There has been a lot of talk/criticism/snickering from various quarters along this basic theme: “Those guys aren’t doing anything special at all. Sure, they don’t have a furnace– but they’re using space heaters and an electric blanket, which is not “no heat”. In fact, they’re probably using even more energy than if they just ran a furnace. They are moroons [sic]. They should shut up and not force me to read about their lives anymore.”
In response, I’d first like to clarify that we never said we have “no heat”– we say we have no furnace, which is true, and we say we keep a cold house (by any usual standard), which is also true. But to have NO heat would mean not only no space heaters, but also no light bulbs, no cooking, no listening to the radio, no computer (!), no vacuum cleaner– basically, no appliance use at all, because they all produce heat. Also the cats would have to wear some sort of feline astronaut suits to ensure that they didn’t heat up the house with their body warmth. All of this is a bit silly.
So, we do have heat, and some of it we make intentionally for no other purpose other than getting warmth. But how much is that, in comparison to “normal people”? Well, here’s some perspective: Using information found here, I calculated that a house like ours would normally have a furnace capable of putting out somewhere between 88,000 – 96,000 BTU per hour (at the Old Cold House, the furnace could pump out about 105,000 BTU/hour.) In comparison, our electric blanket on “high” puts out 614 BTU/hr, and on low, 122. Our space heaters, if running full-tilt, can each put out 1,690 BTU/hr. The most intense heat we’ve ever produced in the house, thus far, has been running two space heaters on “high” simultaneously– this is a rare maneuver, but even so, it only totals 10,240 BTU/hr. Lastly, the (small) wood stove we’re putting in, a Jotul F3, has a capability of running (full blast) at 42,000 BTU/hr, or about half that of the usual furnace– which now seems like an enormous excess of heat to me, but you really can’t get stoves much smaller. In case this is all hard to grasp, here’s a chart of the different heat-producing abilities: