good time to build a body of evidence to support this strategy...


I'm not sure any info I can provide would be helpful because I haven't had an electric bill since 1993 and that was for a completely new situation for us:  we went from a two story house with attached studio and an outrageous PG&E bill in CA to no electric bill at all literally overnight.  Not Armageddon, just relocation.  

When we found the perfect property for us in NM one of the issues was that the nearest electric pole was a mile away.  The electric coop quoted us a price of $23,000 to bring power to our building site.

Bwahahaha!  We had mortgaged our CA house up the wazoo so when we sold it we had just enough money to pay cash for the NM land -- no way  would we mortgage ourselves to an electric company.

But it was okay, actually. After living with PG&E's constantly climbing electric bills in CA, along with the constant outages, we were eager to be off the grid.  The kind of life I now know as permaculture was something I had always wanted all my life (I can't say my husband did, but he was okay with the idea because, frankly, it was better than admitting we were too poor to do otherwise).  

We started out living in a travel trailer.  We set up a small PV system (one panel + the trailer's deep cycle battery + a tiny inverter) with a generator back-up.  The trailer's fridge & water heater were propane.  Our entertainment was reading at night till the battery grew dim.  My "office" was the trailer's closet and yes, I ran a desktop computer + modem off our system. Most of what we did we had been doing for 15 years or so as avid horse campers (we bred Arabian horses and were at endurance races with them almost any weekend of the year), so it wasn't really a huge challenge for us.

We lived happily for a few years this way till we built our straw bale cabin.  Then we expanded our PV system with used equipment that cost us under $3000.  We used wood heat, propane fridge, and on-demand propane hot water heater in the summer and heating hot water on the wood stove in the winter.  

The system has been upgraded twice with used inverters, plus added-on panels and replacement batteries.  The equipment from the old systems that was still useful is now installed in the barn.  

A quarter of a century with no electric bill.  The cost to us averages out to about $350/year for enough power for electric lights (our monthly PG&E bill at the end was around $350), internet, computer and peripherals, a small music system, and a sewing machine.  The fridge is still propane, though in the winter it's turned off and the porch works fine for keeping food cold.  Water is heated the same way.  

And there's still no mortgage.

Note that I never heard of permaculture till around 2003 when I interviewed a permie here in my county for a feature in a local newspaper.  I don't consider myself a permie, not hardly.  But I sure like living the way I do.

[Edited to add:] Until November 2019 the well was pumped using a generator, but now it, too, is solar.
 
gardener
Posts: 3124
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
803
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cristo Balete wrote:Something I've been looking for lately is a bed warmer.  In winter there's always a little dampness in the air.  There seem to be small electric blankets for feet or for pets that are not too expensive, could be put on a timer to just heat the bed up a bit before using.

In the olden days they used hot water bottles, or hot stones from the fireplace wrapped in several layers of newspaper.  



I don't mean to be flippant, but if your other circumstances allow, the right dog is perfect for this.  We've got a 80-ish pound pitt mix murder dog who sleeps in our king size bed but she goes to bed at least an hour before I do.  She falls asleep in my spot and warms it up wonderfully.  Then when I come to bed I tell her "get in your spot" and she gives me a grumpy look while she sleepily relocates.  I slide into the bed, the lower half of my body drops into prewarmed bedding, it's perfect.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4958
1150
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Timers go a long way in helping reduce electrical heating costs. I keep my tractor plugged in so that it will start when it is cold outside, and with a little observation I noted it was mostly used between 7-9 am, so I keep it on a timer during that time period. The cost of the timer is minimal compared to paying for electricity 24/7 for a 1500 watt heater for the tractor.

But observation can always help. When we had sheep, keeping their water tanks free of ice was expensive with electric heaters, so we made geothermal heaters that kept them free of ice most of the year, which really reduced our electrical costs. But then I realized I did not need heaters at all if I just filled the water tanks up with just enough water that the sheep drank it, but no more. The sheep quickly learned to drink right after we were in the barn, and so we never had standing water to try and keep from freezing.

Another thing that helps is putting insulation in the inside walls of a home. EVERY wall in my house, inside or outside, has insulation. This will be the cheapest year we have ever heated our home. In the great room we are using wood pellets, and in the bedrooms we use electric heaters. We heat the rooms up just a few hours before bed, and then shut them off. But with walls that are insulated, the heat is contained in the rooms. We are going to save about $800 this year in heating costs which is nearly half. If I grow my own corn next year, and mix the corn in with the wood pellets, I can easily save another $300 or so.
 
pollinator
Posts: 306
Location: Nomadic
27
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dan Boone wrote:

Cristo Balete wrote:Something I've been looking for lately is a bed warmer.  In winter there's always a little dampness in the air.  There seem to be small electric blankets for feet or for pets that are not too expensive, could be put on a timer to just heat the bed up a bit before using.

In the olden days they used hot water bottles, or hot stones from the fireplace wrapped in several layers of newspaper.  



I don't mean to be flippant, but if your other circumstances allow, the right dog is perfect for this.  We've got a 80-ish pound pitt mix murder dog who sleeps in our king size bed but she goes to bed at least an hour before I do.  She falls asleep in my spot and warms it up wonderfully.  Then when I come to bed I tell her "get in your spot" and she gives me a grumpy look while she sleepily relocates.  I slide into the bed, the lower half of my body drops into prewarmed bedding, it's perfect.


What’s a murder dog?  I don’t care if my bed is little cold when I get in it. It warms up fast enough for me. And I don’t want a dog where I’m sleeping lol. I love dogs. Have to agree to disagree on that one. To each their own. If it gets extremely cold then I’d rethink it. How cold is it there?
 Travis ideas of compartmentalizing spaces and using timers make a lot of sense. $800 savings is significant.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 4958
1150
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jeremy Baker wrote:Travis ideas of compartmentalizing spaces and using timers make a lot of sense. $800 savings is significant.



I have to admit, for years I was about the most vocal person out there railing hard against wood pellets and all that it represented. Then last year we moved into our Tiny Home and the wood pellets did okay...

Then this year we moved back into our big house, and brought our wood pellet stove with us. We figured we would just use it in the shoulders seasons...that being late fall and early spring, but even below zero, we have been fine, and it is saving us GOBS of money. At the rate we are going we will burn about 3 tons of pellets, which is for a 2200 sq ft house. It heats everything but the bed rooms just fine. Last year we were in a 1100 sq ft tiny house and burned 3 tons. I do have to add in some more for the electricity we will use, but we will be easily $800 under what we normally spend to heat this home for the winter season.

But if I can grow my own corn and mix that in with the wood pellets, I could get my consumption down to 2 tons a year pretty easily. I can grow a ton of corn for less then $250 easily enough.

BTW: That estimated $1100 per year is actually more than what we will spend. We had some friends give us a ton of pellets and just today used the last bag. I just ordered another ton today, but that too was a Christmas gift from my parents, so our actual dollar cost for heating this home will be around $600 this year.

 
Posts: 207
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
“Another thing that helps is putting insulation in the inside walls of a home. EVERY wall in my house, inside or outside, has insulation.”

This is one of those ‘up front’ costs in building that is well worth the investment (or even as a renovation project)! I agree wholeheartedly on 2 fronts- secondarily for the noise reduction factor, but primarily because you can shut down unused rooms in the winter. No matter what you heat with, being able to condense living space can be invaluable. We were in the northeast during the ice storm of 1998 and heated/cooked with a Kerosun for 3 weeks. Being able to live in one area of the 2000sf house allowed us to be perfectly comfortable. I would also add that if it’s a 2 story house, insulation between floors is also well worth doing.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 4958
1150
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Julie Reed wrote:“Another thing that helps is putting insulation in the inside walls of a home. EVERY wall in my house, inside or outside, has insulation.”

This is one of those ‘up front’ costs in building that is well worth the investment (or even as a renovation project)! I agree wholeheartedly on 2 fronts- secondarily for the noise reduction factor, but primarily because you can shut down unused rooms in the winter. No matter what you heat with, being able to condense living space can be invaluable. We were in the northeast during the ice storm of 1998 and heated/cooked with a Kerosun for 3 weeks. Being able to live in one area of the 2000sf house allowed us to be perfectly comfortable. I would also add that if it’s a 2 story house, insulation between floors is also well worth doing.



I have been around houses for awhile, so I know a few things to do up front. Another big one is using 1/2 inch plywood on the inside walls of a bathroom. Down the road you can put up mirrors, towel racks, toilet paper holders and even handicaps rails anywhere you want, and not have to worry about hitting a stud. The cost of lining the interior walls with a few sheets of plywood is CHEAP and then once it is covered over with drywall, there is no difference in look.

I put in 36 inch doors in as well...even in closets...because no one knows if they will get in a traffic accident and be wheelchair bound. Plus it makes getting in appliances a lot easier too.

As for the Icestorm of 1998, we were without power for 14 days; the last area to get power back in Maine. For four days, we had to cut our way through trees to get to town...
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 3124
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
803
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jeremy Baker wrote:
What’s a murder dog?



We call her that, semi-affectionately, because she's got the trait some pitbulls have of wanting to murder anything smaller than herself, except human children, which she absolutely loves.  (It's a very fortunate exception, but we still don't leave her alone with little kids.)  She's not actually a pitbull, but some sort of mongrel cross, possibly with an African ridgeback, but she looks a lot like the dog in this meme, which is why we started calling her murder dog:



Jeremy Baker wrote:I don’t care if my bed is little cold when I get in it. It warms up fast enough for me.



Well, OK, but I was aiming my suggestion at Cristo, who was specifically looking for ways to warm up a cold bed to save on heating costs.

Jeremy Baker wrote:And I don’t want a dog where I’m sleeping lol. I love dogs. Have to agree to disagree on that one. To each their own.

 

Yup.  We are dog people.  We've got five big dogs, rescues, and though they have the run of the outside, they all have abandonment issues.  They want and need to sleep inside with their people to feel secure.  We only have the one that routinely sleeps on a bed that people are using at the time; she's got a broken ball socket in her hip from being run over as a puppy, and suffers a lot of chronic pain, so she's pretty grumpy with the other dogs at night and it's better to keep her somewhere she won't get stepped on by another dog and react badly.  Breaking up dogfights at 4:00AM is not my idea of fun.  But all our dogs use all the furniture -- it's the only way to fit them all into our small house without undue crowding.  

Getting this thread back on topic, we have trucked-in propane central heat that's expensive to run, because it has no effective zone control and heats every room in the house all the time.  In Central Oklahoma we get single-digit temps with strong winds, and insulation in this old place is not stellar.  We mostly spot-heat the rooms and portions of rooms we are in with small electric heaters, which is much cheaper than running the furnace full blast.  If it's cool in the bedroom, having a permanent warm spot at the foot of the bed where the dog is sleeping is very handy; you can just jam your feet under the covers that the dog is sleeping on top of, until they are sandwiched between warm dog and warm mattress.  (It helps to be gentle, but as long as she doesn't feel kicked, she'll never move.)  I figure this lets us keep the room several degrees cooler than we otherwise would.  I don't know how many watts of heat a well-fed dog emits, but it seems like quite a few.

On a cold afternoon I have been napping alone on the bed with the bedroom door open, and woke up to find as many as four dogs surrounding me on the bed and jammed up against me such that I was roasting from their excess body heat.  There's a reason they used to call a really cold night "a three dog night" -- because that's how many dogs you needed in the bed with you to keep warm, or possibly that's how many you were going to get in the bed with you whether you wanted them or not!
 
master steward
Posts: 31539
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This thread got it's start as being several excellent ideas about reducing heating costs presented in this thread:

https://permies.com/t/131936/cut-electric-heat-bill-microheaters

I decided to make two threads.   One for microheaters and one for everything else.  So the old thread is the microheaters thread.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 3124
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
803
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The lawyer in me wants to know ... if I had LITTLE dogs, would they still be on topic in the old thread? :-)

Merry Christmas!
 
Posts: 1
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my experience its the exposed head and hands that get cold. I like a cold room to sleep in so I just keep loading up on blankets until I'm warm. I do though use a layered system, with some old knit Afghan blankets that I put on top of the sheets first. Their very open weave makes for a great air capture. Then a more tightly woven top cover on top of them and if really cold, then a heavy sleeping bag, though that's usually just on the feet. I find I don't mind a cold body at first, but cold feet really makes me uncomfortable and keeps me from falling asleep. Used to be we would wear bed caps to keep the top of our head warm. I have slept in a hoodie before and just raised the hood.

Surprised no one has mentioned canopy beds.

A traditional canopy bed has a lot of wasted space to try and heat. Something I wanted to try was a sort of bed pup tent. Take a large sheet and tack the middle third on one end of it about 2-3 feet up the wall at the head of the bed, at the center of the mattress. Then drape the sheet down the bed. Maybe put a heavier blanket on the foot end over it to keep it in place. You would take the sides and drape them onto the center to enter, then pull them down and onto the bed when ready to sleep (Wish I drew better). The idea would be to create a smaller enclosed area above your exposed head and let your body warm the air.

Haven't tried it yet but might if it starts getting really cold here in St Louis. Today it was over 65.
 
Julie Reed
Posts: 207
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
“...using 1/2 inch plywood on the inside walls of a bathroom. Down the road you can put up mirrors, towel racks, toilet paper holders and even handicaps rails anywhere you want, and not have to worry about hitting a stud.”

Maybe not handicap rails. 1/2” plywood doesn’t have enough tear out strength. Might be okay for some situations but you get a heavy person and it could fail. I guess probably if you used spring toggle anchors, but the problem is, someone not knowing there’s plywood could think they hit a stud using a screw, and use screws.

Definitely 36” doors for every room. My big peeve is homes that have the tub framed into the bathroom, and then you have a narrow door/hallway that makes it near impossible to replace that tub or 1 piece surround on tub/shower units.

That ice storm was interesting- we had a tree fall on the house, and the insurance company tried to weasel, saying ice storms weren’t covered. But of course trees falling for any reason IS covered, so eventually we got paid and then found a better insurance company.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 4958
1150
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
With heat, there is a phenomenon known as "Acclimation". A person can save a lot of money if they just turn down the heat in their bedroom 1 degree per week. Heat is actually calculated in what is called "Degree days" which means the ratio of how cold it is outside, to how warm the room has to be, calculated by the number of days it is heated, tells a person how many BTU's they need for a given room.

That is pretty scientific...

It need not be. By simply turning down the heat by one degree, in a few days you will get used to the cooler temp. So the next week drop it down again. Soon a person will quickly get used to sleeping in a much cooler room. Since it takes less BTU's to heat a room when it is 30 degrees outside, to 62 degrees, instead of 72 degrees, it saves the homeowner a lot of money. A LOT! You are basically acclimating yourself to sleeping in a colder room...



NOTE: This does not work with infants. Any child under 2 years old needs to be warm. As frugal as I am, I am also safe. Babies should not have blankets and stuff on top of them, or be cold, because by instinct they will try to roll into a position to stay warm. No one needs an infant to suffocate because they are cold. They should be on their backs, no blankets, and warm...
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 4958
1150
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One of the biggest things I have found for reducing heat costs is in having a home with a concrete slab on grade. Like no other, that decreases drafts immensely, and stops cold infiltration, and instead generates heat by geothermal action. It does make a house be a little bigger in footprint because it reduces storage, and a place for the utilities must be allotted for, but the overall decrease in heating costs makes it one of the most efficient things a person can do for a home in my experience anyway. Incidentally, it also reduces cooling costs too.
 
