Archive for the ‘General updates’ Category

Just Keepin’ On

February 22, 2013

Not much news here at the Cold House.  Apart from the blizzard (which I refuse to call “Nemo”) it’s been a fairly average winter, weather-wise.  I’ve settled into a routine of small fires in the eves, none in the morning, the usual.  With the sun inching higher each day it has become worthwhile opening the blinds on the south side of the house in the morning and closing them at night.  A couple times already the house has been a few degrees warmer when I get home from work than it was when I left– a sure sign that winter’s grip has been broken.  The downstairs overall-average temp since October has settled right around 52.0°F (11°C), and it’s unlikely to budge much from there for the rest of the season.

One new activity I’ve been enjoying this winter is riding my bike on a trainer.  I put it in the living room, where I can watch inspirational bike videos on the TV and crank up the music.  At normal indoor temperatures I find riding a trainer unpleasant– I sweat buckets.  But if I come home and the house is, say, 45F, that’s perfect.  Half an hour on the trainer and I feel pleasantly warmed up (more than half an hour, I actually have to aim a fan at myself to keep cool.)  Plus, it heats up the room a little!  Can’t say it’s a significant contribution, but the magnetic friction gizmo does get pretty warm.  I’d guess an hour on the trainer is good for 0.5 kWh or so of heat to the house.

Heatless Mid-week

January 11, 2013

A combination of factors came together this week, leading me to use no heat whatsoever for a span of 4 days– an unusual mid-January state even in this house.  The factors were:

– Above-average temps (highs 35-40F, lows 20-25)

– Above-average sunshine

– Above-average laziness on starting a fire

– Above-average use of bike trainer (warms you up fast, even in a cold house!)

So, no fire from Sunday night to Thursday night:Untitled

Ran into a couple of problems, after having the house this cool for this long.  For one, the liquid dish soap solidified and became impossible to get out of the bottle.  It is an all-natural product… mainstream dish soap brands probably have chemical emulsifliquifactifying agents that prevent this.  Maybe I have to store it on top of the water heater or something.

Second, the contents of the freezer (above the fridge) started to thaw.  This is ironic, the idea that your house can be too cold for your freezer to work, but in our cheapo fridge I’m pretty sure the freezer only turns on when/if the fridge turns on– it has no separate temperature controller.  So if the house is cold, the fridge barely runs, and after a few days, the freezer starts to nudge above freezing.  Obviously this isn’t good.  I turned the fridge down a little (it was set rather on the warm side) and that seems to have cured the problem.

Overall average temperature so far this winter now stands at 52.5 F…

Venn Diagram

September 20, 2012

Can you locate the Cold House on the above Venn diagram?

I wonder if we may be the only people in New England who fit into the sector contained in all the sets above.  Okay, okay– it will only be temporarily true– this winter, next, and possibly the one after.  There is only so much firewood that 1/3rd of an acre can produce– even at our laughably low rate of use, this is not a “sustainable” wood lot.  But at the moment there are 2-3 cords of nicely dried Norway maple stashed away, all from the back yard, all split (and, more tiresomely, stacked) by me.

Somewhere, waaaaay down at the bottom of the pile, there are still 20 or 30 pieces of the kiln-dried oak that we bought two cords of in 2009 (cost: $600).  They may never be seen again.

It Burns Burns Burns, The Stove of Fire

March 15, 2011

We’re now a week past the date when we “fired down” last winter.  I can’t quite put my finger on why we haven’t done so this year yet, except to say that we had quite a cold snap a couple weeks ago, and since then it’s been mostly rainy, drizzly, and/or cloudy.  Sometimes, cold and dank feels even chillier than frigid and dry.

It is peculiar, though, that we seem, in March, less accepting of the same indoor temperatures that we tolerated in January.  You’d think (I’d think, anyway) that it would be the opposite.  I have three possible theories for why we need it even warmer indoors in March than in January:

1)  Just sick and tired of being in a cold house.  Perhaps there’s just a time limit.  Perhaps we really never adapt, we just get grouchier and grouchier and finally summer comes and saves us?

