The way this all started, at the previous Cold House, was that I decided to seal off the kitchen / sofa room– a space of about 150 sq ft– as a “thermal bunker”, and  just kind of live in there for the winter.  It worked well.  At the New Cold House, we have tried to do the same, closing off (unheated) guest rooms and isolating the upstairs with quilted barriers in the doorways.  But the floor plan here is a bit more open, and the new “bunker” is now more like 375 sq ft.  Not quite the same cozy feeling.

Anyway, all along I’ve been fantasizing about having a micro-space that could be quickly and ultra-efficiently heated to high temperatures.  The idea is someplace to go that just warms your body, without having to warm much of the house.  This would be great on those occasions when you’re just getting a little too cold, starting to shiver, can’t quite reclaim normothermia– to get warm, fast, without starting a fire and warming the whole bunker.  It would, in other words, be a super-bunker.

Or, in other other words: a sauna.  Or something like it.  There are lots of places we could build one, theoretically, but given my level of expertise in finish (Finnish?) carpentry, the cellar is the logical answer: even bare 2×4’s and plywood would improve the general aesthetics of this cellar.  I would build it out of rough stud walls with heavy insulation and cedar paneling on the inside.  It would be about 15 sq ft (100 cu ft) and would only need a tiny sauna heater, say 3kW.  I think it would be capable of reaching 170ºF in about 10 minutes, using about 6¢ of electricity.  And with a craftily-designed  adjustable vent system, at least at least a good part of the cellar-sauna heat could wind up in the bunker after use.

Has anyone built such a thing, or something similar?


9 Responses to “Sauna?”

  1. girltuesday Says:

    no, but i will come help you use it. does that count?

  2. Dani Says:

    You can do this without building anything if you have a bathroom with a door on it , and a milkhouse space heater (retails at Walmart for around $20.00.)
    Every evening when I shower, I turn on the space heater, and by the time I am done – I am warm , clean, dry, and ready for a good nights sleep – the residual heat goes to my bedroom when the door is opened.
    I don’t think it is a good idea to warm up a lot and then go back to a cold space to spend the majority of your time. That might cause you to become chilled, and make the coldhouse experience even more miserable.

  3. coldhousejournal Says:

    “I don’t think it is a good idea to warm up a lot and then go back to a cold space”

    Oh, several centuries worth of Scandinavians will disagree with you… the usual procedure is to heat up in the sauna, then roll in the snow (or dive through a hole in the ice into an icy lake) then repeat.

  4. coldhousejournal Says:

    “if you have a bathroom…” I feel that a bathroom is less than ideal for what I have in mind. Thermally, it has too many heat sinks– like, the sink. And the tub, the toilet, the toilet tank water, the tile walls… I want a little space that will get to the hottest possible temperature in the shortest possible time with the least possible energy. Also, I want cedar-paneled walls and a comfy built-in bench, and I don’t want to be kicked out of it if someone else needs to use the toilet : ) But as a trial experiment I’m going to see what a 1.5kW space heater will do for 15 minutes in our little bathroom.

  5. Kevin Says:

    I’ve built a 7′ cube from slotted angle iron around my bed. This is about 343 sq.ft. of space. I enclosed it with a military-surplus parachute and some drapes. A small electric convection heater, intermittently run, easily maintains a temperature differential of 40 degrees.

    I set this up in about 1 hour. In addition to the slotted angle iron, which I salvaged from shelving units, to better support the fabric, I also used fiberglass tent poles to create a ceiling dome.

    I use this space to read or work on my computer as I have a pivoting swing-table within the enclosure. Its very comfortable, and economical to heat as compared to the total volume of my drafty old Victorian house. I haven’t turned on the house’s hydronic boiler system for years now. I use the money I save to vacation at the beach for a few weeks in Central America during the winter. I’d also like to mention how nice it is to control the ambient light and some of the psychological benefits the enclosure provides.

    I used to live in a factory loft and found setting up a camping tent to be quite comfortable sleeping quarters. I’ve resesrched this old concept of a bed enclosure and found many contempory examples.

    In the future, I plan to reduce the dimentional height and build a raised 7 ft. sq. platform on which I’ll directly attach 5 ft, angle irons to the corners. I’d like the structure to evoke more of a combined quality of a piece of furniture, Japanese tea-house, with space probe/insect leg like support legs.

  6. Kevin Says:

    Dear Coldhousejournal,

    Thank you for your interest and encouragement.

    I plan to take some photos soon. As for some strange reason, some friends are taking an interest in staying warm and are also inquiring. I do have some illustrations I made with the “Paint” program, but I’m not computer savvy enough to know how to send images other than as an attachment to emails.
    So, very sorry, nothing is posted.

    The general enclosure concept and design is open to many interpretations and construction techniques. A wood construction with plastic sheeting applied to each side would be more efficient. However, I preferred the aesthetic of the fabric; even going so far as to find a couple of vintage silk parachutes. The choice of slotted-angle iron is a combination of my own peculiar taste and simple laziness. This bolted together just like a large Erector-set project. I leave it standing all year, but it wouldn’t be difficult to disassemble in celebration of the Vernal Equinox. I’ve designed some alternate pod shapes and support structures, but time is limited and there are those “other priorities”. So, like so many of my thoughts and plans, they remain on paper.

    Best Wishes,

  7. coldhousejournal Says:

    Kevin, if you’d like to share your illustrations/photos and don’t have your own web space, I’d be happy to post them here– just send over as email attachment to coldhousejournal@gmail

  8. sara Says:

    Wow, I had no idea that could be so efficient, I figured turning any room that hot must be a huge energy waster. That bathroom heater idea is common here – almost all bathrooms have one little blower heater on the wall for the winter. By the time you’re done with a shower, it’s quite warm in there.

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