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making the best of electric heat

                          


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 31
I'm going to jump in late in this discussion and make a couple of comments ...

There is a very REAL difference in the amount of electricity consumed to produce direct electric heat via baseboard heaters / incandescent bulbs etc. versus the amount of electricity consumed to operate a heat pump which 'moves' existing heat from outside to inside.   For example, producing 3400 BTU/hr worth of electric baseboard heat requires 1 kW-hour of electricity, where the newest wall mount heat pump units can 'move' 3400 BTU/hr worth of 'outdoor' heat into a room while requiring only 0.4 kW-hour of electricity (or even less), with an outside temperature of 50F.  The efficiency drops as the outside temperature drops further, but even so the newest wall mount heat pump units still have an 'over unity' BTU/hr versus kW-hour efficiency at an outside temperature of 20F.  Example of newest design unit at http://www.sanyohvac.com/products.php?id=09KHS71 

Lately, these split systems are available with a single outside compressor that can work in conjunction with multiple wall units inside the house.  This opens up the possibility of independently controlling the temperature setting versus time of day for a living room wall unit versus a bedroom wall unit versus a kitchen wall unit to achieve even greater energy savings.  See http://www.sanyohvac.com/products.php?id=CMH1972 .

Below 32F however, you're better off switching to a different heat source ( i.e. a  high efficiency gas / oil furnace ).  The exact 'break even' outside temperature depends on the overall efficiency of your gas / oil furnace and the relative cost per BTU of your gas / oil supply.  And with a 'freezing' outside temperature your gas / oil furnace is able to operate with greater total cycle efficiency since it can run longer between on-off cycles ( i.e. greater thermal efficiency when the furnace heat exchanger is at its intended operating temperature ~ 170f or so ).

On the subject of thermal mass, while this may smooth out or slow down temperature changes it has no direct effect on the total amount of heat losses thus the total BTU requirement to maintain a certain temperature.  Granted that there may be indirect effects like allowing for a longer run between on-off cycles of your heating system.

On the subject of reducing heat losses, improvements in this is the area usually produce the greatest 'bang for the buck' savings by reducing the overall BTU requirement in direct proportion to any reduction in heat losses.  Windows are obviously a huge component of heat losses in a typical house ... with anything from transparent plastic sheeting to storm windows to triple glazed gas filled windows progressively reducing heat losses while having minimal effect on solar heat gains.  Yes opaque window coverings usually have greater insulating properties - but at the 'cost' of giving up some solar heat gains - so the particular weather conditions of particular areas need to be taken into consideration.  Of course, if you have the discipline / opportunity to open opaque insulated drapes on cold but sunny days and close them again when the sun goes down you can have the 'best of both worlds'.



       
travis laduke


Joined: Jul 20, 2010
Posts: 163
I can't find any small heat pumps that are less than like $500 bux. Do small, window mount, cheap kind exist? Otherwise I can run my space heater until the end of time before it costs more in electricity...
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
There are no cheap split systems. At least none that I would risk my money on. They do cost some upfront bucks, but name brands like Sanyo make units that can actually be used in off grid situations, depending on severity of the cold. The nice thing about them is that some will also do duty as A/C as well. But they are not a cheap investment. They do pay in the long run.

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Paul, how's your humidity? That is one thing that makes a big difference with us here in the desert. We always have to add humidity and that permits lowering the thermostat quite a bit.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
MountainDon wrote:
Paul, how's your humidity? That is one thing that makes a big difference with us here in the desert. We always have to add humidity and that permits lowering the thermostat quite a bit.


It typically hovers between 50% and 70%.  I air dry all of my clothes - so on laundry day it tends to go up.  At about 75% I will air the house out. 


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Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
Melonie wrote:
I'm going to jump in late in this discussion and make a couple of comments ...

There is a very REAL difference in the amount of electricity consumed to produce direct electric heat via baseboard heaters / incandescent bulbs etc. versus the amount of electricity consumed to operate a heat pump which 'moves' existing heat from outside to inside.   For example, producing 3400 BTU/hr worth of electric baseboard heat requires 1 kW-hour of electricity, where the newest wall mount heat pump units can 'move' 3400 BTU/hr worth of 'outdoor' heat into a room while requiring only 0.4 kW-hour of electricity (or even less), with an outside temperature of 50F.  The efficiency drops as the outside temperature drops further, but even so the newest wall mount heat pump units still have an 'over unity' BTU/hr versus kW-hour efficiency at an outside temperature of 20F.  Example of newest design unit at http://www.sanyohvac.com/products.php?id=09KHS71 

ok, two problems...
  1) cost. My baseboards are here. The other system is not.
  2) it moves air. The last thing I need is something to move the dust around.
Wall mounted.... see  number one above... plus...

Baseboards and light bulbs have another plus. They radiate. This allows the air temp. to be lower if placement is right

Anyway, I think this thread is about coping with what you have, not changing out the whole system. Many people rent and can't make major changes. If I was changing the whole system or building... I would probably go wood heat.


