Sunday, October 22, 2006

4 degrees and a breeze

Warning: privileged whining ahead-

So, it’s getting chilly and we’re into the days of our ultra-virtuous but darn uncomfortable propane rationing. Our house is off-the-grid as far as electricity, but we’re dependent upon a big tank of propane for our house boiler. The house was built (by someone else, not us) to be heated with propane, with a largely decorative fireplace (more about that later).

I know it’s good for saving money and for reducing CO2 emissions, but setting the thermostat at 58-62 degrees F is not terribly comfortable for me. Hats and thick sweaters only work so well indoors (what about the hands?!?). I think my circulation is getting wimpier- I never used to get so cold. And it’s only October! I’m not sure if I can take 5 more months of this… it’s only going to get colder before it gets warmer!!

So, last year we set about attempting to make our house a bit less dependent on outside fuel and got an insert stove put into the (fake rock) fireplace. It’s lovely and does put out a bit of heat. Problem solved, right?

Ah, if only. The other day I was home for a good part of a cold, dreary day, and decided to try to make the place comfy with the stove. Never mind that the stove points away from the rest of the house, in it’s own room (with vaulted ceilings, ahem); maybe I could be toasty there! Last year we didn’t try to keep the stove going continuously because we didn’t have that much dry wood. This year: plenty. Yeah!

So, I merrily burned that stove pretty darn hot for most of the day. In that time, I was rewarded by a 4 degree increase in the closest thermostat, with nothing in other parts of the house (bedroom was sitting at a brisk 60 F) Sitting on the couch 4 feet from the stove, I still had cold hands and could feel a BREEZE! Insane. So, instead of enjoying my cozy fire, I commenced fretting over the crazy, inefficient shape of this “fancy” house and pondering new windows. Windows (and ridiculous sliding glass doors) have come a long way since 1982, right?

So, I’m investigating new windows and possibly a ceiling fan to get the heat out of the peak before it can sneak out the (inefficient) window in the apex. We’re bracing ourselves for a bit of a nasty price jolt, but I am looking forward to no more breeze in the stove-heated room. I also won’t feel so frivolous “wasting” wood for the experience of the fire when the heat is negligible. I will miss the great airdraw, though: I never have to blow on the fire- it’s like having a room-sized bellows!

I am grateful to live in a spacious house when so many people struggle to pay rent or yearn for a place like this. But neither WF nor I would have designed the house to be like this: it just happened to be on this piece of fairly-close-to-town property. And he just happened to own it when I married him. So, I really have to practice gratitude… and find some fingerless gloves for my computer time!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! Yes, we in cold, drafty houses work hard to be grateful sometimes, don't we?!

58 degrees is the temperature we seem to live in during winter with a boost to 62 during morning and evening hours. I tried 50 degrees in daytime, but must admit, I still will nudge the thermostat up to 58 as I can't bear it any colder anymore!

Last year I suffered all kinds of infections come Spring (resulting in much discomfort and dr. bills). I figure that was due to my old body being more stressed than it had to be. So now that we have the house paid off but not yet upgraded, I'm experimenting with upping the luxury level! This means a oil space heater set to minimum on a long extension cord that can follow us whereever we go if we happen to be home and are cold. I think going to work could save on the heating bill! And in the past, young & single & broke, would go into work just to get warm and be surely bummed when work might be cancelled due to ice storms, power outtages and such.

I live in a relatively mild climate -- and without heat I probably won't die (most of the time). So I shouldn't be complaining much. I say, girl, you are brave to be doing this in Minnesota!

Deb said...

It seems to me that the cold weather came on so quickly this year, my body has not had time to acclimate to it! I probably had the house up above 80 degrees with the wood stove yesterday; we're still on last year's wood so it was a cheap luxury.

I groan every time I see a poorly designed (for heating) McMansion, or doublewide manufactured home going up. For gosh sakes, this is Minnesota!

cyndy said... remind me of the days when we first moved into our cabin (built in the 40's it had terrible insulation) We re-insulated but still have to use a fan to push the warm air air around. The wood/coal stove is in the mud room and sometimes the living room is several degrees cooler. The ceiling fan should help out a lot.

Endment said...

We have our thermostat low also... I keep a small heating pad under my chair to keep my toes warm:)

gtr said...

Gee, thanks for the support, everyone! Your comments will help keep me warm in the cool house (ha!). We got window estimates yesterday, and I nearly fell over. Unusually-sized windows, indeed.
What were the original builders thinking!?!?!

So, someone told me the other day that I shouldn't need to wear a hat inside my house. What do you think? Is that true? Or just extravagant?

Anonymous said...

Ow, ow, ow! I feel your pain (or pane -- no too hokey to work as a word pun).

Hubby looked into it and told me it would be at least $1500 to replace one of our oversized windows -- yikes -- I guess since that one is one of the double paned ones, it's not a very high priority. We'll slowly focus on the rest. Probably one room at a time to keep costs manageable.

And you have company! Wear it with pride, smart cookie! I too wear a hat if I'm feeling particularly cold. It's the best way to keep from losing your body heat. Now that you mention it, the top of my head feels cold... Where's my hat?!! Must go find it before even colder weather sets in! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and those fingerless gloves you mention for computer work? They are a good thing! :-)

Remember: "It's easier to stay warm than to get warm!"

My, my, my -- Minnesota one, I could learn a few tricks from you, me thinks!

Kati said...

Don't worry, you have company. My old farmhouse is heated with oil. There is a wood-burning heater that is unusable because the chimney didn't pass inspection. The fireplaces simply draw all the warm air out of the room out the chimney, plus one is on that unusable chimney, the other chimney doesn't draw properly no matter how carefully I lay the fire and the house fills with smoke...I love daydreaming about how I would design my house if I could someday! The house was radically "remodelled" in maybe the 60's and I wonder if it was perhaps more efficient to heat then with it's old-fashioned wood burning stove in the middle of the house.