Polar vortex collapse fun

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
jacob
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Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by jacob »

Outside temperatures in Chicago were negative 22F/-30C this morning. A situation that's gonna last a couple of days. While this situation is interesting and almost boring---temperatures have been this low before (and we(*)'re well-equipped to wander around outside in -60F windchill despite the concerned hysteria from people all over the world---terrifying moments lurk just under the surface.

(*) Well, of course some still prioritize fashion over frostbite, so I'm sure it'll be a fun day at the ER et al.

This morning, I noted (doing some sciencing) that our house was losing 6F/hour w/o the heater on. That's really fast. But of course the house is not built for these kind of temperature swings. It also meant that the furnace was going almost constantly (normally, it would run every hour maybe) with only 10 minute breaks in between heating.

That means that the house like ours is ~1hr away from burst pipes given a power failure with nobody home to flush the system. I note that 4000 Duke Energy customers lost power today. I can only imagine.

theanimal
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by theanimal »

The margin of error is so small. Even with functioning heat I bet there are tons of plumbing issues across the area today. There are usually a score of plumbing issues up here when it reaches -40 for sustained periods, and most houses here are designed for the climate.

I can't even fathom how much heat is being put out in all those skyscrapers. So much glass...

7Wannabe5
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I received urgent text from my new home owner daughter seeking reassurance on this topic this morning. Luckily, her small home (which only has 1 bathroom!! How did people manage to live with such a state of affairs in the 1940s??), was designed with all plumbing fixtures, except for hose spigot, located in center of house. My "ex" owned rental units which were always freezing up, because the pipes ran through poorly insulated exterior walls.

I am enjoying my snow days, because I have two solid weeks of 6th graders starting next week.

Jean
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Jean »

Can you empty your plumbing easily?

7Wannabe5
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

It's easy, but it's one of those things you always have to think about first, because not often done.

jacob
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by jacob »

Imagine those who are out working getting a txt message that the electricity is out. They might not make it back in time.

Also does anyone know what the max duty cycle is for a furnace? Are they generally sized for continuous performance?

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Kriegsspiel »

I hope so. My house seems to be very badly insulated and the furnace has been running almost constantly.

CS
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by CS »

Keep the cabinet doors open around plumbing, especially for exterior kitchen walls. Learned that in Oregon, where the insulation levels are poor compared to the midwest.

Seppia
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Seppia »

stay safe ladies and gents

IlliniDave
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by IlliniDave »

In my hometown a little west and north of Chicago, the forecast was to equal the lowest recorded temperature for the city this morning (-27F) but I think it fell short. Tonight the low is supposed to be -32F, which will break the record by 6 degrees f it happens. With a thermostat set at 60*F that's a 92*F temperature differential being maintained. I was there for the first -27F, and it wasn't a huge deal. I was a HS senior. Predicted wind chills were -100*F so we actually got a day off school! I just hope my dad's furnace doesn't malfunction. The bill will be high, but cheaper than dealing with frozen pipes if the thermostat is turned down too much or the unit fails.

Up at the cabin lows in the -30s have happened every year since I've owned it, so it's not as newsworthy. Tonight I think is supposed to get to -35F or so.

During December-February, Alabama does not seem as bad as it does the rest of the year. :D

cmonkey
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by cmonkey »

I have not noticed any difference in -10 (average) and -25 (extreme) as far as my house is concerned even after ticking the thermostat up to 70 for the new baby, so it seems I'm situated well for the extremes. All my insulating and sealing definitely paid off. After the system kicks off stage 1 will come back on after 20 minutes, run for 30 minutes and stage 2 kicks in for 45 min to an hour, then aux/stage 3 comes on for an hour or so. Repeat. Geothermal is built for long runs so this is actually where I get the full 400% efficiency level that geo can give you for electricity used. Natural gas furnaces get as high as 95-98%.

The unfortunate part of it actually is that the bedroom now gets to 76 F with the system running so long. Good for baby, bad for cmonkey.

George the original one
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by George the original one »

CS wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:15 pm
Keep the cabinet doors open around plumbing, especially for exterior kitchen walls. Learned that in Oregon, where the insulation levels are poor compared to the midwest.
Yup, standard practice out here even if the house is properly insulated! Very vital for those maintaining two residences.

Toska2
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Toska2 »

My wood stove can keep an 80 degree temperature differential in the house. Fine for 95% of the year, good enough for me.

IlliniDave
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by IlliniDave »

Most houses in the upper Midwest, at least those built in the 70s and prior, are built to withstand a lot of cold.

I heard from my dad. It was -27 at his house this morning so at least there they equaled the record low. Still expects to beat it tonight. Right now I'm really glad I didn't ERE at age 18 and take up residence in his basement. Of course, since my plan is to move back there for my winter residence post-career (not in his basement though), questioning of my intelligence is warranted. I'll be the snowbird that totally missed the point.

BMF1102
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by BMF1102 »

Interesting, I'm in Battle Creek area MI. Just had an "Emergency Alert" come across my phone stating Consumers asks to have thermostats turned down to 65F through Friday. Then turn on the news and alert comes across there stating the same. Apparently they're havning issues at one of their facilities which could lead to supply issues due to higher current demand.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

6f feels like -12f right now. I just got home from work and damn, I'm not used to these temps here. Don't have the proper clothing for it, but I did layer up (4 layers), some cheap gloves, hat, hood, and still felt like a Popsicle by the time I got home.

Hope everyone stays safe where it's colder!

Riggerjack
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Riggerjack »

I remember being in Fairbanks back in the winter of '86-87. The temperature was -35f as it had been for a while. The national weather report showed Chicago at -75f with wind chill.

I thought it was crazy that millions of people were living in a city down in the lower 48 that made Alaska seem warm. Then the summers are brutal the other way. And people move there, intentionally.

Meanwhile, I had frost on my windshield yesterday. We're in the cold part of spring here in the Puget Sound. There are worried whispers of maybe a dusting of snow in the lowlands someday soon. :shock:

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I am also wondering how frequently the furnace is supposed to run. It has been running most of the time for the last couple of days. It doesn't seem to have any trouble maintaining a 100* difference though.

The house needs a lot more insulation but it is not realistic to add it to the walls because it would have to be blown in. I'm going to add more when it makes the top of the priority list. I did find a leak at the bottom of the door and blocked that with an old fashioned fabric "snake."

The news about gas companies asking people to turn down their thermostats made me start thinking about alternative methods for heating the house and realizing I don't have many options in a scenario where gas is not available.

J_
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by J_ »

@Jacob: the speed of decreasing temperature of your house is rather alarming. It depends of course from the temperature difference in and outside, wind chilling, and insulation. Thank you for measuring it.
Do you think it will be appropriate to insulate your house in future? Do you have an alternative if your furnace stops functioning? Insulation will also help damping heat-waves in summer I think.

jacob
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by jacob »

Economically insulation doesn't make much sense (ditto PV) to make capital investments when our (heating and cooling) utility costs are already as low as they are. The payback period is too long so it would have to be done on some kind of moral basis (investing for the future way below the discount rate). Otherwise this is only something that happens 0-2 days a year and it can be defended by draining the water system and putting on some clothes---this is probably also how people used to cope given the design of the plumbing.

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