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I cut 87% off of my electric heat bill  RSS feed

 
steward
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read the full article here: really saving energy




How much electricity are you using to stay warm? It adds up. Fast. I did some experimenting when I moved to a place in Montana in 2010 with only electric heat, and found a few ways to effectively cut my heat bill back, without freezing.

Here's where I started (outside temp (black line) and the amount of power needed (red) to maintain 70 degrees F):



And here's where I ended up:



Basically, it came down to heating me, instead of heating the whole room. I did some tinkering and found a few really helpful ways to keep my body warm while I worked and slept, and a couple of measures to keep the immediate surrounding space warm as well.









read the full article here: really saving energy






 
pollinator
Posts: 1462
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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"A lot of people go to rallies. They holler and carry posters and rage against the others. A lot of people argue about why war is wrong and people shouldn't die for oil. But what do they really DO? "

You hit the nail right smack on the head Paul.  We all want someone else to solve our problems. 

I liked the article, have tried many of your suggestions and will try more.  Unfortunately I am a lot like a reptile that cannot generate it's own body heat.  That is why I live in this part of the country.  I do pretty good at keeping the thermostat down until February - then I can't take it any more.  My solution was to pay for a membership for myself and my husband at the local YMCA.  As often as once a day I can get in the heated pool and the 150 degree sauna and steam room.  Makes my arthritic joints happy and the swimming helps us both keep in shape. 

I realize that the Y is also using up a bunch of fossil fuels to keep the pools and steam rooms going but at least it is available for large numbers of people to use instead of heating one big old house for just two people.
 
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My central gas heat stays off.

After I covered a series in my local paper (used to be a journalist) about how the city was ripping off residents on their gas bills and using the overbillings to cover pet projects, I got pissed and had a masonry heater built. Now I spend several hundred bucks per winter on firewood (money that goes to a neighbor who cuts firewood on his rural property) and leave the fossil fuel heat alone.
 
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Location: Sweden, Stockholm
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Wow! The kotatsu seriously blew my mind, I will definitley set one up by my computer! I am one of those cold hardened people, in the summers I have to sleep on the balcony with no covers to get any sleep and I live a bit north of Stockholm (summers can be HOT here though). But I don't mind, I like sleeping out doors! And I totally sympathise with the notion that one could just put on some extra clothing instead of turning the heat up most of the time.

Oh, and one more thing. People don't get sick as a direct cause of being cold (if you havn't got a lowered immune system from hypothermia or something, but that is extreme). The reason why winter is flu-time is because viruses break down more rapidly in heat and UV-radiation and thus remains longer on surfaces when it's cold weather. So you are almost certainley NOT more prone to getting sick just because you are wearing less clothes or because your indoor environment is colder, if you havn't got the virus in your house already.

Edit: So all you parents out there. Let your children wear what they want!
 
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That kotatsu has the potential to change my life!  I have a detached studio on our property that I use to work in, but I can't seem to keep it warm.  I tried a regular electric heater--horribly inefficient and expensive.  Now I have a radiant heater, which uses very little electricity and works well, but only on the part of my body it is shining on.  I can't afford to remodel the studio to hold a wood stove just yet, but in the meantime I think a kotatsu would be absolutely perfect.
 
pollinator
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Could the kotatsu heater be run off a small solar system?  And what do they use for cooking in Japan?  Heating hot water?

Kathleen
 
gardener
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I went a bit extreme last winter and saved on my electric/gas bill: I closed the door to the living room and stayed in there unless I had to go to the bathroom or cook.
The living room is the only room I heated. I slept, ate, dressed, LIVED in there for the coldest part of the winter.
Being a single guy this was pretty easy to do.
 
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Having an extencive background in thermodynamics and power generation I have seen many ideas and power "saving" concepts over the years. Most are very technical or require doing without heat to save. Not my idea of saving this doing without. Heat scavenging is about the best low tech method of doing this thru heat exchange.

That being said there are two simple concepts with heat.

1. Heat rises.
2. Heat moves from hot to cold.

A simple application for these two principles is in an apartment above the first floor. I lived in one for years on the thid floor in Northern Canada for years heated by electric power and never used it even in-40C weather. The idea is to open a window, yes open a window... The air flow created will draft out your hot air and inturn will create a low poressure zone in your apartment. Then open your apartment door and you will draw in all the warm air from the building and equalize the apartment temperature with the average temperature of the building in a few minutes. As I draw the heat from the building cold outside air will replace the warm air being drafted and the building heaters will kick in to reheat the air.