2)  Something about maintaining an ongoing indoor:outdoor differential to give an “impression of warmth”.  I.e, 50º inside may be fine when it’s 10º outside, because, wow, that’s a lot warmer.  But when it’s 50º outside, then 50º inside is… well, just like living outside, which may be unappealing.

3)  It might be somewhat unintentional.  We get used to stoking the fire to a certain degree, a certain number of sticks to achieve Xº of warming, etc.  Suddenly, we’re overshooting a bit.

Might be any of these.  Anyway, the difference is very subtle (see graphs in next post.)  Once the sun comes out for a few days in a row I think we may be done with heat until next year.

We’re Not Worthy

March 4, 2011

You know, if you’re ever cold and feeling sorry for yourself, or just plain cold, or for that matter even just plain feeling sorry for yourself, one way to put it all in perspective is to spend a little time reading or re-reading an account of the Shackleton Expedition. I did this the other night.  I was left, as always, feeling that the men involved in that undertaking must’ve been an entirely different species of animal from me.  Truly makes you feel warm, dry, safe and secure.

In other news, J. was away last night, leaving me to my own devices.  The wood stove was not one of them.  And it was a cold night (so much for my prediction that we were done with single digit lows.)  So, it was pretty chilly shaving this morning.  Like, 36º.  I thought of Shackleton.  I thought of sliding into a rotting, ice-encrusted, reindeer “sleeping bag” in the bow of a 20-foot boat pitching among icebergs in the dark in the southern ocean.  I felt fine.


February 27, 2011

Two years ago we turned the furnace off March 1st.  Last year we shut down the wood stove March 7th (delayed a few days due to hosting a baby shower.)  And this year?  Are we ready to fire-down in 7 days?  On the one hand, it is getting warmer outside.  I’m pretty sure we’re done with below-zero (F) temps, and maybe done with single digits, too.  The days are often up to 30, and when it’s sunny at midday you can actually feel the heat reflecting off the snow.

Ah yes.  The snow.  Just glancing out the window, you’d never guess we’re 20 days from spring.  It looks like the north pole out there.  Which I think is what induces some skepticism about the idea of shutting down the heat any time soon.  So what will happen?

One Month Left?

February 6, 2011

With the heaps (and more heaps) of snow here, and ski season in more-than-full swing, it’s funny to think that we’re only a month away from the day when we shut down the heat altogether last year.  And a short month, at that.  No specific date in mind for firing-down this year, but it will probably be about the same.  Already the sun feels higher and stronger, and the urgency for a fire seems less and less.

In the meantime, I’m building an igloo in the yard.  In case it gets too warm in the house.


February 4, 2011

Just a few photos of the heaps of snow we have these days.  Wish I’d taken them before I raked the roof– it looked sort of fairy-tale-ish, piled like the thickest of gingerbread-house frosting atop the house.

I was a little worried about the snow pulling the gutters down.  But as you can see, it’s almost to the point where the snow will be holding the gutters up.


February 4, 2011

I’m proud to report that for the first time in a long while we have officially lived through a colder-than-normal month here in Portland, Maine— and, to boot, it was January, which is, on average, the coldest of our months.

This doesn’t give me much consolation on the bigger question of global warming, but it gives me a bit of optimism about my own ability to modify my (and maybe others’) behavior to help prevent it.

Cold Welcome

January 25, 2011

We’ve gotten out of the double-digits-below-freezing spell, but still it was about -2ºF last night.  This morning it was 45º downstairs… I ran off to work, J ran off to class… somehow I thought she was coming home in the afternoon ( = firemaking), but I was mistaken.  When I got home about 6pm, the kitchen (and everything else) was at 39º.  Table, 39º.  Stools, 39º.  Sofa, 39º.  Wood stove, 39º.  Cats, 39º.  Ha ha, just kidding.  The cats were okay.

I made a wicked good fire (Maine expression) and in a mere 120 minutes have managed to achieve 52º.  Ahhh.  Toasty.

It’s supposed to “warm up” overnight, from 8º to something like 12º.  No prob.  Just don’t melt all the nice snow, please.