12 December 2009

Frugal Heat

Our steam radiators keep us nice and toasty in the winter. Well, they could. If we turned the heat up. But we are being frugal. Two winters ago was really the first time we had the house back together. Before that, there was still construction happening on a minor scale, and the old boiler kept failing. I would often come home to a cold house, get the boiler up and running and it would have to bring the temperature up 15 to 20 degrees. It would bang, hiss, clang and knock. Then it wouldn't come back on for hours. Very inefficient.

So winter 2006-2007 was the first year we could keep the house at a consistent temperature. We kept the thermostat around 65 because it would get too hot on the second floor if we went any higher than that. We fiddled with the radiators and the thermostat a lot that year, trying to figure out what was comfortable.

The next winter, 2007-2008, we bumped it back a wee bit more, keeping it around 64. Not so bad. Now it is like a challenge. How low can we go?

So last winter, 2008-2009, I put the thermostat down to 62. We managed. We had a fairly mild winter, I bumped it up if I was sick. I cannot stand to be cold and sick. But mostly we kept it at 62.This year, I thought, okay 62 again. No biggie. Well. Think again. I'm so cold, I just can't take it. We've put the thermostat back up to 64. I'm not sure why, but those two degrees make all the difference.

I ordered a tank of Fuel in mid-October, when I checked last week we had just above half a tank left. After the blustery weather we've had in the last couple of days (temps in the low 20s, wind gusts, wind chill in the single digits) I'm afraid to check the tank level again. I know it is going to be bad news.

The temperatures can be in the single digits and the house will remain warm (-ish). But if it is windy, forget it. The boiler will just run and run, trying to keep up. It was so drafty on the second floor last night, which is better insulated than the first floor, that I crawled up to the attic to make sure the windows hadn't blown open. It has been known to happen when we have high winds. I was very surprised to find them still closed.

This whole house needs better insulation, I know. When we had walls torn open, insulation was replaced, but it is just here and there. We didn't understand that the blown-in insulation wasn't really doing anything at all. Now the long-term plan is to insulate from the outside in, when we re-do the siding. Which we don't have money for. Because we can't save any. Because we are paying twice as much as we should to heat and cool the house. What a vicious cycle.

1 comment:

kathy said...

I feel your pain. I live in a Victorian cottage that came with no central heating, and which I was reluctant to compromise by installing central heating, so I use a gas fireplace and electric space heaters. I think I agree that blown-in insulation doesn't seem to help much in the winter, but it sure does keep my house (in NJ) a lot cooler in the summer.