Its not free heat but I never paid for it just scavenged the hall heat and whatever drafted out underneath doors. At night as the apartment cooled heat flows hot to cold and being the clodest apartment at night heat would transfer to my apartment using this principle.

Much the same as a refrigerator working many think that the fridge cools off things in reality it removes heat it doesn't add cold. And the Idea of darkness you don't make somthing dark, dark does not exist its just an absence of light that prevents reflection.

The process works the same in hot climates for air conditioning thermal equalization can take place using an underground trench dig a trench four or more feet down run a pipe a have one end open to the outside and the other inside your home. As the hot air rises and exits your house on a hot day it will draft the air thru the piping and as the air travels thru it will try and heat the dirt in the surrounding trench losing its own heat in the process the heat will be lost to a max. of the ground temperature and this cool air will enter the house thru a vent. Another way to scavenge the heat from food items using this method is to convert a closet to a "cold sorage area is to vent in the cold air thru the bottom of the closet and the food will try and heat the cold air thus losing its own heat and becoming as cold as the vented air no need to insulate the closet and just leave the top of the closet open to insure continuious air flow. The food will equalize to the intake air temperature so as you dig monitor ground temperature and thats how cold the food will be. Hotter it is the more air flow and this draws in a greater volume of cooler air making the system more efficient.
 
paul wheaton
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I subject Camille Pearl to this



 
gardener
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She's not wearing a parka or ear muffs so you're probably being far too lenient.

Try getting her into those one piece thermal underwear with the built-in fire escape at the bottom. If she wore those and went out to chop firewood for 10 min. every hour you could probably shut all the heat off and light the place with fireflies.
 
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Interesting. I live in Fairbanks, and back in the '80s, my neighbor across the road (one of many fascinating characters living here) took this approach. His place was a small travel trailer, which had been covered with styrofoam insulation panels, and he heated with electricity, which is almost unheard of up here because it is ridiculously expensive (presently almost .20/kwh). He had an old recliner with heat lamps strategically positioned under and around it, and claimed it was the cheapest method he had found. He's since aged and moved to town, and I haven't seen him for awhile, but next time I do I'll ask him the specifics. He kept detailed records of his daily energy usage, correlated with the weather. He also rode his bicycle to town daily, even in below-zero weather, when he was in his sixties.
 
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We just heat with wood and use down comforters on the beds. A two story, drafty old farmhouse is kept comfortable and our electric runs from $18 -$48 per month in the winter, depending on who is in residence that winter.
 
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Paul, good news! You no longer have to heat your bathroom (although you may want to). Here are some heated toilet seats. I only chose items with 4+ star ratings and sorted by cost.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_st?bbn=228013&keywords=heated+toilet+seat&qid=1350320623&rh=n%3A228013%2Ck%3Aheated+toilet+seat%2Cp_72%3A1248909011&sort=price
 
paul wheaton
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Tempting!
 
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Holy crap! I thought we were the only people on earth who appreciated a house with no heating system!

We get by these 40degree days by doubling up on wool socks and long johns...I recommend Iron Clads with odor control. We also wear vests over the long johns.

I build a fire a couple times a day in one of the 10 rooms in the house. When we had the kids living here, sure, we nearly killed ourselves cutting, chopping and stacking wood. We since found out about Rocket Mass Heaters and will be installing one under the older half of the house and one in a sauna.

That said, we also only heat ourselves. When I have to work in the coldest part of the house, the computer room, I sit on a heating pad and can work all day. That's enough for me to stay warm with very little input.

We also don't worry anymore that the fire goes out at night. We have sealed the pipe areas off plus insulated the pipes so if the temps drop to below zero, no problems. And, as a luxury, we have an electric blanket so there is no jumping into a cold bed.

There are so many benefits to living like this, besides using less resources-we rarely have colds over winter because germs can't grow here

As I wrap my shawl back over my shoulders, I commend you on your frugality.
 
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In reply to Paul Wheaton:

I like the concept of heating just the person, but I am curious about why you didn't just go to the Goodwill store and buy a used ski suit?
 
steward
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Came across this: Under the Desk Heater
120 Volts, 170 Watts, 1.4 Amps.
70 bucks.