Below 32F however, you're better off switching to a different heat source ( i.e. a  high efficiency gas / oil furnace ).  The exact 'break even' outside temperature depends on the overall efficiency of your gas / oil furnace and the relative cost per BTU of your gas / oil supply.  And with a 'freezing' outside temperature your gas / oil furnace is able to operate with greater total cycle efficiency since it can run longer between on-off cycles ( i.e. greater thermal efficiency when the furnace heat exchanger is at its intended operating temperature ~ 170f or so ).


<<Start of rant against gas... sorry please remember this is just my opinion and the facts as I see them and as they fall out in my area with my gas and hydro prices and as they deal with my familys health. Your mileage may vary.>>

Nix on the gas thanks... I just got rid of it about two years ago. Problems with gas:
1) $10 a month for nothing. (I already pay the $4 a month for hydro anyway)
2) Heat exchanger gets hot enough to burn dust/air = bad air quality
3) we have to move this bad air plus other dust around to do any good.
4) Nat gas has a lot more in it besides methane, none of them are good for you. (worse than wood)
5) no by the room control without lots o bucks.
6) ducts all over the place for scum to build up in. Add yearly cleanup cost (same heat pump)
7) monthly filter replace/clean.
8 ) ducts all over the place that have to take up insulated space or be really well insulated.
9) a flue that takes warm air out of the house 24/7 even when furnace not running (not included in
          efficiency rating of furnace by the by) (same with gas water heater)
10) many gas fields have peaked, yet many (coal) power plants are turning to gas as a cleaner
          fuel. The price of gas will not be going down.

Fyi, I switched from gas to electric two years ago... my bills are less. ($500 to $1000 per year including the $120 a year for nothing and the the savings on an electric water heater on a timer and that can be super-insulated.)

<end rant>

Heating mass instead of air takes more energy in the first place, but does not loose all that heat every time the door opens or when the stove ventilator is used.... also allows lower air temp for same comfort if mass is in a good place (radiant heat).

The heat pump is a great mod for a home that already has gas heat as the ducts are there already. And it gets rid of some of the problems with gas. However, if I was going to convert from baseboards to heat pump, I would use the heat pump to heat water and then use the water to heat radiators using the same methods as radiant flooring (something i would not use... radiator too big to run nice and warm). We use electric oil filled heaters in some of our rooms instead of baseboards as they are easier to place for effective radiating.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
As for what this thread is about:  I think the comments about a portable heat pump are valid.  And there was a lot in Melonie's post I didn't know.  Good stuff. 

A lot of what this thread is about is my personal response to the whole fluorescent light thing.  If I spend $50 on fluorescent light bulbs, I might save something like $5 in power per year.  The primary reason for this is because I have this apparently bizarre habit of turning lights off when I'm not using them. 

In contrast, I think there are techniques for saving electricity where heat is involved.  I think that in this space I can save about $400 in a year.

When I have been here a year, I would like to think that I can stand up and say that I have a really great solution to america's energy problems.

Step 1)  turn off your lights when you are not using them.  Apparently, americans think they know what this means, but the appeal of the CFL proves they have no idea.

Step 2)  heat people instead of the air.

Of course, I fully expect that this message will reach less than 0.01% of the population.  But I'll have done my part to change the world for the better and I can then go eat some pie.

Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
paul wheaton wrote:
As for what this thread is about:  I think the comments about a portable heat pump are valid.  And there was a lot in Melonie's post I didn't know.  Good stuff. 

I willingly stand corrected.

When I have been here a year, I would like to think that I can stand up and say that I have a really great solution to america's energy problems.

Step 1)  turn off your lights when you are not using them.  Apparently, americans think they know what this means, but the appeal of the CFL proves they have no idea.


Or it proves that there are more than the bill payer living in the house... as here, I seem to be always turning off lights, timer switches may make sense for me. I hope we can make some changes too, but expect cost of product to have more effect.
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 747
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  89
Len wrote:
I guess mine are a little older (running not crawling), but they seem to take a cooler house better than the adults. I remember one summer I worked at Frobisher Bay (on Baffin Island) where the high was around 6C(43F). I had a coat on outside but the kids were in bathing suits...


Kids need at least twice as much exercise as adults to stay healthy, so they do keep themselves warm a little more.  I haven't raised my own yet, but I've been responsible for other peoples' kids quite a bit.

I've had little kids (ages 3-5 and up) in outdoor programs, where you have to stay warm without much shelter.  Sensible clothing does help (no cotton in winter, synthetics or wool are much warmer, plus a decent raincoat or parka depending on your location, and a dry change in case of accidents).  So do hearty snacks, plenty of water, and something fun to drink warm (cider, mint tea, pineapple-weed tea they pick themselves, cocoa for a rare treat).

So cold, whether outdoors or indoors, can be tolerated as long as they're actively playing and enjoying themselves.  In fact, if they play actively outside, then coming inside all they really need is some shelter from the rain and wind, and the consider they've got it made.

The other tricks are knowing how to get them warm again once they are ready to wind down. 
As long as they are fed and hydrated, they can keep themselves pretty warm in a snuggly place for storytime.  They generally like a real live snuggle best of all, and one safe adult can effectively snuggle about 4-5 kids, and encourage more to snuggle each other without too much trouble.  (Not allowed in all programs, sadly, but very cosy when it is.)
  Warm treats don't have to be edible; a heated beanbag, quilted brick, or even a baked potato to hold (like in the Little House books) can keep a kid warm under blankets in sub-zero weather.  "Tea parties" with plain hot water are good too (warm, not scalding.)

