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My first podcast.
Jocelyn Campbell of jocelynsevents.com removes the last of the barriers for me to spit out a podcast. I want to thank all of the people that encouraged me to make a podcast and jack spirko of thesurvivalpodcast.com.
I take on two questions in the beginning, the first is about raising chickens. The second is about my preference for doing permaculture inland.
Then we get into the real discussion. I still didn’t cover as much as I would like on this topic. The key is that this year I am still experimenting with saving energy on heating. The key is to heat myself instead of the whole house. And to prefer the use of conductive heat or radiant heat over convective heat. It all started with a thread at permies called "making the best of electric heat"“. In that thread I sorta journal about experiments and progress.
I think the quality of this podcast is low. But that was part of what got me to make it: expectations on quality were really low. As time passes I will probably get better.
The Survival Podcast
Paul's article on Cutting Heating Bill
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Paul: All right. So we are getting started.
Jocelyn: We are. Have we had our coffee? We are ready to go?
Paul: I thought the coffee was a little weak.
Jocelyn: Oh, Darn. Sorry.
Paul: All right, all right so... I guess, we should start off by saying who we are.
Jocelyn: Okay. I am Jocelyn Campbell.
Paul: And you got Jocelynevents.com.
Jocelyn: I do.
Paul: It is such a Puget Sound calendar of cool eco workshops and stuff.
Jocelyn: That's right. And of course we have...
Paul: I am Paul! Lord of the jungle!
Jocelyn: [Laughs] what jungle?
Paul: Okay. So currently, I am between jungles at the moment. I am working on that okay. All right, this podcast, because this is my first ever solo podcast and I put up all kinds of barriers for doing this, and man, what an army of people turned out to remove all the barriers. First, tons of encouragement from a bunch of different people, jack spirko put the idea out there, and we have plenty people suggesting before Jack and he put me on his podcast for the first time, and then, after Jack's podcast with me in it, then I have received at least 25 people asking me to make my own podcast. And then out of those 25, there were 2 that really put a lot of motivation into me. One of them was really emphatic about how he has been using Permies for a very long time and I recognized his name from Permies, and that basically people trust me. They trust my opinion on stuff. As I think about that I kind of think like you know, that is I know like when I go and buy food at a grocery store I trust Whole Foods to be much closer to where I am comfortable at buying food.
Jocelyn: You might have just lost some people with that.
Paul: It is possible.
Jocelyn: This whole like Whole Foods thing.
Paul: But it is like I can kind of understand because like even if you are going to do scientific research on something a lot of funny business is going on the research and then you know it is like, "Oh, we proved this." "No, you didn't. You didn't." and for almost every research where I have gone down to the nitty- gritty and looked into it, it is like, "Shenanigans! Shenanigans!" so it is hard to figure out who to trust. And so of course, naturally, I trust me, so if somebody else stands up and says, "I trust you. I want you to tell me stuff." Well, I totally understand that, and so I support their cause there. But then now, so that was one and then the other one was the woman who said something like, "You know what? Just take a recording contraption and stick it in your pocket. And while you're out there in the garden doing anything, just talk. Just keep talking while you are... I want to hear that. I want to hear about whatever." and so I am thinking, "Okay." Expectations are at about zero. And on top of that, the other thing about the trust, and so I was like okay all right. So then I started saying, "Well, I got to figure out how to do it." I don't really have time to figure how to do it. A bunch of people said they would take on a lot of the jobs that I do every day with a lot of my material, and thus framed me up for the podcast. So I guess that is an important thing. If you are listening to this podcast there is a price tag on it. You got to make a link to it from something or going to something of mine, at least one link.
Jocelyn: Post a video. Link them on your Facebook page, on your blog, on your website. It is easy and quick.
Paul: Right. Yeah, so to add something on Facebook. Twitter is good. I think StumbleUpon is a big one, and that for me the big one is that I am trying to kind of withdraw from Reddit. And so I have been a big fan of Reddit and it does take up a fair bit of my time when I get involved in discussions out there and stuff like that, and so a lot of people are saying that they are going to handle that for me. So if people submit my stuff out to Reddit, that makes me happy and it makes me feel free to do other stuff. And then finally, the last barrier was tinkering with the software, but it is like, "You know what? I just don't feel like turning on a microphone and talking into it for an hour." And then Jocelyn fixed that. And so Jocelyn said that it is like, "Okay. She will... But I will talk to her." And then you went to a whole bunch of other, you started taking on all, like you even made a list of things that people want to talk about and you started taking care of all these other little things. So now all I got to do is show up and talk and I don't have an excuse left.
Jocelyn: It is handled. So what are we talking about today?
Paul: All right. Well, the primary topic that we are going to get into here in a little bit is going to be about my experiments this winter and actually with the last two winters with heating with electricity. Now, of course I have got my Wofati design, which is a building design that requires no heat. And then of course we've got the rocket mass heaters where you can heat your home with you know, the just the trimmings from your yard. And then there's a lot of people that live in apartments, or they are renting, and they don't have a wood stove. You know, these options are not available to them and then you know what can you do to get by with less and it kind of – you know, while these are the things that I have been experimenting with for years, the thing that really got me to the point that it is like, "Damn it! I got to make a point." is that I saw a newsletter from the electric company that said, "You know the best return of investment for saving energy is fluorescent light bulbs." and I just got so angry at reading that. That I knew I had to do something about it because I really, I think that that's a big steaming pile of horse potato right there. And so we are going to get into it now, but yup that is true.
Jocelyn: No, no. I was just going to say besides electricity experiments are we going to touch on the two topic of requests we got towards the end after talking about the at lengths of this?
Paul: No, no. I think we will get to the electricity stuff a little bit later.
Paul: And so there are things that motivated me. And so I did my experiments and I've got a lot to report. I was able to so far cut 80% off of my heating bill and we just finish February. And I am looking forward to getting the, the bills will arrive in about two or three days, and then I will know whether I cut 90% off from my February bill. I think I might have been able to cut 90% off. But anyway, we will come to that in a little bit later. For now, we've got, we posted out on Permies in a tinkering forum and that is the forum where we take care, we move towards my personal world domination efforts, and people there are helping me to manage all kinds of aspects of my websites and stuff like that. But in there we said, "Okay. Who has any questions for the first podcast?" since we had two questions. What is the first one?
