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making the best of electric heat  RSS feed

 
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It is now 50 degrees where I sit.  I see snow blowing around outside.

I've move the two reptile heaters a little closer. 

I have the butt warmer on high. 

I have the 100 watt lightbulb above me turned on. 

I have the foot matt turned on. 

I have a throw blanket on my lap. 

So far, so good. 

I am not wearing a hat.  Nor a coat.  Nor socks (I'm barefoot).

Everything is comfortable except I do feel a bit of nip at my cheeks. 

The 300 watt radiant heater is not on. 

I'm thinking about putting one more lamp on my monitor and pointing it at my face. 

 
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so what's your total wattage for heating at this point?
 
paul wheaton
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reptile heaters:  120
butt warmer:  40(?)
dog bed warmer:  65
bald spot warmer: 100

Total of 325 watts.

With the room at 50, that means that the baseboard heaters will be turning on soon.  In theory, I could turn on more heat and direct it at myself - thus heating the room and keeping the baseboard heaters from turning on.

I'm also thinking that if I bundled up more I might be able to use even less juice.

I have a kill-a-watt thing around here somewhere.  I should pull that out and get more accurate numbers.



 
tel jetson
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any concern about EMFs?
 
paul wheaton
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tel jetson wrote:
any concern about EMFs?



An excellent topic.  So far, I am riding on the whole "ignorance is bliss" thing.  Do you have a good link?
 
tel jetson
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hmm. here's a scholarly paper.  there's some audio from the author, Henry Lai, about halfway down this page.  I haven't listened to the audio.
 
paul wheaton
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I'll take a look at those soon.

So: mutagenic?

Also, the same effects as living under the big power lines?

 
paul wheaton
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The thermometer I've been watching reads 44 degrees this morning. It is mounted on a wall.  The other side of that wall is insulation and then the great outdoors.

The thermostat is mounted on an interior wall.

I sit, all day, next to the window.

Yesterday, I was perfectly comfortable all day without adding any further heat.  325 watts.

My plan is to keep the house temps at 50 and to further lower the wattage needed to keep me warm.


 
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paul wheaton wrote:

I sit, all day, next to the window.



In theory... the window gives your body a great place radiate it's heat to, making you feel cold. Now, sitting in front of a window is nice and for your purpose does not invalidate your findings. However, It would be interesting after you finish your study as is, to find out what difference foil covering the window (shinny side in) makes.. or just a curtain. If either of those two things made a great difference, then it may be worthwhile seeing if putting your work station in front of a wall instead made an even bigger difference. I would say that the monitor shields your hands anyway and part of your body... may make a difference to your head, upper chest and arms though. Comments I made earlier about the temp around our work station should note that our work station is not by any windows which may account for the difference is the way we felt about low temperatures.

Moving away from the windows just to save on power would not IMO be the best reasoning. Natural light has it's own value and so does a great view.
 
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why not put a tent in you living room with your computer in it 
you should velcro the lamps down
i bet you would feel hot then
fly net may work also
 
paul wheaton
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Len, you can see the window in one of the pics of the reptile heaters.

When the sun shines, I do get warmed by the sun (this is a south facing window).

charles,

I'm having a hard time seeing the value of your tent suggestion.  Plus, you must be thinking of a tent that fits my living room rather exactly.
 
paul wheaton
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Yesterday I bundled up and tried to use just the reptile heaters.  That worked really well.  I was quite comfortable.  And after several hours there was no sign of getting cold or uncomfortable.

The temp this morning is, again, 44 degrees.  The temp outside is 16.  I do hear the baseboard heaters coming on at times. 

The forecast is for a low of 11 today and a low of -5 tomorrow.

There is a utility room (area) that is where most of the plumbing for the house is.  I turned the baseboard heater in that room up to about 55.  I think later today I better turn it up to 65.  I don't want pipes to break.

 
Len Ovens
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paul wheaton wrote:
Len, you can see the window in one of the pics of the reptile heaters.

When the sun shines, I do get warmed by the sun (this is a south facing window).



Shows you what a difference place and situation make. I am at "work" most of the day... the sun goes down at 4:45 or so... I see dark out my window most of the time I am home and being on the wet coast, I mostly see clouds when the sun is up. Of course it is rare to see -10C (15F I think) here so that is different too. Lots of rain means high humidity so things like wind chill are different to. I have only been through your neck of the woods once about 30 years ago on a motor cycle in July. It had rained from Vancouver to Jasper till the US border, so we were glad for sunshine, but went on through to Spokane and on the Oregon where we were meeting friends.
 
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the tent was just to trap more heat
i'm unsure of the size of your living room but was thinking a 7x7x7 would work well
 
                    
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A tent the size of the workstation, a microclimate in other words.

A tent constructed of mylar or some other reflective material would radiate the heat within back inside. After a while it could get rather sauna-like.

 
paul wheaton
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Well, part of what I am attempting to do is make something that people might want to duplicate.  If it gets too nutty, folks won't wanna do it.  And I do think that building a tent around my desk would be a little too much for this years tests. 

It is currently 5 degrees F.  And it is supposed to drop to 4 below.  And the wind is blowing.  There is ice on the inside side of all of the windows.

Temp near the window is 43. 

Temp in the utility area is 54.  I turned the heat up there - I don't want any broken pipes. 

Yesterday, I was moderately bundled up and had the reptile heaters, the dog mat, the butt warmer and the 100 watt bulb going and I was luxuriously comfortable and the thermometer was reading about 49.

I can hear the baseboard heaters coming on periodically.  So I figure I can run my contraptions as much as I want - the more I run them, the less the baseboard heater will come on.



 
paul wheaton
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I have some company coming over for a while today, so I'll probably turn the heat up to something that normal people would like.    In fact, with company for a week or so, I'll be not doing experiments for a while.  But I still hope to see excellent results on my power bill.
 
                        
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paul wheaton wrote:
I have some company coming over for a while today, so I'll probably turn the heat up to something that normal people would like.    In fact, with company for a week or so, I'll be not doing experiments for a while.  But I still hope to see excellent results on my power bill.



Then again, don't forget that the average human body puts out about as much heat as a 75watt light bulb; so having more people in the house might automagically raise the temperature inside your place.
 
Len Ovens
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paul wheaton wrote:
I can hear the baseboard heaters coming on periodically.  So I figure I can run my contraptions as much as I want - the more I run them, the less the baseboard heater will come on.



Do you use timer thermostats? I am not sure that a timer thermostat saves power. They do for me just because it automates changing temp depending on use. My YF leaves lights on all over, so for sure she would not turn the heat down before walking out the door. I have one in every room that is heated, I like them better than the normal baseboard controls which seem to have a 5 to 10 degree swing, so you have to set them kinda high for a correct minimum temperature. The timer ones I use, are within .5 degrees and will set the heater to 3/4, 1/2 or 1/4 to keep it there. So I can get away with a lower setting. I am not sure if I use less power by cycling them off and on (means heater runs at a lower temp and does not add heat to the room as fast) or by running them full bore for a short blast and then off for a longer time..... Time to get out my kilowatt meter.
 
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In Japan most construction, both old and new is shoddy and hardly insulated at all.  Think about it, these people are famous for paper walls.   Older houses, in particularly, are very drafty.  Some of the older solutions are about heating people, not the space. 

There are lots of cold bathrooms in Japan, but heated toilet seats.  Makes all the difference in the world. 

The kotatsu is a delightful Japanese hybrid between a coffee table and a blanket. 


They may be electrically heated, or just a plain blanket heated with body heat.  Either way, it gets cozy under the kotatsu, keeping people warm, without needing to heat a room, nevermind a house.  Even better if there are others to play footsies with.  I don't think this idea is just for floor sitters, either.  Easily adaptable to western furniture, though the chairs will create more opportunities for drafts, and there will be more space under the table to heat.  Bottom line is throw a blanket over the table, and put a moderately heavy table-top on the blanket and you are good to go.  Biggest danger with the kotatsu, is not wanting to leave the table, keep pouring drinks and end up passed out under the kotatsu. 



Lastly, never underestimate the power of a hot water bottle. 
 
tel jetson
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we built a kotatsu last winter.  it's lovely.
 