Kids have their own version of the "tent in my living room," and they don't think it's at all weird.  Blanket "forts" would be even cooler - I mean more exciting - if you had a little heater so your fort was the warmest place in the room.  A low-temp animal heater, heating pad, or something modified to be safe around curtains and blankets - like a low-watt incandescent bulb or heat lamp, protected by a fancy lantern-style lamp housing.  Plenty of heat, plus magic to the imagination.  Real lanterns or "fairy-lights" would be even cooler if you could do it safely.
The puppy pad, used for nursery forts or to pre-heat the storytime couch, seems like a nearly custom-designed option.  Kids aren't that much harder on things than puppies, weight for weight.

For the EMF-conscious a wood- or hydronic- heated earthen or tile floor could be very attractive for the play room or main living room.  I've seen a good west-facing passive solar slab floor become a very popular play area for a couple of youngsters on a homestead, too.  The other heat in that building was a woodstove, and the kids only came near it at storytime or to interrupt Mommy reading there.  But those are beyond what renters or the average temporary at-home day-care provider might do.

I've kept kids warm outdoors on a drizzly day with one blanket and a make-believe story about being ladybugs hiding under a leaf.  But I've also had kids refuse to participate in keeping themselves warm enough, preferring to dabble icy hands in mud puddles while gloves mix with crumbs in the lunchbox. 

You have to watch them extra-close for hypothermia, as it sets in faster than for adults because of the lower body mass.  They won't believe you that they need to drink water to stay warm (hence, hot water is a vital tool), or that they need to wear bulky clothing that may be uncomfortable as they grow. 

I can see the value of having at least one "warm room" where you can send the chilly chilluns, and not have to worry about explaining blue lips to Mom and Dad. 

Fantasy playhouse / day care:
I could see making a "jungle room" like an old-fashioned conservatory, using passive solar and/or grow lights' heat to keep live rubber trees, ferns, and garden starts.  To encourage quieter play than "let's be monkeys," the kids can start their own avocado plants or rescued veggie-tops, make jungle-themed dollhouses or art, like clay-paints, masks, and sun-scorched tiki sticks.  Parrot- and jaguar-printed wallpaper, anyone?)

Other rooms can be themed other ways: "the beach" with a heat lamp and towels near sand and water play areas; "the cabin" with quilts and a fireplace, 'the fort' with a pirate lantern, "reading room" with cushions and pillows and maybe a heating pad or warm floor, "boat room" with ropes, ships-wheel bunks, and a canvas-curtained window.  Cooler and warmer becomes part of the fun.  Some of these themes could fit existing homes with only small areas dedicated to a heated, quiet play area.

One of the down sides to the current building code (as it requires heat to be delivered equally to the farthest corners of the house), is that it becomes a built-in expectation to heat unused rooms.  Forced-air systems that can do this, and are affordable, often are not designed to also accommodate differentially heat rooms as they are needed.  (there is one thermostat.) 
Individual thermostat controls in each room are an expensive luxury, but portable devices can boost heat while the thermostat is set to a safe minimum. Oil-filled heaters make me nervous due to cord and leak vulnerability (check product safety data), but some baseboards offer individual controls. 

I guess the trick is to make sure there is at least one place to get good and warm, and/or a frequent invitation to enjoy warm treats.  Then watch the social dynamics so that the warm places are equally attractive and accessible, no matter where a child sits in the pecking order.


Play with nature, make nifty stuff:
www.ErnieAndErica.info
Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
Erica Wisner wrote:
Kids need at least twice as much exercise as adults to stay healthy, so they do keep themselves warm a little more.  I haven't raised my own yet, but I've been responsible for other peoples' kids quite a bit.

I didn't know that... My oldest (now 24 and long gone) used to play in a camper shell in the winter because there was no room in the one we lived in, never any complaints even with bare hands a play dough.

I think also that we are too quick to try and  get warm. I work outside and use fingerless gloves (all knuckles bare) even in freezing weather (freezing here is max -10C... and generally -5C during the day) and I have found that my fingers feel cold for about the first 40 min. but by the end of the day, they feel warm. That is they feel warm to my cold cheeks not they are numb. I deliver mail and we get paid by the distance and number of calls so we move fast.... I lost 35 pounds since I started and it has stayed that way (good thing as my thyroid is slow). So I am producing a lot of extra heat.... we wear shorts earlier and later in the season than anyone So I am not sure if my body detects my fingers are cold and so opens the blood vessels up to warm them or to use them as cooling, but I do know that the body does a lot of stuff to keep our temperature sane... not just the core but also our appendages.

Sitting doing this (typing) is not what we are built for... however, it is what we do. Mankind has not had fire all that long, but has lived in cold climates none the less. As cost of fuel goes up, life style will change. There is all ready a difference in house temp depending on wealth.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Earlier today, the thermometer on the outside wall reported 50 and the thermometer on the inside wall reported 54. 

After cooking some sweet potato fries, some eggs, and some chicken, the thermometers are 62/68.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm going to be heading out of town for the holidays and am thinking about how to optimize my energy savings while I'm away. 