Jocelyn: The first one was from Michael and he is in Pennsylvania, I believe. And he likes the idea of the paddock shift system for chickens, but he is wondering how you do that with wintering over chickens and what are the good winter forage ideas for chicken?
Paul: Okay. That is an excellent question. A really fantastic question and I can probably do an entire show just on that question. So we'll try to skim over and try... So first of all...
Jocelyn: We should do an entire show on chickens. I think that would be an excellent podcast.
Paul: Well, I can do an entire show just talking about chickens in winter.
Jocelyn: [Laughs] That's true.
Paul: So maybe we will do that at some point.
Paul: But let's try and get a little bit of information doing this way for now. And so of course he is referring to my article at Richsoil.com. That is Raising Chickens 2.0: No More Coop and Run! and basically, with that article which is a massive, massive article. I advocate something like a paddock shift system where you will put your chickens into an area for a little while, and then you will move them to another area, and then you move them to another area, and then move them to another area. So usually, they will be an area for like maybe a week to 10 days, and then that area will get at least 28 days of rest in between visits from chickens. And of course in the winter time it is a little bit different. And first of all I want to say that the natural habitat for a chicken is the jungle. So really it is you know, winter time there is the rainy season and drier season, so they are not naturally a cold weather animal. However, turkeys, while turkeys are and there is a lot of similarities, and so chickens do fine in such extreme cold areas. But then of course, you know, we do need to try and give them something better. I think that one of the best things to do and I think I have got a whole thread on Permies that is focused on different kinds of things that you can plant that would provide winter feed, and that goes to a lot of detail, and that is going to be a great place to check on that.
Jocelyn: And that would be in the ‘critter care forum'?
Paul: Critter care forum, right. The critter care forum at Permies and, off the top of my head, I've got two really great feeds of three. I mean, well, I want to say of course, sepp holzer does this and while Sepp will say that he doesn't feed his chickens at all, all year long. The chickens will forage for themselves all year long and of course he plants tons of stuff for chickens and does the paddock shift stuff and everything like that. When I talked to his son, Josef, he says that, "Oh, maybe about 12 days out of the year it gets so cold and everything is like frozen solid and they will throw some food out for the chickens." And then what they do is that during the harvest season, they will pick out some chicken food stuff that can be stored such as grains, and set those aside thinking about those 12 days in the winter where they will actually put a little something out for the chickens. But, let's stick with what Josef says there. Let's put a little something inside for the chickens, but we don't have to try and go out there and harvest a full years' worth. I think that few good example... One more thing that Sepp says is [laughs] this is really gross, so be prepared. If you are eating, you want to stick down your fork.
Jocelyn: Good warning.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. Here it comes. Are you ready? So Sepp says he likes to put the chickens into the pigs, and that chickens follow the pigs around, and every once in a while a pig generates a warm meal for the chickens. And I don't know if I really like that idea. I am not sure if pig manure is like the really good thing to feed chickens. I know that cow manure is...
Jocelyn: Which are herbivore and not the omnivore stuff.
Paul: Right. You know, in fact, I have read something somewhere that it is like, that actually cow pie is like one of the best things in the world to ever feed a pig. It is like the ultimate pig food. It is like loaded with a lot of the right kinds of nutrients and stuff like that for feeding to pigs and pigs love it. I don't know. I just thought it was kind of bizarre and interesting. In the mean time, I suppose chickens might kind of pick through that and stuff, but it doesn't strike me as good chicken food. I like the idea of chickens having a buffet to choose from. And so if they are presented with a bunch of other foods, and then they like to have that pig poop, well, I guess, there must be something good in there for them. Maybe Sepp must be right and Sepp is almost always right. Yeah. So back to what to plant. I like winter keeper apples. I think planting lots and lots of apple trees in your paddocks is good especially winter keepers, because a lot of times, those winter keeper apples they will stay on the tree deep into the winter and then they will fall off. So then if you rotate them through the paddock then the chickens will find these apples on the ground and then they will eat them. They will eat them, and especially, as they are starting to soften up later in the winter.
Another good one, so Sepp has got this kind of grain that he raises. It is 8 feet tall, but tall grains, grains that are tall on stock. The chickens will learn that if they push the stock over, they can get the grain to come to the ground, and then they will eat that grain. So basically it is like as long as it is up on the stock it keeps itself dry enough and it will stay up there on the stock for you know, throughout most of the winter, and then the chickens can go on there and harvest that. Another great one is Jerusalem artichokes. The chickens will scratch, and they will expose the tubers, and they will be able to peck the chunks off the tubers, and it will look like it suffered from some sort of drive-by-shooting, but it will be there. It will be fine. And then of course you got a plethora of life going on. I mean, there will be mice still active in the winter time, and the chickens will catch the mice and eat the mice. I mean, that's where they get a lot of their proteins. I mean, you know, protein is a big one. All right, so there it is. Let's say that you could still do a good paddock shift system with chickens. However, I would also... You know, another thing to keep in mind were issues involving compaction of the soil.
If you, for a lot of paddock shift systems you got to be a little bit worried about like for your ruminants or your bigger animals. If you put them out on soil that is kind of muddy, they can pack it. I don't think there is much concern with that with chickens, but you are walking out there to go get the chickens. I mean, if it is muddy and you are going the splort, splort, splort as you walk along, you are compacting your soil. And it is muddy like that, it is very sensitive, and then you can pack it down to that so that air and water will have difficulty getting in there after it dries. And so it is not a good idea to be walking around like that, wrecking your soil. So I mean, if you've got a setup so to that you know, your water is well-managed and things and there is not that kind of thing happening, I think you are going to be okay. But another thing is and Jocelyn, I got a video of this what, about a month ago where a girl was doing deep bedding. Now, deep bedding is a common thing to do. I really hate the idea of anybody have to ever clean a coop. I mean, if you done it, it is a horrible nasty work. And on top of that I really don't like the idea of any chicken at any time ever having to stay somewhere it smells as horrible as most coops get to get before people start cleaning them. And I like the idea of a portable coop.
Now, so what a lot of people do is what they refer to as deep bedding where it is like okay, so rather than cleaning the coop, they just keep throwing more and more carbon in there, and it makes like a big deep compost pile, and then it just gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and then you know, by the end of winter you might have a coop or you've got things three feet deep in there. An alternative would be that you can have a portable coop and then you make a deep bed and then move the coop. So you are not cleaning the coop, you are just moving the coop off of where it is deep bedding. With the deep bedding there is generally no smell because the carbon is so high in the soil that it absorbs all of that. So that is great. Yay!
