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I cut 87% off of my electric heat bill

 
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Hey Paul,

I saw this idea of yours back late last winter and I started thinking the concept through on my own situation where I have been trying to get myself to a point where I am using stray heat/body heat to keep my 'house' warm.

I had already cut back the amount of space I was heating as I haven't ever heated my whole house in the 20 years I have owned it. It's a 468 square foot shack. I never have heated more than half of it and kept the other half insulated off. Over the past four years I kept cutting back the amount of space I was heating. First attempt in 14/15, I believe, was to cut back only heating 48 sq ft with the walls wrapped in roughly R60 insulation. Nothing extra in the ceiling. It helped some but I started to realize it was too much space. After two years I dropped it back to 32 sq ft and made the door open bottom/up so I could trap the heat at the ceiling. I kept the R60, better wrapped this time around, on the walls and added R30 in the ceiling, still no insulation of any kind in the floor. The electric usage fell by close to 50%. The following winter I added R30 into the floor and noticed I had a nice draft on the floor right around the door. The room did seem warmer and used even less heat.

After seeing your posting last year I found myself one night laying in the hammock in the room and I started noticing how much space I was wasting. I knew it was crazy. I did most everything from the hammock, sleep, working on the computer, meal prep/eating meals, etc. Pretty much everything I did in the house other than going to the bathroom I did from the hammock. I made the measurements and decided why not. I was looking at 5-6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3.5 feet high. Upon doing some more measuring and calculating I knew I should be able to easily get away with dramatically shrinking the room down. Finally early to mid fall I took down the 32 sq ft room and replaced it with a 45-50 cubic ft room, half ways wrapped, all six sides, with R60 insulation, pink panther style not sheet insulation like I would like to use now. I knew my biggest problem would be air exchange, for sure.

Little did I know what the end of the year was going to bring for me. I have the room ready to be tested but thanks to a friend of mine running into health problems and having no family to take care of him I moved in with him on the last day of September and have not spent a night at my house since then. The room is ready to be tested, at least to the build extent thus far. Like I said I would love to change it over to sheet insulation to make everything much tighter.

Remember when it comes to  doing something like trying to heat smarter, heat the body, not the air. The easiest way to do this is to eliminate the amount of air which needs to be heated. Why heat the whole room to 50 degrees when you are using the computer in only a very small amount of space. If you want to further reduce the electric bill, heat the area you are using and not the whole room to 50 degrees. By some insulation and make a dummy room, its what I have been testing with for the past four or five winter now. I never realized exactly what I was attempting to do until I saw this message thread and then it hit me and made me look at a whole new way of building my own test room.
 
pollinator
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Paul, what specifically would you recommend looking for in a heated dog bed? I want to give it a go, but hard to nail down much online in terms of ideal watts, what about a regular heating pad instead? What about non heated fuzzy/fleece-y pet beds? Or adding a heating pad to them? I saw one that used a usb to “charge”? I think that one said it was 6w and it’s charger was 2A/5w... like a cell phone charger but would that be enough? Others said they were 60w...

Sorry for the bunch of thoughts, was just a bit confusing and Amazon’s search function seemed mostly worthless no matter what terms I put in, in terms of trying to narrow stuff down. Anyone else is free to answer if they’ve found a good solution, brand, etc. Stay warm y’all... Kansas City is supposed to have lows near zero almost all week and -5F one night!
 
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The one I have is still going great ....   can't find it on amazon anymore.

I noticed this thing a bit ago and thought it could be worth trying for some scenarios:  https://amzn.to/36PWLV4

 
steward & bricolagier
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Leif Ing wrote: what about a regular heating pad instead?


I use a regular heating pad. I had to buy an old one off ebay to get one that doesn't shut off automatically, works well for me.

:D
 
Leif Ing
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Paul and/or Pearl, this PN has almost 5k reviews and they shouldn’t ALL be scam reviews, right? https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08MC5YWRS/ref=sspa_mw_detail_0?ie=UTF8&psc=1&th=1 Does that one sound efficient? They say the timer goes from 1-12 hours... not sure if they washable cover would be super comfy for people feet though?
 