My primary concern is that I don't want any pipes to freeze and break. 

I remember in 1989 the temps got down to 30 below and the wind was blowing so hard that the wind chill was a hundred below. 

While here, when the temps get below 10, I've been turning the heat up, near the pipes, to 60.  And when it gets below zero, I turned it up to 65.  But that strategy bothers me. 

I'm thinking about using fans.  I'll leave the thermostat at 50 and then run fans 24/7 - pointed at the pipes.  That should keep the air circulating enough to keep the pipes at about 50 (as opposed to non-moving air so that temps next to the outside wall are far colder than air next to the baseboard heater).

The pipes in question are semi-exposed and allow some air circulation.  So I think this strategy will work quite well.

I'll also turn the water heater off while I'm away.

Anything I might be overlooking?
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 747
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  89
paul wheaton wrote:
I'm going to be heading out of town for the holidays and am thinking about how to optimize my energy savings while I'm away. 

My primary concern is that I don't want any pipes to freeze and break. 

I remember in 1989 the temps got down to 30 below and the wind was blowing so hard that the wind chill was a hundred below. 

While here, when the temps get below 10, I've been turning the heat up, near the pipes, to 60.  And when it gets below zero, I turned it up to 65.  But that strategy bothers me. 

I'm thinking about using fans.  I'll leave the thermostat at 50 and then run fans 24/7 - pointed at the pipes.  That should keep the air circulating enough to keep the pipes at about 50 (as opposed to non-moving air so that temps next to the outside wall are far colder than air next to the baseboard heater).

The pipes in question are semi-exposed and allow some air circulation.  So I think this strategy will work quite well.

I'll also turn the water heater off while I'm away.

Anything I might be overlooking?



Is there a way to turn off the water to the pipes, and drain them? 
Then you wouldn't need to spend any energy on them while you're gone at all.
I know it's often done with vacation homes, but might not be standard for a primary residence.
Al Loria


Joined: Apr 21, 2010
Posts: 395
Location: New York
After the final flush of the toilets, before you leave, add RV antifreeze to the water left in the bowl, in case the power goes out while you are away.  I would also drain the water lines if possible.  You never know what happens when you are away.

Our house has a dry well back drain in the yard for the public water supply.  It is about 4 feet below the surface.  Turn the valve with the long wrench and the whole house water line backdrains. Neat idea.  Was installed in the 50s when the houses were built because they thought many people would use these homes as summer homes only.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Erica Wisner wrote:
Is there a way to turn off the water to the pipes, and drain them? 



Nope. 

The place I live in is actually a duplex.  And the water pump for both of us is on my side.  So they will still need water while I am away. 

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I stuck one of those kill-a-watt contraptions on the dog bed heater.  After 25.28 hours, the dog bed heater used 0.53kwh.  I fiddled with the kill-a-watt thing with the dog bed heater a few days ago and saw that it cycled between zero watts and 55 watts.  But for the 25.28 hours, it averaged less than 21 watts per hour. 





                          


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 31
A lot of what this thread is about is my personal response to the whole fluorescent light thing.  If I spend $50 on fluorescent light bulbs, I might save something like $5 in power per year.  The primary reason for this is because I have this apparently bizarre habit of turning lights off when I'm not using them.


1) cost. My baseboards are here. The other system is not.


I can't find any small heat pumps that are less than like $500 bux. Do small, window mount, cheap kind exist? Otherwise I can run my space heater until the end of time before it costs more in electricity...



For better or worse, this same sort of cost / benefit equation exists for every type of alternative energy hardware including solar and wind.   But also for better or worse, that cost / benefit equation is usually skewed by some form of gov't subsidy.   Many electric utilities do offer subsidies of 30% or more for the installation of heat pumps - which is worth checking out.

And yes applying some common sense 'human management' to the operation of energy comsuming devices is often the single largest producer of savings.  However, as you correctly point out, the vast majority of the population won't maintain this personal diligence.

this is just my opinion and the facts as I see them and as they fall out in my area with my gas and hydro prices and as they deal with my familys health


agreed that the relative energy costs of electric versus gas / oil in a particular location is a major factor.  Also I agree with you re the high temperature dust reaction byproducts of forced air heating system - or more precisely air to air heat exchangers - which of course also  includes wood and finned / direct heating coil electric heat as well as oil / gas. 




                            


Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
Ack....I just read all the posts with some angst.  I hate being cold.  Really hate being cold.  I got cold just reading your posts, Paul. 

We are all electric and have a heat pump that we love 8 months of the year.  The remaining time is a hassle to say the least!  We heat a big house with a wood burning stove in the room we use the most, and a wood burning furnace that has some ductwork on the north side of the house.  We gather downed wood, wood from trees being cleared for planting ground, etc.  AND we plant trees, 40 in one year.  (okay, I always feel like I have to justify burning wood, sigh.)

Bad thing is that it takes about 2 to 3 hours for this room to get warm with the little woodburner.  I have done the butt heating with the heating pad, but finally gave in and have a little space heater next to me.  Anything that heats and has a fan is so much better than the flat panel or radiator type of heaters, IMO. 

I pondered different ways of getting heat from incandescent bulbs, too.  Thought about sections of 1/2" copper pipe, standing up in a circle around a light bulb base.  If you left an air space at the bottom, wouldn't the natural convection of the heated copper draw cool air up and expel much warmer air?  If this thing was close to the floor, say 12" to 15", wouldn't it work even better?  Would longer sections work, like creating a floor lamp type thing, but have the bulb towards the bottom?  I suppose you'd reach the diminishing return at some point.


Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
                          


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 31
I hate being cold.  Really hate being cold.  I got cold just reading your posts, Paul


I hear you, Marianne !  Guys just don't seem to absorb the fact that while there are times that girls don't mind freezing our butts off under certain circumstances, there are other times when we want to be WARM ... and we don't want to have to screw around with wearing 'long johns' or electric hunting socks or a heating pad under our butt, let alone carrying in 100 pounds of firewood to load the wood stove and then messing around for an hour to get a fire started and actually generating some serious heat !  Call me spoiled, but if I have to deal with the complexities of the modern world on a daily basis I also expect to occasionally indulge in some if the modern world's personal conveninces to make up for it !!!  I suspect one of the reasons guys seem to feel this way is that they're expecting that if us girls get cold enough we'll start thinking about asking them to share body heat.  NOT - keep those freezing cold hands away from me LOL !!!

Anything that heats and has a fan is so much better than the flat panel or radiator type of heaters, IMO.


Actually, I do the very same thing with a tiny 800 watt fan forced electric heater ... pointed directly at my cold body parts LOL !  In the long run this is far more efficient ( i.e. the room being at 60 degrees but my feet being at 80 degrees ) than using central heating to raise the room temperature to a more 'comfortable' level.   Ditto for my 250 watt mattress heater pad ... which works far better than an electric blanket when the room temperature of my bedroom is below 60 degrees.

                            


Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
Holy cow!!  Bedroom below 60?  I know I'd adjust if that's how I had to live, but I'd be hating life.  Yes, the heated mattress pad works well.  Ours shot craps and someone gave us an electric blanket so that's what we're using.  Cheap is good, but free is better, huh.

My big toot is that I want company to feel comfortable here.  If everyone around was used to 65 or lower, it'd be different...but they aren't.  Years ago, when we lived in town, I went to the neighbors house.  They had the heat turned down as low as it would go, and she sat with a blanket over her and had a hot water bottle that had been patched with a bicycle tube patch.  She might have been warm, but I was a walking popsicle by the time I left.  The porch light was off the moment she shut the door, too, leaving me to navigate icy, rounded steps on the porch stoop in the dark.  Loved it.

Crazy thing is that they were the 'millionaires next door' - but so tightwad that you could put a lump of coal between their butt cheeks and have a diamond in three months.  Anyway, like I said, I want people to be comfortable here, so I'll keep hauling wood and planting trees.

I do have a fan on a stand by the hallway, and that helps draw heated air to another part of the house.
Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
Marianne wrote:
My big toot is that I want company to feel comfortable here.  If everyone around was used to 65 or lower, it'd be different...but they aren't.  Years ago, when we lived in town, I went to the neighbors house.  They had the heat turned down as low as it would go, and she sat with a blanket over her and had a hot water bottle that had been patched with a bicycle tube patch.  She might have been warm, but I was a walking popsicle by the time I left.  The porch light was off the moment she shut the door, too, leaving me to navigate icy, rounded steps on the porch stoop in the dark.  Loved it.


If I know someone is coming the heat goes up a half to an hour before. They may still find it chilly though as we are somewhat used to at least a little cooler than some. The highest we normally have it is 20C (68F)... like right now, and I have short sleeves...
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I am seeking a path where I am comfortable.  I don't want to cope with the cold - I want to feel plenty warm. 

I also don't want to do wear clunky stuff or feel inconvenienced by my choices.  For example, the fingerless mittens do work really well - but when I get up to eat or pee or do anything, they are bothersome.  I feel like they get in the way and need to be futzed with.  In the end, they are outside of my comfort zone.  I feel the reptile heaters is a much smarter way to go. 

If my face gets a little cold - that is not okay either.  I suppose that I could get used to it - but that's not what this is about.  I want to feel comfortable.  I want to feel warm.  I don't want to feel even a tiny bit of cold. 

I think there is a path where I can feel perfectly comfortable for a tiny fraction of the cost of heating the whole house.  And this thread is abut exploring this space. 

Yes, one solution is to put an 800 watt fan driven heater at my feet.  But I find that uses too much power and my hands end up cold and my legs feel too warm. 

Currently, my favorite approach is the two reptile heaters (60 watts each), the dog bed heater (21 watts average) and the incandescent light bulb (100 watts) while bundled up.  241 watts total. 

The 800 watt fan heater solution would probably be about about half the cost of heating just this area with baseboard heaters.  And this solution is more comfortable than the fan heater solution.  So more comfort for three times cheaper still. 

I suppose I could turn the heat on in the bedroom just before going to bed, but I think that would cost ten times more than that mattress cover heater thing. 

Comfort is the key!  I'm gonna stay comfy!  I am just prepared to find ways to cut my electric heating bill by 60% while staying comfortable - which includes trying things that I have never heard of being tried before. 


paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Suppose one person lives at my place and spends $1000 per year on electricity for light. 