I'm thinking this will keep my feet plenty warm.
 
paul wheaton
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Ken Peavey wrote:Came across this: Under the Desk Heater
120 Volts, 170 Watts, 1.4 Amps.
70 bucks.

I'm thinking this will keep my feet plenty warm.



Keep in mind that the most efficient form of heat is conductive.

I think my dog bed heater is rated for something like 45 watts, but actually uses 15 watts according to the kill-a-watt.

Here is one that I bought for Jocelyn a few years ago. It is designed to warm people-feet instead of dogs. It has all sorts of tilt and comfort settings. She has put a lot of miles on it. It can even be configured to be like yours.



amazon

 
Ken Peavey
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At home, at night, in the winter
I use the bedroom for sleeping, often with a heating pad for the back. The new bed is MUCH warmer than the old one. Got some different blankets that are toasty.
I use the bathroom for a few moments at a time. Longer periods of use has ample hot water involved.
I use the kitchen for a few moments at a time. Longer period have the stove going and sometime some hot water.
For the most part I'm at my desk.
I don't use the back bedroom or the living room. I don't really care about heat in the laundry room. I've shut off vents in those rooms, heating them does nothing for me.
This place uses electric heat and the bill is less than 100 bucks. It's been well insulated to keep the Cool in. Florida does not need much heating, but sometimes this place gets HOT. Right now it's daytime and I have the door open. Being a tightwad, I'd like to see how much I can cut that bill down.
 
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Ken, shut the furnace OFF (or set the thermostat just high enough to prevent frozen pipes if that is a concern) and see what happens. I run my furnace maybe 6 days a year--1 to make sure it still works and then a couple days of gone for the holidays.
 
Ken Peavey
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I turn it down to 50 when I leave.
 
R Scott
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Try leaving it at 50 all the time.

I find a good down vest helps keep the core warm, and a hot water bottle or heating pad over the kidneys warms you up all over.
 
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Could the kotatsu heater be run off a small solar system?  And what do they use for cooking in Japan?  Heating hot water?

Kathleen



According to this website kotatsu usually run on 110V, since this is the standard voltage for Japan. So basically a solar system that could handle a "normal" device should be able to handle a kotatsu as well right?

In Japan old houses usually rely on electricity for cooking, while newer houses have gas as well. The main reason why gas isn't as popular as in other countries is because of the earthquakes that frequently occur and the added risk of fire that causes.
 
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Our house is heated with gas, but similar things still apply.

We have barely used the gas central heating since we put a woodburning stove in our kitchen (we both spend a lot of time in there and it used to be really cold) but I still get cold in my office upstairs and have to keep going to the kitchen for a warm-up!

If the stove isn't lit, I wear a woven wool shawl and put a hot water bottle on my knees or under my feet. LOVE the idea of a heated dog bed.

At night, I put the hot water bottle in bed at foot level, then go clean my teeth, get a drink etc. By the time I get in, there is a lovely warm spot where my feet go and i can pull the hottle up for a cuddle
 
paul wheaton
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I did this experiment six years ago.  Surely other people have been able to duplicate the experiment?
 
gardener
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I use the heat lamps at the computer and the bathroom
I set my thermostat at 58 (I heat with oil)
my heating oil consumption is down by about 25%
my electric has stayed about the same probably due to
less electric usage by the oil furnace (burner and blower)

I recommend buying one of these (or a similar brand)
http://www.kohls.com/product/prd-2023985/biddeford-electric-mattress-pad.jsp

an already warm bed on a cold night
I set it at 2 (out of ten) and with a sheet and comforter I stay warm

product review
http://www.electricblanketinstitute.com/biddeford-mattress-pad.html

yes, there's an "Electric Blanket Institute"
 
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After using an electric mattress pad in bed for years, we just started using an electric throw blanket on our chairs.
 
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I just wanted to thank you, Paul, for posting this.  Everywhere else I have lived has had some form of heat, wood stove or the rarely needed heat pump when I lived far south.  But this 100+ year old house has a gas pack, but the duct work is totally shot and funding does not currently permit a revamp.  All three fireplaces have been blocked up in some way and all need stone mason work before being reliable - also not in the current budget.