gardener
Posts: 3058
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
143
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like having the living space at 65-67f with radiant heat from floor or RMH, but am much more comfortable with the sleeping space in the 50s and a warm fluffy quilt pulled up more or less over my head. The right bedding feels warm within a couple of minutes; I can't tell you which products to buy, but trying different things may get you to a combination that works for you. We recently got flannel sheets that are cozy.
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 3058
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
143
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the slab on grade plan varies with the local groundwater temperature, and probably with the character of the subsoil. Where I am in upstate New York near Pennsylvania, ground temperature seems to be around 50f, always a significant heat sink, and the damp clay subsoil with groundwater moving through it never allows warmth to build up. At my sister's place in eastern NH, the ground temperature is a constant 45f even though the soil is sandy and rocky. Insulating under a slab is necessary to keep it from being a chiller.  A slab floor will certainly reduce the places for drafts to get in.
 
Posts: 21
2
tiny house cooking greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am 100 percent off grid 60 degrees is OK. Propane space heater in a 40 foot connex box insulated. A Trombe wall will be built next year and piped in. Today we had snow in Tombstone Az yes snow in Az and hell hasn't frozen over yet.

Travis I have a background in construction I have always put blockers in for towel bars, door handles etc. A scrap 2x4 goes along way to preventing sheetrock repairs, plan ahead during renovation or new construction.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 4958
1150
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Glenn Herbert wrote:I think the slab on grade plan varies with the local groundwater temperature, and probably with the character of the subsoil. Where I am in upstate New York near Pennsylvania, ground temperature seems to be around 50f, always a significant heat sink, and the damp clay subsoil with groundwater moving through it never allows warmth to build up. At my sister's place in eastern NH, the ground temperature is a constant 45f even though the soil is sandy and rocky. Insulating under a slab is necessary to keep it from being a chiller.  A slab floor will certainly reduce the places for drafts to get in.



I would think it would be a bit warmer than that. I live in Maine and the ground temp here is always 57 degrees. It is still "chilly" because it is below the 70 degrees a human likes, but it is a lot warmer than -20 below in the deep of winter. In our Tiny Home that a basement, the temperature down there would get to around 36 degrees. So heating the Tiny house, we had to take the temperature from 36 degrees to 70 degrees, a difference of 34 degrees. With the bigger house, we have to heat the house from 57 degrees to 70 degrees, or a difference of 13 degrees. That is the reason it takes 3 tons of pellets to heat both homes even though the big house is over twice as big as the Tiny House. To heat the home takes the exact same amount of BTU's and it is all because of the concrete-on-grade.

In the big house, last year it was unoccupied, and unheated, yet it never got below 44 degrees inside the house. That is because even unheated, the warmth from the floor was rising up into the house. It was only 57 degrees, but it was warm enough to keep the house above freezing. That was pretty good I thought, it was -7 below zero (f) on that day...unoccupied, and unheated, and still 44 degrees inside? That is pretty darn good.

If I turn the pumps on...not the boiler, just the circulating pumps on my radiant floor heat, I can mix the 57 degree heat from the center of the floor, with the colder water in the outer edges of the concrete floor, and get the house to 55 degrees. That is just circulating the water, no boiler running. I can do that because a concrete slab only loses heat on outer edges of the slab and not in the center.

The Tiny House was cold because it had a basement. In that case the frost outside went 4 feet down the walls, that is the dirt outside was frozen down to four feet, the frost line here in Maine. That means the walls were 32 degrees chilling the basement. The floor was 57 degrees, but it could not adequately heat the basement up because there was too much volume of cold along the outer walls. With it being a smaller home, the floor did not have enough square footage to counteract the cold walls.

But a concrete slab floor works well because it works on the same principal as a rocket mass heater. With a  Rocket Mass Heater a person is using an intense, quick fire to heat a mass that slowly dissipates into a home. A radiant floor heating system in a concrete slab is the exact same thing. It uses the intense fire of a boiler, to heat water that is pumped into the mass of the floor that dissipates into the home.  
 
Please do not shoot the fish in this barrel. But you can shoot at this tiny ad:
Voices of Transition--documentary, streaming
https://permies.com/t/143498/Voices-Transition-documentary-streaming
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic