Posts Tagged ‘cold house’

Weekly Graph

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year to all Cold House readers!   We’ve had our January thaw (let’s hope there’s only going to be one of them) a little early this year– it got up to a freakish 50º on New Year’s Day– wiping out much of our snow cover.  Sad.  But the weather is starting to get back towards normal as we approach the Coldstice, a couple weeks hence.  Here’s our temperature chart from last week.  Again, the red line show average daily outdoor temps (not actual highs and lows), and the green line shows our average temp inside: 51.9ºF.


One Year Of Heat

December 27, 2010

So, the circle has come around: it’s been one year since the first fire in our wood stove.  And in the end, yes, we used less than one cord of wood— in fact, we have 37 pieces of wood left!  This first cord of wood was super-expensive kiln-dried stuff, costing $300.  A cord of field-dried would be more like $200, and green, even less.  

I’ve also tried to estimate how much electricity we used for “intentional” heat, but this is hard to figure.  Our electricity usage has varied from 16 kWh/day in mid-summer to about 29 in mid-winter.  How much of that difference represents space heaters, though, isn’t clear.  A large percentage (possibly the majority) of our electricity goes to making hot water, a process that takes quite a bit more juice in winter (because [a] the water is much colder coming in, and [b] the standby losses are higher).  Another considerable fraction is for cooking and baking, which we do less of mid-summer.  Also we surely use more lights in the winter, and the clothes dryer probably requires somewhat more in the winter.  On the other hand, the fridge uses more in the summer.  The electric blanket is a winter staple, but uses less than 0.2 kWh daily.

After working through various methods of guesstimating, the best I can say is that we probably used somewhere between 500 and 1,000 kWh of purposeful electric heat.  That translates into $75 to $150 of ‘lectric.

So, all told, we are “heating” the house for an annual cost of somewhere between $275 to $450.

Lastly, after judging that our cord of oak had about 22 million BTU, and doing a little math, I find that our heat was supplied somewhere between 87-93% by wood, and 7-13% by electricity (comparing actual units of heat, rather than the dollars it took to buy those units.)

12 to 1

December 23, 2010

We’re on a short pre-holiday get-away in the White Mountains, just a couple miles from the location in our masthead photo.  It looks like a winter wonderland here.  If any readers are languishing in dreary, muddy, snow-less parts of the northeast at the moment, I suggest altering your plans to come up this way for the Christmas weekend.  It will put you in the spirit of candy icicles and sleigh bells.

With some time to while away I was just reading this month’s Yankee magazine.  There’s an article about dairy farming in Vermont.  The author mentions, parenthetically, that his neighbor (a dairy farmer) has a wood furnace in his cellar, and burns 12 cords of firewood a year.  Fooooo.  I really can’t imagine handling an entire order of magnitude more firewood than we do now.  Just stacking that much would leave me ready to sleep for a year– to say nothing of the sawing and splitting.  Plus I’d need to build an extra house just to store it.  Do any readers burn wood, either as primary or secondary heat?  How much do you go through a winter?

Ticking Downwards

December 17, 2010

This morning’s indoor temp of 41º was our lowest of the season thus far (outside it was about 15º again).  That level of chilliness leads to honing of the out-of-bed routine;  I get socks, a fleece, and a hat on in under 15 seconds.  Having done that, it’s plenty comfortable to make breakfast, if you’re moving about.  Still, it’s the kind of temperature where even people like me see a good reason for lighting the wood stove.

Winter Camping

December 16, 2010

Yeah, so, it was 42º in the house this morning.  That was brisk.  But not wholly unpleasant.  My fingers did get a bit numb, shaving with cold water.  But you really can’t appreciate a hot shower properly unless you’ve headed into one with numb fingers.

More Detail

December 15, 2010

There were requests from the peanut gallery for more detail in the recent weekly-average-temp graphs.  I suspect this was just designed to push me over the edge, but I’ve complied anyway.  This took some doing– what with two months of temperature data, taken at 5-minute intervals.  But here’s what I’ve been able to produce:

Graph #1:  This shows weekly average living room / kitchen temps (blue line), along with associated weekly maximum and minimum temps (green dots).  Unfortunately I hadn’t saved the full data for the first week, so no min/max there.

Graph #2:  This again shows weekly averages (blue line), but now with orange arrows representing the range of +/- one standard deviation.  In other words, the orange-shaded areas show a range covering about 68% of the time that week (alternatively, the temp was below the top of the bar about 84% of the time.)

Now, lastly, I wondered whether considering standard deviations was legitimate in the first place– in other words, whether our temperatures fall out into a bell curve, or something less regular.  So, I put together about 11,000 temperature readings from 10/30 – 12/4, had Excel count them, then compiled them into this masterpiece.  Along the x-axis, 2º increments. On the y-axis, hours we spent in that 2º range, over the six-week spread: 

It is, indeed, a fairly nice bell curve.  What’s interesting, and I might have predicted, is the difference in the shape of the tails.  Our high temps tend to be very fleeting, hit just as the wood stove maxes out, then immediately start to dive.  Our lows, on the other hand, tend to linger a bit longer, coming over night and hovering until something starts to warm the house.


Gradual Decline

December 14, 2010

You might be interested in this graph of our average weekly house temps since late October (seven weeks of data).

This gives a wider-angle view of what we’ve experienced here: a steadily colder house.  You could assume that it’s getting colder inside simply because it’s getting colder outside, and there is some truth to that.  But even in the first of these weeks we did have some fire heat, indicating that we (or at least one of us) felt chilly enough to want it.  Also, as you know, we don’t have a thermostat, so we didn’t make a conscious decision to taper our average temps down like this– it just happened that way, a result of how many times we lit the wood stove each week, and how many logs we threw on the fire.

So how is it that we “needed” heat when we averaged over 60º, if we are now just about equally comfortable below 53º?  I can only surmise, yet again, that we really do adapt.  A miracle happens, and lower temps no longer feel lower.  I believe there are psychological, behavioral, and physiologic components to this, but the exact phenomena are up for debate.  I can tell you with certainty, though, that the largest obstacle to adapting to a new set-point is refusing to start.  It’s not too late: start turning your thermostat down 1ºF every two weeks, and see if by spring you, too, aren’t handily living at 8º cooler than you are now.

Weekly Graph

December 4, 2010

Here’s what the past week looked like.  Average temp = 54.9ºF (13ºC).  Also, I haven’t mentioned that the data logger spits out a standard deviation reading (this week, 3.6º).  So, at least in theory, we’ve spent 98% of the week below 62.1º, and 84% of the time below 58.5º.  And, really, I haven’t felt cold.  Except when I had to drive my scooter home in the snow last night. That was a little chilly.  I think scooter season is over.


November 23, 2010

We’ve barely made use of our two space heaters since the day fire was born.  But yesterday we were both out all day, the house was chilly (49º) when we came home, and for the couple hours we’d be up before bed J. logically opted to use a bit of miniature electric radiator rather than fire up the the wood stove.  A little later she asked me to turn it down, so I set it on “medium” power and thermostat setting.

This morning I got up, came downstairs to the kitchen, and my first thought was, “Whoa whoa whoa… it’s crazy warm down here.”  Then J. got up, came down, and had the same reaction.  Yes, obviously, we forgot to shut off the little heater.  But the funny thing is, it was only 57º in here– a temperature which, in old times, I would’ve found shockingly cold in the morning, rather than shockingly warm.  Truly, you do adapt.

An Embarrassment of Wood

October 16, 2010

We had a surly wind/rain storm here in Maine yesterday, during which a large maple in my friends J. & S.’s backyard cracked itself in two and threatened to crush their neighbor’s house.They had to call professionals to come bring the tree down.

Then when the professionals told them it would be an extra $500 to haul away the wood, they called me to offer a donation.

It worked out well.  I went over for breakfast and watched the guys wielding chainsaws from 50 feet up in a bucket loader. Later our friend D., who has a pickup (and also unlimited energy), shuttled the logs to my house and then proceeded to split while I stacked.  By dusk the majority of the tree had been added to the woodpile.  There’s still a bit more to pick up.

At last year’s burn rate (0.8 cords), I have at least two winter’s worth of wood on the property now, without really even trying.

Meanwhile, current temps:  47º outside, 60º inside.  60, which would surely have felt a bit chill last month, now feels like the new 70.  Sitting here in jeans and a t-shirt, quite comfortable.