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Heat for Dummies Flow-chart: Function--heating; which cool gadget should I actually use?  RSS feed

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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I would love to have there be a 1-page orientation flowchart for people to get started knowing what to research and learn more about for their specific situation for heat.

Something like

if you live in _____ climate, urban area========> pocket rocket
if you live in _____ and have land ===========> cow-poop-powered stove
if you live in _____ and have lots of money =======> mason-built, up-to-code, state-of-the art rocket mass heater slash Telsa Roadster
if you live in___ and need a short-term solution but promise to destroy it after 1 year because it is NOT safe with the amount of creosote that it will build up and you really need to use green wood in it becaus eyou don't have any not green wood and you don't have time to dry ti and you know yourself, your lazy, you're not going to get a job and earn the money to buy wood in time to stop yousrelf from freezing this winter, then ------------> magic wand


etc.

Other cool things that I would want to see categorized:
growing your own ethanol (jargon terms- sugar palm, hazelnuts, I don't know what else grows it fast)
passive solar
compost heating

Point is, you can see all your major players in terms of a given function (Heating people, maybe heating food too), andthen start to pick which elements are feasible. It doesn't answer everything definitively, just gets you started researching in the right basic ballpark. And translates the jargon for people who don't know. And hopefully prevents someone building something from a design in Mother Earth News that leads to their homestead burning down and has more homesteads thrive, saves time and money, lead to more happiness and freedom.

Thanks Erica for supporting this idea!

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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also to categorize ---

rumsford stove (?)
use freecycled wood stove (+how are you going to transport it)
use gTummo (Tibetan meditation that raises body temperature--sounds hard to me :p )
use existing heating system, however un-permy or un-sexy it is, for now, and live to permaculture another year
use existing fireplace
use electric
get hot lover
sleep with the chickens


Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:I would love to have there be a 1-page orientation flowchart for people to get started knowing what to research and learn more about for their specific situation for heat.

Something like

if you live in _____ climate, urban area========> pocket rocket
if you live in _____ and have land ===========> cow-poop-powered stove
if you live in _____ and have lots of money =======> mason-built, up-to-code, state-of-the art Rocket Mass Heater slash Telsa Roadster
if you live in___ and need a short-term solution but promise to destroy it after 1 year because it is NOT safe with the amount of creosote that it will build up and you really need to use green wood in it becaus eyou don't have any not green wood and you don't have time to dry ti and you know yourself, your lazy, you're not going to get a job and earn the money to buy wood in time to stop yousrelf from freezing this winter, then ------------> magic wand


etc.

Other cool things that I would want to see categorized:
growing your own ethanol (jargon terms- sugar palm, hazelnuts, I don't know what else grows it fast)
passive solar
compost heating

Point is, you can see all your major players in terms of a given function (Heating people, maybe heating food too), andthen start to pick which elements are feasible. It doesn't answer everything definitively, just gets you started researching in the right basic ballpark. And translates the jargon for people who don't know. And hopefully prevents someone building something from a design in Mother Earth News that leads to their homestead burning down and has more homesteads thrive, saves time and money, lead to more happiness and freedom.

Thanks Erica for supporting this idea!

 
Rebecca Norman
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And for the smallest backup system possible, a hot water bottle!
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks, Rebecca! what other heating elements do you use up in the Himalayas? and you mean you use a hot water bottle instead of gTummo??

I realized there are a lot of other elements that could be included in this flow-chart, even ones that aren't "permaculture" ones but which, if viewed through a permaculture lense, can be reappropriated. For example, Paul's electric heater system thingy where he's covered in little micro-heaters and looks like a victim of a government medical probe is using heaters not designed by permaculturists or anything but putting them to permacultural (sustaiable, higher--efficiency) use. What other things outside the "permaculture" box could be brought into it?

--hot water bottles
--heated bricks that you put in your bed or coals under your bed for sleeping
--new kinds of superfabrics (are they sustainably made? what is the total cost ecologically?)
--
 
Erica Wisner
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Here's where I tend to start. It's about two pages, not counting images, but see if this works for you.
I might try to draw it up as a simplistic flow chart if I get inspired. But first, let's see if others agree with me, and if there are things others want to add. I'm heavy on the wood-heat options, and I know other alternatives can be really great too.

Permaculture Heating 101: What Do I Build First? How do we go about finding the right permaculture solution for heating? Let the situation lead us toward an appropriate option:

1) Climate: How comfortable is your average temperature? Heating-degree-days (HDD) measure how much heat is needed to reach comfort temperatures of 65 F, a good general approximation of climate. (CDD, cooling degree days, indicate hotter weather). http://www.huduser.org/portal/resources/UtilityModel/hdd.html


A) If HDD and CDD are similar for a given month, then the climate is “on-average comfortable” at that time, and thermal mass could eliminate heating cost for these seasons.
Solutions: Consider adobe, cob, or masonry walls, mass heaters, or earth-sheltered structures like a wofati. These can also be good methods for frost-protection in areas whose average winter temperature is above freezing.

B) If you have extreme HDD for some or all months of the year:
I) The sun is free, any other heat takes work. What is your solar potential?

http://sustainabilityworkshop.autodesk.com/... (Global solar potential map)
Look specifically at potential in the cold months, if this is primarily for heating.

Maps also found at http://solartoday.org/, NCDC, jc-solarhomes.com, and other sites.
Solution: In all areas, but especially those with mostly-sunny cold seasons, use passive-solar design to minimize heating costs.

II) In cold climates with low sun, start with good shelter design, then add heat.

2) Shelter: Look at native animals, indigenous human cultures, and established local families. Study and mimic locally-evolved shelter and clothing, with consideration for today's differences (available resources and cultural priorities may have changed).
A) Camp and observe. For the first year, consider thick bedding, insulated campers, small efficient cookstoves. Build your barn first. It's good practice, useful space, and you'll be amazed how many critical errors you learn to avoid while planning your permanent home. You could build a pole-barn roof, and park a camper inside a straw-bale shelter.
B) Zone your heat. Create localized warmth for core activities (sedentary work, winter hobbies). Surround the core with cool-tolerant storage or rumpus rooms. Consider seasonal zoning too: summer/winter kitchens, sleeping in the warmest room during cold snaps.
C) Insulate. Heating a lossy space wastes more energy than any technology can 'save.' Heat rises, so start at the top, like a warm hat. Insulate ceilings, attics, walls. Stack functions with hayloft/storage/living over the barn. Fill any holes or gaps: drapes or insulated shutters, extra layers or cloches in greenhouses. And of course, insulate yourself with warm clothes.
3) Critical needs: What is the minimum survival temperature you need to maintain? Can you cluster or replace the most sensitive elements to lower heating needs? (Easily-drained plumbing for vacation homes, catfish instead of tilapia for aquaponics... Don't replace loved ones, but consider a heater that draws them close while supporting their essential activities.)

4) Use your temperature data, shelter outline, and insulation details to estimate your heating load.
http://www.builditsolar.com/References/Calculators/HeatLoss/HeatLoss.htm

5) Resources: What is most abundant in your situation, to the point where it's a disposal problem? Wood? Animal poop? In the desert, wind, sun, sand, clear days and cold nights might be most common. In maritime climates, you may have lots of cloud cover, water, and biomass. Start looking for ways to get your heat from the most abundant local resources, while keeping costs down. We tend to emphasize renewables and direct solar input over extracted resources, especially where extraction may harm long-term livability, or where imported resources may become scarce or costly.

6) Use patterns: Is this a residential home, people sleep there? Do you cook there? Is the space ever vacant during cold weather, and if so, do you need to heat it while you are gone? Again, look at some of the oldest local buildings that are still in use: they may reflect well-adapted designs for predictable changes such as sickness or injury, people growing up/growing older, a change in jobs or in primary farm crops and cottage industries. Baking, canning, bathing, and integrated farm activities may be very useful.
- All patterns: Passive solar will improve livability and reduce heating bills.

wood heat or other combustion heating:
- Steady heat all season (residential homestead, year-round greenhouse): Thermal mass inside, insulation outside / on colder sides. Masonry heaters, rocket mass heaters, water tanks indoors.
- Intermittent use: guest rooms/offices, “snappy” climates: Excellent insulation, limited thermal mass. Consider zoned heat, or separate heaters that can be used as needed. Radiant floors, radiators, modest-mass heaters like Tulikivi or soapstone stoves, modest rocket mass heaters with a bypass.
- Occasional or briefly-used space (shop, parlor, meeting hall) – Excess thermal mass may cost energy; it's a cold sink as well as a heat storage. Consider radiant heat: a small rocket stove that runs on shop scrap; a Rumford radiant fireplace or good wood-burning stove for parlors; or a relatively low-mass radiant floor for chapels or meeting halls.
- Personal warmers: Heat the person not the room; Paul demonstrated 87% savings with electric options include heat lamps, puppy-bed heaters, and special office gear like heated keyboards. Low-tech versions include hot bricks, cast-iron, hot water bottles, and well-bred pets.
- Heating while gone, or without human intervention (institutions, absentee owner homesteads): If you must maintain a space at temperature without human intervention, look at passive-solar design first, and at ways to reduce the footprint that absolutely must be heated. The above options can be backed up by a thermostat-controlled system (forced-air furnaces, steam or fluid-circulating boilers, or automated solar collectors and venting systems).

Special resource situations, (5) above, continued:
It is probably not a good idea to start farming waste products solely for heat. Just like paper production from tree cellulose is a smart by-product of lumber production, but clearcutting trees exclusively for pulp is poor forestry.
You do not want to add cows to your daily chore list in order to do a methane digester. But if you have enough cows or people concentrated in one place that sewage effluent is a disposal problem, then you may be able to turn this disposal problem into an energy solution.
If you have the technical know-how and resources, these can be useful technologies:
- Sunny days/clear cold nights: Active/direct solar heat collectors, with a large thermal storage tank. (Also good for daytime-use spaces like shops and offices. This can be surprisingly effective in many climates, even sub-Arctic ones, with a big enough storage tank.)
- Compost heaters: Takes compostable materials, pipes, people or equipment to move large piles around while protecting/repairing pipes afterwards.
- Methane/Biogas digesters: Most common in large dairy operations or intentional communities where there is enough sewage effluent to support a technical expert maintaining the system.
Note that solar and compost heat tend to slow down just when we need them most, and are prone to over-heat at other times. They may be more useful in mild climates than in extremes, or you may just want to circulate that energy into a really big storage tank or battery bank, to even out the differences between supply and demand.
- Animal heat: Many ancient cultures built their animal shelters directly beneath homes, letting the warmth from the animals waft up into the human living quarters. Not super-sanitary, but super-efficient. Warm-blooded animals can generate a lot of heat as long as they are well-fed, and active enough to stay healthy. Some animals are tame enough to come right into human quarters - "a three-dog night" is cold enough to pile everyone all together. Living with more people in a smaller space also helps conserve body heat; a century or two ago, it was still common for siblings, and even strangers in an inn, to share a bed for warmth.

Skill and Talent:
Skills can be acquired. Talent is "gifts," things you happen to be naturally good at. Not necessarily just God's gift to you, but your gifts to other people - things you are unusually able and willing to share.
Many people have a marked affinity for particular materials, crafts, types of work, or particular varieties of plants and animals.
If you are a really good baker, then it might make a weird kind of sense to turn your home into a bakery and have the oven be your main heat source. A bake oven is not usually the most efficient way to heat a home. But if you LOVE baking, and those delicious smells (and maybe some income from happy customers as well) just make your day go well, then it could work.
Some people love working with pipes and metal. (This doesn't mean they know enough to safely build their own boiler, they just think it sounds like wonderful fun, while others might be intimidated or irritated by this kind of work.)
Some people love earth, masonry, and mud.
Some people love being out in the woods.
Some people love working closely with other people; others work best alone.
Some people have a green thumb, others have a marvelous way with sheepdogs, and so on.
Some people prefer to delegate certain functions, dividing the world up into "girl jobs" and "boy jobs," or hiring licensed experts for certain types of work.

Sometimes talents run in families, so if you are a third- or fourth-generation baker, stonemason, or sailor, there's a good chance someone in your family will be able to follow in your footsteps if you give them half a chance.
Some talents seem to be individual creative preferences, or skip a generation. For complex systems that take rare skills in fabrication, calculation, or advanced education, it makes sense to set aside resources to hire the right person.
If you are setting up a system for the general public, interns, or a broad range of family members to operate without supervision, it pays to notice their actual average skill level.
In most cases, the person setting it up will be ahead of the curve (why would you have someone who is not good at something set it up, if there is someone better at it in the same household?).
This means that the person setting up the system will understand it better than anybody else - everyone else will be prone to make more mistakes.
Many intentional communities have design failures because the person who sets up a system does not anticipate the mistakes, abuse, or neglect it will suffer at the hands of others, just due to their different natures and lower skill levels in a particular area.

It's smart to arrange your daily life so that you spend more time working with things you love, and less time struggling with solutions that are unattractive, frustrating, frightening, or baffling to you.
So all other things being equal, do what you like.
map_pv_us_february_dec2008.jpg
[Thumbnail for map_pv_us_february_dec2008.jpg]
 
Rebecca Norman
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Here in the high Himalayas at our school we use only passive solar greenhouses. We attach the greenhouses in Oct or Nov and remove them in April or May. Personally I don't feel the need for backup heat except in Jan evenings and a week of Feb, so rather than trying to pierce the roof to install a burner or stove of some kind, I just use a rubber hot water bottle on my feet while reading/typing or in bed, just for those 5 weeks or so. I've seen people use woodstoves here from Oct to April or even May in this region. We have solar electricity, so any kind of small electric heat backup is not possible for me. (I've got a cookstove with a 14kg LPG gas cylinder that lasts me about a year for all my personal cooking and some bathing).

I've never actually heard anyone talk of Tummo here in the present tense. I think I've only heard of it from western books about Tibetan Buddhism. I've never met a Tibetan Buddhist monk here who mentions meditation as a regular practice, either, though. There's a lot that's popular about Tibetan Buddhism in the west, that is not well known among Tibetan Buddhists...
 
Mike Cantrell
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Great notes, Erica! Clear and compelling.

I'd add just one bit that you hinted at but didn't really flesh out.

That is:
Retrofitting and building new are very different sets of choices. That seems to me to be step 1 on any implicit or explicit flow chart for making these decisions. You can do just about anything when you're building new. In an existing structure, you've got to balance a whole different set of considerations, re: what you've got to use, what you can afford to demo and replace, whether a radiant appliance will do any good if you put it in the only spot that can accept a chimney, etc.




And here's one other thing. Have you ever visited a building with an active-solar annual heat storage system? I read a book by a group from Wisconsin building these systems with an insulated heat storage mass under the floor and panels outside to heat a fluid and pump it through the mass.
It seemed slick, but of course it's a new-construction-only method. Wonder if anybody's got first-hand feedback.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Fabulous, Erica! I think this is 95% there. And god point Mike. I think that's important in a lot of cases where a person starts a homestead or starts on their permaculture kick/journey.

Also would love to make it more visual and flow-charty for visually-oriented persons, and maybe simplify it even more. There can be a Part II with more detail to flesh out each of the options presented in part 1, but part I will be so simple it's really idiot-proof and I meant to say originally short-attention-span-proof. That's really what it is, given the wealth of information around a guide that can get you started is really valuable. LIke one of those signposts that says "5'km to Everest this way," "11,000 km to Rome this way," etc. So I think some things should be cut out just for brevity even though they're good. If it can fit all on one page then it's probably raising hte usability factor several times.

I say simplify the climate part to "hot mostly" "cold mostly" and "other". It's a vast oversimplificaiton but it helps.

I also really really think urban-rural should be included.

I'm fascinated that sometimes you don't need anything but a blanket! I wouldn't have thought of that because I was stuck in the rut of "how do I get something that produces heat". So that's a really helpful thing I leanred from the chart already that might save a life sometime!

Where's Big Al? anyone else want to chime in here?

Lastly, I want to highlight the key words/vocab words (rocket stove, "rocket mass heater" "thermal mass") and define them too right there. Or maybe say "search for that key word as your next step."

By the way, usability is a concept I stole from this book by Paul Krugman (I think that's the name) about websites, how navigable they are, how easily they flow. It's much like the having your herbs really really near the kitchen door concept in permaculture design. So, designing the flowchart for the greatest ease. Oh yeah, we could say the flowchart is zone 1, then there can be Part II charts for zone 2, and links for sites for zone 3, etc.

Thanks so much for contributing to creating this folks!
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Mike, as for the Wisconsin thing, it brings up an important point. New things can be coming alnog all the time, and the flowchart should be ready to accommodate them wihtout needing to be revised constantly to handle the details.

SO maybe the flowchart should have more general categories of "does X by using Y element" --categories that are flexible enough to include future potential inventions or things that are new and innovative but aren't yet really tested. But then it should also incluce a caveat of "may fail in X scenario" or "may blow up" "may fall over, catch on fire, then sink into the swamp," etc. So general categories (wood-burning thing that heats up a large mass of stuff that stores heat and releases it slowly; building made out of stuff that stores heat and releases it slowly) as well as the specific elements keywords/vocab words (rocket mass heater, cob construction, ).

Which one is more zone-1-y? how to keep it simple as possible and fit on one page?

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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OK, so here are the variables I see as relevant _questions_ for hte flowchart so far:

climate: cold/ hot/daily or rapid variation/annual variation?

sun availabilty? south-facing space? shade?

city situation -- urban, rural, semi-rural

soil contamination--lead? (trees for fuel OK, can't grow veggies anyway, fruit trees will take years)

already-existing framework--indoors --house? fireplace? gas heating system? oil heat? electric heat? nothing? Victorian design/some/much passive solar?

already available resources--outdoors--cows? chickens? goats/sheep? feasibility of getting these in your situation? non-food-producing trees? scraps from neighborhood trees? nicely dried woodpile? compost/kitchen scraps?

what you like to do or have family talents in: work with earthy stuff? fiddle with gadgety stuff? wood?

how much time are you willing and able to put into tending your fire/heat source--daily? weekly? once to get the expertise to run something safely?
---------
pther important question
what do people do in this area traditionally? what is worth keeping of tradition? what other innovations can be made? what parameters do the innovations need to satisfy?



------------------
what other quesitons/variables are there? what am I leaving out?


 
Erica Wisner
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Defining existing resources is where it gets tricky.
I'm remembering the story about the Chinese emperor who kept asking for more accurate maps, until one day his advisors delivered the ultimate map by inviting him to a high tower where he could look out the windows in all directions.


I didn't mention staying in your existing shelter - we should really look at the energy consumption involved with scrapping a perfectly functional shelter and building new. Adding a cob wall and turning your garage into a solarium might be WAY more energy-efficient than selling your house, or demolishing it, to start over.

That's where Paul keeps pointing out that RMH are the most efficient way to heat a conventional home. Passive solar involves investing in a new home, or limited and costly options to upgrade existing homes, unless you get lucky.

One of the efficiency steps I pat myself on the back about was declining the boys' offer to put a picture window put in our north-facing closet. The pond is lovely back there. But the closet is insulation (and with my myriad handicraft hobbies, all of which are potential workshops I can teach, storage closets are actually more of a fantasy than big picture windows. Weird, eh?) This is one of the few nit-picky things I have asked for up here that was LESS work for them, poor guys.

So maybe
Step 1 for shelter is: Energy audit. Define existing resources and costs.

A) The structures and furnishings of the home itself: Find out where your specific home is bleeding heat into the world (but don't buy what the auditor is selling, if anything, just yet). It's common to mis-understand what your home needs. Chasing ground-level drafts before insulating and weatherizing the upstairs and attic floor (ceiling), leading to both heat loss and dangerous indoor air quality problems, or insulating damp walls before finding the source of the damp leading to black mold problems, can be extremely costly. If you can double your insulation value with some nice drapes, insulative exterior plasters, or by fixing the biggest leaks (single-pane windows, unsealed ceilings, un-insulated attic hatch, etc), then you could cut your heating needs in half.
Don't define resources as "good" or "bad" - define them in terms of their specific purposes and values. An antique woodstove may be more valuable at auction than as a heat source. A fireplace may be more valuable as a once-a-year aesthetic treat than as a routine heat source. An existing chimney may or may not be the easiest place to install and vent a new appliance.

B) Appliances and heat sources: Look for inefficient or dangerous appliances, especially those due for replacement. All modern appliances use industrial and fossil fuels in some way, so their embodied energy is a consideration. Pilot lights waste a lot of gas - if you have sustainably-sourced electricity, on-demand heaters whether electric or gas might be better. Heated water storage tanks can be a benefit for interior thermal mass, or a cost if you're wasting heat to keep them at temperature, or even a health risk if you let them stagnate at bacteria-friendly tepid temperatures. Incandescent lights may be contributing to your household heating budget, or costing you money and energy. We like solid-state, one-time improvements that give benefits for years, rather than buying expensive gadgets again and again. Whether to stick with an older appliance or upgrade early is going to depend on a long, hard look at the numbers.

Step 0 for this whole thing is: When are you, what's your time coordinates?
Permaculture works best with solid observation, local knowledge, and iterative improvement. Slapping down a new brand of snake oil is not permaculture gardening - it's fashion-driven frivolity, or thoughtless fanaticism.
One lovely older farmer reminded me in the nicest possible way, "Don't you know not to make suggestions until you've been on the job 6 months?"
Inexperience: If you are just camping or interning somewhere, or if you are doing your first attempt at a new type of project, it's best to consider your own experiments as temporary (plan on cleaning them up afterward).
Experience: Local knowledge, and "dirty-hands" time in a particular trade, craft, or field of husbandry, are going to be good predictors of success. Use your strengths, and study local traditions until you can see why they work for locals (even if you don't care for them yourself).
I've heard "Wait to plan your site until you've lived there a year" to observe... 3 or 4 years is better, and 10 years is significantly better yet, and if you can get 3 or 4 generations of local knowledge it's better yet, and count your blessings if you are lucky enough to be genetically evolved to a particular place (like Himalayan or Andean people with high-altitude blood counts and lung capacity, or Highland cattle with their healthy low-temperature oil instead of tallow fat).
So realistically, we will be changing and upgrading these designs for generations to come.
The goal is to make our contribution a positive one, leaving a legacy that has a good chance of being built upon instead of ripped out and replaced.

If you are on a nomadic cycle where you move every few years, consider less-permanent efforts, or tailor your efforts to fit with local conventions ("resale value").
Nobody is going to rip the insulation back out of the ceiling or walls (unless it's done wrong and goes moldy).
But remodeling and re-decorating can be a nearly-endless way to spend money pursuing a personal vision the next person may re-do.

Changing your infrastructure has several types of costs:
- initial investment - not just cash outlay, but the embodied energy and environmental costs of consuming new materials
- ongoing operation - utility bills, labor, maintenance
- collateral damage, cost of disruption or remodeling of other systems
- risk of failure; project becomes mess to clean up, or throwing good money after bad trying to recoup losses
- emotional, social, and health impacts from disruption of household and immediate neighbors
- legal and social risks if the change falls too far outside "normal" in your community.