Jocelyn: And what Monica showed us is she is felt that the evergreen boughs work better than any other carbon source.
Paul: Better than straw and better than woodchips. And so we've got a video of that and I need to cobble that video together and get it up loaded. I think that was some really good information. I liked it. All right, so I probably got over time for that one.
Jocelyn: Yeah. Well, let's go on to Cain's question. He is wondering why you keep saying you prefer to build soil inland and he would just like to understand that better.
Jocelyn: And this could be a whole other of topic too where you like bring in Helen Atthowe, right?
Paul: Yes. Yes. Helen and I were talking about that just recently but Cain is he is the guy that was out at the Permaculture Convergence last year? He had it with a blog and an awesome picture of me.
Paul: Paul Wheaton tolerates questions from the audience.
Jocelyn: Yes, and we actually had dinner with him. He is a great guy.
Paul: Once I saw that picture I thought, "Awesome!"
Jocelyn: I like that one too.
Paul: "I like this guy!" All right, so having soil... I mean, first of all you know, and I think that this is one of those issues where most people when I talk to them, they say and this is where they say that I am wrong. They say that this is errand, and this is wrong, that know it isn't so. And it would be great to make a video with probably Helen to talk about this very thing so that way we may add some validity in this position.
Jocelyn: And we should probably say Helen is an extension agent?
Paul: All right. Helen Atthowe goddess of the soil. And it is like for years she hated it when I said that and now I think she kind of hates it and kind of likes it.
Jocelyn: [Laughs] Good. Good.
Paul: So she is coming around. But 15 years ago when I did my Master Gardener training she is the girl that taught and now she has contributed to a lot of books, a lot of scientific research in agriculture. Wow, the stuff that she has done in composting is like two orders of magnitude beyond anything I have ever done. And I mean she has a laboratory set up where she has got like, she grows her own organisms for her compost and then she... Anyway, I can go on and on.
Jocelyn: Yeah, we will do a show. You should interview her for a podcast.
Paul: Yeah, I think we should probably do five or six podcasts with her.
Paul: Yeah. So anyway, all right, moving on. Well, now, hell I forget the question.
Jocelyn: From Cain and why you would prefer inland?
Paul: Oh, inland. inland all right, so...
Jocelyn: And what is inland? That is a simple question but...
Paul: All right. So normally I would be podcasting from Montana but we are on our way to a big trip. We are going to do a whole bunch of stuff, so at the moment I am in the Seattle area. And so the Seattle area is not inland. Can we call it out-land?
Jocelyn: Some people might call it that.
Paul: So we are in the Puget Sound area. And if you try to grow things here, then I mean, you are trying to build organic matter, I mean, there is issues. One is that and compared to inland like in Montana, so when I think inland, I think the other side of the cascades. Now, of course, people listening in Europe or the East Coast or where whatever I mean, you know, you still got your inlands and you got your coastal areas. And whenever you are near the coast, then your climate is you know, more moderate.
Paul: It doesn't get as cold. It doesn't get as hot. It is you know, less extreme. But here in the Seattle area they get 30 inches of rain a year and it will drop below freezing. I think the coldest I ever heard of that getting here is like 10˚.
Jocelyn: And that is very, very rare.
Paul: Very rare.
Jocelyn: We set records if we go into the teens and we may only do that a couple days of the winter. It is not...a lot of our winter can be 40˚ to 50˚.
Jocelyn: In the winter time.
Paul: So I remember something about how it used to be that it would snow once every five years and then there was a time when it snowed five times in one year, and that was like it shut the whole city down. They were just not prepared for that.
Jocelyn: Right. Not real winters in the temperate climate.
Paul: Right. And this is you know, you can have examples of this in Europe as well as the East Coast as well as I am guessing Asia. It is going to be a lot of similar kind of stuff. So inland it is going to be where it is going to be colder. So here, I am going to sort of stick with, let's talk about the Seattle area and we are going to call that Coastal-ish and then we will talk about Missoula, Montana, which is where I am working to set up shop now, and we will compare these two, and so here in the Seattle area, moister, but not that moist. I mean, Seattle gets 30 inches of rain a year, and so a lot of people kind of get this idea that it is always raining. Well, 30 inches is not that much. I mean, a rainforest, I mean, there is the Hoh rain forest that is to the west over on the peninsula, and I think it is something like 260 inches a year, so you know, 30 is not that much. And then plus East of Seattle just a little bit as you are getting towards the cascades the normals are pretty much double the rainfalls of Seattle, so 60 inches a year.
Jocelyn: Yes. Seattle is a lot of grey drizzle.
Paul: Yeah, and it is a lot of foggy days not that much rain actually.
Jocelyn: Right. It is very light rains. We don't, yeah, a lot of drizzly rains. Yeah.
Paul: And so and then at the same time still in the summer, in fact, usually, they will get, Seattle will get less rain in the summer than Missoula gets. And Missoula has about 13 inches of rain a year and it is technically mountain desert. But all right, so I am wandering off the topic. I am going to come back. The tropical areas, these areas typically have no soil. None, zero. None. So and a lot of people don't believe that. I will tell them that and it is like, "No. That is not true." "Oh, yes it is." And then what comes along drops a dooze right on the ground, and then keeps on walking. That poop is gone typically in 24 hours because there is so much microbial activity in the soil and the organic matter is in the plant life and then they are not in soil. They are in dirt. It is dirt. It is not soil, dirt. And so there is like you are almost zero organic matter in the dirt, so it is more cementy.
Jocelyn: So active. It gets used constantly.
Paul: Right. All the micro-critters there is just so many micro-critters that yeah, they are going to consume all organic matter instantly, all the organic matter. And while that is not the same here, it is close. It is closer. So now if I were to build a hugelkultur bed here in the Seattle area it would be gone about four times faster than if I were to build one in the Missoula area. So this is one reason. If you build an organic matter here even though you don't have a growing season for half of the year or more, you can't grow anything because it is too cold.
Paul: The micro-critters are still working it over and decomposing it even though you are not growing anything on it.
Jocelyn: So the freeze, the harder, colder, winters in Missoula stop that activity?
Paul: Correct. Everything goes dormant in the winter. So as long as you are not doing anything everything is on hold, and then it will wait. And if you do anything to improve your soil, that is going to last four times longer inland. Now, another great thing is cloud cover. So a lot of people in Seattle struggle with raising tomatoes and I was here for a while and I raised awesome tomatoes, but you know, I am not most people. And so, you think? So a lot of people can't seem to really get red tomatoes here and it has a lot to do with like cloud cover and you know, plus there are so many trees here, and so that people are having a hard time finding a spot to grow a garden. I mean, I see so many people and they will go, "Come and look at my garden. Come look at my garden." and it is like, "Wow! You are trying to raise a garden and you get maybe two hours of direct sunlight per day." which for some crops is okay, but not for tomatoes, and you want all this sun for tomatoes and people are struggling with that because of all the trees that are here. So there is also so much humidity in the air that there is a lot of fungus so there is a lot fungal problems. Whereas in Montana the tomato season is over when we get our first frost or our first hard frost, if you done and raise the beds you can go a little bit longer. But here in the Seattle area, the tomato season is over when they get hit by blight. You know, they usually around the end of August and all the tomatoes were wiped out by blight.
Jocelyn: So those are additional reasons you prefer inland farming or growing food. Not just soil tilth issues?
Jocelyn: So just additional issues why you prefer inland.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, and I am still going. So I mean, like I think there is a list of reasons to do with inland instead. Now, I will do, I will have the same conversation with Helen.
Paul: And now Helen is being charmed by the idea of there is a place up in British Colombia and she is thinking that she wants to move there and do stuff, and I am kind of thinking, "What? Are you nuts?" and so I think it would be great for her and I to kind of you know, hash this one out a little bit. But now, okay, I have mentioned the cloud cover and I have mentioned the soil microorganism is not going dormant in the winter. I have mentioned extra fungal issues and there is extra – oh, as we say insects, you know, different kinds of parasites and stuff like that but another great one is slugs.
Jocelyn: That is already the bane of the garden, all gardens here.
Paul: If you don't have a slug mitigation thing going on when you set up your garden, you are not going to have a garden.
Paul: I mean, it is like I talk to people and they go out and they will spend a half an hour or more every day plucking slugs where I am kind of thinking you know, I don't like touching slugs ever. Now I have. I mean we got videos of me like here is my hand full of slugs and look at how my hand is covered in slug slime.
Jocelyn: Yeah. You fed them to pigs, to chickens.
Paul: I have fed them to geese. I have fed them to ducks. I fed them. So I am out there you know getting and grappling with the slugs for the benefit of you. I do it for you people out there listening to my podcast the sacrifices I make having to watch slug slime off of my bare hands, and it takes hours until that stuff is gone.
Jocelyn: It is hard. Yeah.
Paul: Man! That is amazing. There is going to be like – somebody is going to come up with an industry where you feed slugs in and outcome some awesome product.
Paul: Because boy here in the Seattle dude they have an abundance of slugs.
Jocelyn: Yes. Yes.
Paul: So hence all the videos that I have all about that and you know what? I have like 10 times more footage I haven't uploaded yet.
Jocelyn: Yeah. The recent one about the snake habitat taught with slugs is a good one.
Paul: That was a good one.
Paul: All right. So now, I probably covered enough reasons to kind of you know, keep Cain a little bit happy for now.
Jocelyn: Yeah. I think you went through the list.
Paul: We will do more later. So we will do a whole podcast on that. All right.
Jocelyn: So we should move into your electricity experiments. And you posted about this out at Permies in the alternative energy forum?
Paul: Right. So there is a thread called ‘Making the best of electric heat'. And it is like, well I am thinking about, when I first started foolling with this probably about five or six years ago, five years ago. Five years ago, I was doing some experiments and my life is constant experimenting. I mean, I have always got at least a dozen experiments going at the same time, and so, five years ago or so I was experimenting with intentional community. I was living with like 10 other people under one roof and one of the things that we agreed to well and I don't know. I agreed to might be a strong thing, but one of the things we ended up doing collectively was that we set the temperature in the house to be 50˚. And then it was pretty much agreed that each person could have a personal could have a personal heater in their room and that they could use it for like a couple of hours. And then we ended up spending about $10 a month per person on heat.
Jocelyn: That is amazing anyway. Yeah.
Paul: Yeah, and if we wanted to warm up and which we did, we did have a little fire place and we went through less than 1 cord of wood that winter. And then I might say every two or three days, we would build a fire, and we would all gather around the fire, and people had instruments and played music, and stuff like that, and some people you know just worked. But yeah, usually, we all got together and visited a little bit around the fire every few days. So I thought that that worked out really well and there was just nothing more than a personal heater and so that was some pretty big savings there. And then I think it was the winter before this winter. I did something where I used heating pads, the heating pads that come with... Okay. So yeah, the heating pads that we use like if you've got a sports injury or back ache or whatever, and so I got a couple of those. I would put one at my feet and one under my butt and they would draw about 25 watts a piece. And then the idea was that I would heat my core instead of heating the whole room.
Jocelyn: And that reminds me of the conductive heat benefits of rocket stove mass heater. So when we took that workshop together they talked a lot about the convective heat versus radiant heat versus conductive heat, and so I am curious if that might be part of what inspired the heating pad's use.
Paul: Yes. Yes. The amount that I learned at that workshop was tremendous. I mean, you know, and maybe what a fortuitous event to go to that and they have five instructors there at the same time because they are kind of like... And now here we are and we are about to go there and we got invited, we got invited to go back because of our research in the space. This is so exciting.
Jocelyn: Your research. But so you decided to conductive heat instead of trying to heat all the air which would be called convective heat.
Paul: You are doing such a good job of keeping me on track because I will, I will so wander off into the weeds and talk about whatever pops into my head. Way to go. Yes, yes. They put all kinds of amazing stuff into my head, which then mixed with all these other things and got me to think, "Well, you know the heating that most people use in their homes is conductive heat. This is where you heat the air and then that heats you and this is by far the least efficient form of heat.
Jocelyn: Hot air rises.
Paul: Yeah, and so much richer than that too. I mean, it is so... I want to say volatile, but volatile is not really the word. It is so transitory. It is so temporary. It is... I mean, the other thing is like you would go and you open the door to your house and it is like it just pours out and then the other thing is in order for it to work effectively you need to end up basically living in a zip-lock bag and even that doesn't really work either.
Jocelyn: And there are health issues with that. Lots of health issues with that.
Paul: Oh, right.
