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how to REALLY save energy this winter

 
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
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This thread is dedicated to normal people in a normal house.  No wofati.  No rocket mass heater.

Take a look at http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/heating.html

(and when you visit a really good site, I encourage you to click on the ads - it's like voting with your clicks for quality stuff)

Focus on the part of the article that talks about heating only those rooms, or parts of the rooms that you are using. 

An interesting bit was where you have a heat pad for your feet.  I wonder that if you are working at a desk and your feet are warmed if maybe your whole body will feel much warmer.  i know that I keep a portable heater at my feet and then set the house thermostat at 50.  I feel plenty warm.




 
pollinator
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good article..might I add that our wood boiler that heats 3 buildings with one wood boiler is also great..and it does use the forced air ducts so uses a fan, but we also use our ceiling fans..to keep the warm are down off the ceiling where we need it..

i close off our closets..esp the one that i use to store produce in like potatoes onions apples, etc...that closet when closed off stays about 50 degrees..it is on an outside house wall..and that is good for our produce..

we also used the sun traps by enclosing our front porch with plexi and regular glass and our back porch with plexi and glass as well..that keeps our house warmer when we open and close doors..and also when the front porch heats up in the winter we can use the solar advantage from it.

caulk and insulation are very important..

oh an dour boiler buildinig also is about 50 degrees out there too..with the furnace in it..so we can use that area to do some outside activities that would be too messy to do in the house..it is much warmer than being all the way outside and dry.

great thread
 
                    
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Quote:Windows

Caulk the edges of windows and install weather stripping.
Close blinds and curtains at night.

Tack clear plastic sheeting over the windows on the outside of the house with a staple gun.
----------------------------------------------------------------


This is the only info given to the worst heat loss area of ALL homes.
We should focus on trying to match our wall and ceiling insulation to cover the windows.
What about covering the lower3/4 and use the upper part for light?
 
pollinator
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I'd say learn to knit really warm socks !



As Paul says when your feet are toasty you really do feel more comfortable. 
 
paul wheaton
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woodman wrote:
Quote:Windows

Caulk the edges of windows and install weather stripping.
Close blinds and curtains at night.

Tack clear plastic sheeting over the windows on the outside of the house with a staple gun.
----------------------------------------------------------------


This is the only info given to the worst heat loss area of ALL homes.
We should focus on trying to match our wall and ceiling insulation to cover the windows.
What about covering the lower3/4 and use the upper part for light?



One of the concepts I learned from the rocket mass heater workshops:  do you really want to live in a ziplock bag?


 
Brenda Groth
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"do you really want to live in a zip loc bag"....NOPE...don't
 
paul wheaton
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I guess this is something I would like to ..... experience more.  Something where the house is a bit leaky (so, there is good air exchange) and yet toasty warm and efficient.  And this is an area that I'm still a little confused/concerned. 

So I guess the focus would be to heat the objects in the room more, but have less focus on heating the air in the room.

 
pollinator
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It's also not too difficult to build an air-to-air heat exchanger. 

I can't find it today, but there's a how-to online for a system with two fans, one blowing room air onto an accordion-pleated piece of aluminum foil on its way outside, the other one blowing outside air onto the other surface on the way into the building.  If it's set up correctly, it recovers a huge amount of heat.
 
pollinator
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I live in a large old house in an area where it gets cold in the winter.  This house has inadequate insulation.  Period.  I'm debating with myself on how to best remedy that.

In the meantime, I find I've applied many of the ideas mentioned here by:

1)  Closing off more than 2/3 of the house and heating only the kitchen, dining room, one bedroom and one bath.
2)  Although I don't have a RMH yet, I do have a wood burning cookstove.  Firebox is about 8" x 8" x 20", so I need to feed the fire with smallish wood and burn fairly hot fires.  After it warms up a bit, I slide the direct box-to-chimney vent closed forcing the exhaust over the top of the oven, down the side, and across the bottom before entering the chimney.  This helps extract heat and store it in the mass of cast iron and steel plus makes it so I can bake bread.
3)  I have three of those oil-filled radiator heaters that plug into the wall.  One is under my worktable and keeps ME warm even when the heated part of the house is below 60.  One is in the bedroom and I turn it on in the late evening to about 60.  The third is in the unheated bath to keep pipes from freezing when the temp goes below zero F.  I only turn them on when I need them, but in the deepest winter (-20F!!) they'll all be in use simultaneously.

The house is so large that the great wood burning insert I have just cannot keep the volume of air warm when the temps stay below freezing for extended periods, even though I load it heavily with wood!  And I'm really interested in burning minimal wood. 

Although my electricity use goes up in the winter, it's not been excessive using these techniques.  And I'm able to stay comfortably warm (I really dislike being cold!)  Next year, RMH!! 

Bill
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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well like on a day like today when the sun is shining but it is cold outside..the sun heats up my front porch (that is 8 x 10 and glassed in..but far from airtight)..

i open the door to the house and the heated "solar" porch air comes flowing in..it is leaky..so we get fresh air as well as warm air inside..

at night when the sun goes down it takes about an hour or two and then we have to close off the porch to keep the heated air iniside the house..but we do enjoy the fresh air exchange.

our wood boiler heats the rest of our house and Joel's and his garage..and when the boiler is going we always have enough heat..so i don't mind opening a window a crack to get in a bit of fresh air..moving through the house..in the winter..

we have occasionally opened all our outside doors in the winter when a good fire is going..to get an exchange of air..for just a few minutes..doesn't take long to heat back up as the walls and furniture are warm.
 
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I put bubble wrap over all my upstairs windows, which was the coldest part of the house. Now it's the warmest. This is with almost no heat on, and it gets a little solar gain during the day when the sun is shining. The windows were well caulked and are all double pane and that helps a lot. When I have a wood fire going in the Mama Bear Fisher stove, I always cook on it and heat water for tea. I leave my big pressure cooker full of water on the stove overnight, with pebbles under it so it doesn't get too hot and too high a pressure, and it acts as a small heat sink when the fire goes out. Having a lot of mass, like a big stone hearth under and behind the wood stove helps hold the heat too. I keep a fairly large, flat rock on the stove and wrap it in a towel at night an put it under my feet when I'm using the computer, or at the foot of the bed on very cold nights, under the blankets to pre-heat the bed, then take it out before retiring.

We all know now that rocket mass stoves are the most efficient, but we also have to work with what we've got until we can change it. I think the biggest expense any of us have, is heating the house.

The humidity is lower in winter so I get out the clothes drying racks and use those for drying clothes indoors. If I put them near the wood stove, the clothes are dry in about an hour.

I also dress for cold. I wear a hat and double layers and warm socks in the house. I sleep with a hat on and lots of comforters on the bed. Then I don't care if the house is cold. One thing we have to do in winter is to make sure the air we are breathing is reasonably warm. This is even more important for people with asthma or COPD as they can have a life threatening episode if the lungs are too stressed. Keep a scarf over the face and breath through it (use natural fibers like wool or alpaca), to pre warm it so you don't get too chilled, in extreme cold. If the house is cold when you are sleeping, pull up a flannel sheet or light blanket over your head and make a tunnel to breath. Don't worry, you won't suffocate, our bodies have an automatic response to low oxygen and it will wake you up (except in the case of carbon monoxide which actually just puts you to sleep). When we acclimate to the cold this way, we don't feel it so intensely when we go outside into more cold.

I saw a technique where you build a solar collector out of wood, paint it black, and lay it on the ground and run a section up into the bottom of a window (slightly open to allow for it) and into the house. You have to really insulate around the window where it comes in so there are no cold air leaks. It brings in a lot of warm air. The window has to be secured so no one can open it from the outside. The person explaining it to me said it will more than adequately heat a whole room. I think the top was polycarbonate or plexiglas.

 
pollinator
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On my boat (good solid drafts all over) I have been comfortable in the 55-60F. range; that will vary with the person. It's more efficient to heat water and put that heat _inside you_ than to try to heat the whole place. Sitting still (computer work) gets me cold quickly so that requires lots of tea or a foot warmer.

At night after 2am it tries to get down to 45 or so indoors. Since I'm in bed that usually isn't a problem and when it is I just put on my sleeping cap and keep my nose under the blankies - or just keep my whole head under. Using a thin (1") foam "mattress pad" under the sheets helps keep the heat between the blankets and not in the mattress. When using foam like this, don't make up the bed with the covers completely covering the mattress - leave the covers folded well back off the sheets at least two or three hours to air the bedding and let the body moisture dry. A couple cats help heat the bed and seal small blanket drafts. When outside temps drop below 45 I use a heating pad at the foot of the bed; old ones don't have the enforced timed shut-off most new ones have now. I get a better "seal" for my cocoon when I _don't_ tuck the bedding in at the foot - this allows me to lift up my legs and swing the hanging bedding under my feet; then a twitch right and left brings that part of the bedding in tight. You learn to maintain the cocoon automatically through the night; there are "issues" when you have a large partner but it still works well. Cats just self adjust as needed.

I do find that heating the bed area just before I'm supposed to arise encourages good timely behavior.

But beware the oil filled heaters. Even good brands seem to have problems with marginally designed thermostats and switches. When using the heater at max (eg. both switches ON and 'stat set high so it runs constantly) don't leave it alone until you have watched it in operation all day for several days. The plastic controls can heat up over time and melt, letting the wires short out and possible starting a fire. It's usually preceded by a distinct smell of unhappily hot plastic. Very exciting and annoying.

Rufus
 
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Hi all, good thread...

everyone should be aware of this great work

www.builditsolar.com

not a company, but a clearinghouse for renewable energy, most of it DIY - from kid's projects to sunspaces (see the latest blog entry with DATA) to homeade panels etc.