Let's start with running a 350 watts of outdoor lights 24x7 all year long.  3066 kwh.  At ten cents per kwh, that's 306.60.  Then they keep 1000 watts of light on inside the house most of the day - several in the living room, several in the kitchen, several in  hallways and a few other rooms.  Leaving fewer lights on through the night for night time activity.  I know that there are people that do this very thing.  I have witnessed it.  I have tried to talk to them about it, and they insist that they are saving energy wherever they are comfortable doing so.  There is no more room to cut on lighting.  So fluorescent is great for them.  Since a lot of lights will be left on 24x7, replacing those lights will save money.  Of course, getting a strategy of using less light will save them far more money (and power) - but that seems to be something that they have not yet considered.

Next, let's say that person keeps their house at 72 through the winter via baseboard heaters.  72 is the lowest they are willing to go to be comfortable.  I would guess that this will cost about $1400 per year.  But with all the lights on in the house, it is probably more like $400.

Let us suppose that this person spends $2000 per year on power.  For one person.  By switching over to fluorescent lights, that person might save $500 per year on electricity, but spends another $200 on heat and another $100 on bulbs.  By switching over to my techniques, that person saves over $1200 and didn't buy a single fluorescent light bulb.

All while being perfectly comfortable. 

If we explore scenarios that are less wasteful, the biggest gains are still in the areas outside of fluorescent lights. 

But the first thing I need to do is to get to the bottom of saving the money.  The hard fact will be my power bill at the end of the month.  Then, if it is far cheaper than the guy before me, then we can go over what I did to get there.



Al Loria


Joined: Apr 21, 2010
Posts: 395
Location: New York
paul wheaton wrote:
My primary concern is that I don't want any pipes to freeze and break. 




Just remembered for the next time, pipe tape might work.  It is wrapped around the pipes you think are subject to freezing, then plugged in.  The tape has a thermostat on it that comes on only if the temps are low enough to freeze the water in the pipes.  Good, efficient, and cheap insurance.
                            


Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
If we explore scenarios that are less wasteful, the biggest gains are still in the areas outside of fluorescent lights - Paul

I absolutely agree!  You save more electricity=$$ by washing clothes on the shortest cycle w/ the soak mode in cold water ($3 vs $1 per load) and line drying than what you save by replacing bulbs.  And that's just one energy saving thing. 

Of course, heating and cooling are the biggest energy gluts and costs. But I kinda hate sitting on a 50 degree toilet seat. We're in an area where we can burn wood, so that's the best I can do there - heat for the electrical cost of running a couple of fans.

I tried a couple of other experiments trying to get usable heat from a 100 watt bulb in the past.  The bottom line was that the 100 watt bulb only gave me about 90 watts of heat, and that wasn't much/enough.  Had it been focused or in a real small space, the end results would have been better, I'm sure.

I was surprised when I called our power company - our electrical rate varied greatly month to month.  They said that it was based on what 'they' were charged.  If everyone did even small energy saving steps, we'd all pay cheaper rates.
                          


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 31
I was surprised when I called our power company - our electrical rate varied greatly month to month.  They said that it was based on what 'they' were charged.  If everyone did even small energy saving steps, we'd all pay cheaper rates.


Indeed this is true ... but 'residential' customers only get part of the real story.  Most commercial and industrial customers are billed a different price for electricity during on-peak periods ( 8am to 10pm on weekdays ) versus off-peak periods ( nights and weekends ).  The electricity cost for on-peak power is typically twice as high as for off peak power.  Residential customers are billed at some sort of 'system average' proportion between on-peak and off-peak usage.  So while it's true that if lots of residential customers shifted high energy activities like washing clothes to nights and weekends it might reduce the billed residential cost from 10 cents/kWh to 9 cents/kWh.  But in reality, running the washer during an on-peak period really costs 14 cents/kWh but only 7 cents/kWh during nights and weekends.  One of these days, utilities will start offering 'time of use' metering for residential customers ... which will open the door to lots of electric bill savings potential for smart residential customers  ( especially electric heat with the majority of usage during off-peak periods ).
                        


Joined: May 26, 2010
Posts: 278
Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
I know our power company has a deal with a number of schools and companies.  For about a month (last two weeks in August, first two weeks in Sept.) if the heat index is supposed to go above some level (can't remember now) then the schools and companies will send the kids and the workers home.  That way it cuts down on peak demand during those times when we can go from having a high of 82* one day and 102* the next.  IN exchange, the schools and companies get a break on their electric rates.
                            


Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
Oops, I forgot to mention that our local power company doesn't do the off peak rates.  What they pay is based on customer usage, then of course it's passed on to us.  That's what I meant when I said that if we all cut back a little, we'd all pay cheaper rates.
I was surprised when I found out that the rates weren't cheaper late at night.  At our last place, it was and laundry day was actually laundry night. We're on well water, so every time we use water, we use electricity, too.

The latest thing that I'm trying is freezing water in milk jugs outside, and then putting them in the frig.  I'm hoping that the frig doesn't run as much.  And I keep looking for other things to do.  If I was by myself, I'd be more tempted to be as extreme as Paul's adventure, but that sure won't fly here with the spouse.

