Sunday, December 25, 2011

How cold can we get?

Here in the Great Central Valley the temperature will drop into the 20s for a dozen or so nights during the winter.  During the day the temperature usually rises into the 40s or 50s, except when we are socked in with fog.  On those days the highs may never get out of the 30s.  I got to thinking, after spending the last two days in Southern California in a house heated to 75 with the outside daytime temperature in the 70s and the lows in the 50s.  What was I thinking?  How cold can we let it get before deciding it's too cold in our house? Yesterday morning, right before we left to head down south I turned the heater down to 63.  When we got home today I turned the heater on for about an hour.  I set it to 68.   

We heat the house with propane and wood.  The wood stove isn't too efficient.  It's a 1970s Earthstove.  It's got a fan to push the hot air into the house.  It's works fine if I was just heating up the dining room and kitchen.  If I have the thing blasting and using lots of wood then it will heat up about 1000 square feet of house to 70-75 degrees.  Pretty good except the house is over 2000 square feet.  My bedroom never gets the heat.  In fact it's really cold in my room... and don't tell me it's because I don't have a spouse! 

My bedroom has a cement floor and three sides of the room are outside walls.  Only one side of the room is attached to the rest of the house and there's a closet and bathroom between the hall and the main part of my room.  There's also a drafty outside door and two good windows that face to the north.  It's just a cold room.  I just checked the temperature with my Kestrel (a weather tool) and the bedroom is 58.  My library, where I'm working now is 62, and the kitchen is 65.  And the thermostat in the hall says it's 68.  It lies!!!

For all who know me, I hate being cold.  Even though the house is not kept warm (I don't want to pay the high cost of propane) I want to be warm.  I'm usually found wearing a knit cap, a long sleeve shirt, a sweat shirt or knit vest over the shirt, and thermals of some sort under my pants. 

OK, I'm rambling.  At the beginning I wrote that I was wondering how cold we can let the house get.  If TSHTF and I wanted to save the propane for cooking, it would last a long time if just for cooking and not heating the house or the hot water.  But what about us?  Can we stand not having heat?  Would we eventually put blankets up to block off the dining room from the rest of the house just to keep that room toasty by using the wood stove?  Would we set up a tent in the middle of the house to keep our body heat in an enclosed area? 

I am going to have a two week experiment.  I'm turning off the heat on Wednesday.  No central heat, no wood stove.  I wonder how cold the house will get?  We do get sunshine coming in the windows during the day.  Will the house stay in the 60s because of the heat coming off of the people and pets?  Will it drop into the 50s?   40s?  One good thing is that the home store food will stay fresher longer at the cooler temperatures!  I'm going to save somewhere between $50 and $100 in propane! 

Why not start now?  We are having company tomorrow and Tuesday and while I'm up for the experiment, and the grand kids have no choice in the matter, I'm not going to treat our guests to the cold.  Wednesday starts the chilling experiment. 


  1. In S. Central Idaho, I keep my thermostat set at 60. I have a free standing wood stove in the living room. I under stand what you mean by it being a furnace in the living room/kitchen area, and the back rooms cold. It doesn't get below 60, I don't think? We have electric blankets on the beds. I heat the living room to 75 or so before I go to bed, and in the morning, the hall thermostat says 62-64. I just restock the fire and away we go. I hate being cold, but I also am very strict about not letting anyone turn on the heat.

  2. I'm in the teens here for overnight temp. The house is well insulated and my primary heat is electric. I've turned the main heater down to 60 and use a couple of space heaters for heating a room I'm in and it seems to be working well this year. 62 degrees feels comfortable when up and moving around and I've invested in all kinds of throws and lap blankets when I'm sitting still reading or watching TV. 68 degrees and up and the house feels almost to hot. I've cut my electricity down an average of 4kWh per day compared to last year.

  3. I'm another one who hates to be cold, but I'm also a cheapskate. We had to do without our woodstove for two months (just got it back in this weekend) and had to use the electric heat pump / furnace. So I set the temp down to 65. I would have set it colder if it weren't for our DD who's under three. But now that the stove is back, I'm horrible at keeping the wood in ALWAYS burning. Sometimes it's close to 80 degrees in here! Not for long though as DH claims he'll melt. We're lucky to have a large, wooded lot so our firewood is "free".

    Looking forward to reading your heating / lack of heating experiment.

  4. Our house is like your's. The woodstove is at the opposite end from our bedroom. The only heater we have is a wall heater in the dining room which heats that and the kitchen well. We too wear layers and use blankets to cover up with. My wife hates to be cold but she hates to pay any more than we absolutely have to pay to the utility companies. Luckily, we can get wood free from friends and cut some in the National Forest for home and our cabin. I don't care what the air pollution control board says, we use the woodstove all the time. Of course we are far enough off the road that the a.p.c.b. can't see our place without driving down an easement.
    I have gone without a woodstove here in the Valley, 10 years ago, in a house with no other heat, it wasn't pleasant. The house got down into the 40's at night and never got warmer than the mid 50's during the day. Of course it was an 80 year old farm house with no insulation so that made a difference.

    I'm looking forward to the results of your experiment.