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I have appreciated all the comments and suggestions in this thread.  If I was to live alone again I would definitely downsize the living space and get by very well with just the wood stove.  In my previous house, in Las Vegas of all places not thought to be cold, my natural gas furnace for my 2 story 1500sq/ft house was causing me $300 electric bills in the winter just trying to keep the house at 68*.  When I tiled the downstairs I installed 90 sq/ft of under floor electric heat tape to cover the bathroom, hallway and kitchen area.  I set that controller at 68* in the winter and was able to set my furnace thermostat to 65* and my electric bill was cut by more than 50%.  Major improvement considering the entire house was in use.

I know this is probably larger than what most of you are considering but this would be great for the floor in a home office or a bedroom.  If you put a portion under a normal bed frame it will warm the air under the bed and in turn warm the mattress, just don't put it under a dresser or other furniture that would hold the heat on the floor and over heat the wiring.  
Here is a link to a 15 sq/ft version of what I used.  You will also need a temperature probe and a thermostat.  
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083XWDM1H/ref=twister_B083XWTTSM?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-AC11201-Temperature-Heating-Applications/dp/B003ZZOLE8/ref=pd_bxgy_img_3/135-0072237-4748857?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B003ZZOLE8&pd_rd_r=0a27d606-7d0a-4c36-bc51-cf6da336285e&pd_rd_w=Fcfku&pd_rd_wg=kDuGI&pf_rd_p=f325d01c-4658-4593-be83-3e12ca663f0e&pf_rd_r=49VN6HEK7XRBGSBRPYBD&psc=1&refRID=49VN6HEK7XRBGSBRPYBD

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-Premium-Baseboard-Thermostat-YCT410B1000/dp/B000TKFQF0/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=electric+floor+heat+thermostat&qid=1612768972&sr=8-8

I plan to use the 90 sq/ft version to heat most of the floor in my work room and part of the hallway, the areas furthest away from my wood stove and where I would be spending most of my time if stuck in doors during the day.

Again, I know this is kind of going the other direction on power usage but some people may need ideas even though they are not downsizing their existing living area.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Leif Ing wrote:Paul and/or Pearl, this PN has almost 5k reviews and they shouldn’t ALL be scam reviews, right? https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08MC5YWRS/ref=sspa_mw_detail_0?ie=UTF8&psc=1&th=1 Does that one sound efficient? They say the timer goes from 1-12 hours... not sure if they washable cover would be super comfy for people feet though?



If you don't like their washable cover, use any cloth you like on it, either just loose sitting on it, or quick sew a sleeve for it. Loose makes it easier to wash, and to burrow your feet into the folds (I like doing that!!)

That one would probably work fine. One thing I do like about my heating pad, though, is I usually keep it on low, but when I'm having a bad day, I can turn the heat up to Med or High to increase my heat. The pet beds don't allow that. And I don't feel the need to pay for unchewable cords, I don't often chew them :D So that would work fine, if what you want is constant low heat (and you chew your cords!) Depends on what your parameters are.

:D

Edit: I also like it that my old heating pads with no automatic shut off are as low tech as I can get, they have wires, and a mechanical switch. Nothing else. Less stuff that can fail. Timer shut off implies more stuff in the system than I care for. I don't like excess tech where it's not needed.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Willy Kerlang wrote: Now I have a radiant heater, which uses very little electricity and works well, but only on the part of my body it is shining on.


Very old post, just wanted to comment that I use radiant heat to heat thermal mass. I have bricks that anything radiant (sunshine, infrared lamps, radiant heater) points at, and a small fan in the space between them moving the air. This lets the radiant heat the bricks, that then let their heat into the slow circulating air. Really effective technique for using radiant heat to heat air.  
 
Leif Ing
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If you don't like their washable cover, use any cloth you like on it, either just loose sitting on it, or quick sew a sleeve for it. Loose makes it easier to wash, and to burrow your feet into the folds (I like doing that!!)

That one would probably work fine. One thing I do like about my heating pad, though, is I usually keep it on low, but when I'm having a bad day, I can turn the heat up to Med or High to increase my heat. The pet beds don't allow that. And I don't feel the need to pay for unchewable cords, I don't often chew them :D So that would work fine, if what you want is constant low heat (and you chew your cords!) Depends on what your parameters are.

:D

Edit: I also like it that my old heating pads with no automatic shut off are as low tech as I can get, they have wires, and a mechanical switch. Nothing else. Less stuff that can fail. Timer shut off implies more stuff in the system than I care for. I don't like excess tech where it's not needed.

I dunno Pearl, power cords might be a tasty chewy snack... ;-)

That one I found though did have variable heat and a timer longer than 1-2 hours which is when most seem to auto shut off.

The main thing I was thinking I should be looking at was wattage, no timer or longer timer, and maybe power cord length to give more flexibility on placement. Thanks for your thoughts though! Stay warm, supposed to be super cold for our area the next week. :)
 
Pearl Sutton
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Leif Ing wrote:
The main thing I was thinking I should be looking at was wattage, no timer or longer timer, and maybe power cord length to give more flexibility on placement.


Any attempt to change heating involves considering what your exact parameters are. This is Paul's thread, and it discusses answers he got for HIS parameters. My parameters are very different than his, so my solutions are different.

All solutions come down to the same factors:
  • Exclude extraneous air flow, and circulate air as needed
  • Zoned heating to increase heat where it is needed most, less where it is not needed
  • Insulation of heating zones
  • Human comfort heating (which is NOT the same as temperature of the air)
  • Thermal mass to retain the heat
  • Least amount of input for the desired output


  • Within those factors, a lot can be changed, in a lot of ways. Looking at it as a system makes it look very different that looking at it as pieces.

    An example that may look unrelated to start with is lighting. Designers use the terms ambient, task, and accent to describe different types of lighting. Ambient lights the whole room, and can be bright or dim. Task lighting is concentrated in one area, and is usually bright. Accent lighting (like a light over a painting) is concentrated in one area and is usually medium to bright.

    When you heat (or cool) you can change the ambient (the whole house/room/space) temperature by any of the factors listed above, although most "normal" houses default to a furnace and a thermostat, which changes only the temperature of the air in the whole house. That's expensive, and what Paul is trying to reduce or avoid.

    You can also change the task heating, by changing the temperature of a smaller area, with things like the kotatsu style of increasing insulation around a heated space, or using light bulbs in an area that put out more heat.

    You can change the accent heating by having a warm spot where you can hang out to be warmer, like a RMH with a bench (butts go here!) or a heated dog bed at your feet, or a heater where you sit, or warming up your bed before you get there.

    Best is to figure out what exactly you want to heat, and how to optimize that. Different people will have different parameters they consider important, and different situations they are dealing with. Think on it as a system, and it will make it easier to figure out which solutions will work best for you. Permaculture's system designing doesn't end at the garden, the same technique of looking at the underlying patterns of your problem will help you figure out which solutions would be effective for your situation.

    :D
     
    Leif Ing
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    Thanks Pearl, think I messed up trying to reply with a quote, ah well.

    In any case, so far this winter, in the limited time a trucker spends actually at home, the main adjustment has been adding a couple heating pads. Using them at the computer desks, and wearing a comfy hoodie, I was able to turn the thermostat down to 63F and feel quite warm. The pair of heating pads I bought DO have a 2 hour timer, which makes me feel better having two younger kids at home... less chance of being left on all night or longer when not in use!

    It’s a useful first step, and I imagine turning the furnace down by 5F or so should make a difference on the gas bill. I’m glad they are older now though, and I don’t work outside all day long anymore in the winter... used to crank the heat up to 72-73 when I got home from that kind of work! Still, looking forward to a future house being able to build an RMH...
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