Polar vortex collapse fun

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

Post by jacob » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:06 pm

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.

Augustus
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Augustus » Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:28 pm

jacob wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:06 pm
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).
You might be surprised? Most heat loss is through windows, doors, and holes (outlets, coaxial cable, etc). 20 bucks and a couple hours will go a LONG way. I cut my heating bill almost in half during the winter with weather stripping and 3M plastic wrap when we lived in a place where it was frozen for ~5 mos a year.

I was also looking at poor mans double pane inserts. You take the 3m plastic wrap and put it around a wood frame similar to a picture frame that's sized for your windows with weather stripping around the sides to get it nice and snug. I'm pretty sure it would work.. and it's much more convenient than taping up little used windows/doors. When I cut back on work I am planning on doing it even in socal, my theory is that it will cut my cooling costs by a lot as well.

Augustus
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Augustus » Thu Jan 31, 2019 6:35 pm

I've been nerding out on this again. Some quotes from https://diy.stackexchange.com/questions ... insulation:
A single pane window has a R-value of about 0.91 (mostly due to the interior and exterior boundary air layers, not the actual glass, which is an almost useless thermal insulator). A double pane low-E window has an R-value of about 3.1. Each ½" layer of air space you create (with plastic film or glass or plexiglass) adds an additional R=1.0. So adding two layers of window film (with a minimum ½" air space) to a single pane glass window will result in an R value of about 2.91, almost equivalent to the low-E double pane, but at MUCH, MUCH less cost.
If your window structure allows, you might also consider making an "interior window insulating panel". Essentially an interior "storm" window that can be installed and removed as needed. This site has all the details: http://www.arttec.net/Thermal-Windows/

I went this route for one window in my house where the plastic just didn't want to stick to the frame. It's a little more cost & effort up-front but if all goes according to plan it should be worth it.
If the above is true, you can add 1-2 R to all your windows and most of your doors (unless you want to be taking them in and out every time you leave the house) with the inserts. Cost is ~20 bucks or less and a few hours of labor.

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Laura Ingalls » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:08 pm

Another vote for insulation might be cheaper than you think. Often times insulating attic spaces is cheap and easy and subsidized by the utility company.

I think we might add some to our house. We have ice dams and DH scooped the whole roof last weekend.

theanimal
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by theanimal » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:10 pm

For those of you with snow, shoveling snow on the sides of your house helps out BIG time. Natural insulation and drastically reduces heating needs. The higher the better.

Campitor
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Campitor » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:03 am

DIY indoor storm windows can help keep the house warmer. They can be cheap to make.

https://youtu.be/tVTodq2pFKM

stand@desk
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by stand@desk » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:13 am

Where we live it touched -55 C Windchill, -42 Air Temperature on Wednesday. I still ran 3km to work in the cold. 5 layers on top, 3 layers on the legs, 2 neck warmers, one hood, one toque, two pairs of socks.

Seeing the narrative in the mainstream media this Polar Vortex Plunge is due to climate change (what else could it be?) With that stated, what caused the similar record low temperatures in the 1970s, 1950s, Late 1800s? Was it just weather back then and now it is climate change? Or was the climate changing back then too? That part was not mentioned in the articles.
"The fact is, it's climate change, or global warming, that's behind this extreme cold."

jacob
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by jacob » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:17 am


sky
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by sky » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:45 am

Michigan almost had a natural gas failure. A main compressor station north of Detroit exploded/burned. Major industrial plants were shut down and residents were asked to turn down the heat to 65F. Apparently we have gotten past the crisis now.

I would recommend not relying on the grid entirely. Have another way to stay warm, for a period of time at least.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:56 am

Another difference would be that 40 or 50 years ago, in the olden days when I was a child, the wind-chill was not routinely provided in the weather report. So, hearing those very low numbers has the anti-placebo effect of making it seem like it is colder than it ever was.

Also, the only reason I can come up with for why school has been cancelled this entire week is that children are no longer routinely bundled up in the winter. I was sent out to walk to school with plastic bread wrappers in between my boots and wool tights and snow pants, and with baked potatoes in my pockets. Since my parents also believed that it was healthy for children to be thrown outside to play no matter the weather, I can clearly remember being able to tunnel significant snow forts through the deep banks of snow piled up against our suburban home. That didn't happen nearly so often during my own children's childhood years in the 90s, early aughts.

@sky:

Yeah, I got the alarm and heard that GM was shut down. I am cozy, because camped out in center of multi-unit apartment complex.

J_
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by J_ » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:06 am

Yes, we have snow from November/December until far in March, here in the Alps on ca 4000 Ft. On our roof is in winter a more or less permanent layer of 1 to 4 Ft snow. It's a perfect extra insulation. Our 3000 pp + 8000 hotelbeds village has an efficient central big "rocket heater" fueled by wood-chips/pellets. This installation is owned by the village. Most houses and hotels are connected by a public under-earth pipe-network, and a heat-exchange per connection. The wood-chips come from saw-mills nearby and from scrap-wood from the surrounding forests. A renewable cyclus. Heating costs for our 1 bedroom apartment of 700 sq Ft: €44 per month, hot water € 21 per month.
So our village is more or less autarkic wr to heating. And Austria as a whole is for a great part autarkic in renewable-electricity. Due to the numerous reservoir- water-pressure driven generators (Hydro-generators), solar and wind power. A 100% target will be reached in 2030.

So, unlike houses in Chicago the houses here can withstand rather extreme climate changes. If we ever build an "ere city" we could use this as inspiration.

George the original one
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by George the original one » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:37 am

jacob wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:06 pm
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.
So the obvious question for a planner to ask is how much do utility costs have to rise to make it worthwhile and how likely is that cost increase?

jacob
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by jacob » Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:04 am

A lot (3x+) on account of us not using very much (most of the outlay is in taxes and connection fees). The main reason to upgrade windows(*), etc. would be to "save the house" from further damage. That's the reason we installed advanced flood control on the main sewer line.

(*) As Augustus noted, most of our loses go through the windows. OTOH, as he also found out, if I make it too tight, the house will be under negative pressure (the furniture intake is inside) and it will start pulling air in through the windows, so unless I leave one window (in the basement) cracked open, there will be frost on the side of some of the windows. Given the cost, effect, and range of temperatures, it's not worth it to put in upgrades in these areas.

The house can easily deal with 60F differentials. It's at delta 80F+, it begins to get interesting.

Anyway, dealing with cold is easy enough. I'm more concerned about the other side of the temperature spectrum: A sustained 110F heatwave with blackouts and brownouts. I have considered installing a small (1000W) PV system in order to cool one room in such a case (prob the basement).

7Wannabe5
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:28 am

Do you have an attic fan? It's too bad swamp coolers are less effective in humid conditions. I have been forced to resort to the wear a wet t-shirt solution during some hot spells.

Another option which I recently learned was very early adopted by settlers in our region*, including my great-great grandparents, is to travel north to rough summer camp. This can be very affordable if expense is spread across extended family or other such group.



* I think in good part due to fear of summer incidence of "swamp" diseases, which are also, unfortunately, not unlikely to come back into vogue. Of course, the Native Americans often did this too.

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Kriegsspiel » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:45 pm

I put plastic on the insides of my windows ($37), which makes the house feel warmer, but the furnace seems to kick on just as often. I keep it at 63.

Augustus
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Augustus » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:21 pm

Kriegsspiel wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:45 pm
I put plastic on the insides of my windows ($37), which makes the house feel warmer, but the furnace seems to kick on just as often. I keep it at 63.
It's the dead air space that adds insulation when you do the plastic on the windows. You can get the plastic wrap the seals around the window on the wall/sill which creates a dead air space and adds insulation. Applying it on the window itself wont do anything afaik. I think there's probably a good % of windows to insulate in this fashion, you need enough air flow but not too much. As I mentioned above though, I was able to cut heating cost almost in half when I did mine. I didn't have negative air pressure afaik because I didn't do all the windows/doors, but we had radon gas in the ground below the foundation, it was always there but it built up when I sealed up the house, so I had to start airing it out once a day to keep the levels low. Either way, big decrease in heating costs.

jacob
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by jacob » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:13 pm

In the RV (and also initially in this house) we used bubble wrap (standard stuff for mailing) taped to the windows with masking tape. It worked well.

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Kriegsspiel » Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:38 pm

Augustus wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:21 pm
It's the dead air space that adds insulation when you do the plastic on the windows. You can get the plastic wrap the seals around the window on the wall/sill which creates a dead air space and adds insulation. Applying it on the window itself wont do anything afaik. I think there's probably a good % of windows to insulate in this fashion, you need enough air flow but not too much. As I mentioned above though, I was able to cut heating cost almost in half when I did mine.
:lol: Yes, I used double sided tape, I didn't stick it directly on the windows. I did do one more window near my thermostat and I think that did the trick, the heat is kicking on less often now, although it is like 15 degrees warmer outside and the sun's shining. I'll take my wins where I get em.
I didn't have negative air pressure afaik because I didn't do all the windows/doors, but we had radon gas in the ground below the foundation, it was always there but it built up when I sealed up the house, so I had to start airing it out once a day to keep the levels low. Either way, big decrease in heating costs.
My house already has a radon mitigation unit in the basement. But I did leave some windows alone so that I could adjust the blinds if it's sunny out.

Augustus
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by Augustus » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:08 pm

Kriegsspiel wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:38 pm
But I did leave some windows alone so that I could adjust the blinds if it's sunny out.
I ended up finding velcro tape, so that I could put double sided tape around 3 sides, and velcro tape on the 4th, then i could open the velcro side as needed to adjust blinds :) The inserts are a much better solution, and more efficient, since you get 2 air gaps, and they go behind the blinds. Just takes more time.

Also, you should use a thermal leak detector, it's like a ranged thermometer that tracks temperature variation, so that you can spot not fully sealed areas. That was really useful in my house. I went through my whole house pointing it everywhere. It was 35 bucks, but I ended up saving around 70 dollars per month in the winter. Depends how bad your heating bill is, mine was bad. I think I sealed off a good 20 or 30 leaks in the house with caulk, plastic wrap, and those outlet foam insulation kits. Total cost was 35 (thermal leak detector), 12 (plastic wrap), caulk (5) outlet insulation (~2) = 54 bucks or so. The second year I got fancy with the velcro tape for another $10 I think.

stand@desk
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Re: Polar vortex collapse fun

Post by stand@desk » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:00 am

Hearty Ere-ers can respect and handle the cold. Many can't.

We are still well below seasonal for the next two weeks. I'm surprised Natural Gas hasn't moved up more in recent weeks. If the vortex can't make that happen, then what can?

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