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  1. #1
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    living heat free?

    Any of you minimilast/luddite types one just turn off the heat in their house/apt for the winter? The house I bought last year has an old oil fueled bioler with antique steam radiators. Its a super inefficient system, and I have come to realize that simply learning to live without heat (or minimal heat) is going to be much cheaper than upgrading the system to something more efficient. I have not used any heat yet this year and the house was a chill 51 degrees this morning (it was 37 outside), and to my surprise, none of my family complained. I'm wondering how low I can go before they start to notice. I'm thinking of closing off a single "cozy room" and just heating that one room in the evenings, and weekends, with a space heater, and for the rest of the house set the thermostat to about 40, so the pipes don't freeze.

    To make this bike related, I discovered there is less incentive to stay indoors when its not much colder outside. I have also found that the incentive to cook your own food is much greater, since the oven warms the kitchen.

  2. #2
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    I moved to California a year ago from Maine. Should I be embarrassed to mention that it was January before I discovered that the pilot light on the furnace had not been lit? .

  3. #3
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Even keeping the thermostat on our gas furnace set to the lower 60s cut an enormous swath through our energy bills. Typically, we don't use much heat outside of the Nov 15 - March 15 timeframe.

    That said, the merino wool sweater budget is up somewhat.

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    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    I live heat-free here in the south of Spain. Don't laugh. It does get chilly at night. Nothing like New York of course, but cool enough that I'm considered an oddball for bundling up rather than turning on the heat.

    Rather than a "cozy room", my heat-light wife uses a small electric heater to heat the space under a table. The warm air is kept in there by a sort of blanket that goes over the table. This used to be done with a tray of hot coals. The Japanese use a similar system, I'm told. Heating an entire house is considered wasteful in many cultures.

  5. #5
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    ...my heat-light wife uses a small electric heater to heat the space under a table. The warm air is kept in there by a sort of blanket that goes over the table. This used to be done with a tray of hot coals. The Japanese use a similar system, I'm told.
    I do the same thing. It's called a kotatsu table. During the cold season I drape a quilt and a paint canvas over a folding table and put an electric heater under the table. The electric heater needs to be one that has a very low temperature setting and won't catch anything on fire. I'm reluctant to recommend a kotatsu to anyone because of the potential fire safety issues. But having said that, I like mine a lot and it works well.

    ETA: And an electric blanket works great for me in bed.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    You might get away with that in NY, where your coldest temperatures are usually accompanied by dry air. It'd be pretty miserable here in the Pacific Northwest, even with our mild temperatures, because there'd be no way to drive the accumulating moisture out of the house (unless you had a good passive solar setup) with the humidity so high most of the winter. Great way to get mildew and rot going.

  7. #7
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    I live heat-free here in the south of Spain. Don't laugh. It does get chilly at night. Nothing like New York of course, but cool enough that I'm considered an oddball for bundling up rather than turning on the heat.

    Rather than a "cozy room", my heat-light wife uses a small electric heater to heat the space under a table. The warm air is kept in there by a sort of blanket that goes over the table. This used to be done with a tray of hot coals. The Japanese use a similar system, I'm told. Heating an entire house is considered wasteful in many cultures.
    Funny that you mentioned the Japanese. My wife's is from Japan and I've spent a few winters there with the in-laws. No one in Japan heats their entire home. Basically they spend the entire winter huddled around a table (kotatsu) such as the one you mentioned. All the rooms in the homes are separated by sliding panels, so basically they seal themselves into one room most of the time. Its actually quite cozy...you have your hot tea, your television, your laptop, reading materials, and whatever else you need scattered around on the floor in a nearly empty room with a 16" high table in the center, and everyone just sort of lays around on the floor in the evenings relaxing after dinner with their legs under the table. On really cold days or when guests visit, they might heat the room with a space heater, but otherwise the only heat is under the table, or sometimes an electric blanket is placed under the table. You can see your breath throughout the rest of the house and when you need to leave the room for whatever reason, its sort of like dressing to go outside. Of course, your room is unheated so you sleep under 7-8" of blankets. It all makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

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    Growing up in Santa Clara, CA we used to have a family bet on how long we could go without using the furnace. Started with T-day one year, 12-1 the next, then XMas, then New Year's then no furnace entirely.
    We'd have sweaters and blankets and a fire in the family room. Our house was very poorly insulated and very drafty. And, electric blankets to sleep with. (and the dogs on my bed for me)
    Worst part was the bathroom tile floors at 5am on the way to swim practice.
    Granted, it only dipped below freezing a few nights a year.