The importance of each depends a lot on how well the change will serve you, for how long.

Changing your infrastructure has several types of benefits:
- reducing operating costs (efficiency upgrades)
- reducing negative impacts on health, community, or environment (ecological upgrades)
- improving comfort, productivity, or lifestyle satisfaction (aesthetic and functional upgrades)
- legal, social, and status benefits from attractive change - (demonstration projects, changes that suit community traditions and fashions, a good-looking finish to an eyesore project)
- legacy for your future self and future generations (durable infrastructure)
- learn new skills, get experience and practice, evaluate new options for future use- (can be major and worthwhile benefit from projects that otherwise look foolish or unsuccessful).

The laws of therodynamics predict poor returns on simple efforts.
So worthwhile efforts will usually have multiple benefits, be appropriate to the experience level, limit costs as much as possible, and have a realistic time frame for benefits to pay back costs.


Let's see... Rumsford stoves... I'm familiar with Rumford fireplaces, an elegant and efficient open fireplace for entertaining. I put them in the category of "radiant space heater" for rooms that are used for entertaining, or a few hours in the evening, but are not all-night habitation.


And my post is definitely not a flow chart.

This is a flow chart:
 
Erica Wisner
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Here's a great article on energy usage in the home.
This is what I mean by doing an audit, except the writer is auditing the entire USA, then getting more specific for individual households.

http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/shrink-your-housing-footprint

with cool graphs like this:


Note that most of these are average figures - the totals for the entire USA, divided up and projected onto a hypothetical "average" household.

Just as my budget and Bill Gates' budget would look very different, this chart may look very different from your actual home usage.
(I cannot imagine Bill Gates spends 20% of his income on food for household consumption, for example, if they ate that much he would be approximately the size of all the elephants in the world put together.)

-Erica
 
Erica Wisner
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Erica Wisner wrote:...

http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/shrink-your-housing-footprint

with cool graphs like this:


Note that most of these are average figures - the totals for the entire USA, divided up and projected onto a hypothetical "average" household.

...
-Erica


I wonder if there are actual households that spend 1/4 of their energy budget on heating, and 1/4 on cooling -
or if it would be more accurate to suppose that the heating budget is mostly spent by Minnesotans while the cooling budget is mostly Floridians, and thus we have an average that looks like we can't make up our minds?

It is entirely possible that there are households out there running the heater all night and the air conditioner all day, which makes me sad.

-Erica W
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks Erica.



I've hit a great hitch ni the flowchart--what if you have multiple resources that need to work together? for example, passive solar and thermal mass? let's assume anwhere you are has earth or rock. Pretty much true in all but the rare cases where the rock is all one solid mass and you cna't move it around, in which case why are you living there? But other than that, I'm going to assume that anyone can get a shovel and haul some earth or rocks together to form a thermal mass, and if it can get heated by the sun in the daytime then it will keep that heat overnight. But even that falls apart because earth keeps heat much less than sand/rock. If it's just heated by the sun, it's minimal keepings. So, OK, point is there are complications. If you have a RMH heating a bunch of soil, it might be OK for a less-than-ideal RMH, get you through one winter with needing twice the wood, but you'd at least be safe and not explode. But if you're trying to have sunlight heat a pile of soil, it won't work. So, not sure how to categorize "have resource X" and "have resource Y" and then "have both X and Y". We'll see, maybe most of them don't overlap as much--poop and wood for example don't need to interact. I'm really trying to keep it simple, just a Zone 1 flowchart.

Regarding the "wait till you've been on the job 6 months before giving suggestions" thing, it's wise but it's not applicable if you're in a situation where you a) need heat TONIGHT or someone's going to leave your community, or b) need to get yourself through the first winter however you can, however you can afford to, regardless of local custom, or c) you have an innovation that's been tried and tested elsewhere for a while and you know is better, and then it may be valid to depart from local custom. That's really a matter for the individual to judge her/himself, not for the flowchart to decide. I think it has to be left out of hte flowchart, and just kep the focus on presenting the options. Is there a way to make the chart really zone 1-y, just getting the ball rolling in the right direction? In addition, the flowchart isn't making any decisions or even suggestions for you, it's only pointing you in a direction for research, and then you can either offer that suggstion to someone now or in 6 months or in 4 years...and do something less damaging in the meantime than if you didn't have the info in the flowchart.

We don't have to have everyone who uses the chart make great decisions, just have the average net impact that more people make better decisions/less-bad decisions. Then they can continue to go up from there.

You anwered a question I hadn't even gotten to asking yet, what is my next step in where I am (urban, gas-powered radiator heat, very old house with virtually no insulation but i'm unsure of the insulation options, I don't have enough money to put into insulating myself but maybe my housemates would but we have no real clarity on how soon it would repay their dollar investment). There are lots of things i hadn't thought about--mold, damp, having poor air quality indoors. Hm.

And I'd completely missed the conventional part of "most efficient way to heat a __conventional__ home" ---duh! that makes things so much clearer now. But you guys, Erica and Ernie, don't have a conventional home, right? it can be good in other situations too?

The vision of this flowchart is getting clearer and clearer, its job is to be really imperfect but really Zone One-y (zone one-ish). Not overwhelming. Easy on the attention span. It should make you feel warmer just reading it

I've only put in a few minutes so far, this is rough and incomplete, but I'm winding down for the day.

What I have so far is:



https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13uWKjqvISWa1D9suTQ7_gjJiMJ1E3hNn6PMyh6u5w8o/edit?usp=sharing

(Anyone may edit this copy)




I tried cutting and pasting here but it's pretty illegible:

Permaculture for Short Attention Spans -- Heat Flow-chart
abundant resource (I have an excess of...)
Climate existing structure time of need sun rock/sand/earth wood poop electricity gas oil animals people
hot yes NOW!!! curl up in leaves/debris hut rock pile around you make safe fire with ventilation curl up on/near get near the radiator sleep near sleep together
hot yes 1 winter thermal mass dirty burn rocket mass heater compost pile heating "heat the person not the room"
hot yes 10+ years cob, passive solar
hot yes occasional use passive solar pocket rocket, rumsford stove, sandstone stove; LOW thermal mass.
hot no curl up in leaves/debris hut rock pile around you make safe fire with ventilation curl up on/near
hot no 1 winter
hot no 10+ years
hot no occasional use
hot ?
cold yes NOW!!! dig down into earth--it's 55 degrees Fahrenheit make safe fire with ventilation curl up on/near get near the radiator sleep near sleep together
cold yes
cold yes
cold yes
cold no NOW!!! dig down into earth--it's 55 degrees Fahrenheit make safe fire with ventilation curl up on/near get near the radiator sleep near sleep together
cold no
cold no
cold no
cold
cold
rapidly changing
gradually changing



Thanks so much
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Some more clarity coming to me today.

This layperson's flowchart is not an expert's document. It's apples and oranges. This gets you started.

Expertise is in zone 3, 4, or 5. This document is for the layperson, where you are: zone 1.

It benefits from being informed by expert's expertise, and from being simplified by an ignoramus. With a short attention span. And that's a real benefit.

Another tweak--We want the chart to lead to not just less-bad decisions but decisions that are in the black, ecologically, or real progress toward being in the black. What is real progress? That's a long discussion, one that's beyond the scope of this chart. It's to eb hoped that real measures are in place, not just "I think this is saving the planet somewhat," and real education and increase of awareness as the user of the chart progresses.

Even observation, which sounds easy, can be done with little knowlege or with expert knowledge. An expert knows what to look for, and what the things they observe mean.

What are the oldest buildings in my area doing? I don't know. Which are the oldest buidings? The stone ones Why? because they couldn't burn down. Are they necessarily the best buildings? I dnt know. There are Victorian-era buildings too. Are they the best? Europeans aren't the best examples of sustainable construction, I would think, and I happen to know that my Victorian-era house is uninsulated, which doesn't seem like a great sign. Maybe if I knew what to look for I'd see something better. Or if I could see what isn't here anymore, if I knew about the history--what the people who lived here for thousands of years built. I have vague images of tipis and birch-bark lodges, and I have always assumed they were pretty cold, and that the people who lived in them were made of tougher stuff than I am, or that they had a more spiritual relationship to cold which allowed them to live in harmony with it, to be cold when they were cold rather than forcing productivity under all seasons. More connected to the elements, that sort of thing. So as I begin observing, I see not much that seems to inform me about my question. I see that the bathroom window seems to lose a lot of heat while I take a shower. I open it so that we don't get mold, because we don't have any ventilator. How many btu's went out the window during that 15"? how can I even begin to get that information?

Rather than going to get information, let's think in terms of zone 1--what information do I already have? heating bills? quantity of gas/fuel being used? cords of wood burnt?


 
Erica Wisner
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I would simplify to "pre-industrial" buildings. The Victorians used coal, plenty of BTUs and lots of ventilation to avoid indoor smog.
The examples we have of indigenous houses were often portable summer dwellings; look for winter homes if there's a difference. Lots of pit-houses, semi-buried houses, felt-insulated or mat-lined pole buildings for nomadic peoples.

Pre-industrial people often lived with more people per home, more people per bed, so those social tolerances matter too.

I recommend looking at "oldest local buildings in continuous use" for good examples, especially if it's a long-term design. You may not know why that building survived, how often it was repaired or rebuilt, but somebody found it worthwhile for hundreds of years, that's a good sign.


-Erica
 
Geoffrey Levens
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Doubt Tummo ws really serious suggestion but just in case, I have experimented with it a bit. I would guesstimate that IF and that is a really bit "if" you are a truly gifted meditation practitioner already (unlike me who is just a stubborn wanna be) give it 3-5 years of very intensive daily practice and you will be beginning to get a very small amount of useful (emergency use) heat generated in your body. And to really keep warm in a cold environment all the time many more years than that. I think we really need externally generated heat or more sweaters!
 
Erica Wisner
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or you could try "active meditation," like bringing yourself into a very present awareness while chopping wood, noticing the light of the day as you close the curtains at evening and open them in the morning, and run with the dogs to look after the sheep.

Moving around more, or even just getting up and stretching more often instead of letting the computer's virtual reality sap your circulation, makes a big difference to core temperature.
Getting outside more helps you adapt to cooler temperatures.

Having zoned heating where some people can be warmer if they are sedentary, sick, or have smaller muscle mass, and other people can be more active and be cooler while indoors, that means you don't have force everyone to adapt to the hottest common denominator indoors in order to stay healthy.

Normally, if I am in a sweater (at my computer) and Ernie is in a tank top (after walking back and forth to his dad's house, clearing the driveway, and chopping wood), we agree about the thermostat.

If I am chopping firewood and Ernie is trying to get his dad's computer working for a couple of days, our outfits start to match again.

-Erica
 
Erica Wisner
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OK, I got it down to a page.

Heating Cheat Sheet:

1) Is heat needed?
Consider storing excess ambient heat for cold spells: Passive solar, thermal inertia, heat-exchangers. Also consider user adaptations: warmer clothing, activity & diet, cold-tolerant crops & fish.