Jocelyn: That could be a program too, but that's ...
Paul: That's a whole lot of thing.
Jocelyn: Somebody else.
Paul: I thought it was funny how we have been to houses now where they are required to have a fan that comes on every hour or so.
Jocelyn: To exchange the air.
Paul: To exchange air so you don't die in your house.
Paul: Which oh, man I will get all angered up here just thinking about it. All right so...
Jocelyn: Heating pads.
Paul: Heating pads. Oh, that kind of thing. So there is the convective heat. The most efficient is the kind where it is conductive heat and that's where some things warm like a water bottle. You have one of those water bottles that is warm or you put the boiling water and people used to go to bed and they would go to bed with a little hot water bottle and that's... So here it is. I mean, if you think about it there is not a lot of heat in that, but you hold it next to you and it warms you a lot. And so that is conductive heat, the most efficient kind of heat transfer. And then there is radiant heat and that is what we get from the sun or if we are at a campfire, and it is like if you are standing at a campfire it is like your front side gets warm, but your back side gets cold. And then you are like you know, treating yourself like a skewer as you spin in little circles warming your butt and then warming your front, warming your butt and warming your front.
Jocelyn: And there is these heat disc heaters too like the ones you buy for your shop sometimes or whatever you walk past in Costco.
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Jocelyn: That's a great idea.
Paul: That felt so warm. Yeah, and so now this is actually far more efficient than any kind of convective heat. And so the thing is that so I started doing experiments because a part of the thing is with the heat pad experiments my fingers would get cold. Now, you know I should qualify all these too because some people are going to say, "Oh, you will get yourself oh..." you know, caliced you know, and you can tolerate this cold stuff. You know and you are toughened up and that's why I want to say, "NoI know." I remember visiting you as I came to the Puget Sound area to do a bunch of stuff a while back and you went off to your day job and I stayed behind and I worked on my little web empire and the temperature in here... You have a thermometer right over there?
Paul: And it said 65˚ and it is like I was wearing three shirts and I was fully dressed and everything wearing lots of layers. And at 65˚ and my fingers were getting stiff I was going crazy with the cold. I was very uncomfortable and I was debating with myself about like, "Well, maybe I shouldn't turn the heat up because Jocelyn of course is trying to..." you know, so I ended up turning up the heat and I am thinking," All these and turn it back down before Jocelyn gets back. She will never know."
Jocelyn: No problem.
Paul: So I ended up turning up the heat. So I got it up to 70˚ in here in order to be comfortable while I am working. So the point is I am a wuss. It is got to be warm. I think a part this is just getting older. I can't...
Jocelyn: Well, I think there is interesting math thing. Well, and when you are not being active when you are sitting at a computer you are not generating a lot of body heat so it is hard to stay warm.
Jocelyn: So but I think the math is kind of interesting in that. I never would have thought the idea of a personal heater, which is still a lot of those are still convective where they blow the air, warm air at you or the idea of the little heating pads and stuff. I haven't done the math on the kilowatts and you have done a lot of the kilowatt hour math, that that's far cheaper than running a heater for the whole room or you know, the whole house. You know, the idea of heating your small space. And I think the pictures you did, the illustrations on your thread making the best of electric heat illustrate that visually, and then I think the idea of you know, you are saying 25 watts for those heating pads, the different wattage. You know I never would have thought of the math behind that.
Paul: Right and of course I am a little math crazy, although anything beyond algebra is not my strong suit. But algebra, I live and breathe algebra like all day long every day. Word problems come and go by the minute and of course, a lot of that comes from my background with software engineering that I did years ago and that it is like I just have to say this. One of my proudest moments is when I worked at Digital Globe and we did an algorithm to determine the number of square kilometers in a polygon with respect to the curvature of the earth. I came up with the algorithm in 10 minutes and it replaced an algorithm that took a team of people a week to develop, and my algorithm was used for years and might still be in use today. I am not sure and these are the images that I currently use in Google Maps, the satellite imagery, or the Google Earth stuff. But I am not sure if it is still being used or not. That was so long ago. That was in 1999 or so.
Jocelyn: So you are a geek. Thank you.
Paul: So I am a math geek. There you go. So I am crazy about the math and I am doing math on everything all the time. And then a lot of people could doubt a lot of stuff I say, but the bottom line is that right now based on you know, getting the power bill from you know. It says okay, a year ago the person in that house used this much power and then now this month you used this much power. And so when you run the math I have so far cut the heating bill by 80% and I have got all the numbers up on that thread. Then of course I do. I looked at the map with the experiment from five years ago and we are getting it down to that $10 per person. I mean, we are living in a community. Everything is going to be way cheaper when you do anything community-wise, community-esque and so there was that...
Jocelyn: Heating one house for 10 people is much more cost effective than heating one house for one or two people.
Jocelyn: Right there. Just right there.
Jocelyn: That is much more cost effective.
Paul: So when people start talking about you know their footprint and you know I don't even think you should talk about carbon footprints so much. A lot of people are very concerned about that. I kind of think about like energy footprint or even just expenses, just money. You know, and I owe so much of all the carbon issues and all the energy issues and all the pollution issues are tied up in dollars. How much does it cost? If you just focus on saving money, 90% of the time that is the thing.
Jocelyn: Well, and a part of what inspired this you said is a lot of debates about compact fluorescent light bulb versus incandescent. Well, and really what you inspired me to do two years ago was instead of changing out my light bulbs was to stop using my dryer. I mean, if you just think about the energy use of a dryer compared to lights and the dishwasher. So I started washing dishes by hand which just saved water and electricity and I started hang drying most of my clothes and that cut 40% of my power bill right there, and that is without any of these other heat experiments where you are heating the person instead of the whole room or the whole house. So that is a bunch of different topics related to your heat experiments.