So I found myself wondering how to heat myself instead of the whole house and found your article! I ended up getting a shoulder heating pad (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074N6Q85W/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) which is wearable while I am working (I work from home), a dog bed heater (but the dog stole it, lol), the heated mouse and...rubber hot water bottles.  I have been totally amazed at how wonderfully these work for pre-warming seats or the bed before turning in, heating little boy clothes before school, not to mention the all-night warmth they provide!  And wool socks are an inexpensive godsend as well. An actual feather bed keeps one toasty too (I've used mine camping in 13 degree weather, hah!)  Lots of things that 'ol timers would have known that I just never thought of (lived in Florida most of my life, lol)

It still can get pretty cold in here if we have a lack of sun or a longer run of below freezing days, less comfortable than most would like it I presume.  I shut off the rooms we're not using and concentrate the heat where the boy is.  I've seen no increase in my normal electric bill even when using the actual electric heater in evenings and mornings.

But this was a great lesson in heating the person and not a bunch of air no one is even in, so thanks for that!

 
pollinator
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I'm so happy I found this post/thread!  Between my poorly insulated homestead MH and my apartment cave (lovely in summer, not so lovely in winter), I was looking forward to another uncomfortable winter.  (Last year I started off the year living in my new fleece pajamas - when at home - and ended up giving myself a nasty heat rash.  So went back to keeping the heat up as high as it would go while bundling as much as I could - and still felt cold.)  This thread gives me hope that I will be comfortable AND keep my electric bill down.

Thank you, Paul!!
 
pollinator
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As a rule, we do not use electricity to heat in Maine as we pay one of the highest costs for electricity in the country, and have high heating demands.

Still, growing up all I ever heard from my Grandparents was how cold and drafty their house was. It was not insulated at all, so as we are about to move into it (this weekend!) I ripped out the drywall and super insulated it. My cost for all that? A mere $500. My Grandparents spent more than that in a single year just buying oil! Can you imagine how much oil was bought in the last 70 years trying to keep that house warm? It absolutely boggles my mind that no one ever insulated that house!

The trend in Maine is to buy super furnaces: outdoor boilers, high tech heating systems, etc, but no one does what is boring...use conservation! That is sad because conservation is a one for one deal. For every dollar I do not spend on fuel, I keep in my pocket. Buying into systems ultimately means there will be a cost to buy them, then buy something again when their lifespan ends.

It is kind of like the people that invest thousands to make solar into electricity? Why not use a different system to accomplish the same thing and not use electricity at all?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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It's been a while since I looked at this thread, but it's timely that it came back up now.  Our 'new' (almost 100 years old) house has no heat in it currently.  There is an old propane heater mounted on the wall, but I wouldn't use it even if there was still a propane tank hooked up to it.  Ditto for the little in-the-wall electric heater in the bathroom.  There's a chimney in the center of the house that hasn't been used in decades (literally -- the realtor, who lived here thirty years ago, said he'd never known of the house having a wood stove in it).  I plan to have someone inspect the chimney and see if it can be made usable; I brought a little tiny wood stove -- a Vermont Castings Aspen -- with us from Oregon, and I HOPE we will be able to use that at least part of the time, but of course it's much too small to hold a fire overnight.  We also have several portable electric space heaters.  I have to be able to keep the house warm enough that the plumbing doesn't freeze (or face forking out several thousand dollars to repair everything AGAIN).  But I'm going to try the komatsu method with our dining table.  We already know enough to dress warmly, and to use hot water bottles to pre-heat the beds, and to warm up cold feet when we go to bed at night.  Big mugs of hot tea are nice hand warmers.  Hats and fingerless gloves are great for keeping warm.  I like a cold house at night, so unless it's down around zero outside I don't even bother with heat at night. 

I do need to cover the windows because some of them are still old single-panes with no storms on them.  And there are a couple of gaps that need to be caulked. 

My plan is to put in one of the masonry cook stoves with a 'bell' heated bench -- the stove will be in the kitchen, and the heated bench will extend into the front room.  But that isn't going to happen this year.

Kathleen
 
pollinator
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I completely agree with Travis. Good insulation is critical for heat retention. I'm trying to stay completely off grid this winter. Earlier today I finally finished insulating the man cave. Been chipping away at it for months. Sealing every air leak imaginable helps significantly too. Installing some passive solar heaters before winter arrives. Have a mini greenhouses in my windows thing in progress too. A zero degree sleeping bag for the coldest weather. Will add some reflective thermal barriers if necessary. Also incorporating some thermal mass in the form of water & slate tiles. Considering a tromble wall. Would be more likely to do that if it was possible to rotate the building 90 by degrees. Will run a small space heater via my solar panels if needed. Intend to add a thermal mass rocket heater & warming bench next year. In the early planning stage for a fresnel lens & wood fire heated outdoor hot tub/oven contraption with the ability to circulate & store hot water into the building for additional heating also. That needs much more thought first.

