Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Conclusion to the No Oil Heat Until November Experiment

We are well into November and those of you with a good memory may recall that I mentioned a plan to attempt going without using our oil heat until November. The good news is that we did! The bad news is that some of the related experiments we tried didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped.

So first here is what worked for keeping us warm:
1. Obviously the wood stove helped a lot. The only downside to this is that someone has to be around all the time to keep it going.
2. Hot water bottles and or kitties. Nothing makes a bed more inviting then a hot water bottle and or the more natural alternative: a cat. The only problem with the cats is they tend to have more free will then a hot water bottle.
3. Baking things. Our decision to start making as much of our own bread as possible was conveniently timed because using the oven more does its part to warm up the kitchen.

Between all these things we managed to keep the upstairs warm enough that it was livable. The only problem that remained was the basement which didn’t benefit from the woodstove upstairs. If only hot air went down instead of up! Unfortunately I haven’t figured out a way to change the laws of physics so we had to settle for setting up a network of fans to push the warm air down the basement stairs.

As an experiment this was amazingly successful. We were able to raise the temperature downstairs by 5 degrees! As a practical setup this wasn’t so great because 5 fans probably use a good deal of electricity and they also make maneuvering the stairs rather difficult.

But because of our initial success with fans we decided to try to approximate a hot air vent leading to the basement. We bought 2 lengths of dryer duct. At one end we duct taped the tubing to a box which was stapled to the wall (very elegant) near the stove. We then arranged the tubing so it went down the stairs and along the ceiling and in through a convenient hole in the wall into my basement apartment. Once inside the apartment it was attached to another cardboard box except instead of being open this one had a small fan at the end. The theory was that the fan would pull hot air through the tube into the basement.

When we turned it on we discovered that the fan was barely powerful enough to suck the air down through the tube so we made some adjustments and added a much powerful fan. And we gave it a full test run this time only to discover….the temperature downstairs didn’t change one degree.

So this obviously still needs some work if it is going to be helpful at all. We have since resorted to using the heat but not very much. The other advantage is that if we were to lose electricity for an extended period of time, perhaps because of a blizzard, we know that the woodstove could at least keep us warm upstairs (as long as all our wood isn’t buried under snow).

1 comment:

  1. Laura-Jane - WhimfieldNovember 16, 2008 at 7:59 PM

    Congratulations!! This is a great entry and a topic close to my own heart.

    I have also heard (but don't know the validity of) the fact that people also try to push the cold air *towards* the warmer areas.

    For example, you already have fans coming down from upstairs which is perfect.

    But you could *also* have fans from down in the cold areas pushing air back up into the warm areas as well.

    But I think that it needs to be through two different warm air being blown down the stairs, but then maybe you could have that vent blowing cold air from downstairs *up* into your warmer living space?

    The crux of it is that the cold air needs a way to get OUT of there. I think anyway!