Winter Heating Challenge/Log

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Saltation
Posts: 35
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:20 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Saltation »

Our house has a natural gas furnace and a wood stove. We have a programmable thermostat for the furnace. I have *experimented* with setbacks and the impact on our bill and our current settings are below:

Monday-Friday: 57°F Midnight-4:00PM, 65°F 4:00PM-8:00PM, 57° 8:00PM-Midnight
Saturday-Sunday: 57°F Midnight-7:00AM, 65°F 7:00AM-8:00PM, 57°F 8:00PM-Midnight

I would prefer lower but the thermostat will be messed with if it is colder than this and it is not worth the hassle. We use the "smart response" technology on the thermostat that turns the furnace on to meet the set temperature by the time indicated. It works very well and has the house heated to the 65°F indicated within two minutes of the times above. On colder days where we are at home all day I will burn wood throughout the day to heat our lower living area and throughout the evening for reading. The wood stove provides excellent heat but the cost savings do not seem worth it. It is dirty (ash) and it is a pain because it is in a finished basement. Bringing the wood down a flight of stairs from the back yard at this point seems to be more a liability than an asset. My preference long-term would be to place a natural gas insert where the wood stove is and utilize it as a large space heater while turning the thermostat down to 57°F the entire day for the rest of the house.

House is southern exposure with 7 full size and 7 half height windows on the souther exposure.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Saltation wrote:
Tue Oct 26, 2021 4:22 am

House is southern exposure with 7 full size and 7 half height windows on the souther exposure.
Passive solar house design is the most efficient way to have a comfortable house year round! It’s sad that very few people have interest in it and therefore you’d have to build it yourself. There are virtually no homes out there ( in US anyway) built this way.

https://www.amazon.com/Passive-Solar-Ho ... =ABIS_BOOK

Our place has southern exposure, but not enough window area or thermal mass.

Blackjack
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:36 am
Location: Colorado

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Blackjack »

Married2aSwabian wrote:
Fri Oct 29, 2021 5:09 am
Passive solar house design is the most efficient way to have a comfortable house year round! It’s sad that very few people have interest in it and therefore you’d have to build it yourself. There are virtually no homes out there ( in US anyway) built this way.

https://www.amazon.com/Passive-Solar-Ho ... =ABIS_BOOK

Our place has southern exposure, but not enough window area or thermal mass.
AMA. My townhouse is semi-incidentally passive solar due to the architecture style (Usonian). I've actually been trying to find better sources of info for heat calculation because some of my largest current issues are keeping the heat in overnight (thermal mass problem maybe, lack of nighttime window insulation and lack of chimney insulation problem definitely). I'm running outdoor shades to keep the heat out in the summer, but I'm actually finding it difficult to be able to find the equations for thermal mass needed / where to try and calculate if my house is good or not and where improvements could be made heating in the winter. Its also a bit weird as a human when your 9XX sqft house has >500 sqft of windows. Lots of adaptation to the seasons because you can't really drown out feeling / grokking the darkness and feeling that its nighttime when the sun goes down.

white belt
Posts: 942
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by white belt »

@BlackJack

Check out Brad Lancaster’s book. It has formulas for passive solar design based on latitude, window type, etc.

rube
Posts: 738
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:54 pm
Location: Europe (NL)

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by rube »

Ha, I bought this book even before I bought the ERE book (10 years ago?). I've got several sustainable home buildings books. And Indeed, passive solar ahould be applied more. Perhaps it will, as result of increasing energy prices, become more common.

cmonkey
Posts: 1808
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:56 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by cmonkey »

Had the initial 'cure burn' this afternoon for my wood stove. It performed perfectly. I got it a bit warmer than I should have at 400F instead of 250F but it'll work to cure the paint. After an hour the fire is died down now. Even with the windows open and the door wide open to ventilate, it warmed up 3 degrees in about 45 min. It's about 45F outside today and windy.

lumps
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2021 9:13 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by lumps »

As a renter of older homes where I pay for utilities, the landlords aren't usually going to spring for energy efficient windows. Have any of you tried taping plastic sheets on top of your window? This has made an incredible difference in some places I've lived in. I never do the shrink fit since I feel like it makes more sense to have an air gap between the plastic and the window (more insulation).

Read estimates online that it can save ~$20/window/winter, however they got that number.

Blackjack
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:36 am
Location: Colorado

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Blackjack »

Log Entry:
Energy usage: Gas usage was 11 therms (summer baseline 6, must be for the hot water heater generally). Heater only used one night with indoor temps set down at 61 (backup heat is only necessary in a string of 2+ days with no direct sun). When those are coming through, we usually start cooking lots of food, so the heat is getting 2 usages (heat house, cook food). The rest comes from incidental indoor cooking (wants for cookies and baked goods seems to be inversely proportional to outdoor temperature).

Converting to total kwh (+300 on energy bill): 660 kwh used, or 10 kwh/ person / day for the ultra modern high end lifestyle. Essentially running around with 4 energy slaves each. This is not greaaaaat, but could be a lot worse, since I'm living in the middle of the US.

Total Heating Bill: $11.70

Possible efficiency gains: ????????. I guess none? I checked into every change i could think of, none of it has payoff for decades or more compared to possible energy savings. Largest % savings would be a water heater, but changing to tankless is definitely not more than a 50% efficiency gain, so say $6 saved per month, which is $72 per year. Assuming install plus replacement is $1500ish (which seems cheap), that payoff time is 20 years (and likely the water heater won't last that long).

white belt
Posts: 942
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by white belt »

Blackjack wrote:
Wed Nov 10, 2021 5:21 pm
Possible efficiency gains: ????????. I guess none? I checked into every change i could think of, none of it has payoff for decades or more compared to possible energy savings. Largest % savings would be a water heater, but changing to tankless is definitely not more than a 50% efficiency gain, so say $6 saved per month, which is $72 per year. Assuming install plus replacement is $1500ish (which seems cheap), that payoff time is 20 years (and likely the water heater won't last that long).
What models are you looking at for tankless water heaters? $1500 seems way too expensive. The trick is that tankless water heaters are matched to the flow of water that needs to be heated at one time. So if you have water efficient faucets (I like the niagara .5/1/1.5 GPM adjustable aerator for sinks and the 1.5 GPM showerhead for showers), then you can get a small electric EcoSmart water heater that is typical in RVs and tiny houses.

mooretrees
Posts: 526
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by mooretrees »

lumps wrote:
Mon Nov 01, 2021 10:27 pm
As a renter of older homes where I pay for utilities, the landlords aren't usually going to spring for energy efficient windows. Have any of you tried taping plastic sheets on top of your window? This has made an incredible difference in some places I've lived in. I never do the shrink fit since I feel like it makes more sense to have an air gap between the plastic and the window (more insulation).

Read estimates online that it can save ~$20/window/winter, however they got that number.
I've done those and they're a pain. I do think they help. However, last year we tried using old reflective material from shipping temp sensitive stuff from work. We taped it to the windows in my son's room with packing tape and it worked very well. I think other material that could work well would be cardboard or thicker blankets. Or using an old shower curtain. Just suggesting this stuff as a way to use the waste stream and avoid buying single use plastic. Curtains between rooms helps also. It's really surprising how much they help.

cmonkey
Posts: 1808
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:56 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by cmonkey »

We've had wood stove fires the past couple of days and with good results overall. We can go about 2.5-3 hours between fill ups and can still get the next load going without kindling. First load at about 8, next loads at ~11 and then another at ~2. 5-6 splits per load.

We have 2 sets of stairs on opposite sides of our upstairs living area leading to our basement. Having both open makes a noticeable difference upstairs. Having one open makes less of a difference.

Both stairs open - upstairs went from 53F to 60F ; basement was at 67F
One stair open - upstairs went from 53F to 57F ; basement was at 68F

Haven't tried burning with both doors closed all day yet.

Yesterday I burned an additional load in mid afternoon and closed all doors to upstairs at that time and the additional room in the basement. Basement went from 64F to 68F and then dropped to 60F overnight. Human activity should maintain that today, so no fire.

It might be conceivable to have a fire every other day while leaving upstairs doors closed at all times.

Having the blower on the stove OFF makes a huge bump in stove temp (150F+). Not sure how it translates into room temp yet but the stove stays hotter longer so we might burn less wood.

cmonkey
Posts: 1808
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:56 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by cmonkey »

One thing I've noticed this year is that having the boiler temp set significantly lower is resulting in a huge drag on propane efficiency.