Happened to read this thread earlier this week. Will probably do several of the techniques Paul & others mentioned. Made good sense to me. Being cold sucks.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Still, growing up all I ever heard from my Grandparents was how cold and drafty their house was. It was not insulated at all, so as we are about to move into it (this weekend!) I ripped out the drywall and super insulated it. My cost for all that? A mere $500. My Grandparents spent more than that in a single year just buying oil! Can you imagine how much oil was bought in the last 70 years trying to keep that house warm? It absolutely boggles my mind that no one ever insulated that house!


Travis, I too live in a drafty old Maine house. Are your walls 4" thick? What did you insulate them with to make them superinsulated?
thanks!
 
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I am finally headed into Spring (according to the calendar anyway) so i made it through another winter. We have no central heat here and it is regularly about 12-14C/56F in my office during the day (I work at home) and occasionally down to freezing. Night is fine, I grew up in cold places and love having fifty pounds of blankets on me. Daytime, working at the computer, is the hard part.

I have tried everything over the 5 years or so I'm in this house and aside from serious bundling up (typing with gloves, woohoo) a few other things worked.
-heated USB mousepad or mouse blanket (my mouse hand gets the coldest)
-keyboard wrist rests with corn or rice inside that can be microwaved or oven heated every so often
-hot water bottle on feet, lap blanket on top. also fleece or wool socks....
-crazy amounts of hot tea and hot water bottles
-closing my office up tight and keeping the dog with me

The most interesting thing I found this year was that since building the walking desk (desk above a treadmill) I was much less cold while working. I don't walk all day, only when my work permits it (some persnickety things I need to be sitting, I generally walk for 45 min and then sit for an hour, something like that).

 
pollinator
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Travis  Johnson wrote:

but no one does what is boring...use conservation! 

I've heard of people in Newfoundland sealing their drafty old houses and winding up with a major mold problem. We've had similar issues where I live now on the Wet Coast (BC, Canada). It uses electricity, but we run a dehumidifier during the day, running it 1 hour on, 1 hour off if the temperature dips enough that it freezes up. This is backwards to most dehumidifier uses ("air conditioning" has a *huge* dehumidifying effect), but a damp cold is much more uncomfortable, and possibly dangerous if mold develops, than a dry cold.

Mike Barkley wrote:

Also incorporating some thermal mass in the form of water & slate tiles.

This is so important for overall comfort. Way too many houses have either minimal thermal mass, or the thermal mass is not contained inside the insulated space. Our house has a concrete foundation and it does provide some thermal mass effect for the wood stove, but it is not insulated from the ground or the knee-wall, so it's far less effective than it could be.

Tereza Okava wrote:

I found this year was that since building the walking desk (desk above a treadmill) I was much less cold while working.

Good thinking! This is good for your overall health as well as for keeping warm.

One approach I use to be a little warmer when the mornings or evenings are cold, but the day-time is fine, I call "The Baker's Guide to Home Heating". I'm sure you can all guess what that looks like in general, but last night it was Apple Crisp! The Guide does require me to use electricity, but at least it's yummier than a space heater.    
 
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This is my first winter in this house.  I could not believe the PVC 0.5" water lines below the house.  Have no heat turned on.  So we'll see what I do when colder winter hits.  I know I have to seal one hole up.

Just plugged up two holes with steel wool today 10/24/18.
 
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Michael Moreken wrote:This is my first winter in this house.  I could not believe the PVC 0.5" water lines below the house.  Have no heat turned on.  So we'll see what I do when colder winter hits.  I know I have to seal one hole up.



We are in about the exact situation, this being our first winter in our Tiny Home, which has a fieldstone foundation with some fairly big holes in it. We have to seal them up with rocks, but then we plan to take sheep manure and hay, something we call "banking the house" here in Maine, where you spread out hay so that the cold does not get to the basement. That will really help keep a house warm. I might get to that today as we have already gotten snow.


 
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