    Now, in SoCal; we don't use our furnace much. We have a couple of aquariums and that and the people, computers and lighting (even with all CF's) keeps the place about 58 or so at the lowest.
    Again, a poorly insulated, drafty place.
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  9. #9
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Well, my thermostat is set rather toasty, but I only run it when I'm at home and awake, so that's only a few hours a day. Just enough to take the chill off.

    But I cheat. I live in an upstairs apartment, so it's partly heated by my downstairs neighbor anyway.
    Last edited by Artkansas; 11-03-10 at 04:26 PM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    If everyday in Wintertime were like it is now here in Los Angeles, we would be blasting the air conditioner. In all of my time living here, I can only remember a few cold winters when I turned on the heater for a few hours. I would rather just wear socks and a sleep sack while at home than to turn on the heat.
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  11. #11
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    Keeping a kettle of hot water for drinks and instant soups is a big plus for cold weather comfort. We installed a gadget on the kitchen sink which is generically called an insta-hot, which is a dispenser for nearly boiling water. I think there are manually filled electric kettles that require no installation.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I don't run the heat at night, because mine comes on for a while, then goes off, and I can't get comfortable. When it's cold, I'll pull blankets over me, and warm up naturally; if the heat comes on, then I start sweating, wake up clammy, and when the heat kicks off, I shiver. So I have a few knit blankets, and they keep me warm.

    Unless it's very cold out, I prefer merino base layers and a sweater or whatever. My cat has shown herself to be pretty trust worthy, so I like to leave the door cracked to let her come and go. Plus I have a private, west-facing patio, and like to leave the door open. Running the heat would be folly. On the other hand, when it gets really frigid, I close the doors, warm the flat up a bit, then kill the heat.

    But I'm half Danish and part Norwegian. My idea of comfortable is what most people would call frigid.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    I find as a regular cyclist I can tolerate a house temperature a few degrees cooler than I could when I was not a regular exerciser. So cycling obviously is good for your circulation.

    As for no heat in a climate with sub-freezing temperatures - 40F sounds a bit iffy on the pipes freezing as there will be a temperature variance on the pipes (in the walls) and the inside of the room. I think the family might start protesting if there is only one cozy room!

    Why not replace the oil boiler with another fuel source (I'd keep the radiators though - radiant water heat is very comfortable) and beef up the insulation in the house instead of suffering? Yes it costs money but if you could afford to buy the house you should be able to afford to properly maintain it.

  14. #14
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    We keep our heat set around 60 except on the coldest nights. Our house is very drafty and poor insulation. We have electric mattress pads, cozies and lots of wool and blankets.

    Aaron
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  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Pacific ocean shore has climatic moderating effects ,so heating spike on my power bill is short, just DJFM quarter.

  16. #16
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crazybikerchick View Post
    I find as a regular cyclist I can tolerate a house temperature a few degrees cooler than I could when I was not a regular exerciser. So cycling obviously is good for your circulation.

    As for no heat in a climate with sub-freezing temperatures - 40F sounds a bit iffy on the pipes freezing as there will be a temperature variance on the pipes (in the walls) and the inside of the room. I think the family might start protesting if there is only one cozy room!

    Why not replace the oil boiler with another fuel source (I'd keep the radiators though - radiant water heat is very comfortable) and beef up the insulation in the house instead of suffering? Yes it costs money but if you could afford to buy the house you should be able to afford to properly maintain it.
    These are steam radiators....they are the worst. The water has to boil for a long time to build up steam, which is less efficient than just pumping hot water through some pipes. Once the steam is there and the thermostat kicks off, it still keeps providing heat until all of the steam condenses and the house overheats above the thermostat setting by 8-10 degrees. There is no way to reach a comfortable temperature and then stay there with steam. Of course I could have an entirely new heating system installed, but I don't think its worth tens of thousands of dollars it at this point. I'd rather dump the money into my mortgage and just get it paid off ASAP. Long Island winters are relatively mild anyway (I'm from the midwest). It gets below freezing here, but never really what I would consider severe cold for long stretches of time. At this point I'm more interested in the challenge of "living heat free" and less interested in spending tons of money to be a little bit more comfortable. My wife's from Japan anyway and I keep trying to remind her that she's accustomed to it.
    Last edited by mihlbach; 11-03-10 at 06:40 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    I have electric base board heaters in every room. It makes it easy to regulate which room gets heat. My bedroom is kept warm. I turn on the heat in the kitchen during the day and off at night. I keep a fan blowing from the floor to the wall above the kitchen heater. That air gets circulated into the living room and hallway.

    Everybody needs to have a floor fan that blows the air from the floor to the ceiling. It makes the temperature of a room uniform instead of having the air at the ceiling warm and the air at the floor cold. Doing this will save energy. Point the fan at the ceiling. In the summer time point the fan at the center of a wall. That circulates cooler air around the room and helps make the temperature more comfortable thus the thermostat for air conditioners can be raised a little. Of course one could always hog the fan and have it blow directly on your body. If it's just you in the room then it doesn't matter.

    My winter electricity bill is over two-hundred dollars per month for an eight-hundred-fifty square foot apartment.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member zeppinger's Avatar
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    Here in Korea we all use a heating system call ondul. It is a floor heating system. My apartment, like many in Korea, is probably in the neighborhood of 300-400 square feet. The ondul is in the main room (bedroom,kitchen,living room, combo) and obviously not in the bathroom. The system is very efficient because it heats up water that flows under the floor (water stores heat much better than air) rather than hot air blown heaters. Many people use traditional Korean beds that are on the floor so you don't have to set the temperature very high to stay toasty at night. It also just makes the house feel warmer than it is because you have a warm floor rather than hot air and an ice cold floor.

    Here is some more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondol
    or here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underfloor_heating

    For the OP, I would try wearing extra clothes around the house, invest in cheap slippers because they make a big difference, and keep the bedrooms relatively warm at night with space heaters.
    Last edited by zeppinger; 11-03-10 at 11:03 PM.

  19. #19
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    My winter electricity bill is over two-hundred dollars per month for an eight-hundred-fifty square foot apartment.
    Granted, you live in an area that can be brutally cold in the winter, but this still seems incredibly expensive to me. I live in an 800 sq ft apartment, and my electricity bill is never over $30/month; most months, it's more like $15. And I'm a total wimp when it comes to heat; if it's even a little bit chilly, I don't hesitate to turn on the baseboard heaters for an hour or two. Are you sure you're not being cheated?
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    Are you sure you're not being cheated?
    My apartment is about five years old with double insulated windows and I've sealed the cracks in the doors. It is on the second floor. A year or so before I arrived in Montana the local government voted to lease the power generators to a private company. Power bills went up almost triple according to my neighbors. They were expecting to save the state money. Maybe they did.

    My electric bill is separate from my rent. It comes directly from the power company. I use much less power than my neighbors. I can see it in the power meters. One thing I do have that costs money is an electric water distiller. It runs four and a half hours per day. Making one gallon of purified water is still cheaper than paying sixty-four cents per gallon for it at the store. It also means I don't ever run out of it or need to haul gallons of water home each day. It benefits the environment because I don't buy those plastic jugs each day. In the winter time the extra heat from the distiller just replaces the heat from the baseboard heaters. Therefore I'm not adding energy to my power bill. I don't trust water filters at stores. The quality changes day to day depending on if the machines were serviced. They still don't dispense distilled water. I like distilled water.
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  21. #21
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    Right now, somebody who likes the thermostat set at just above room temperature is having a nightmare.

    I've done stretches in an house with lazy landlord and having no water heater, it was -20 outside for a few weeks... i think ice-crystals were coming out of the shower-head because it felt like needles once you got in and the soap would barely lather! It sure cut down on the water bill though - lol.

  22. #22
    Dare to be weird!
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    Smallwheels,

    Imagine the complexity of the electrical wiring in a big two story apartment building, and how easy it would be for the builder to mistakenly connect a neighbor's heating (or A/C) system to your meter's circuit. If your heater is in a mechanical closet directly above your downstairs neighbor's heater, it would be very easy to connect the upstairs heater to the downstairs circuit and vice versa.

    I have personally diagnosed that situation in a rented apartment. We were getting huge electric bills no matter how much we tried to conserve. Turned out, the upstairs neighbor's A/C was running off our power, and vice versa. We demanded that the landlord send an electrician to check, and the electrician said this situation is quite common.

    What you can do is watch the outside meter when your heater is running and when it's not. If you see it spinning fast when your heater is supposed to be off, investigate further.

    I'm not saying this is definitely the problem, but maybe it's worth checking.

  23. #23
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    @ smallwheels

    Why distilled? We use a filter on the faucet in the kitchen for drinking water. IIRC the cartridges run ~$9 and last us 6 months at current usage.

    Aaron
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  24. #24
    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    Heater??? Ha, ha, ha ... and I don't have an air conditioner either - painted the roof white and put in solar vent fans and the house stays very comfortable year round.

    Just a hint though ... if you actually live where it is cold then no heat also equals no running water because you had better empty the pipes or they will freeze and all that money you saved by not heating the house just went to the plumber ...
    The more you drive the less intelligent you are. - Tracy Walter as Miller in Repo Man.

  25. #25
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    When I was a kid, one house we lived in had the stupidest heating system imaginable. Electric radiant heating in the ceiling. So the crawl space at the top of the house would stay toasty even if the occupants below were freezing. The power company was promoting these.

    Only in Florida!
    Last edited by Artkansas; 11-04-10 at 07:31 AM.
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