2) When is heat needed?
A)_ Always throughout cold season (24/7 homes, greenhouses, some institutions)
A/B) _ Most days/nights throughout cold season (we take vacations / commute between work & sleep)
B)_ Only when we're there / rare cold snaps (vacation homes, cabins, chapels, erratic climates)
C)_ Only when we feel like it (parlor stoves, entertainment fires, sickrooms, saunas)

3) How much heat is needed?
Consider: zoning (warm core, unheated or less-heated periphery), micro-zoning (canopy beds, personal gear, heat packs), timed zoning (vent parlor heat up stairs to bedrooms), heat controls, weatherization, insulation. Limit total space, exterior walls, bare glazing; start at top (attic/upstairs not floor drafts).
_ Find area of walls, windows, ceiling, type of floor (area of crawl space, linear perimeter of slabs)
_ Find or estimate insulation values for all the above
_ Determine minimum indoor temperature goals
_ Determine climate – averages, coldest expected snaps.
_ Subtract outdoor temperature from minimum indoor temperature, or use Heating Degree Days chart (HDD) to estimate for indoor temp of 65 F. If outdoors is warmer, then you have Cooling Degree Days (CDD). If HDD and CDD are roughly equal for the month, consider thermal inertia options to eliminate most heating and cooling costs for those months.
_ Estimate (conductive) heat loss: (Area1/R-value1 + area2/R-value2...)x(HDD) = BTU/hr
_ If considering changes to building or usage, re-compute with proposed new numbers.

4) How would you like to meet this goal?
_ i) Minimal installation costs, human effort, and local resources*
(Passive solar, insulation, adapted clothing, consolidate shelters of people/animals/bees/storage**.
Heat: simple direct solar**, compost heater**, biomass fuels: A) diy rocket heaters**, thermal mass walls or water tanks alongside space heaters B) & C) low-mass radiant heaters: wood stove, cob Rumford fireplace, on-demand hot water heaters (hot water bottle, tank), drainable solar collectors);
_ ii) With up-front investment, modest operating effort, local resources*
(passive and active solar, improved insulation; biogas digesters**, heaters: heat pumps, A) thermal inertia**, batch-burn masonry heaters**, geothermal** where available; B & C efficient pellet stoves or zoned radiant-floor systems);
_ iii) With minimal investment, minimal effort, and don't care about the operating costs or sources
(A) fossil fueled furnaces, boilers; B/C) electric heaters, space heaters/stoves, desk/bed heaters)
*We don't currently consider distant sources or biofuels as attractive as local resources, partly due to transportation costs and losses, but also because of the track record of greater destruction involved in many “eco” fuels (palm oil biodiesel vs. rainforests, corn ethanol commonly produced at a net loss of energy, using more calories to grow & process than the fuel delivers).
**In the most creative and interesting way possible: will invest to learn, or to impress friends.

5) Look for heaters that suit your needs & resources.
A, i & ii) Consider the most efficient heater(s) for regular use, with backup(s) for rare needs.
B, C, i, iii) Consider multi-function appliances (less efficient but cheaper up front), insulation.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Looking great, I'd like to think that a little more formatting would make it even easier to read and idiot proof, but then I'm a dreamer.
 
Erica Wisner
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Method 2 for estimating heating loads:
add up all your utility bills, and convert (therms, cords, kWh) to BTU or joules. Compare with the above method for ground-truthing.

If you have a lot of appliances in unheated spaces (outdoor boilers, basement furnaces), you may be sacrificing a lot of "free" heat.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks so much , Erica. This is great. Condensing stuff to one page is more work than writing something longer. I'll have to reread and try to digest.

If you are willing to categorize the measures that would take more than a year to implement wherever it's not obvious that this is the case, that would be a great help. The rest I think i can sort into stacks of time-frame.

I think there's two different flowcharts that should be created--one for time-need-relevance (the immediate, 1-winter, 10-year) and one for the ideal (the one you made).


Here's what I'd gotten to before coming back to this thread:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mqTSqITYGj8mdroCDzVQoiqFB7huwmzEyAXoVWkroVs/edit?usp=sharing

I rearranged the chart I made to put the time-need in the first column, because I realized that's more important.

It's still quite rough, has gaps, I think its' not clear where we're talking about green wood vs. dried wood.

The reason for organizing things by time-need is the same as the principle of zones, having the thing that's relevant to where you are right now be the closest, etc. I put climate in the second column, existing structure or none in the third column, and legal factors in the fourth. If you need to heat yourself for one day to save your life or fingers, I doubt anyone's going to enforce a legal code. And if it's necessary to burn some dinosaurs, or most expedient at a given moment in order to live to make change another day, it may be the best choice sometimes. You use a bit of propane now, a limited-duration expense, while seting up your longer-term solutions.

I realize I left out some options, like use heat or oil or propane, because I tend to assume a person with no money and therefore no access to these things. Maybe budget is another column.

The ideal would actually be to have a ten-page flowchart and a 1-page summary both. So you start with the 1-page one and then your attention span gets broadened to go into more detail. You're willing to read one more page at that oint (not 10, just hte 1 page that's relevant).

Probably ideally writing the 1-page flowchart is best done after writing hte 10-page one. But even more important I think is having a flowchart that's less than ideal but gets people started. For now, I think it would be good to set a date on this.

How about having something by the end of February?

It can always be re-tweaked.

It could be an app, of course, and that would make a lot more sense in some ways. But to have it accessible to all people who can read it would be nice to have it be able to exist on a piece of paper.

Also, the number of options in Erica's chart is still overwhelming to me, and the unknown--how much of a difference is THIS thing going to make?--is enough demotivation that it stops me. i'd have to really look at the electric and gas bills every month.

However, I thought of another wya of getting the feedback more quickly--turn the heat down and then see which measures feel warmest. common sense, but easier.

What to do with the 1-page thing when it's done? I like the idea of a book. Short Attention Span Permaculture. Heat, water, food, shelter, aesthetics, health, communciation/community, meaning. A one-page starter flowchart for each of these most essential areas. Toget you toward the right research but also enough of a grasp of the general principles at stake in each area.

As Dewey said, instead of blaming human nature look for a way to help people make the change they know they ought to make.

Clearly reality doesn't all fit into a flow-chart, but what does? what is useful to put on the one page? what do we vote to keep on Flowchart Island?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Dummy here doesn't know what this means. I couldn't put the furnace up on the first tfloor, even if I were building new construction it would be too heavy to keep from crushing something, right? and I thought heat rises, so it'd be OK if it goes up from the unheated space to the house. SO, are you saying it's sending heat down into the thermal mass of hte basement floor, and that by insulating under the furnace we'd be able to keep more of the heat? can you dumb it down a couple more shades? Thanks.


Erica Wisner wrote:Method 2 for estimating heating loads:
add up all your utility bills, and convert (therms, cords, kWh) to BTU or joules. Compare with the above method for ground-truthing.

If you have a lot of appliances in unheated spaces (outdoor boilers, basement furnaces), you may be sacrificing a lot of "free" heat.
[/quote
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Maybe that's a title, Fifty Shades of Dumb
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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OK, reading this again I think I got it a bit better.

Some things that would need to be clearer to idiot-proof--"investment" means money investment, right?

I like that the factor of operating costs and operating effort are included. I think these need to be a part of the other flowchart. However, they could change over time, and if there were no more cheap fossil fuels then you'd find the patience to get your fire going, short attention span or no.

what are "heat-exchangers"?

cold-tolerant fish--are we getting into heating livestock and fish too as well as people, or is this a way of making a person more cold-hardy??

My flowchart made an assumption, that given ten years' time you'd be able to discuss things with the authorities long enough to get their cooperation on matters of code. But people might lose their steam before that.

I don't know actually completely what I mean by "ten-year time-frame" because you have to be warm the other 9 year before that. I was thinking you have 10 years to get the thing up and running, and some other source of heat in the meantime. I think that is what makes sense. So, I have ten years to get a building built, codes met, inspectors convinced, materials accumulated, money raised, whatever other factors there are.

I'm thinking that my thinking and Erica's flow chart both are still too element-oriented or rather would be more usable if they were more function-oriented. I don't know what that would look like, it's just a gut feeling at this point.

It's also true that I might be most "ecofriendly" by doing nothing for nine years, having RMH's get legalized in Somerville and even having those non-profits fund no-interest loans for a retrofit for home-owners and then I put in the RMH at that point. Costs: 9 more years of burning dinosaurs, pro's: beter than uprooting my life and using fossil fuels to heat a new structure while it's being built.

Another question:

Can you build a "cob box" in a day and sleep in that? how much warmer is it than a cardboard box? is there a more comfortable way of designing a cardboard box? (painting it black, having a south-facing window to collect heat during daytime, woohoo.)

As for the insulating-under-the-furnace thing, what thing not developed by NASA would be able to serve that function? or if it is NASA how can you get it at an affordable rate?

Oh, another brainstorm, maybe the flowchart would be a graph of time to complete on one axis and monetary cost on the other, and then a second graph of good-for-the-earth on one axis and time-consuming to operate on the other. I sense those are the typical tradeoffs, but some things would lie above the diagonal and others below.

I'm really coming to appreciate how much the factor of passion plays in this--having the patience to go through all the negotiations, to do all the measurements, to invest money in heat-o-meters and CO meters and so on and so on--a person who has that level of passion would be happy playing with fires all day long, I imagine, and then on the other end of the scale you have someone who would happily adopt an internet server to have residual heat and not think about it.

Erica Wisner wrote:OK, I got it down to a page.

Heating Cheat Sheet:

1) Is heat needed?
Consider storing excess ambient heat for cold spells: Passive solar, thermal inertia, heat-exchangers. Also consider user adaptations: warmer clothing, activity & diet, cold-tolerant crops & fish.

2) When is heat needed?
A)_ Always throughout cold season (24/7 homes, greenhouses, some institutions)
A/B) _ Most days/nights throughout cold season (we take vacations / commute between work & sleep)
B)_ Only when we're there / rare cold snaps (vacation homes, cabins, chapels, erratic climates)
C)_ Only when we feel like it (parlor stoves, entertainment fires, sickrooms, saunas)

3) How much heat is needed?
Consider: zoning (warm core, unheated or less-heated periphery), micro-zoning (canopy beds, personal gear, heat packs), timed zoning (vent parlor heat up stairs to bedrooms), heat controls, weatherization, insulation. Limit total space, exterior walls, bare glazing; start at top (attic/upstairs not floor drafts).
_ Find area of walls, windows, ceiling, type of floor (area of crawl space, linear perimeter of slabs)
_ Find or estimate insulation values for all the above
_ Determine minimum indoor temperature goals
_ Determine climate – averages, coldest expected snaps.
_ Subtract outdoor temperature from minimum indoor temperature, or use Heating Degree Days chart (HDD) to estimate for indoor temp of 65 F. If outdoors is warmer, then you have Cooling Degree Days (CDD). If HDD and CDD are roughly equal for the month, consider thermal inertia options to eliminate most heating and cooling costs for those months.
_ Estimate (conductive) heat loss: (Area1/R-value1 + area2/R-value2...)x(HDD) = BTU/hr
_ If considering changes to building or usage, re-compute with proposed new numbers.

4) How would you like to meet this goal?
_ i) Minimal installation costs, human effort, and local resources*
(Passive solar, insulation, adapted clothing, consolidate shelters of people/animals/bees/storage**.
Heat: simple direct solar**, compost heater**, biomass fuels: A) DIY rocket heaters**, thermal mass walls or water tanks alongside space heaters B) & C) low-mass radiant heaters: wood stove, cob Rumford fireplace, on-demand hot water heaters (hot water bottle, tank), drainable solar collectors);
_ ii) With up-front investment, modest operating effort, local resources*
(passive and active solar, improved insulation; biogas digesters**, heaters: heat pumps, A) thermal inertia**, batch-burn masonry heaters**, geothermal** where available; B & C efficient pellet stoves or zoned radiant-floor systems);
_ iii) With minimal investment, minimal effort, and don't care about the operating costs or sources
(A) fossil fueled furnaces, boilers; B/C) electric heaters, space heaters/stoves, desk/bed heaters)
*We don't currently consider distant sources or biofuels as attractive as local resources, partly due to transportation costs and losses, but also because of the track record of greater destruction involved in many “eco” fuels (palm oil biodiesel vs. rainforests, corn ethanol commonly produced at a net loss of energy, using more calories to grow & process than the fuel delivers).
**In the most creative and interesting way possible: will invest to learn, or to impress friends.