Wasn't the original challenge to figure out different ways to save power but not make changes to the structure?  What about Mother Earth's heat grabber? This passive solar unit is cheap to build if you scrounge, is built to fit into a window and might work in some locations.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I am at my desk wearing my bathrobe.  Normally this is no big deal.  But today, my toes are feeling cold and my face is feeling cold.  The reptile heaters are on so my hands are very warm.  The dog bed heater is on, which is usually enough to keep my bare feet warm.  I have the 100 watt light bulb and the chair heater too.  Normally this seems plenty.  It is especially cold outside.  So I check my thermometers ....

The inside temp near my desk (an outside wall with a big window):  38 degrees F.

The temp on the inside wall wall near the thermostat:  41. 

The thermostat is turned down as low as it will go which I thought was 50.  But on closer inspection I can see that 50 is a little higher up on the knob. 

I'm turning the temp up to 50 - which is what this experiment is supposed to be about.

I think I could make adjustments to my personal heating stuff to feel comfortable at 38 degrees, but that might be a better test for next year.

-----

In related news:  I traveled a bit for the holidays and spent a few hours getting work done at a friend's house.  The temp there while I was trying to work was 60.  But I didn't have all of my personal heat contraptions.  I also didn't have my clothes that I bundle up with.  I got cold.  I started off being fine, but after a couple of hours, I couldn't get my stuff done and was just uncomfortable. 

I think the big thing to draw from this is that I could probably be perfectly comfortable with a room temp of 65.  Or, I could be perfectly comfortable with a room temp of 50, my "bundled up" clothes, my reptile heaters and my dog bed heater.




                      


Joined: Nov 30, 2010
Posts: 53
  welll first oddly electric is 100% efficient its far from 100% getting it to you you might get only 80-90% from the natural gas generator and lose 25% in transmission .. but point of use

atleast wool area carpet NOT gobi desert expanding chinese wool but ethicial educated purchase .

do like the old english in stone building did tapastries , no where near your heat source though

the stick on reflective window films on the north side  maybe the east and west

heavy drapes that will be closed at night to hold heat

as for the nuts so maybe 1-2 R addition re paint with ceramic or ceno speres added to the paint

and yes thermal mass in the room might help
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
From here on, I want to refer to "thermometer A", "thermometer B" and the thermostat.  This is my quick pic to try to explain this.

North is up.

So my desk sits at a south facing window. 

The south, north and east walls are outside walls.

So when it is cold outside, it is reasonable that thermometer A will read lower than B.

Further, I think it would be reasonable that the temperature at the window near A would be even lower still at night, but probably higher during the day. 







[Thumbnail for thermometers.gif]

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Yesterday, I did some cooking and got the temp at B up to about 60.  Today A reads 50 and B reads 52.

Last night I was bundled and had everything on I did start to feel cold.  Which seems weird since that is normally not the case.  Normally, "A" could read 42 and I would feel fine with being bundled, the reptile heaters and the dog bed heater.  But last night it was over 50 and I added the chair heater and the overhead light and I was still a little chilled.  I could feel chill on my face and on my lap.  Fluke?  I was tempted to fire up the 300 watt raidant heater - but in the end I let it go.

I eventually figured it out.  I got a new chair for my desk.  My old chair has a solid, padded back.  The new chair has a mesh back.  I started using the new chair at about 6pm.  I think the old chair insulated my back.  I switched back to the old chair and things seem normal today.

----

Today I am modifying the experiment a little.  Since it was my face that felt a little cold, I moved the overhead 100 watt bulb about 10 inches lower and 16 inches forward.  The idea is to get the heat closer to me and to warm my face more.  The challenge is to keep the light out of my eyes and to keep glare off of my screen.  So far, my face feels the same, but the top of my head feels much warmer.



tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3098
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
I hope you can find somebody to take a photograph of you in this arrangement.  completely separate from how effective your setup is, I bet that it looks ridiculous.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm sure it does look ridiculous.  Look at the reptile heater pics a few dozen posts back.

The important thing is:  can I be comfortable and save $300? $600? $2000?  And then when the government takes money from me and uses it to teach people how to save energy - will they teach them to go buy fluorescent bulbs, or go buy reptile heaters?  Maybe the message will be a better message about turning off the lights.  Maybe we will see keyboard heaters become a new product. 

If the mission is to save energy so we:

- don't rely on foreign oil so much (and don't have be at war so much)
- don't pollute so much
- don't have to build more nuclear power plants (or coal, or diesel or whatever)

Then I want to expose a better way. 

If I can get my house temp down to 50 and stay comfortable using about a hundred watts - and somehow this is the start of a hundred million people doing this.  Then am I the guy that ended war, reduced pollution (thus saved millions of lives) and improved the overall economy because we don't need as much dirty new power generation?  (yes, I really am this arrogant)

A lot of people go to peace rallies.  A lot of people argue about why war is wrong and people shouldn't die for oil.  But what do they really DO?

I think this experiment could save the world.  So I am doing it, and writing about it.  I am fully prepared to look ridiculous to save millions of lives. 

The way CFLs are being sold - I think they might actually use more energy.  It is a terribly complicated issue.  Stuff that would save more energy:

1) turning lights off; using some night lights so people don't feel the need to turn lights on;  using motion detectors for some outdoor lights or some hallway lights or ....  motion detectors where you are reading is silly.  A good lighting strategy without CFLs will probably save far more than the current CFL strategy being advocated.