Andor
 
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Paul, I just watched that video and info on personal heating you posted at the bottom of one of the threads I was reading. It sounds like a good idea to use the personal heaters, heated mouse, etc, but when I clicked to read about the products, they did NOT have good reviews. So it seems more development us needed to really make use of those kinds of products.
 
pollinator
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paul wheaton wrote:I guess this is something I would like to ..... experience more.  Something where the house is a bit leaky (so, there is good air exchange) and yet toasty warm and efficient.  And this is an area that I'm still a little confused/concerned. 

Not to get off the topic but a solution to poor indoor air quality could be helped by air-filtering indoor plant system.

http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/best-air-filtering-houseplants-according-to-nasa

 
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I keep a heat pad at the foot of my desk and if i turn it on i get hot. generally only turn it on for short time
 
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:It's also not too difficult to build an air-to-air heat exchanger. 

I can't find it today, but there's a how-to online for a system with two fans, one blowing room air onto an accordion-pleated piece of aluminum foil on its way outside, the other one blowing outside air onto the other surface on the way into the building.  If it's set up correctly, it recovers a huge amount of heat.



please tell me more! I am a DIY kind of guy, and a whole house heat recovery ventilation system costs about £2000 here. would like to do it, but maybe for about half that!

-------------------------------------------------------
okay, I have been looking at a load of resources for this- pretty interesting. the heat exchangers are actually quite easy to build, it's a question of whether you really save any money after buying the fans and controller, and whether it will last as long as a commercial unit. seems like the sub-$500 american ones are quite a bit smaller than the ones I have seen; something tells me that to be worth adopting this as a strategy and making all the air-tightness improvements you need a really high efficiency, like 80% plus.
 
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Count the cost of your BTU's. Electricity BTU's are expensive. Unless you are trying to heat your house with Unleaded Gasoline, then setting stuff on fire (wood, gas, coal, etc,) is probably always going to be cheaper per BTU than electricity. Small spot heating with electricity like has been described is only cheaper because you are producing tiny amounts of BTU's and making them count.
 
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Something that saved me some money and kept my home feeling cozier too was using bubble wrap cut to friction fit in the windows and basically supporting it with a bit of scotch tape. On warm days it was easily pulled back and the windows opened for fresh air. I will be reusing it this year . I also found some bed comforters I really liked on sale for $30 and the thickness of them hung as drapes was very insulating for the windows as well. This winter I will have about a 6' by 24 ' foot cooler storage area insulated off from the furnace heated portion of my basement and used for canned goods and other storage that can be cool adjacent to the exterior access door. It will be one layer basically buffering the exterior from the interior . My exterior north side of my house has no windows and enough overhang that I am considering stacking hay bales off the ground on pallets outside under the eave in a single layer as an additional barrier insulating that wall . It can be fed off to the animals as springs gentler temperatures approach. I have not tried that idea but it holds a lot of appeal . Also inside my barn I can arrange hay stacked in the perimeter two stalls to help insulate the middle two stalls making it warmer for my rabbits and chickens if I need to move them inside for a cold snap . Warm and dry animals consume less feed too keep their body heat up.
 
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Melba, Thank You for all the great ideas, especially the bubble wrap idea

I have a couple to add

1) cold feet: cayanne pepper on the soles with warm socks; this helped keep me warm during the "winter of no heat"
2) fan at the foot of the stairs if two story; we heat our two story uninsulated farm house with one gas heater on the first floor. The fan brings the warm air to the second level, oh, and leave your bedroom doors open
3) pre heat your bed with an electric blanket; I'm going to try this this winter and turn the blanket off before bedtime to avoid unwanted EMF
 
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I found this little space heater idea while cruising the net. It's made with terracotta pots, metal nuts and bolts, and a a candle. I will have to try it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGgHvq4iLa4
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I guess this is something I would like to ..... experience more.  Something where the house is a bit leaky (so, there is good air exchange) and yet toasty warm and efficient.  And this is an area that I'm still a little confused/concerned. 

So I guess the focus would be to heat the objects in the room more, but have less focus on heating the air in the room.



My brother installed insulation for years. He said there's danger in sealing up a house too much. They would seal the house but add air exchangers (to recover some heat) and install a bathroom fan that ran all the time. The idea is to vent moisture safely. And by safely, I mean that it doesn't enter walls and insulation, cooling and condensing where it's a problem. Instead, moist air is dumped out the vent, where it is harmless. That's the theory, at least.
 
K Nelfson
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We let the house hang out at 60 but turn it up to 65 in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Works because we're mainly out of the house during the day.

Anyhoo, I've noticed that we're particularly sensitive to the cold in the mornings when it's dark and you don't really want to get out of bed. Also, during various adult activities, the cold can make the whole experience less enjoyable. Last year it occurred to me that a canopy bed would be a solution. I like the idea but haven't built it yet.
 
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