5) Look for heaters that suit your needs & resources.
A, i & ii) Consider the most efficient heater(s) for regular use, with backup(s) for rare needs.
B, C, i, iii) Consider multi-function appliances (less efficient but cheaper up front), insulation.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Has anyone had any more thoughts come to them since last posting?

I reread Erica's cheat sheet and understand it better the third time through.

A few things: It would be good to tweak the wording to make it clearer. For example, I didn't realize that i) ii) and iii) were three different options, rather than all aspects of the same focus. I'll take a shot at wording things that I found I misunderstood at first to plug some holes. Anyone else recognize you were confused by anything anywhere?

It would be good to define terms--masonry heater, rocket heater (and especially to make sure that something taht goes by that name actually has the essential elements -- to define it by what it is rather than what it appears to be)

Some things seem uncertain, or might change based on context: growing of fuels for burning, for example, if you have a bare field then sowing some crop or planting black locusts would be an improvement ecologically and economically. If you are in a temperate zone and buy palm oil grown in Brazil that was planted in place of rainforest, you've funded the destruction of ecosystemic balance and diversity, and invited more precipitation and weather instability where you are too (as precipitation increases in more forested temperate zones when drought conditions increase in deforested tropical zones--the rain has to fall somewhere). So, that statement could be qualified.

As for option iii, it's not really an option. I dont' think anyone really doesn't care about the ecological consequences of their actions; they may deny it to others and to themselves, but in truth they care. ANd it's not realy an option. It could be the best option for a stop-gap measure while other things are being focused into place to take care of the real need: for example using an electric chainsaw while building shelter for the first winter that can be heated without electricity.

And lastly, the cheat sheet seems to me to be talking about modifying existing strucures part of the time, and then about building the new/ideal in others. I need some more clarity about that. I'll put where my questions were on that. If I Can figure out how to mark comments in red then I'll do that, and also italicize for anyone on a black-and-white basis.

Also, I think the person's real situation is not ever going to be the ideal, nor is the ideal relevant except as something to uplift. This is important, but I sense sometimes the ideal is dominating the thinking, whereas it would be more usable if the ideal could float ore lightly.

Lastly, this discussion gave me an idea, that maybe an existing structure can always be turned into a cob structure by simply adding an extra wall of cob to the outside. And maybe that's better than blowing cellulose in through the walls' interior since it will be a real thermal inertia element instead of merely an insulator. Thoughts? Is this against code? structurally problematic? mold-inducing? crazy? if I used the topsoil around the house here to do that, of course, it would really disrupt the bit of ecosystem we've finally got going here. Adobe makes so much sense when you're starting in a desert anyway; when it is topsoil, then it looks less attractive. On the other hand if the topsoil is lead-filled to begin with, it would seem good to strip that layer off anyway and have your whole land walapinified. Star fresh. But what about the trees? the shock to the biology that is there? And what about the released lead from the soil into the air if you stir it up that intensely?

It just occurs to me that the cheat sheet could serve one orf two functions (or maybe both)--to narrow down options to the best OR to proliferate options for each situation. I think teh latter is more important, since if 3/4 options aren't workable for some reason, you stlil have a fourth element to serve the function.

Erica, are there any bad options you've excluded from your cheat sheet that you could bring back in? things that seem really second-rate, inconvenient, or just plain nuts, but in certain situations they'd actually be the best thing for moving forward?

Also, what's the R factor of an open window--how do you calculate the effect of wind speed on dispersion of heat? are drafts more significant than thin-paned windows or poorly insulated walls?

We have this window in the bathroom and we open it each time we shower to let out the hot vapor. We don't have a vent. Is that better than a vent or worse? is the cost of possible mold more of a problem than the heat loss? In the other bathroom we have a vent but.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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OK here's my dummy comments. Some may not be relevant, but most I think would make this stronger.


Erica Wisner wrote:OK, I got it down to a page.

Heating Cheat Sheet:

1) Is heat needed? how about "is creating more heat needed, vs. tapping into already-existing heat?"?
Consider storing excess ambient heat for cold spells: Passive solar, thermal inertiathe fly-wheel effect, sun heat is captured by day and released by night , heat-exchangers what does this term mean? . Also consider user adaptations: warmer clothing, activity & diet is it hot food, or changing foods? people tend to find diet harder to change than most other things, but heating food seems more like easy pickings , cold-tolerant crops & fish.

Are we talking about heating the outdoors/greenhouse/crops as well as people for the whole discussion or just in item 1)?

2) When is heat needed? how about "How often and for how long is heat needed?"? to distinguish from "immediate need, short-term need, long-term, future generations, etc."
A)_ Always throughout cold season (24/7 homes, greenhouses, some institutions)

A/B) _ Most days/nights throughout cold season (we take vacations / commute between work & sleep)

B)_ Only when we're there / rare cold snaps (vacation homes, cabins, chapels, erratic climates)

C)_ Only when we feel like it (parlor stoves, entertainment fires, sickrooms, saunas)

3) How much heat is needed?
Consider: zoning (warm core, unheated or less-heated periphery), micro-zoning (canopy beds, personal gear, heat packs), timed zoning (vent parlor heat up stairs to bedrooms), heat controls, weatherization, insulation. Limit total space, exterior walls, bare glazing need to define "bare glazing" ; start at top (attic/upstairs not floor drafts). added emphasis on "not"

_ Find measure? calculate? I wasn't clear this meant measurement vs. feeling around these to find areas where drafts were coming in or somethingarea of walls, windows, ceiling, type of floor (area of crawl space, linear perimeter of slabs)
_ Find or estimate insulation values for all the above I don't know how I'd begin to do this one. Victorian house, uninsulated?
_ Determine minimum indoor temperature goals I don't know even if I really know this one. the thermostat says one thing, but what temperature is it in the house as a whole? how precise do these measrues need to be, is ball-park good enough? can't we adjust this later by feel, by running our RMH or wood stove less frequently or something?
_ Determine climate – averages, coldest expected snaps. overwhelmed again. could we say, "are there cold snaps yes/no?"
_ Subtract outdoor temperature from minimum indoor temperature, or use Heating Degree Days chart (HDD) to estimate for indoor temp of 65 F. If outdoors is warmer, then you have Cooling Degree Days (CDD). If HDD and CDD are roughly equal for the month, consider thermal inertia options to eliminate most heating and cooling costs for those months. this seems like a more rare case, like not within the 80/20 rule domain. would it be reasonable to leave this one out of the zone 0 flowchart?
_ Estimate (conductive) heat loss: (Area1/R-value1 + area2/R-value2...)x(HDD) = BTU/hr I thought it was saying "R minus value1" for a long time before I figured out this is the variable name; maybe it's better to just say ResistanceValue1?
_ If considering changes to building or usage, re-compute with proposed new numbers. is this changes based on having started using the flowchart? or if , at the present moment, I'm considering new heating options because I've already planned on changes to building or building usage? could this one be left out of the zone 0 chart?

4) How would you like to meet this goal?
_ i) Minimal installation costs, human effort, and local resources* minimal installation costs money- and time-wise? or just money-wise? human effort--is that muscle strength or time? thought? decision-making? perceived difficulty ["this looks overwhelming so I'm hiring someone else to do it so I can avoid thinking about it?"]
(Passive solar, insulation, adapted clothing, consolidate shelters of people/animals/bees/storage**.
Heat: simple direct solar** actually don't know what "direct solar" means, I thought I did but I am not sure. Is it just having a window so the sun can hit me directly?, compost heater**, biomass fuels: A) DIY rocket heaters is this "rocket MASS heater"? maybe better to use a direct descriptor of what it is instead of a brand name that could be misappropriated--so, a high-heat-burning, keeps-the-heat-indoors-as-long-as-possible, has-a-large-thermal-mass-around-it thingamobob** it would be good to get this lined up wiht the "A)" from above, visually), thermal mass walls or water tanks alongside space heaters B) & C) low-mass radiant heaters: wood stove, cob Rumford fireplace, on-demand hot water heaters (hot water bottle, tank), drainable solar collectors); i don't know what a drainable solar collector is. maybe OK just to get a search term though.
_ ii) With up-front money? time? muscle? investment, modest operating effort , local resources*
(passive and active solar, improved insulation; biogas digesters**, heaters: heat pumps, A) thermal inertia**, batch-burn masonry heaters** maybe need to define by what it is directly: a masonry heater is not always a RMH, right? what is it? what makes it lower-effort? , geothermal** where available; B & C efficient pellet stoves or zoned radiant-floor systems);
_ iii) With minimal investment, minimal effort, and don't care about the operating costs or sources everyone cares ultimately. maybe just add in "for now, I am choosing not to consider operating costs or sources" or "code requires" or "retrofitting would be higher cost than leaving it alone"?
(A) fossil fueled furnaces, boilers; B/C) electric heaters, space heaters/stoves, desk/bed heaters) again, good to line up the A B and C's in columns/rows
*We don't currently consider distant sources or biofuels as attractive as local resources, partly due to transportation costs and losses, but also because of the track record of greater destruction involved in many “eco” fuels (palm oil biodiesel vs. rainforests, corn ethanol commonly produced at a net loss of energy, using more calories to grow & process than the fuel delivers).
**In the most creative and interesting way possible: will invest to learn, or to impress friends.

5) Look for heaters that suit your needs & resources.
A, i & ii) Consider the most efficient heater(s) for regular use, with backup(s) for rare needs.
B, C, i, iii) Consider multi-function appliances (less efficient but cheaper up front), insulation.



 
Erica Wisner
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Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:OK here's my dummy comments. Some may not be relevant, but most I think would make this stronger.


I'm separating out our quotes, it was getting to be a lot!

Erica Wisner wrote:OK, I got it down to a page.

Heating Cheat Sheet:

1) Is heat needed? how about "is creating more heat needed, vs. tapping into already-existing heat?"?

I think that still gets confusing.
Is heat even necessary?
If you have survived without it until now, what is creating a need for more heat?
If you are in transition from an existing heat source to a different and better one, consider whether a similar-priced home improvement could eliminate your heating bill entirely.

Is it possible to achieve the essential goals without adding heat, for example by choosing climate-appropriate crops, or by storing ambient daytime/summer heat for night/winter use?

- Is the climate mild enough that heat is a luxury, not a necessity?
Active people can be quite comfortable in a range of temperatures, if dressed and fed suitably. If you are not accustomed to the climate, ask local natives for tips. (e.g. sometimes folks coming into the damp Pacific Northwest or other maritime climates can be surprised by how ineffective cotton clothing is for keeping warm - it wicks moisture away and chills by evaporation. Wool, silk, or synthetics are far more effective as they keep you warm even while damp. This distinction is less important in arid, snowy climates, where people can stay dry; and in hot climates, of course, cotton helps you stay cool. Likewise, many people are not aware that dehydration can allow you to get chilled more easily - they only associate drinking water with hot weather survival. Get tips on good, filling meals for cold days, and on fun ways to stay active during winter for better health and greater climate tolerance.)

- Does the climate sometimes provide excess heat that can be stored for cold periods? Passive solar designs use seasonal sun angles to collect daily warmth and store it for overnight comfort. Large-scale climate banking greenhouses, and some earth-sheltered homes, can store summer heat for slow release through the winter. Some cultures even build separate rooms for winter and summer - the winter ones to collect as much heat as possible, the summer ones to stay cool. Creating a hangout space in the basement can be a cheap alternative to air-conditioning. If you are ever too cold indoors when it's warm outdoors, the obvious answer is to open the windows and doors, or go outside!

- Are you cultivating crops from a different climate? Consider well-adapted crops with good market value: bass or catfish instead of tilapia, cold-hardy varieties of vegetables, fruits, or livestock.
Sometimes an unheated greenhouse with good solar-thermal banks (big water tanks) can provide a seasonal advantage and frost protection without needing to burn fuel through the entire winter.


Consider storing excess ambient heat for cold spells: Passive solar, thermal inertiathe fly-wheel effect, sun heat is captured by day and released by night , heat-exchangers what does this term mean? . Also consider user adaptations: warmer clothing, activity & diet is it hot food, or changing foods? people tend to find diet harder to change than most other things, but heating food seems more like easy pickings , cold-tolerant crops & fish.

Are we talking about heating the outdoors/greenhouse/crops as well as people for the whole discussion or just in item 1)?

We get asked mostly about people/homes, sometimes about cooking, and sometimes about greenhouses (usually aquaponics systems using tropical fish). Occasionally we get specific industrial questions.
I care about people, and I love hot food, but tropical tilapia seem like an impractical addition to a cold-climate homestead. (We love fish - but so many of the cold-water species are tastier than tilapia!)

This question about tilapia seems like it needs to be handled in the "do you even need heat?" section. Maybe it's a separate point,

"Why do you need heat?
A) Cold nights despite hot days - add thermal mass such as a masonry bench or adobe walls, to average out your daily extremes and create no-cost comfort.
B) Cold winters or long cold snaps - continue below
C) Industrial purposes (greenhouse, wood kiln, blacksmithing) - you will need to calculate heating loads for your specific target temperatures. Give serious consideration to building design: insulation and good solar orientation can create huge savings for your business.
D) to grow tilapia -> try bass or catfish, or ask a local fisherman what's tasty and tolerant.

I think for the rest, I assume you actually need the heat, and have considered the reasonable alternatives.


2) When is heat needed? how about "How often and for how long is heat needed?"? to distinguish from "immediate need, short-term need, long-term, future generations, etc."

I think I'd do "when" and give 2 parts to the answer.
When is heat needed?
- Urgency: Right now / before winter / when the furnace dies / for future generations
- Pattern of use: all the time (day and night, more than 10 months/year); seasonally (more than 3 months of the year); etc.

Urgency: Most people respond to urgent needs by buying something more expensive, or worse, cheaper and more expensive to operate, than they would prefer if they had planned ahead.
Consider, instead, using personal survival skills to get past the urgent need, and buying yourself time to plan ahead.

Now:
Personal heat: Hot rocks, hot water bottles, bunking with a buddy. Go south for the winter, then get a good used sleeping bag and come back. Consider heat lamps or puppy kennel-heater pads at your desk, instead of trying to heat the farthest room from the furnace.
Months:
Zone heat: Instead of replacing the furnace NOW, or even buying another tank of oil, consider closing down all but the most essential rooms. Figure out how to bank heat from the kitchen stove (big pots of water, bricks), and set up a cot in the kitchen. Make a blanket fort and actually live in it. Close the drapes on your canopy bed, and make sure the top cover is insulated.
(college dorms the week before graduation are a great place to look for "free" boxes with some good bedding and hot-pots for filling hot water bottles.)
A few years:
Insulation: Insulate yourself, then your primary room(s) starting with the ceiling, then other rooms or enclosed spaces that can protect the primary rooms from cold winds or heat loss. Close off any unused rooms, storage, pantries, closets: these can become extra insulation. If you are disgusted with the college dorm bedding, rathole it in the attic for extra insulation.
Generations:
Give serious thought to good solar orientation, and talk with your heirs about the style and goals of your home-improvement investments. Letting your daughter-in-law pick out a few favorite tiles for the masonry heater might prolong its useful life substantially.

Longer version...
1) Right now, immediately,
I am huddling over my iPhone looking for an emergency stove I can build myself while squatting in a place with no heat, before my battery runs out...)
Build a rocket tea stove right now, outside on bare dirt or sand pad. Fill any hot water containers you have, seal them, and bring them inside shelter or sleeping-bag.
If no water containers, use hot bricks or stones (be careful not to melt or set your sleeping bag on fire).
Get closer to your friends, family, tolerably hygenic pets, even bees. Point the heat-dispersing fans on your computers in useful directions.
Ensure adequate ventilation, eat and drink enough to avoid dehydration hypothermia, and ride it out.

2) By this winter - no existing heat - to last me a couple seasons.
For residential heat, look carefully at low-investment vs. low-operating-cost options. A fuel-hungry heater could leave you in a poor position to upgrade later. First consider personal and zone strategies as above. Depending on your available time and resources, you could consider building your own rocket mass heater totally DIY/scrounge style, or a mini- masonry stove, or improving an existing inefficient fireplace into a Rumford fireplace if there is still time to lay in fuel (not later than spring). If no dry fuel is on hand, you will need to buy seasoned fire-wood, find a source of clean scrap lumber, or collect twice as much wood if putting up unseasoned fuel late in the year. (Standing dead timber or dead-and-down dries much more slowly than cut firewood; it is often not dry enough until stored for a full dry season. Green wood contains so much water that you may see its sap boiling as it heats; it can put out so much steam it acts as a fire extinguisher.)

For shop/greenhouse heat: Consider small scrap-burning shop heater (pocket rocket or low-mass rocket) for wood shop. Consider solar-water-thermal-storage in greenhouse, climate-tolerant crops until system proves out for exotics. Also consider bringing exotics into the house, or creating a smaller cloche or heated area within the greenhouse, rather than heating a large greenhouse for a few choice plants. An unheated, attached sunroom may be a better long-term investment than a heated stand-alone greenhouse.

3) By this winter- better than my existing heat which is too expensive / unsustainable - to last me 5 years: Consider the most efficient heater in your performance category (see below) - rocket mass/masonry, solar, compost/biogas, or conventional.

4) In a few years, once we save up - to last 10 years or the rest of our lives -
Definitely look at mass heaters, traditional local/indigenous shelters, and passive solar design. Use family or community members to brainstorm functions for all stages of life - like ADA accessibility, child-safety, flexibility for different-sized people or different-sized families. Consider whether you will be passing your efforts on to specific children or community members, selling them, or leaving them to be auctioned after your death, and what that might imply about your investments.

5) Future generations - it's very hard to plan for what future generations will want, need, or tolerate. Beautiful art and architecture may become identified with a corrupt generation that hoards it, leading to widespread destruction due to cultural backlash (the Reformation). Obscure fashions may impel someone to rip out a perfectly functional $50,000 kitchen and replace it with a less-functional $40,000 open-plan remodel (much of the past 30 years across the USA and UK, as fashions changed from hidden servants to hosts-who-cook).

If you can afford to build a 40- to 100-year stove (and some masonry heaters can be maintained or repaired to last for centuries), it's worth discussing it with the next generation to ensure it won't be scrapped for some silly objection like color or style. Consider "boring" classic style, removable panels that can be changed to suit current fashions, or a period piece that really fits the house so the same new owner will love them both as a set.

People rarely replace functional elements that they don't "see" - they are much more likely to replace the mantlepiece than the back of the fireplace, for example, but this can change the function of the whole.
And who knows - I may be implying that future generations will have the same 1980's and '90's boom-era mentality that I saw growing up, whereas they may actually be far more conservative and frugal depending on the economy and their own generational lessons. Maybe they'll actually live in their flying cars because parking on Earth is too expensive to afford, and choose their temperature by floating up to a different elevation.

Then the following would be
"Patterns of Use:"

A)_ Always throughout cold season (24/7 homes, homesteads, hothouses containing tropical exotics, some institutions)

A/B) _ Most days/nights throughout cold season (we take vacations / commute between work & sleep)

B)_ Only when we're there / rare cold snaps (vacation homes, cabins, chapels, erratic climates)

C)_ Only when we feel like it (parlor stoves, entertainment fires, sickrooms, saunas)

Note that you'd mostly likely only be in A above if you live in a seasonally or permanently cold climate.
B could be due to climate, or due to infrequent use of the space - the pattern may be the same even though the reasons are different.
C is generally optional - and includes needs like sickrooms and saunas where you might want the option to temporarily raise the heat much hotter than "normal" comfort.
An optional heater that is only used a few times per year will have a lot less operational cost than one that is used every day, therefore the balance of embodied energy and up-front investment, vs. operational cost, is quite different. In this arena it starts to be worth considering shared or rented equipment - a community sauna or bathhouse, a rental sauna or hot-tub, an electric blanket or temporary heater/humidifier for the sickroom - rather than a permanent solution to a temporary problem.


3) How much heat is needed?
Consider: zoning (warm core, unheated or less-heated periphery), micro-zoning (canopy beds, personal gear, heat packs), timed zoning (vent parlor heat up stairs to bedrooms), heat controls, weatherization, insulation. Limit total space, exterior walls, bare glazing need to define "bare glazing" ;

Bare glazing = bare glass. I was thinking of single-pane glass without curtains, shutters, or storm windows. Those enormous picture windows people put all the way up to the eaves in mountain cabins come to mind. (They will have custom glass cut into steep triangular panes to get the windows all the way up under the roof peak.)
That's great for a spiritual cathedral-like experience if you keep your coats on through the winter wedding, or if you're only there in summer.
If you plan to heat the place all winter, you may want to build an insulated interior wall about 10 feet inside of that big heat-loss vista, and put a tiny little window in it that lets you see the sunrise from a specific viewpoint like your bed or breakfast nook.

start at top (attic/upstairs not floor drafts). added emphasis on "not"

_ Find measure? calculate? I wasn't clear this meant measurement vs. feeling around these to find areas where drafts were coming in or somethingarea of walls, windows, ceiling, type of floor (area of crawl space, linear perimeter of slabs)

Calculate. Measure. (Feeling for drafts is kinda bass-ackwards, if you seal the bottom without sealing the top you have an efficient cooler, negative pressure if it's a warm home. Put the hat in place first: attic/ceiling insulation, seal hatches and behind ceiling trim, make sure upstairs windows have good drapes and so on.)

_ Find or estimate insulation values for all the above I don't know how I'd begin to do this one. Victorian house, uninsulated?
www.builditsolar.com has a good calculator. In general, uninsulated walls might be R5 to R10; insulated 4" studs (5" wall) might be R-19 altogether, insulated 6" studs (7" wall) up to R30, strawbale is about R30-R50.

_ Determine minimum indoor temperature goals I don't know even if I really know this one. the thermostat says one thing, but what temperature is it in the house as a whole? how precise do these measrues need to be, is ball-park good enough? can't we adjust this later by feel, by running our RMH or wood stove less frequently or something?

This is all ballpark. Biggest difference would be something like protecting pipes/plants from freezing, vs. room temp.
In practice, even ten degrees can make a big difference, for example radiant floors or heated furniture or radiant heat can keep people cozy while the room/ceiling remains about 10 to 20 degrees cooler, compared with forced-air which tends to stratify with the heat up high. That 10 degrees can represent over 20% energy savings, depending on your climate.