Last year I calculated we were burning about .8 to .9 gallons of propane per hour of 'run time' as calculated on our thermostat. I won't know until I start getting fillups but it looks like we are at about 1.2 gallons of propane per hour. This makes sense because the boiler is running less because of the lower thermostat setting. Since it's running less, the water is colder. Because the water is colder it takes more 'burn time' to transfer the BTUs from the propane to the house.

Our furnace is rated at 160,000 BTUs/hr and since there are 91,502 BTUs in a gallon of propane the actual usage of 'burn time' is 1.75 gallons/hr.

Despite this we are still going to burn significantly less propane than last year.

lumps
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2021 9:13 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by lumps »

mooretrees wrote:
Wed Nov 10, 2021 8:06 pm
I've done those and they're a pain. I do think they help. However, last year we tried using old reflective material from shipping temp sensitive stuff from work. We taped it to the windows in my son's room with packing tape and it worked very well. I think other material that could work well would be cardboard or thicker blankets. Or using an old shower curtain. Just suggesting this stuff as a way to use the waste stream and avoid buying single use plastic. Curtains between rooms helps also. It's really surprising how much they help.
Since I am not applying heat to the plastic, it doesn't shrink, so it is reusable the next year. It doesn't rip when taking it off and it just gets rolled. I'm pretty sure the manufacturer suggests you heat shrink them to make their product disposable though... aesthetics play a role too I guess.

Winter is dark enough as it is which is why I prefer the transparent plastic. One winter I did try cardboard but it didn't work as well unfortunately, but I think I had an issue with draft back then (different house), if it was solely due to highly conductive windows I'm sure it/blankets/any barrier would do the job.
cmonkey wrote:
Sun Nov 14, 2021 9:20 am
One thing I've noticed this year is that having the boiler temp set significantly lower is resulting in a huge drag on propane efficiency.

Last year I calculated we were burning about .8 to .9 gallons of propane per hour of 'run time' as calculated on our thermostat. I won't know until I start getting fillups but it looks like we are at about 1.2 gallons of propane per hour. This makes sense because the boiler is running less because of the lower thermostat setting. Since it's running less, the water is colder. Because the water is colder it takes more 'burn time' to transfer the BTUs from the propane to the house.

Our furnace is rated at 160,000 BTUs/hr and since there are 91,502 BTUs in a gallon of propane the actual usage of 'burn time' is 1.75 gallons/hr.

Despite this we are still going to burn significantly less propane than last year.
That is really unintuitive. You say the boiler is running less, which translates to a lower firing rate. That should lead to higher efficiency. On top of that your return water being colder, and being heated to a lower setpoint, should also increase efficiency. I wonder if there's some other inefficiency in your boiler system that is preventing you from reaping those gains?

(this image below is for a condensing boiler, not sure what you have, but even non condensing boilers have a similar curve)

Image

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Well, today is day two of splitting a lot of red oak with an awesome rented log splitter! This will be about 2 full cords and should be cured enough for next winter. DW loves this task: it’s outdoors in the fresh air, you get your exercise and it provides a secure feeling knowing that your house will be nice and warm this winter and next without depending on fossil fuels coming (or not) from god knows where.

Image


Between doing all the clean up, bucking up, hauling, splitting and stacking, we figure we’re saving at least $2500, maybe more.

Maybe not quite as rewarding as sitting down to a meal where all of the food came from your own garden / farm, but close! ;)
Last edited by Married2aSwabian on Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Married2aSwabian »

DW is convinced that our fireplace insert (with new blower) is inefficient and wasting heat, since only the walkout basement seems to get warm after having a fire going for several hours, while upstairs of our 1200 SF place stays relatively cool.

I’m considering adding a floor grate somewhere to aid in convective heat transfer … stairwell isn’t enough.

Does anyone have experience with installing a freestanding wood stove using existing chimney like this?

https://www.uidaho.edu/-/media/UIdaho-R ... 52ADBBF93A

They state freestanding units are 4 to 10 times more efficient than a normal FP, but wonder what the difference would be as compared to insert.
Last edited by Married2aSwabian on Wed Nov 24, 2021 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Gilberto de Piento
Posts: 1786
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I don't know about your specific situation but I am very familiar with an otherwise modern 1500 sqft house with woodstove heat. The woodstove room would be 80-90* F and the farthest bedroom (on the same floor and not all that far away) would be 50-60* F. This was despite various ceiling fans, running the woodstove most of the day and night, a box fan to blow the warm air down the hall, and running the furnace blower to circulate air. The house was livable but the temperatures were always very inconsistent from room to room and from time to time.

cmonkey
Posts: 1808
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:56 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by cmonkey »

@Married2aSwabian - Red Oak will likely take long than 12 months to season even if you split it small. Or so I've read. That is a great amount of oak and will provide tons of heat!

Wood stoves are much more efficient than a fireplace. How efficient depends on what room you have it in. In an air tight basement we are getting away with 1-2 strong fires per day (8-10 splits of wood) and it's staying at about 70F. Outside temps are between 25F and 35F. Upstairs we'd burn at least twice that because of all the windows.

As far as installing a wood stove into an existing chimney, yes it can be done but you need a liner like this. It connects directly to the stove exhaust and goes right up to the chimney cap. I have no experience with them but had seen them after I broke my fireplace liner and was looking for options.

cmonkey
Posts: 1808
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:56 am

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by cmonkey »

Received my first bill of the year and so far it's a huge success. This first bill includes about 45-50 gallons of 'top up' because they don't top us off in the summer. We actually burned about 50 gallons of propane over the last 30 days.

Gallons - 95 compared to 270 last year
$$$ - 199 compared to 323 last year

Price per gallon last year was 1.10/gallon and this year is 2.10/gallon.

Could not be happier.

To achieve this we have the main living space set at 53F day and night. Bedrooms are set to 57F from 7PM to 12AM and then go to 53F from 12AM to 7PM. We are all pretty comfortable and sleep perfectly in cooler temps. The basement gets up near 70F and drops to about 57F overnight. We tend to overheat if we stay down there too much so we go back and forth. It's pretty nice. We could probably achieve 90F down here if I tried to. I might sometime just to see if I can.

We've been having one initial fire in the morning to warm up the basement and then an optional fire later in the afternoon if we are feeling like it. This wood stove is consuming a fraction of the wood we'd use in our fireplace and it's because the basement holds heat for hours whereas our fireplace room upstairs loses heat instantly. It's quite sad how inefficient it is considering the 15K dollars the previous owner spent on it.

In the morning we tend to have down drafts coming down the chimney and on the worst days we would fill the basement up with smoke and the fire would be super slow to start. I solved it by building my own draft inducer using an old space heater I had. I basically attached a thick board to the front of it which is the exact side of the stove opening. I can wedge it in the door and create an air tight seal. There is a cutout on the inside for the heater to force hot air up the chimney. Inspired by this video.

After about 15 minutes there is a strong draft going and we don't have a puff of smoke come in anymore.

Image

zbigi
Posts: 124
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:04 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by zbigi »

cmonkey wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 6:48 pm
We are using this as a good opportunity to push our 'comfort level' back to more historically normal temperature ranges.
When people comment on some uncomfortable situation "oh, it used to be normal before modernity", I think to myself that most people pre-modernity were miserable a lot of the time. Pretty hard to verify/know for sure of course.

EDIT: I misread your original comment, so my comment is basically unrelated to what you wrote :) (posting during work on a Friday will do that for me...). However, this is still a thing I think relatively often about - how did the people in past centuries perceive their quite extreme (from our perspective) hardships. Would be great if there were for example stats on suicides in the past, as they could be a good indicator.
Last edited by zbigi on Fri Nov 26, 2021 11:19 am, edited 2 times in total.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: Winter Heating Challenge/Log

Post by Married2aSwabian »

zbigi wrote:
Fri Nov 26, 2021 3:46 am
When people comment on some uncomfortable situation "oh, it used to be normal before modernity", I think to myself that most people pre-modernity were miserable a lot of the time. Pretty hard to verify/know for sure of course.
Thankfully, we now have social media to track exactly how blissful each member of the global community is….one odious comment and comparison at a time. :lol:

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