Posts Tagged ‘Theories’

Passive Geothermal: A Hole Where The Heat Comes In

January 24, 2010

When I first moved to the previous Cold House, the cellar was the warmest place in the house in winter.  The cellar steam pipes were uninsulated, and did a better job of heating the cellar than getting steam to the upstairs radiators.  I shudder to think of the oil I burned that first winter (and that the previous owners must have been burning before me)– sheer insanity.   Even after I insulated those pipes, the incidental heat from furnace and pipes kept the cellar pretty warm.

At the New Cold House, though, I thought it quite possible that the cellar would dip down below 32º and threaten the plumbing.  Other than our (hyper-insulated) hot water tank, and the occasional lurking cat, there is nothing at all adding even incidental heat into the cellar.  With uninsulated concrete walls, some crummy old windows, a frequently-opening cat door, and a barely-heated upstairs above, it seemed there wouldn’t be much to keep the cellar from equilibrating to outdoor temps.  As you may remember, early in the winter I took pains to monitor the temps down there, especially around the plumbing.

But you know what?  Even even when it’s sub-zero outside, the cellar hasn’t dipped below 37º.  At first I thought it was just the thermal mass of all that concrete cooling very very slowly that seemed to magically hold the temperature.  But when day after day of below-freezing outdoor temps failed to budge the cellar thermometer, that started to seem less likely. (more…)

Just A Postulate For Consideration

December 17, 2008


– Live in an area where the average minimum winter temperature is no colder than -20F/-29C (=USDA Hardiness Zone 4*),
– Have a moderately-insulated home which has at least a little winter sun exposure or shares at least one wall with another dwelling,
– Do not have babies, senior citizens, or persons with significant medical issues living with you,
– Are willing to wear a hat and down vest (or similar) around the house,
– Use lights, a cooking stove, a refrigerator, and other very basic modern appliances,
– Have undertaken minor measures to reclaim heat from some household activities, when possible,
– Are willing to tolerate a few minutes a day of feeling chilly (e.g., when undressing),
– Have a home which is appropriately sized for its number of occupants, AND
– Have allowed yourself(s) to become reasonably well adapted to cold weather,


You should be able to comfortably get through winter without central heat, and with only limited and sporadic use of portable localized heaters (or small woodstoves) during especially cold periods.


IF YOU are cold in your house, despite some limited use of portable localized heaters, then you either

– Live in North Dakota, Alaska, Canada, or some similar place that is truly much colder than here,
– Have an exceptionally poorly insulated and/or completely shaded house,
– Are a baby, senior citizen, or have a significant medical issue,
– Have forgotten to put on your hat and down vest, or similar vestments,
– Have exceptional aversion to cooking, electric lights, etc.,
– Have not undertaken even minor measures to reclaim some heat from household activities,
– Are completely unwilling to tolerate a few minutes a day of feeling chilly,

OR, most likely,

– Have either a house that is far too big for its number of occupants, or have not allowed yourself(s) to become reasonably adapted to cold weather.

[* Hardiness Zone reference map: