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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Heating triage



Parts of my house can be cut off from the heat sources. There’s a lot of flexibility on how much of the house gets heated and how warm.

The kitchen is the warm heart of the house. Right next to the kitchen woodstove, people can be as warm as they like. On really cold nights, my lovely wife and I will bring our work or entertainment to the kitchen table. It’s cozy and comfortable. We’ll even watch movies on a laptop computer rather than upstairs in the cooler living room.

In past years we’ve tended to keep the upstairs around 50. That’s where the bedrooms, a second bath, and a large living room are. I like sleeping in a cool room. That’s what blankets are for.

The conventional oil heating system uses forced hot air. It’s easy to shut down the air ducts in unused bedrooms. Hot water systems are harder to deal with. In one apartment I lived in, the hot water radiator pipe burst from freezing. It was too far from the part of the house heated by a woodstove. Hot air systems, on the other hand, can be safely shut down and not suffer damage.

A large air duct and the stairway direct air from the kitchen woodstove to the upstairs. The air duct can be shut and the stairway blocked by a heavy curtain, keeping heat downstairs.

Most houses don’t have insulation between the first and second floor. Mine does. The original house was one floor, with an insulated attic. When I removed the roof and replaced it with a dome, I left the insulation intact. There are now six rooms where once there was only a tiny attic. Those new rooms can be thermally isolated from the rest of the house.

If the winter should turn bitterly cold, firewood in short supply, or both, the upstairs could be kept even colder. One concern is that the upstairs bathroom plumbing would freeze. With that in mind, I put in shut offs and drain valves down in the basement where the feed lines are. All the upstairs plumbing can be drained and winterized.

Once the hot and cold water lines are shut down and drained, I have deal with the sewer lines. The easiest thing is add RV non-toxic antifreeze to the shower, sink and toilet drains.

It is possible to drain the sink trap and completely emptying out the water of the toilet using a sponge or a water vac. The shower drain can be accessed by removing the screen. The problem with that method is that nasty sewer gases can enter the house. It’s not a major issue if the whole house is going to be shut down for the winter. Just make sure to ventilate the house well before reopening it for the season. Another method is to tape and seal any gas source with duct tape and plastic.

My preferred method is to use antifreeze as it’s easier and safe. The other method could be used if antifreeze became unavailable.

The basement of my house can get quite cold. All the plumbing and even the water pressure tank, is mounted high to benefit from the warm first floor. The water enters the house through a heavily insulated pipe. The insulation reaches a couple feet below the basement floor.

The basement can be heated either with the oil furnace or a very large and capable woodstove. If we have a period of subzero (Fahrenheit) weather, it’s a good idea to warm up the basement to protect the plumbing. It’s also nice to heat the basement if I’m doing a project down there and want glue and paint to dry.

That’s how we deal with heating our house in northern New Hampshire.

Of course, we also like to shut the place down completely and go sailing in Florida, but that’s not always an option.

-Sixbears




11 comments:

  1. Sounds to me like you have everything planned out, my friend. Let's hope you don't have to take any drastic steps this coming Winter.

    Nothing like being prepared as you have done!

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    1. Winter is serious business in snow country.

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  2. I wish I were as well fixed with shelter.I'm still working on better transportation, as I put being mobile at the top of my to do list. I would hate to have to wait until "X" day or "Z" day and gamble on being able to barter some preps for better transport.

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    1. You know your needs better than anyone else. I'm currently satisfied with my transportation options. Of course, there's always that next thing that looks better. At some point I've got to say "good enough."

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    2. The current vehicle doesn't have that much life in it. It was just a means to an end. I aiming at another Jeep, as I already have most of the spares for the old one left. Mobility + greater range = more options. To that, I would add the advantages of a rough country vehicle. Bugging in was never an options where I'm at. This area will implode in even the smallest of SHTF scenarios.

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  3. In our area, it used to be common not to heat upstairs bedrooms at all. That's why they made feather ticks, comforters and quilts. Sometimes, they'd put a tick on top of them as well as under them.

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    1. That's the way to stay comfortable. Nothing like a warm bed in a cold room.

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  4. We heat the house by turning off the air conditioner : )

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  5. We do the same as Craig, except for the year we had a winter - it was on a Thursday (grin).

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    1. That's what we used to say about summer. :)

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