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warmth amongst the coldth - Madison Wisconsin area Homeowners [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Madison Wisconsin area Homeowners

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warmth amongst the coldth [Feb. 13th, 2008|12:00 pm]
Madison Wisconsin area Homeowners


[Current Location |103]
[Current Music |Morrissey::Ringleader of the Tormentors:I Will See You in Far-off Places]

perhaps the best two things i have acquired this year were for heat. The Mr. Heater BIG Buddy portable heater:

and this little valve: 

that allows me to refill the 1# disposable tanks (which run ~$2/lb):
from a larger tank (which costs just under $1/lb).

(the BIG buddy actually can be connected directly to the larger tanks, but technically, the larger tanks should be kept outside, and i'm told it is far more pleasant for the thing to be small and portable rather than tethered to a larger tank).

this has allowed for instant and crowd-pleasing (aka "company") heat in otherwise cold rooms that aren't kept any warmer due to cost-saving and efficent zone heating. and, of course, makes for a great, portable, and instant source of emergency heating.

even with the much much colder temps, this year's efforts at converting each room to electric zone heat rather than central NG heat, have paid off: we've yet to exceed $250/mo in heating bills, the maximum recorded in the two previous and much milder winters. this old house started off with "zone" heating (aka a woodburner in each room from 1886-1920), then went with the for-the-time incredibly modern central oil heat (1920->1970s), then was converted to two-zone natural gas heat (2 furnaces, up and down-stairs) (1970s->2001), central gas heat (2001->2007), and now zoned electric (240v) heat suplemented by portable gas (LP) and electric (120V) heat as needed.

zoned heating is inarguably the most efficient: you don't heat the rooms you aren't in when you don't need them, and you don't rely on an arbitrary placement of a single t-stat to determine the temp in every room.

switching to at-the-source instant electric water heaters: 

for the kitchen and bathroom have saved at least $17/mo (measured cost of the gas hot heater's PILOT LIGHT), and probably far far more due to being able to restrict flow at the shower to no more than 1.1gpm, not sending hot water to chill through lengthy cold pipe runs, and not wasting water to 'warm up' as it makes its way to the outlet.

there's been a few problems so far, and this incredibly snowy and cold winter has helped debug them.

1> The tankless hot water heaters have to be protected from freezing. more than three days in an area that is below 0C, and their flow sensors will fail or even burst as the water inside bursts. easy enough: either set the room to always be above freezing, or apply electric heat tape to the input pipe.

2> the new remote-sending city water meters need to be protected from freezing. they cost $150/ea. more than a week in a basement that is below -20C and they will freeze up and crack. easy solution: wrap in electric heat tape set to turn on at 0C.

3> STICK WITH COPPER PIPE. As an experiment, I tried a few runs of CVPC water pipe. two problems, one being that it still freezes up during lengthy negative temps, despite the manuf indicating that it was suited for this climate, and the second, following from the first: when it freezes up, you can't apply a heat source to thaw it!

4> and this was something i knew in theory, but much like the whole airplane on a conveyor belt argument, most ppl won't beleive until they see it in practice: a modern fridge needs to be in a room that is at least as warm as the temp setting for the fridge portion (typically 40F), otherwise, it will work in reverse. (this does not apply to things like chest freezers, which simply remove heat. a fridge is trying to REGULATE a specific temp through heat exchange, and if it can't exchange heat one way, it will go the other. try it. we did.).

i'm sure there's more, but i just wanted to record these thoughts today during lunch in case anybody else out there is engaging in the same endeavours during this non-typical winter.