2) knowledge about using clothes drying racks instead of dryers.

3) knowledge about wofati structures and rocket mass heaters could save on heating and cooling.

4) knowledge about permaculture techniques could save on all sorts of ag stuff and on family food bills and on health stuff.

And and and and and ... so much more.  And yes, I am goofy enough to think that all this is an appropriate response to how my setup probably looks ridiculous. 


tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3098
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
a great many of my projects look silly, but I think they're worthwhile.  I still hope to see a photograph of you surrounded by all the heaters you've described.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
More on "ridiculous":  once I have optimized for comfort and savings, I can then begin to optimize for .... having it look less ridiculous.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3098
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
paul wheaton wrote:
More on "ridiculous":  once I have optimized for comfort and savings, I can then begin to optimize for .... having it look less ridiculous.


those photographs won't be as much fun.
                            


Joined: Dec 15, 2010
Posts: 105
paul wheaton wrote:


Today I am modifying the experiment a little.   Since it was my face that felt a little cold, I moved the overhead 100 watt bulb about 10 inches lower and 16 inches forward.   The idea is to get the heat closer to me and to warm my face more.  The challenge is to keep the light out of my eyes and to keep glare off of my screen.   So far, my face feels the same, but the top of my head feels much warmer.



Paul,

you have immersed yourself in a new world of discovery. Temperature and heat content in contrast to human perception are not linear in nature.

Radiant heat is neat stuff that defies logic! When adjusting your bulb distance know that radiant heat decreases at the square of the distance. AKA the temperature felt at 4" will be doubled at 2" but be 1/4 at 8" One can demonstrate this with a candle, your hand at 2" and it is no big deal perhaps not even any significant warmth felt, move in to 1" and it can become quite uncomfortable, this is from the side of course as the top includes heat from convection of the exhaust of the flame.

Hope that helps you in adjusting the distance of your bulb to increase your comfort and gives you a bit of a scale to work with.


Professor of Thermal and Electrical Engineering, Welding/metallurgy: Licenses: PE license, Mechanical license Variety of other "certifications" from industry groups such as Refrigeration Service Engineers Society http://www.rses.org/, ASHRE http://www.ashrae.org/ Ect.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm pretty sure that my butt warmer / chair heater is dead.  It has probably been dead for a long time. 

thermometer A:  52

thermometer B:  56

outside: 37

I accidentally left all of my personal heating stuff on all night.  Usually I'm really good about that sort of thing.  I'm not sure what I was thinking. 

All thermostats have been set to 50 and I haven't done any cooking in the house for a couple of days.  I did hear the baseboard heater in my bedroom come on last night - it sorta makes a ticking sound when it comes on. 

I get up in the morning and put on my bathrobe, get some work done and then shower.  The odd thing is that I often feel warmer wearing just my bathrobe.  This makes me wonder about wearing something else during the day.  Cotton is probably the problem. 

I dress with the idea that I might head out to get some work done outside.  Maybe what I should do is dress for staying home and put on outside clothes when I go out. 

As I try to think of the path that this experiment is about, I think about what could be in the future.  People that have only electric heat would keep their house at 50 and wear super comfy fleece pants a sweater and a loose fleece jacket.    When you have company over, you turn up the heat - no problem.  But for the rest of the time, something like fleece pajamas plus a foot warmer and the keyboard warmer would be all that was needed. 

It could be called "insulated lougewear". 

I currently have the the reptile heaters, the dog bed heater and the light bulb on.  235 watts.  .... okay now the light bulb is off.  I'll try 135 watts for a while. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think it is time to imagine inventions that would make this project work better. 

Invention #1:  something to replace the reptile heaters.  The reptile heaters are probably the item that is making this work better than anything else.  But it would be good to get something that could be lower (closer to my hands) and had adjustable power.  Something that would have a lot of weight in the base so that the heater part could hover without getting knocked over.  And I could turn the heat down.  Not something where the heat cycles on and off, but something where the level of heat is constant - but with infinite adjustment.  What I have now uses 120 watts.  I could move them lower, but then my hands would be too hot - plus there would then be cold spots.  I think that if a contraption were built right, it could be lower, more even and I would be comfortable using only 40 watts.

Invention 2:  heated keyboard.  Currently I feel a lot of heat from the dog bed heater and it is using 15 watts.  It seems that with a heated keyboard (and mouse?) I could use something similar and my hands would be plenty warm.  In fact, I wonder if there could be something that is somewhat enclosed with something clear on top but open toward me - it would sorta hold the heat in.  Of course, the heat would pour out where my hands go in, but that heat would rise to .... my face!  Which is currently my coldest spot.  The more I think about it, the more I think that this might be a better idea than Invention 2.  In fact, between a 15 watt foot heater and a 15 watt keyboard heater (that also heats my face a little), this might be just the thing that REALLY saves the world.

Invention 3:  my face is cold.  One thought is to aim a reptile heater at my face, but I worry about anything infrared coming from it and somehow doing something to my eyes.  There is probably no danger, but I would want to be sure. 
 
 
subject: making the best of electric heat
 
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