_ Determine climate – averages, coldest expected snaps. overwhelmed again. could we say, "are there cold snaps yes/no?"

This is taking me down a rabbit hole.... I'm leaving the info below.

Summary: You probably don't have to know this.
The biggest question is whether your "average" heating needs are similar to your "extreme" heating needs.
You need to decide whether you're going to plan for "average" or "extreme" weather.
Some places are comfortable on "average," but get weirdly cold weather for a week or two, or even just one year in 3.
Kinda like how in deserts, you could get your entire "annual" precipitation in one dump like a desert thunderstorm, or even a freak blizzard.

Some places are seriously cold all winter, like dig-yourself-out cold, or without-snow-the-ground-freezes-6-feet-down cold, or permafrost cold. Those places may still have extreme winters and average winters.
Some places are only cold a few weeks, but they get "serious cold" during those few weeks. If you plan for the average low instead of the record low, they could be screwed during those few weeks.
Some places are just miserably cool all winter, but it doesn't vary much; it's easier to design for a consistent heating load.

Some places think it's "seriously cold" if water freezes on top of some puddles.
Some places think it's "a nice day" if the snow melts a little bit.
Some places sink into the tundra if the permafrost melts.

It's helpful to know your actual climate:
- average high and low temperatures for each month
- How much is the typical variation from those averages?
For example if you've lived there for a while, does the average sound "normal?"
Or does it make you think, like, "Yeah right... 40 is "average," because half the time it's -20, and the other half it's sunny and 80 degrees. It's never 40 here."
- What are the low temperature records? Do these sound weird to locals who've been there 10 years, or do they think those are pretty common?
(Although there is evidence of global warming, on a local scale most areas are seeing more extremes both high and low, and more unpredictable winter storms.)
- Are there other factors like shade, wind chill, humidity (affects condensation and heat/cold transfer through the air), unusual winds (strong downdrafts or gusts can affect chimney performance), snow (either insulation or heat loss, depending on where it sits and for how long).

You don't have to know a lot of detail. But if you don't know your climate's variability, you could end up with an under-powered heater part of the year.

Google your climate. If someone is giving you heating advice, Google their climate.
Or look up your garden zone, and ditto.
If I am living on the US-Canadian border, at 4000 feet elevation in the Rockies, where we sometimes get snow in June or July, and I am getting heating advice from someone in Missouri who thinks that 20 degrees F is "incredibly cold," there is a good chance that we are talking past each other.

A lot of this advice is much simpler if you're talking to someone from the same climate.
For example, if you are talking to your local heater guy, and your house is "to code," then you can probably just tell him the square feet and start a conversation.

But if you are talking online with people from 17 states and 4 continents, you need to figure out what's relevant for comparison.

Heating Degree Days is a good proxy for climate. There's a map here. http://www.builditsolar.com/References/hddmap.htm


You can get more specific by putting in your ZIP code here:
http://www.huduser.org/portal/resources/UtilityModel/hdd.html
(Check several of the closest weather stations to see what the variation is - some places around Denver are twice as cold as others.)

If you want to compare climates month by month, this is a pretty good link: http://www.climate-zone.com/climate/united-states/

You could also look at your growing zone or average temperature (Use Google or Wikipedia to search for your state or town plus "climate" or "weather").
Compare cities in Europe or the Middle East.
Or compare what other places grow similar crops as your main exports.
Those will be areas with similar climates, in many ways.

You might have the impression that England has a cold climate - and it does, compared to Spain, or to the historic British imperial holdings in India and Australia.
But do you know how England actually compares to your climate? (This might matter if your home is based on an English design.)
A lot of us in the inland/highland West have winters more similar to Siberia than to England or France, yet we get hooked on pioneer aesthetics from Texas or the Midwest, or worse, the California Ranch style home, which is not at all designed for snow.

The reason these seasonal issues matter is they may determine the easiest way to meet heating needs.

Sometimes you can tolerate a little cold, or a little inefficiency, if it's just a few weeks of the year.
People can sleep in the living room for a couple nights and survive, so maybe you plan for the average low and not the extreme if you have a moderate climate.
Sometimes (like for a greenhouse) you MUST protect against the worst cold snap; there's no point heating, otherwise. It's hard to move perennial plants, though you can cover them.
It can also be harder to manage passive solar systems in areas with unpredictable weather.


_ Subtract outdoor temperature from minimum indoor temperature, or use Heating Degree Days chart (HDD) to estimate for indoor temp of 65 F. If outdoors is warmer, then you have Cooling Degree Days (CDD). If HDD and CDD are roughly equal for the month, consider thermal inertia options to eliminate most heating and cooling costs for those months. this seems like a more rare case, like not within the 80/20 rule domain. would it be reasonable to leave this one out of the zone 0 flowchart?

I grant it's a weird thing most people don't know, and maybe it's too complicated to learn it. It's rare to have your entire year meet this criterion.
But you might be surprised. Almost all Western states have months like this. I love thermal mass heat, but I have not lived outside the Western states since college. Aside from 2 months in San Antonio which most people would consider a Western state- but it does have that coastal muggy thing going on in the summer, which is rare in the West-coast and Rockies states. So I suspect there might be an added advantage to mass heaters in the Western states where they are like a targeted version of adobe construction: insulation all around, thermal mass just in the warm core, but it doubles as a summer heat-sink for cooling help. Eliminates the need for AC in a lot of arid climates.

However, thermal mass could be a problem in areas that are chronically too hot, day and night, or where you might not be occupying the building long enough to be worth banking the heat. Otherwise, it's useful. The HDD/CDD comparison is a relatively simple metric, one that requires knowing only the link and your ZIP code, that can show you predictable "zero-cost heat" months. If your area has these "on-average comfortable" months, and it's more than 2 months of the year, you could be looking at over 25% reduction in your heating bill from just a pile of rocks somewhere you can stand to look at them (indoors).

_ Estimate (conductive) heat loss: (Area1/R-value1 + area2/R-value2...)x(HDD) = BTU/hr I thought it was saying "R minus value1" for a long time before I figured out this is the variable name; maybe it's better to just say ResistanceValue1?

It's better to have the equation written or drawn out, not typed. But yes, we could do something like this: ("Area of walls / R value of walls" + Area of windows/R value of windows plus drapes + Area of doors/R value of doors + Area of any other surface/ R value of that surface... (ceilings, floors, different materials e.g. glass block walls or whatever) ) You'd also want to separate areas that are weird due to different temperature - earth-bermed walls, surfaces that are backed by a crawl space or unheated space instead of directly outdoors.

_ If considering changes to building or usage, re-compute with proposed new numbers. is this changes based on having started using the flowchart? or if , at the present moment, I'm considering new heating options because I've already planned on changes to building or building usage? could this one be left out of the zone 0 chart?
This is the single most useful part of bothering to do accurate heat-loss metrics: Look at the little diagram that the build-it-solar heat loss calculator offers, then think about what would happen if you added a sheet of R-15 closed-cell foam insulation around your slab perimeter, for example. If I can do that for under $100 and it might save me 25% on my heating bill, it's totally worth it, and it might be a quick-fix this year that lets me save up to do the big heater project next year.


4) How would you like to meet this goal?
_ i) Minimal installation costs, human effort, and local resources* minimal installation costs money- and time-wise? or just money-wise? human effort--is that muscle strength or time? thought? decision-making? perceived difficulty ["this looks overwhelming so I'm hiring someone else to do it so I can avoid thinking about it?"]
(Passive solar, insulation, adapted clothing, consolidate shelters of people/animals/bees/storage**.
Heat: simple direct solar** actually don't know what "direct solar" means, I thought I did but I am not sure. Is it just having a window so the sun can hit me directly?, compost heater**, biomass fuels: A) DIY rocket heaters is this "rocket MASS heater"? maybe better to use a direct descriptor of what it is instead of a brand name that could be misappropriated--so, a high-heat-burning, keeps-the-heat-indoors-as-long-as-possible, has-a-large-thermal-mass-around-it thingamobob** it would be good to get this lined up wiht the "A)" from above, visually), thermal mass walls or water tanks alongside space heaters

B) & C) low-mass radiant heaters: wood stove, cob Rumford fireplace, on-demand hot water heaters (hot water bottle, tank), drainable solar collectors); i don't know what a drainable solar collector is. maybe OK just to get a search term though.
These are all terms worth Googling. Anything more in-depth is going to take way more than one page!
Direct solar is kinda in between passive (sun through a window) and active (photovoltaic). Direct solar uses the sun to heat up something, e.g. coils of water pipe or oil or wax, and then stores that heated mass in a tank indoors. You can use it to do hydronic floor heating, or just have a big tank mass-heater that has solar collectors to feed heat into it. (Passive uses passive "controls" like the natural difference in summer/winter sun angles.)
Drainable means you don't have to protect it from frost or overheating when nobody is using it. Drain-back tanks are often set up with thermostatic valves so they automatically empty the collector if it's too hot or too cold for safe use.

_ ii) With up-front money? time? muscle? investment, modest operating effort , local resources*
(passive and active solar, improved insulation; biogas digesters**, heaters: heat pumps, A) thermal inertia**, batch-burn masonry heaters** maybe need to define by what it is directly: a masonry heater is not always a RMH, right? what is it? what makes it lower-effort? , geothermal** where available; B & C efficient pellet stoves or zoned radiant-floor systems);

Masonry heaters are a traditional technology from all over Eurasia, many varieties. Some would say the rocket mass heater is a type of masonry heater, or a hybrid masonry heater.


_ iii) With minimal investment, minimal effort, and don't care about the operating costs or sources everyone cares ultimately. maybe just add in "for now, I am choosing not to consider operating costs or sources" or "code requires" or "retrofitting would be higher cost than leaving it alone"?
You might be surprised how many people don't get around to caring.
But certainly, "operating cost is no obstacle" might be where someone's priorities currently are, with a need to keep a delicate loved one warm with zero personal effort while working a lucrative day job to fund their mutual dreams, for example.

I like "for now" - adds little length and gives people consideration for reasonable priorities.
And I would certainly encourage doing major upgrades as systems come due - for example doing a better roof and insulation this year, something purely luxurious next year like a tour of classic Old World architecture and cuisine, then replace the furnace in 3 to 5 years when it's due - rather than try to do it all at once and burn yourself out. There's embodied energy in any new system, so if another couple years learning about your options lets you make a better choice, it could be worth more than everything you paid for during the wait. You might even end up moving to a completely different climate that ultimately suits your plans far better.


(A) fossil fueled furnaces, boilers; B/C) electric heaters, space heaters/stoves, desk/bed heaters) again, good to line up the A B and C's in columns/rows

sure, I like the table approach - or just have the flow chart divided into 3 streams at this point.


*We don't currently consider distant sources or biofuels as attractive as local resources, partly due to transportation costs and losses, but also because of the track record of greater destruction involved in many “eco” fuels (palm oil biodiesel vs. rainforests, corn ethanol commonly produced at a net loss of energy, using more calories to grow & process than the fuel delivers).
**In the most creative and interesting way possible: will invest to learn, or to impress friends.

5) Look for heaters that suit your needs & resources.
A, i & ii) Consider the most efficient heater(s) for regular use, with backup(s) for rare needs.
B, C, i, iii) Consider multi-function appliances (less efficient but cheaper up front), insulation.


Well, I think I caught most of the red ink.

In terms of your home - I'm picturing a beautiful old shingled wood Victorian, un-insulated:

These homes were often built with enormous coal-fired furnaces, with more concern for ventilation (the healthful benefits of fresh air) to take away the CO than for actual heating efficiency.
They tend to have more surface area than necessary.
They often have neat sun-rooms and porches, but sometimes utterly disregard solar aspect as they might be a copy of a popular design whose owners dragged it into a new setting.

On the plus side: they are often built with bedrooms over parlors, so convective heating is available. Some still have the original floor registers. They also usually have enough doors to control heat in zones, and some have registers over the transom to move warm air from room to room.

Insulation is an obvious first step.
Take care when insulating to avoid condensation problems - many of the ones in Portland were mistakenly house-wrapped to "weatherseal" them, and ended up with black mold problems as the weather-seal trapped moist indoor air inside the walls. Natural, breathable weather-seal options might be more compatible, such as interior lime plasters, clay-and-fiber plasters, or fiber insulation with paper backing. Preserve the ventilation gaps behind the beautiful old shingles - it's a functional requirement in damp climates.

If a Victorian-era masonry home (we don't have that many of these in the West), then you may be looking at insulating inside the original building envelope, then adding thermal mass inside THAT. Or at an insulative outdoor plaster if you can find a way to do that and preserve the character of the building. Ideally you want insulation outside, thermal mass inside.

-Erica W

 
Erica Wisner
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heat exchangers transfer heat from one thing to another.
Factors in how it works include surface area, difference in temperature, and how efficient each material is at absorbing and carrying heat.

Useful examples for home heating:
- air-to-air heat exchangers let you get fresh air in winter without losing all the heat from the indoor air. Most designs pass the stale warm air one direction and the incoming fresh air the other, with something conductive (metal fins, pipes) separating them. You can almost always get to about halfway between the two temperatures, and a good design can capture even more of the exhaust heat.
(A bigger question is why the heat of the air is a significant part of your heating budget, and whether you may also want a humidifier since very cold air doesn't carry much water and becomes very dry as it warms up.)

- some windowbox designs for air-to-air heat exchangers also use black-painted pipes or channels to bring in some extra solar heat at the same time, so they double as both solar heat collectors and air-to-air heat exchangers.

- the heat exchange channels in a masonry heater or rocket mass heater collect heat from the fire's exhaust. They are called "smoke channels" but in reality, the exhaust should be almost smokeless - smoke would condense on the sides as creosote.

- some direct solar designs have heat-exchangers where a circulating fluid transfers heat to a tank or other storage.

- condensers and evaporative cooling like swamp coolers can be very powerful heat exchangers, for example the heating and cooling coils of a refrigerator cause evaporation to happen inside, condensation to happen outside, transferring a lot of heat through circulation of a fluid.

- there are probably scads more I'm not thinking about... I've heard of heat-exchangers being used to collect heat from waste water, for example, to pre-heat clean water that's going to the hot water tanks to be heated.

In context above, I was probably thinking about air-to-air heat exchangers, passive-solar systems like sunroom/solar chimney setups, and direct solar where you can move heat from a collector to other parts of the house.

-Erica
 
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Erica,

I know you guyes are doing the low fossil input thing around your place as much as possible. I also know that time planning ahead and organizing is worth something. Would you ever consider doing a dailish video for permies?

I really like your teaching style and I'm 100 percent sure you could beet me at a physics/math off. But, I sometimes have a hard time following it in text. The room is dark and dimly lit and I have to hunch to read the damn screen and it's time to be stretching out. Can I be the only one with this problem? Would my proposed solution work for anyone else? Is that final kickstarter push ready?

Sigh... Scythe? ... Scythians?

The Grain Growers Association!

So many questions.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if you could handle the youtube comments or not.

What do you think?
 
Landon Sunrich
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Maybe that's a title, Fifty Shades of Dumb


Fifty Shades of Dumb: What your chimney and fly-ash say about you A rocket mass heater story
 
Erica Wisner
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OK, after a phone talk with Joshua I am going all meta-analysis on how to make this most useful, appealing, and effective for people.
He mentioned using the permaculture approach of inputs and outputs.

I like that.

So: What is needed? (Heat) - that is the definition of our topic.
- For what? (people, cooking/micro-industry, crops/plumbing/houses)
- how soon? (now, soon/months, eventually/years)
- how often? (always, intermittently, rarely)
- How much? (note that both resources and purposes affect this)

What is available/abundant in our situation?
Physical:
- Energy sources: sun, geothermal/earth inertia, fuel/food (biomass), companions, other energy (wind, water, movement, money)
- Energy sinks/storage: shelter, insulation, storage (mass, tanks, healthy bodies/fat reserves), landscape features
- Space, time, tools, territorial & scale limits

Social:
- skills, tools, practical abilities
- knowledge, tradition, culture
- interest, curiosity, learning abilities, problem-solving attention
- affinities, talent - love of working with particular flavors of problem, materials, situations, or people
- status / money / capital - ability to get resources from others to expand toolset
- thrift / creativity / lateral thinking

What flows or gradients might affect our decision?
Transfers:
- How do we move or convert potential heat into actual comfort?
conduction, convection, radiation, state change, energy conversion (chemical/electrical/gravitational-potential/momentum/pressure/heat)
- How do we minimize intolerable costs? (

What are our other priorities or constraints?
All of these values and virtues contribute to a healthy and vibrant life, but your priorities may shift at different points in your life.
- quality of life: habits, practices, comforts, religious or social structures to respect
Ethics:
- Compatible with life on Earth? e.g. The Natural Step - it is not compatible with life or health to accumulate persistent poisons, pave/mineralize the biosphere, deplete or cause extinctions of genetic diversity, or act unethically (outsource harm to others).
- No harm - does not directly harm neighbors (whether just people or all living things / ability of area to sustain life)
- Fairness - allows others to also meet their needs
- loyalty: caring first for... your family/self? ... those closest to you? ... those most useful to you? ... those most in need? ... tradition, authority, cultural stability? ... stable ecosystems and natural abundance?
- purity - non-toxic? Ceremonially clean (e.g. vegan, kosher, slavery-free, locally-made, organic, USDA?)
- tradition/authority - building codes? Taxes? Community norms? Compatible with a chosen system (permaculture, certified organic or fair-trade, tenant or community bylaws)?
- Other outcomes desired? - aesthetics, prove a point, learn something, save money, durable investment for retirement, etc.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Cool!

We also talked about the inputs of breathing--you can actually change your body temperature by a few degrees by inhibiting over-breathing, according to Konstantine Buteyko's research. Not gTummo, I guess , or maybe it is, but it's simple math: if you breathe out less hot air and breathe in less cold air, youve reduced one of your main heat-losses.

According to his research, if I recall, some things leading to over-breathing include strong emotions (especially fear, anxiety, anger) and diet (alleries, intolerances, and over-eating in general). The strong emotions can also lead to eating to stuff feelings, of course, there's a connection.

Now, this might be a small effect over one day, but you breathe 24 hours a day your whole life. Cumulatively it's a lot.

And you probably will install a new heating system or construct new housing for yourself about once in your lifetime--but that will have cumulative effects.

Zone minus 2 (the body) and minus three (the mind)? this is rather abstract, in a way, yet also very concretely measurable in terms of impact.

I would love to see someone as disciplined about record-keeping as Paul do the experiment of the Buteyko exercise for a month.

I've never had the self-discipline or willingness to stick with them, but I do try to keep from breathing with my mouth open or losing too much air by hyperventilating after exertion.

THe point I'm reallly rambling toward here I guess is the idea of negative numbered zones, and the question of how much an impact they have. zone minus-3 (thinking) certainly affecst evyerhting we do--including decision-making about what heating approach to build and whether to turn the thermostat up another notch.

Hope is a great energizer of action.

thoughts?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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OH, and thanks again so much for your time and expertise today, Erica and for posting more on the thread. I really think this flowchart/spreadsheet thingy can develop to be more and more universal and inspiring and energizing toward action/change.
 
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OK, it's about day 7or so since I TURNED OFF MY HEAT.

And i've been pretty much fine.

My own radiator in my room has a setting nozzle and I turned it to zero, while leaving the other valve open so that it doesn't cause the radiator to explode. So some heat comes through I gues but it's pretty negligible) I"ve sat up in my bed (it's a loft bed over the esk, about 3 1/2 feet from the ceiling) and put blankets over my legs, and my laptop has been a major heat source too, and CFL bulb (came with the room, forgive me Paul!) (and mercury-sensitive life-forms). But mostly it's just the heat-rising effect. I kinda like the feel of the cold air down on my floor too, it's like camping in Maine in the summers when I was a kid, has me anticipating getting into the warm bed. I heat the bed up with me and the laptop by watching my spy show with my girlfriend, while swishing comfrey for 20" for my teeth (stack functions!) and so it's toasty warm when I do go to bed.

A little grumpy on occasion. Cold air has a way of having people feel irritated. I had my feet out of my bed one night, and I got cold feet. I think, I recall studies where people holding a cold drink were colder-behaved toward a stranger than those holding a hot drink, and we have lots of expressons about "warms the soul" and ""heartwarming" and so on.

But I am mostly fine under the blankets, and I am toast y warm in the afternoon when th sun comes through (Boston has been about 30 Fahrenheit this past week).

I have cheated a bit in letting in warmer air from the rest of the house.

This is far from a scientific study, but most people are "far from scientific"--ie don't have the patience to look at the numbesr but will do a efw simple things that occur to them to get comfortable. So I think this experiment has worked well in teaching me how I can manage without heat in my room.

And realy, the cheat of havnig my door open wasn't that necessary. (by the way, with the door closed, it gets COLD in here at night down at the floor level, but my bed up high is still warm-ish. I also have a bit of a tent effect with a blanket I hung for aesthetics along the side of the bed, it may have a small amount of heat-containing effect though probabl negligible.

SO--if you have city heat (thermostat, radiators or electric) you too can try the experiment--turn off the heati n one room! see how much you save (ish)--compare your electric or gas bill to last year, your number of therms, see if you've reclaimed a few bucks. See if you discover any creative ways of keeping warm.

On a side note--my housemate told me the total energy output of the sun at earth's orbit distance is 1,000 Watts/square meter. That is, if you had a %100 efficient photovoltaic (most are 20), no atmosphere, no cloud cover, and angled to follow the sun at the given moment (day or night) you could capture that much. It's an upper limit, but it's a significant number still, it's higher than I would have guessed.

Our house runs average 600 kwh/month, 30 days times 12 hours per day is 360 kwh . If we had just one of these magic 1meter-squared solar panels (or 5 real ones) we'd be able to generate a quarter of our electric needs. If we had 40 we'd do all--that's just 40 square meters or 12' by 30'--not unrealistic. That's a lot of energy. OR--we could get a solar oven you can set up in your yard, designed for the Himalayas, that cooks at 700 degrees Fahrenheit, I think (my housemate says). Point is, there's a lot more free energy there than I'd thought.

When he told me that, I began to feel just how warming the sun really is to me.
I thought, Paul could modify his heat-the-person-not-the-room thing by adding in one flat mirror to the array, kind of an 80-20 rule, where is the best place for a bulk of the day, and save even more off the elctric bill. It's a fun game, aim the sun at you, and anyone can do it, it doesn't require high-tech expertise, just the skill-level to play Pong/billiards, and you could get a pretty awesome return. If you have a miror anyway, might as wel give it a go. I don't know what numbers it would result in, but I leave that to more organized people than myself to determine.
 
Don't listen to Steve. Just read this tiny ad:
The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book by Mike Oehler - digital download
https://permies.com/wiki/23444/digital-market/digital-market/Earth-Sheltered-Solar-Greenhouse-Book
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