Mid-winter update

Many people (well, like seven) ask me, “Why aren’t you posting to Cold House anymore?  Is it because you died of exposure?”   Well, no, we’re fine here.  To tell you the truth, there just isn’t that much to report, because (a) we had a record-warm December, (b) we had our second-latest-ever first snowfall, and mainly (c) there’s that central heating thing now…

But you might be curious– how HAS that central heating thing affected the Cold House lifestyle?  Well, I have to admit, it is nice to come downstairs in the morning and find that the kitchen is 56º instead of, say, 46º.  And it’s also nice to come home to a similar temperature at the end of the work day, instead of waiting an hour for the wood stove to get in gear.  But, we’re still using the wood.  In fact, the two systems are living in reasonably good harmony.  The main zone thermostat is about 8 feet from the wood stove, so as soon as it’s putting out any heat, the gas boiler knows to shut down, and the wood takes over.  And we’re still using other conservation strategies learned during the Cold Years, such as keeping the spare rooms closed off and generally unheated (the guest room is on a separate zone, set to 40º, and the office radiator is turned off.)

So what are the numbers?  So far this winter (since October 31, when I turned on the datalogger) the living room / kitchen area has averaged 56.9ºF.  That’s only 2.5º warmer than this time last year, which is a smaller increase than I’d have predicted.  Much credit is due to the other resident of the house for her restraint with the thermostat! (Not that there haven’t been a few tussles!)  Standard deviation = 4.5º.  The lowest temp so far was 46.7º.  The high was 68.8º.  Here’s the temperature graph so far:


In terms of fuel usage… we’ve burned 5,900 cu. ft. of natural gas.  Which sounds like a lot (I’m picturing a rather large swimming pool), but amounts to only about $100 worth (not counting the $20 monthly “utility fee” from the gas company.)  And of course we’ve used some wood, but it’s harder to gauge– maybe half a cord, maybe less.  But unlike past winters, we’ve had absolutely no electric space heater use, so that’s helping keep the electric use down.

Speaking of which, the solar panels are still cooking along.  I’ve been pleased that they seem to clear themselves of snow pretty quickly, just one or two sunny days after a storm.  Overall they’re producing a bit more than I expected, and we’ve been using less than in past years– so there’s a slight chance we might come out at net-zero for electric use for the year.  But won’t know that until we get to their one-year anniversary in mid-April.  Stay tuned!

Stay warm, wherever you are!  (Especially in Slovakia!)

10 Responses to “Mid-winter update”

  1. Kathy Says:

    56 degrees is much better to come home to after work. It’s nice to hear things are improving for you.

  2. kudos Says:

    oh yes ive been waiting all winter for this

  3. alissakat Says:

    When you posted announcing the end of Cold House I felt so bereft. I loved seeing your post in my inbox and reading them was a few minutes of simple enjoyment. Like I would wait till everyone in the house was asleep so I could read uninterrupted. I did not want to relate this when you went central because you can live any way you want and not be beholden to freeze your ass off just to amuse us Cold House followers.
    I must say it was nice to see an update though! Thank you! And stay warm…or should I say…lukewarm?

  4. coldhousejournal Says:

    “Gone central”– ha ha. Like Dylan at Newport. I realize many fans were disappointed!

  5. blueiso Says:

    Hi there, I just stumbled on your blog looking if it was possible to die asleep from cold, not because of the cold house project, but because I often hike in cold weather with extreme sleep deprivation. I once was coming back to my car, 5 miles to go, at the point of shivering, walking was barely keeping me hot enough. But because I haven’t slept in 50 hours, I was literally falling asleep standing up and would stop walking or continue walking slowly and fall on the side of the road. I really wanted to sleep, but was afraid I could die from hypothermia. Would there be a chance of dying this way? I’ve been napping in my car during those hikes without sleeping bag, starting with a hot car, but turning the engine off and using the cold (under 0F) to wake me up, but I wasn’t that sleep deprived. By the way, we don’t heat our home too, in Montreal, but since we live in a 6 story building, it rarely gets under 50F. I don’t even know why we do it, it’s been four years, it was an experiment and now we got used to it.

    • coldhousejournal Says:

      Well, I’ve maintained, and am still convinced, that under normal conditions there is no chance that a person can go to sleep in a warm state, then get so cold in sleep that he dies, without first waking up and saying, “Gosh, I’m so cold…” In an otherwise healthy situation, the body simply isn’t going to let you die of cold in your sleep without first waking you up to give you a chance to do something about it.

      But you are not describing “normal” conditions. 50 hours of sleep deprivation is getting towards extreme. At some point your body might decide it needs sleep more than it needs warmth, regardless of the risk. Similarly, if you fall asleep or fall unconscious while you’re already hypothermic (which is, of course, a late stage of hypothermia) then yes, there’s a good chance of never waking up.

      Maybe living in that unheated house gives you an edge for these extreme winter hikes you’re doing! But be careful out there. And disclaimer: I’m not a hypothermia expert, so don’t stake your life on my opinions here!

      • blueiso Says:

        Only way to know safely would be to test in a controlled situation! Although, knowing this, I would sleep a lot more often and let myself get woken up by cold, which would avoid the extreme sleep deprivation in the first place. A 20 min based polyphasic sleep would be the natural way to go. I’ve never been close to advanced hypothermia, although I’d be weary of the extremities. They can freeze before the body will start to shiver.

        With Raynaud’s syndrome it’s even worse, I guess I could get frostbite before the body wakes me up from cold, but then I’d sleep with hands tucked directly on the skin. Or maybe Raynaud would not happen while sleeping. I’ve tried treating it at my gym by going in a cold bath (54F) and putting hands in hot water, to teach the body to release vessels. It seems to help if I do it regularly.

        I don’t think living in cold really helps, I simply dress and move more. I came back from China recently and even northern parts, most people don’t have heat, air conditioning or house isolation. It was pretty cold. Maybe this helps with obesity, fighting heat or cold, haven’t seen a single obese person over there.

        I’m rambling about cold and experiments, but I thought it’s appropriate on your journal 🙂 Let me know if you have thoughts about these things.

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply!

  6. GirlInTheWoods Says:

    I live in an unheated cabin in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec (Canada), not far North of Montreal, but at a fairly/relatively high elevation. I heat one very small room for my pet budgies (they consider it their cage as they fly around free in that room), and keep the water there in bottles in the winter. It is a 100 yrs old cabin, built as a hunting cabin for spring/fall, it is un-insulated, so heating is pointless, but I will occasionally plug in a space heater and sit in front of it, mostly for moral, it doesn’t heat enough to matter. I do have an electric mattress cover for the bedroom, which is the attic, and has a makeshift (aka: broken) window, that I cover with 10-mill-plastic in the fall to at least slow down the wind. Up to (or down to, if you prefer) -10C/14F I can sleep fine like that. I wear a hat, multi-clothing layers, and lots of blankets on, of course, but it works. Colder than that becomes painful.

    The air is so clear and clean that I have healed from multiple chronic conditions since moving there. Including no longer having asthma. I know it is (and sounds) crazy to live like this, but somehow it felt less isolated when I read your blog. I am posting so that someone else can read this and see that although their life may not be what they see in the media, it is still “ok” to be who they are. There is a great deal more variety than we realize, and it helps to know that.

  7. Frank Says:

    I came across your blog, because I currently live in a boat without heater in the middle of winter. I feel much better living in cold, and I am losing a lot of kg as well. And most important I don’t get sick, most of ppl in my university are dropping ill all the time, but I can stay near them without any symptom. My boat has an average of 7-degree, but I have been living with 3 degree as well. The only problem is the muscular and bone pain and the frostbites to my hand when I write to the computer. If you have some question you can reach me out at: f.coz@outlook.it .



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