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Somebody mentioned curtains already.
Ernie has been bugging me to get curtains for 2 years to replace venetian blinds on our apartment and I finally did.

It makes a big difference.

Totally renter-compatible: we just attached a lightweight pole with loops of string tied onto the venetian blind supports.

For elegant and functional aesthetics:
Tulle or lace traps a surprising amount of heat (air), while allowing some airflow to reduce mold or condensation problems.
You could do lace inner curtains that would allow you to enjoy some light (and remind you to open even the lace curtains when the sun is out).

Then add a heavier curtain, possibly with some bright colors or reflecting backing hidden in there, to draw across the windows on days when it's cold, dark, and/or stormy.  Gives you flexibility and extra insurance against extreme weather.
On sunny days, tie these back with a simple loop, or let them hang beside the windows, for a classic window treatment.

...

Other thought:
Filling the house or fridge isn't about removing air space - it's about replacing draft-prone air (which falls out of the freezer every time you open it) with thermal mass storage that doesn't change much when the doors are open. 
Most food is mostly water, and water makes great thermal mass.  If your food is at 40 degrees, and you open the fridge for a minute, and shut it, the food will bring the air back down to 40 or 41 without needing to kick on the motor.  The cold food might also 'fool' the thermostat into delaying a possibly unnecessary response, again saving energy.
But in an empty fridge, the temperature inside drops down close to room temperature and stays there until the air cycles again.

Now if I thought I had to eliminate all the open space in my apartment to replace the air, I'd be like, "Hell no, I have enough clutter as it is."  And floors are only designed to hold a certain weight.
But if you know what it's doing, you can use a small amount of mass to advantage.

For renters, this might mean getting some granite slab off-cuts for your kitchen windowsill or sideboard, to soak up the sun's heat. 
My friend did this (for aesthetic reasons) but it should give a passive-solar boost too.  Bricks or river-rock could also work, if not as elegantly.  Potted plants in ceramic pots.  Etc.

Likewise, putting bricks under your dog-heater pad could even out the warmth, and let you turn it off after a few hours and enjoy the next few hours of heat out of the bricks.  A warm brick floor/wall is good for about 2 hours of heat.  Like a hot water bottle, but doesn't leak on the electronics. 
You can also heat bricks or water-bottles and move them around - a hot brick can't electrocute you, or EMF you, as you fall asleep.  Aesthetic masonry shapes (like glazed tile, clay shortbread molds, or cement bunnies) are also available.

You can also put capped jars in the widow to catch solar energy.  For mass, fill with water, maybe add colors, glitter, pretty river-rock, or those inedible decorative canned goods.  Or preserved fetal aliens, you know, whatever suits your aesthetic.  I'm thinking a lava-lamp could potentially be a nice heat reservoir too.

Venturing further into wacky tin-foil logic, I'm also thinking about maybe a re-radiating metal surface along the ceiling, like those decorative brass or copper ceiling tiles, to pick up convective heat and send it back down someplace useful.  Hard for a renter to install a powered fan, but not that hard to hang some "ceiling art" that is removable when you leave.

* * *
My mom has never needed an air conditioner; she actively manages passive heating and cooling wherever she lives: opening and shutting curtains, windows, and doors daily at appropriate times, and seasonally: open stairwell doors in summer, close in winter; put up awning in summer to shade the glass doors.  I'm not that time-conscious, but I can attest to the difference it makes in her house.
 
                        
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The first two winters in my apartment, I put regular plastic over the windows, which showed just how leaky those windows are: when the plastic is bulging in and out in time to the wind blowing, you know something's not right.  The third year, I experimented with using bubble wrap, which I got in abundance from the trash bins at my workplace.  It actually worked very well, with the air bubbles adding insulation to the wind protection.  In fact, I left most of the bubble wrap up through the year because it meant I didn't have to deal with the blinds.

These last two years, though, I haven't bothered putting anything special over the windows, because the walls are so drafty, insulating the windows doesn't make a dent in my energy bill.  I'm at the top of a 3-story apartment building built 35 years ago.  I know that they used some kind of blown-in insulation.  The problem is that after 35 years the insulation has dropped and there's nothing in my walls.
 
paul wheaton
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Len wrote:
Do you use timer thermostats?