Paul: Right. So I have got all kinds of stuff that I advocated for people to save energy a lot of which people you know, so many people they say "It is not true. This guy is stupid." I mean, I got, boy, you know, you are talking about an army of people who hate my guts. Where do they come from? I don't know, but the bottom line is like, "Okay. Well, let's compare power bills." and you know, so the power company continues to send stuff out saying the best way to save power is a fluorescent light bulb and I am sorry. No. if I were to switch all of my lights over to fluorescent in my home right now the potential savings if what they even say is true, I might save a dollar per month. Now, the big thing is that the incandescent light bulb at the beginning of next year, 2012, the incandescent light bulb, the ones that I use in my home will no longer be available for sale. So the ban doesn't specifically ban those light bulbs, they ban light bulbs that they came to be inefficient. In the mean time they don't ban the Hummer. You know, you can still buy Humvee, you know, it gets really awful mileage but it is like they are saying, "Oh, it is just like cars." you know, how that kind of thing, you know, car manufacturers have to be this efficient or whatever and it is kind of like, "No. It is not just like... They are banning it." and it is like, "No, this is the incandescent light bulb puts out. Well, you know, what? We could probably dedicate five shows to just me ranting about incandescent versus fluorescent. Let's get back to talking about the heat.
Jocelyn: Which is a significant portion of anybody's power bill. Except people who use wood heat.
Paul: Right, right. I mean, when you look at the stuff.
Paul: There is all these charts and graphs and reports and stuff from you know, the department of energy and all these government offices where they are talking about here is how much, here is the average usage for a home in the United States for power. So they are leaving out the factories and all other sorts of things. So let's just focus on the homes and it is like in the homes I believe 30% is for heat. And so I want to talk about all the other percentages, but it is like running out of time and I am thinking, "Okay. I want to just focus on the heat. Just focus on the heat." All right so 30% is for electrical heat. Now, granted there is a lot of people out there that are you know, heating their homes with gas or oil or wood or whatever. You know, corncobs or maybe they dried up little gibles and use to heat their home. You know, there is all kinds of ways that a person could, a solar, a solar is great way.
Paul: There are lots of different ways that people can heat their home. But the mean time, 30% of the power that is used in American households is used to heat their homes. And so that means that for a lot of folks, where electric heat is the only kind of heat that they have and they live in a cold climate like Montana that it is possible for the entire year probably 60% to 70% of their entire electric bill is just for heat.
Paul: For those people. And then of course other people 0% of their electric bill is for heat because they heat their homes with something else.
Paul: All right.
Jocelyn: And it is a higher percentage for you because you don't cook.
Paul: I can fry an egg and I do. I have fried an egg or two in my day.
Paul: And I can fry a steak, I can fry burgers. They don't taste very good. They are acceptable.
Jocelyn: It's okay.
Paul: When you put enough ketchup on anything. But the good thing it is not my forte to be sure.
Jocelyn: Yeah, so you are not using a lot of your electric stove so...
Paul: I am fortunate that people invite me out to dinner, "Hey, come out to my house and have dinner." Okay, and then I get a proper meal. So the key is that rather than heating the whole house to heat just myself and I mean so that one I think is pretty easy to understand. But you know I think a lot of people when I explain this, they talk about all kinds of scenarios where it won't work and it is true and it is not true. And so the first thing to do is in order for people to be able to understand a lot of these is to just say, "And then I did it." so it is not like I am toughened it up to 50˚ because that is what I did. So I will set the temperature in the house to be 50˚. And now if I set the temperature in my house to be 50˚, and not 70˚, and I didn't bother to try and heat myself that alone would probably eliminate 95% of the heating bill. And I have got some charts on Permies that try to explain this and that kind of thing, but I won't go to a lot of detail now. And then the next thing came and I'm like, "Okay. How do I efficiently heat just myself?" Now when I was doing the personal heaters and I am talking about you know, in a large room then the problem with personal heaters is you put down your feet, and then your feet and your legs get too hot, and then your hands and you head are still too cold, until you have been running it long enough that it ends up just heating the whole room.
Paul: And that is not a really great solution, but it is a solution on the right path. I mean, if nothing else, other rooms in the house are not heated. So I then turned to... and plus on top of that this is a heater, this was a personal heater that heats the air and I believe the setting, the low setting that it has was 800 watts. Most of those heaters are 1500 watts and what a lot of people will do is like they will just turn the heater on to heat all the air in the room and then it is like you really haven't saved anything. The idea is to heat yourself instead of the room. So I turned it out to 700 watts and tried to just heat myself. I tried all kinds of things. I tried and channeled the hot air to go up my legs up in my chest and then up to my face and that's like you know, I had relative success and some not success. It is a mix of bag. But 800 watts, that is still a lot of juice that is a lot of power and that adds up. So I started to explore alternatives and that is where I wanted the heating pads at first, the idea of being is that if I heat my core and with a good circulation, then I will be able to be comfortable. And so by heating my feet and heating my butt, I was able to get at the point where if my room was at 57˚ or so I could be comfortable but it is like my hands would become uncomfortable. They would get stiff. You know, I am doing all these keyboard work and mouse work and stuff like that and I would begin to get uncomfortable. So I started to experiment with ways to keep my hands warm and the great breakthrough was these reptile heaters. And so basically they screw in to a light socket and they have a heating element and it is probably a lot like the heating element that is in a light bulb only they are covered in ceramics, so it gives off no light and I put those into a desk lamp and then pointed them at the keyboard.
Jocelyn: Which is radiant heat.
Paul: So that would, that was radiant heat so it would, it is shining heat on me but it is totally invisible.
Paul: And that worked really well. Now, each one of these reptile heater. I have two of them set up over my keyboard. Well, one was more over the keyboard and one was kind of more over the mouse and each one with 60 watts so that is 120 watts. The problem with the heating pads was that they had a timer built in so they would only stay on for two hours. And so about every two hours suddenly, I started to feel cold and I realized the heating pads are probably been off for like 5 minutes and I have to turn them back on. It would take a couple minutes until I felt warm again.
Paul: And so that wasn't really. You know, well I learned a lot from using the heating pads it wasn't a good long term solution. For this one, I switched over to a dog bed heater for my feet and i hooked up a kilowatt to that that uses 15 watts. And then I used, I tried using like a car seat heater and that worked for a couple of months before it died, but it was like so cheap I kind of wondered, "How could it be so cheap?" and then it turns out, "Oh, there is a reason why it is so cheap." because it is crap and it died. But then I also found out that rather than using the chair heater that if I just had a chair that was well-padded because I had two office chairs; one that was really well padded and one that had like one of those meshy backs and if I just stuck with the one that was well-padded and I know I provided like lots and lots of insulation and it wasn't as much of an issue really.
Jocelyn: So it is amazing the details you get into when you get into these experiments you know, down to the... But you know, adding up the watts of the radiant heater and the heating pads even if you know when you have multiple of those and you even had another little disc heater thing, even when you got four or five of these little contraptions it is still less watts than a typical personal heater, right?