I do think that they do offer some savings.  Although I also think that if the temp in your home drops a lot and then you fire up your furnace in the morning to get things warmed up again, I kinda wonder if it might have used almost the same amount of power to just keep your house warm all night. 

So when comparing a house that is kept at a steady 70 to a house that uses timer thermostats to go between 50 (nobody home) and 70 (morning and evening), my rough guess is a savings of 10% - just because the heater has to work so hard ($$$) to make the transition from 50 to 70.

But if you keep the thermostat always at 50 and heat just the area you use, or better, heat just your person - then I think the savings can be rather massive.  Like 80%.



 
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yukkuri_kame wrote:
The kotatsu is a delightful Japanese hybrid between a coffee table and a blanket.



This is brilliant.  It gives me mountains of ideas.

I'm now thinking about doing something similar with my desk.


 
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Erica Wisner wrote:
Somebody mentioned curtains already.
Ernie has been bugging me to get curtains for 2 years to replace venetian blinds on our apartment and I finally did.

It makes a big difference.



I have read about something like curtains called "window quilts"

I suppose if somebody is really good at opening curtains (quilts) in the morning and closing them at night, then that is a huge help.  Huge.  Super huge.  Freaky big huge. 

And I seem to have some sort of defect where I tend to not do this.  I end up either sitting in the dark all day or living in a fishbowl at night.  I seem to be just stupid this way. 

Plus, I really like the light of dawn. 

I have heard of people collecting a small mountain of bubble wrap and making a big gob that fits in the window.  That seems really smart to me.  Light comes through, but it insulates.  And I can take it out and put it back when and if I ever remember. 

I also like to air the whole house out every few days.  So the idea of putting that air tight plastic seal stuff over my windows doesn't really work.  I'm gonna open those windows in a day or two!




 
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You can get similar things in Europe, and presumably elsewhere - google 'heated overblanket' and see what comes up.  Also, heated duvets/comforters are available.  We bought one for the old man, who is completely bedridden, as it's not really possible to keep his body temperature up just by keeping the room warm.  It's also great for warming him up in a hurry after washing him or whatever as you can put it on a high setting for a while until he's warmed through again.  They have about nine heat settings and you can leave the lower settings on for 12 hours at a time.  I seriously believe that without one of these the old man wouldn't still be with us. 



And these should be on your Christmas list Paul - USB powered heated fingerless gloves for geeks working in cold rooms!!

 
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Erica Wisner wrote:For renters, this might mean getting some granite slab off-cuts for your kitchen windowsill or sideboard, to soak up the sun's heat.
My friend did this (for aesthetic reasons) but it should give a passive-solar boost too.  Bricks or river-rock could also work, if not as elegantly.  Potted plants in ceramic pots.  Etc.



For a while I put a cast iron pan near my window.  When a sunny day came along, the pan got freaky hot!

But I keep thinking:  all of that light that comes in bounces off light colored stuff and is absorbed by dark colored stuff.  And the bounce can get bounced several times, thus lighting up the room. So I kinda wonder if putting dark colored things in the window might be a bad idea - it might be smarter for me to dress in dark colors and to have the room be more light colors.  And the window sills should be mirrors.  After all, I would rather heat me than the glass.

On the other hand, if I have a great big, black rock sitting on my desk - it will absorb lots of heat in the day and then give it off again at night. 

Well .... lots of speculation - it would be cool to see some official research go down this road.


 
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Erica Wisner wrote:
Likewise, putting bricks under your dog-heater pad could even out the warmth, and let you turn it off after a few hours and enjoy the next few hours of heat out of the bricks



True!

One downside would be that where I put my feet would then be significantly higher - which would probably be uncomfortable - and comfort is a big focus of this experiment.

Of course, part of my thinking is that I need to run some heat in the house anyway to keep the overall temp at 50 or better.  So when I am running all of the math there gets to be a variety of scenarios.


  • [li]the outside temp is well below freezing - so I should probably heat the parts of the house with pipes to over 60 to make sure I don't get any broken pipes.[/li]
    [li]the outside temp is hovering around freezing - so the rest of the house can be set to 50 and I can focus on warming myself.  And the stuff about warming myself to 72 degrees leads to warming the rest of the house to 50.  So leaving the dog bed on 24/7 is probably offsetting the baseboard heaters coming on as often.[/li]
    [li]the outside temp is around 50 - so the idea of the thermal inertia with the dog bed is probably smart.  The baseboard heaters will never turn on, so then the idea is to keep myself comfortable while using the fewest kwh possible![/li]



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    paul wheaton
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    Muzhik wrote:
    The first two winters in my apartment, I put regular plastic over the windows, which showed just how leaky those windows are: when the plastic is bulging in and out in time to the wind blowing, you know something's not right.  The third year, I experimented with using bubble wrap, which I got in abundance from the trash bins at my workplace.  It actually worked very well, with the air bubbles adding insulation to the wind protection.  In fact, I left most of the bubble wrap up through the year because it meant I didn't have to deal with the blinds.

    These last two years, though, I haven't bothered putting anything special over the windows, because the walls are so drafty, insulating the windows doesn't make a dent in my energy bill.  I'm at the top of a 3-story apartment building built 35 years ago.  I know that they used some kind of blown-in insulation.  The problem is that after 35 years the insulation has dropped and there's nothing in my walls.



    Time to hang lots of fabric-ish bits on your walls?  Bedouin decorating?


     
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    Burra Maluca wrote:

    And these should be on your Christmas list Paul - USB powered heated fingerless gloves for geeks working in cold rooms!!



    I have fingerless gloves that I use outside a lot (part of my layered glove/mitten thing).

    I also have something that is more like a wrist warmer.  It is more like somebody cut the finger portion off of a mitten.  It is about an inch shorter than the fingerless gloves in your pic.  They do a good job of warming my fingers, but when I nibble on something or wash my hands or want to pee - they are a bit of a hassle.  I like using the reptile heaters much more.

     
                            
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    paul wheaton wrote:
    Time to hang lots of fabric-ish bits on your walls?  Bedouin decorating?



    I thought about it, which would probably reduce my cooling costs in the summer, too; but my quickie calculations on how much material I would need discouraged me.  Not to mention it's not just the walls but the ceilings too -- I'm on the top floor of the building.
     
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    When I make my videos, you can really hear echo in the room if I don't have fabric on the walls.  So I keep picking it up at yard sales and the like. 

    Maybe you need to keep your eye out for that sort of thing at yard sales?
     
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    paul wheaton wrote:
    I do think that they do offer some savings.  Although I also think that if the temp in your home drops a lot and then you fire up your furnace in the morning to get things warmed up again, I kinda wonder if it might have used almost the same amount of power to just keep your house warm all night. 


    Furnace? whats that? I thought this was about "electric heat". I have a timer/stat in each room so that bed rooms heat (to a lower heat) at night and the living and dinning rooms heat for a few hours in the morning and from about 3 to 10pm. I would think it would be the same as shutting off the water heater at night... for the extreme example of this see:
    http://www.iwilltry.org/b/projects/convert-your-gas-hot-water-tank-to-electric/
    This guy runs his water tank for only a few hours a day... at 500 or so watts and it does showers for him and his wife.


    So when comparing a house that is kept at a steady 70 to a house that uses timer thermostats to go between 50 (nobody home) and 70 (morning and evening), my rough guess is a savings of 10% - just because the heater has to work so hard ($$$) to make the transition from 50 to 70.

    But if you keep the thermostat always at 50 and heat just the area you use, or better, heat just your person - then I think the savings can be rather massive.  Like 80%.



    I think you spend more time at home than we do. I also think you have yet to deal with my wife   I come home to "every light in the house on" more than I like.... I want to make a timer switch that doesn't suck power even when off (for its power supply) I have two of these, one for the bathroom vent and one for the laundry room.
     
    paul wheaton
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    My company has gone and I'm back in the saddle with lowering the temp in the whole house and trying to heat just myself.