Paul: Right. When you are talking... So I did the thing with the reptile heaters so that is 60 watts a piece and 120 for those plus the dog bed which was 15 watts. And I had a light bulb, an incandescent light bulb over my head providing radiant heat and it was a 100 watts, so 220 and 15, 235.
Jocelyn: Yeah. Well, we are almost at the end of our hour, but the other math that you confirmed with someone else I know you had a discussion with someone about you know, a lot of people have programmable thermostats and the recommendations from the power company is okay at night put it down to 50˚ and then at the day bring it up to back up at 70˚.
Paul: Hold that thought. Hold that thought.
Paul: I want to wrap up with what I ended up because...
Paul: Because you are right. We went from 800 watts to about 235 watts.
Paul: And then I optimized it further.
Paul: So I got it down to about 80.
Paul: And what I did was, is that I replaced the reptile heaters with a heated keyboard which uses about 25 watts.
Paul: And a heated mouse which uses about 2 ½ watts.
Paul: So that was a big cut there and then I optimized my light bulb. I switched out the 100 watt light bulb and replaced it with a 40 watt light bulb and I moved it closer. Now, it looks crazy at my house where I sit and work. It looks really silly, but on the other hand I am thinking that in the long run, I mean, now I have done this work. You know, and hopefully and when I get my February bill I might save 90% of my heating bill. And I would like to think that somebody is going to come out with an invention that doesn't look nutty or I know some people are just getting used to it and I should probably take picture of it. Or maybe put somebody more attractive than me in my chair and then take a picture of that. But then show how it works. But I got it down to about 80 watts, so a dog bed heater, a light bulb, a heated keyboard, a heated mouse. I am pretty sure that is it, those four things. And on top of that, I have many times like where I sit, where my desk is right next to a window, and while the thermostat is set to 50, it is like about 10 to 12 feet behind me next to an interior wall where you know things stay a little bit warmer, where it was just cold or where I am at and so I got a thermometer right there at my desk. And I have had many, many days where it was 40˚ in the house at my desk I am using 80 watts of personal heaters approximately 80 watts of personal heaters and I am perfectly comfortable because I am heating me instead of the whole house. And I have had a few days where it was 37˚ just a little bit above freezing in my house right there next to that window and now I got to say that almost 37˚, the 80 watts wasn't cutting it, and I ended up turning on the reptile heaters in addition to the heated keyboard and mouse in order to keep my fingers, and my face warm. And so I started to feel my nose, my nose started to get cold, and then it started to get cold enough that it would become distracting. Like I couldn't really focus on my work because I was getting distracted and of course, my fingers, they will get stiff. So what was your point?
Jocelyn: Now, I was just going to bring in that I think most people have the recommendation that they are supposed to turn heat down at night and turn it back up during the day but there is...
Paul: Right. I talked about that in that thread.
Paul: And so basically that does give you savings, but not as much savings as you think.
Paul: And I made some graphs to make my point that kind of goes like this; when you turn your heat up the morning it is like, "Okay. Now, when I get out of bed I want to set up this automated thing and it is going to put the heat on to 70˚ in the morning so you know I can do all my stuff in the morning." You pretty much lost all your savings right there because now the heater is going to come on and then the heater has to work, work, work for like you know 20 minutes to warm the place up enough.
Paul: As opposed to like you know to just keep the place warm throughout the night it might have come on for you know, 25 minutes throughout the night.
Paul: So by doing this, you would think like, "Oh, well. I am not heating the house 90% of the time so I want to cut my bill by 90%." and it is like, "Well, no. You actually end up cutting your bill like maybe 15% or 20% because you are not heating it for like a lot of the night, but then you are like heating it a whole bunch in the morning."
Jocelyn: So the changes, the energy changes are energy intensive to create whereas maintaining a temperature would be much more energy efficient sort of?
Paul: I mean, the return on investment is good.
Paul: You know, but you know, of course no one is really around to appreciate the warmer air.
Paul: What would be better would be to set the whole. In fact, I think you can save a lot more money if you just turn the thermostat down to 65˚ and then had ways to heat yourself personally. So it is like I don't want to go out into the bathroom and it is all cold. Well, if you have like one of those little heat lamps in there, then you know for 20 minutes or so that you might be there then it will warm up that room for that little bit of use. That would be advantageous. I mean, and you know what, this is a whole area where it is really squishy and riddled to the gills with it depends and there is not a real clear easy win here for that stuff. But it is like the savings are not that big.
Jocelyn: Well, just the idea of switching from heating the air you know, which is the least efficient to heating a person. And then looking at larger savings instead of piddly savings like with the light bulbs and then plus you know, you go into that a lot more too with an article about compact fluorescent so that is a whole lot topic. But it is amazing when you just shift your thinking a little bit.
Paul: Right. Now, a lot of people who have already read that stuff – I mean, there was a lot of comments already in that thread and there is a lot of holes to poke in. Like one person was saying, "Oh, I have three kids and you know this doesn't heat my kids." And I was like, "Yeah, yeah. I get that." on the other hand you know, now there is a lot of people where – And this is like I found myself in the situation where I happened to be in our house for a little while for one winter where it is only electric heat and I would like to conduct these tests and prove some points that I needed to prove. However, you know, with this knowledge and you know, now we can start transitioning into a lot of different areas where it was like, "Okay. How can we save more heat from them people?" frankly, I think it would be get away from electric heat. Sure it seems like really clean heat, but all the pollution is far, far away. I think you know as we examine as closer we should move more towards rocket mass heaters and wofati type stuff, the annualized thermal inertia stuff.
Jocelyn: Right, that in a whole bigger space. And even here in the North West I thought we have fairly clean electricity and I found out that wasn't the case pretty much, yeah.
Paul: I used to work for the Northwest Power Plant Council and it is kind of like when you talk about hydro because here in the Pacific North West it is mostly hydro and how clean it gets.
Jocelyn: Only 40%. It is actually only 40%
Jocelyn: I thought it was a lot higher than that but yeah.
Paul: But even a hydro. I mean, they almost eliminated certain fish species and there are areas where there is usually fish and there is no fish at all, because there is a dam there and the fish can't get back up. None. None. And then so with that whole impact, I mean, right now there are 20 times less fish in rivers and streams than there were 100 years ago, 20 times. I mean, that just seems really wrong. The other thing is silt building up behind all the dams and they are like it is going to totally plug the dam. It is going to totally stop working unless we, so now it is like we are going to have this silt mitigation effort in order to be able to just...
Jocelyn: Yeah, you are talking about energy intensive.
Paul: Yeah. Well, man, that is interesting. How are they are going to fix that? I mean, the Columbia rivers is so massive. How are they going to remove that much silt? I mean you get your biggest I don't know traco out there with the biggest bucket possible. It looks like just a teeny tiny little spec and then the water coming by is so massive. How are they going to do this? So all right, hey look at that we did more than an hour.
Jocelyn: We did and put a lot of things awesome to discuss later.
Paul: Oh, geez! I think just on this topic of the heating of just my experiment I think that there is like five times more to convey with just heat than what I have conveyed during this podcast. Maybe people will post more questions for the podcast in the tinkering forum and that one thread that you started where it is saying ‘What questions do you have for Paul?" and then we could do another show on that. Now, I want to talk just a little bit and I know we are running over time, but it doesn't really matter anyway. We are about to go on one of our expeditions that we have done before. And so for my video collection you have appeared in a lot of these videos because I am holding the camera and you are there, and we are doing another one, and that is the big event this week. We are going to, we are in the Seattle area now and we are going to head south. We are going to stop and see Rick Valley at Lost Valley Educational Center.
Paul: And I have got like eight different things I want to talk to him about.
Jocelyn: Only eight?
Paul: That I can think of right now. I am sure when I am there I would come up with you know, a dozen more. And then the big one, the highlight of the whole trip is that we are going to be, we have been invited to the rocket mass heater Researcher's Gathering.
Jocelyn: And it is more than that. They are going to talk a lot about cob masonry heaters as well this time around at Cob Cottage Company also known as Cobville.
Paul: Which is right next towards the Homestead another eco village that we got lots of video footage of.
Paul: And I am sure they are doing tons of more stuff. I just can't help but think that it is like a video fiesta. I need to buy more batteries or something. You know, there is just enough, the amount of time we are going to be there is so short there is just no way to record. I mean, I will get enough footage for videos for the next year just on our one visit. There are so many things that are going on.
Jocelyn: Well, we are going to dash out and visit a couple other people on our way too.
Paul: And then we are going to see Larry Korn who was an intern for Masanobu Fukuoka.
Jocelyn: He translated One-Straw.
Paul: The One-Straw Revolution, he did the translation and plus he is a permaculture instructor and he just has lots of knowledge, and man, what a zen guy.
Paul: It is like boy, you just feel peaceful talking to him and he has got so much knowledge. And then we are also going to go down and visit a farm in the very northern edge of California. And so one of our Permies users, Marina has a farm and she's posted several things and pictures about what she is doing.
Jocelyn: Amazing stuff.
Paul: So she has got a Holzer like pig structure that she has built and I want to get pictures and video of that. She's got a Rocket Mass Heater which she is doing hot water stuff with. I think a good video to get at the rocket mass heater Gathering is "Why do we not want to touch hot water". It is very dangerous. Lots of opportunity to die and blow up. Steam is a powerful element, so don't make anything contained. But Marina did a very simple thing that eliminates all of that danger and she is able to fill her bathtub with hot water using a rocket mass heater. And she's got so much other stuff going on there.
Paul: On the way back hopefully, I just sent out an email this morning, it is possible we might be able to spend some time with Jacqueline Freeman who is in several of my videos and the most important one being the colony collapse disorder video.
Jocelyn: Yeah, Jacqueline and Joseph are awesome people too.
Paul: Oh yeah. And I just love staying at there farm because they got into so much trouble to make it not just a beautiful place, but my kind of beautiful. A lot of people you go to is just froufrou fancy, but to me it is a kind of beauty that resonates well with me and I really like going there.
Paul: Hopefully they will have us.
Jocelyn: Yeah, we just asked this morning. They are on the road, and we may run out of time too. We are packing a lot into four days.
Paul: Yeah, this is going to be a super trip.
Jocelyn: That is intense.
Paul: Alright, so, anything else.
Jocelyn: That's as much as we can pack in this morning I think.
Paul: Yeah, we are already over an hour. There! Number one!
Paul: Sweet! Alright. If you like this sort of things come on out at the forums at Permies.com where we talk about energy conservation, homesteading and Permaculture all the time.
1. What did you do differently than everyone else in Seattle for your tomatoes? Seeing as you had the same sun light issue that everyone else did.
2. Regarding your experiments, is there a list of what you want to do and do list everything in detail for others so that they can see if they get similar results (that whole scientific method)?
Comment: When you were talking about slugs you changed your voice and sounded like Rumpelstiltskin from Shrek Forever After...made me chuckle. I have two kids. 4 and 5 so I unfortunately know these things.
I have listened to several of your more recent podcasts and the first 4 that you made and they are very conversational which I like.
E Little wrote:
1. What did you do differently than everyone else in Seattle for your tomatoes? Seeing as you had the same sun light issue that everyone else did.
First, I picked a spot that had all day sun. Second, hugelkultur.
Regarding your experiments, is there a list of what you want to do and do list everything in detail for others so that they can see if they get similar results (that whole scientific method)?
I do lots of experiments and report my findings. One of the earliest stages of science is trial and error.
I will move my thoughts over to the project area regarding this so I don't hijack this thread.
two things, if you sit in a normal padded office chair, it's super-not-ergonomic. You want a flat surface that's hard enough you get sensory feedback through your bones. It can be padded. maybe fold a wool blanket over and sit on that, but not so much you can't feel the hard surface through the padding. Mesh is super-not-helpful, you don't get feedback from that. "Ergonomic" chairs are generally a much worse situation than good old-fashioned chairs.
Second thing, is there a good way to heat the air locally for someone who has asthma that might be triggered by cold air (she believes it to be anyway)? Radiant heat specifically isn't heating the air, right? maybe it's not really true that cold air causes asthma, we could get into a debate about that, but assuming it did, or that it's just uncomfortable to be breathing cold air, is there a way to heat air in a very localized area?
Thanks again for the post.
Also, the thing about clothes lasting 10x longer if you air-dry vs. dryer-dry, along with %40 power savings, really convinced me to make this change. Thanks for coming up with specific numbers and doing so much diligetn measurement. I'm going to do it by putting my wet clothes directly onto hangers, so I save myself a step. Hang them up on the clothes line.