    The focus is on comfort.  I want to feel comfortable.  I sit at my desk most of the day with my hands at my keyboard and mouse

    The current temp at my outside walls is about 52, and the temp in the middle of the room is about 57.  Today I am going with being moderately bundled up, no gloves of any kind, the reptile heaters, the dog bed and I have just now turned off the overhead 100 watt light bulb. 

    Another thing is that just before thanksgiving I bought two contraptions:

    this 30 minute power timer


    and

    this heated mattress pad


    I was having trouble falling asleep at night.  I finally figured out that I was getting into a cold bed and that had something to do with it.  So I put in a heating pad that is designed for sore muscles and used that to help me get to sleep.  I did get to sleep faster, but it was still taking a while.

    With the new mattress pad and timer, I start the timer for 30 minutes and fire up the mattress pad just before brushing my teeth.  By the time I get in, the bed is warm and I get to sleep pretty quickly.

    So I would say that these two contraptions work very well together.





     
    Erica Wisner
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    paul wheaton wrote:
    I have read about something like curtains called "window quilts"

    I suppose if somebody is really good at opening curtains (quilts) in the morning and closing them at night, then that is a huge help.  Huge.  Super huge.  Freaky big huge. 

    And I seem to have some sort of defect where I tend to not do this.  I end up either sitting in the dark all day or living in a fishbowl at night.  I seem to be just stupid this way. 

    Plus, I really like the light of dawn. 

    I have heard of people collecting a small mountain of bubble wrap and making a big gob that fits in the window.  That seems really smart to me.  Light comes through, but it insulates.  And I can take it out and put it back when and if I ever remember. 

    I also like to air the whole house out every few days.  So the idea of putting that air tight plastic seal stuff over my windows doesn't really work.  I'm gonna open those windows in a day or two!



    I think maybe I need a light-translucent solution for our bedroom, we end up as you say, missing the dawn (and most of the morning) in the winter.

    We put plastic outside over the windows that we can't really reach to open anyway (corner behind the table, that sort of thing).  We didn't actually remove it last summer, and only one window shows deterioration, so it's not as disposable-icky as it might seem.
    We leave 1 or 2 windows in each room that are easy to open, or have storm windows, for airing convenience.  And although he is always a gentleman (outside smoker) when I'm around, I have seen evidence that Ernie opens the window and smokes out of it when I'm not here.

    I think lace curtains or "sheers" are the ladies' version of bubble wrap: lets light in, holds a little heat, leaves windows functional.
    Lace "cafe curtains" could be a great way to disguise the bubble-wrap should any aesthetically sensitive folks object.
     
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    I just want to say, these ways to save energy are great for one or two adults.

    HOWEVER, if people have small children running around and crawling on the floor, they would have to heat the house to a higher temperature for the little ones I would think. 

    I remember when my kids were small and I had a home daycare I had to keep the heat around 70.  I put plastic on the windows and insulated the atic myself to help keep it warm.

    Any ideas on how to conserve heat and energy with little ones?  I mean other than keeping the kid(s) in a snow suit all day?
     
    paul wheaton
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    I think a big part of this experimenting is to come up with a potential path.  It seems like a lot of people are convinced that this sort of thing is not even possible.  So I want to at least demonstrate that this path is not only possible, but be able to document what the payback could be.

    In this case, the power company shows how much juice was used last year by one guy living in this exact same space.  So it is an apples to apples comparison. 

    As for the thing about kids:  I think an important thing to keep in mind there is that each kid is a like a little heater.  So you have a kid heated home! I also think you can have some areas of the home that are kept much cooler than other areas.  And even the warmest area can probably be kept at 65 - bundle those kids up and give them lots of blankets when they nap.

     
    Len Ovens
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    Rebecca Dane wrote:
    I just want to say, these ways to save energy are great for one or two adults.

    HOWEVER, if people have small children running around and crawling on the floor, they would have to heat the house to a higher temperature for the little ones I would think. 


    I guess mine are a little older (running not crawling), but they seem to take a cooler house better than the adults. I remember one summer I worked at Frobisher Bay (on Baffin Island) where the high was around 6C(43F). I had a coat on outside but the kids were in bathing suits...
     
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