AuthorTopic: Thread from Yahoo thread on cold weather living in a conventional house  (Read 4042 times)

Offline Surly1

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Peter started this one. Here are the high points:

Cold weather heatless living in a conventional house

Peter: I don't know if this topic will be of interest to anyone but myself but I'll put it down here anyway.
We have had an extremely cold week here, -35 to -45, with a constant howling wind off the ocean and its just now starting to warm up. As you know I live without heat in an older conventional house. There was no problem personally keeping comfortable using clothing but this situation did cause me to think more deeply on how to preserve modern house water systems in below freezing temperatures.
The temperature inside my house during this period stayed just a few degrees below freezing.
Most old time houses didn't have running water so freezing temperatures didn't present a problem. Having running water creates a problem because frozen water expands and causes pipes to burst if it freezes inside them. The way to solve this in houses that aren't used in the winter is to drain the water out of all the lines and appliances so they aren't damaged.
Living in a house at below freezing temperatures while utilizing running water is a greater challenge. Leaving water running at the end of each pipe at locations like sinks and bathtubs works to extend running water to quite a few degrees below freezing. This only works for cold water as leaving the hot water running is expensive. Also things like washing machines and toilets can't easily be rigged to run constantly. The traditional hot water tank also can be a problem.
My next door neighbors who keep their house heated like a sauna froze up on the first day and are still frozen.
I did manage to keep my water running throughout with only the taps (hot and cold) being slightly frozen one morning. About half an hour with a hair dryer got them all working again. I was lucky in that although the power went off a number of times during this period because of overload from Bella Bella they always managed to get it going again within half an hour or so. I relied on a number of very small portable electric heaters judiciously placed in critical locations to keep the water alive. In total I drew about 2000W, the equivalent of 1  normal portable electric heater. I have a bunch of very small 200w heaters and placed them at locations such as taps and toilets.
I would have had to scramble to drain all my lines very quickly if the power had remained off for even an hour or two as the temperature inside my house was already below freezing and the waterlines would freeze very quickly without the electric local heating. This is one of the realizations that I had as it is not easy to quickly drain my plumbing the way it is currently laid out and it would probably have frozen up before I got everything drained if the power went off for an extended period ..
My house is on two levels each of which have fireplaces with inserts to burn fairly efficiently. They don't normally get used but are set with the makings of a fire so they can be started up very quickly. They wouldn't help much at those temperatures other than as a local source of heat when heating a house from below freezing. They eventually will heat up the whole house if they are kept burning for an extended period. They wouldn't produce heat fast enough to stop waterlines from freezing.
I got through this period ok but realized a few things I could do to make it much easier. Inserting a few taps into the water system at the right locations would allow me to introduce air quickly and blow the system out. I have a portable 12v high volume air pump and emergency battery which would do this job in about 10 minutes. Shut off the water coming into the house, turn off the HW heater, open all the taps, flush all the toilets, remove washing machine water lines to drain and then introduce air into the start of the three main distribution lines, bathrooms, kitchen and laundry. Plunge out the toilet bowls or introduce non-toxic RV anti-freeze.
The hot water tank introduces a few problems. While the water is still being utilized the hot water lines will freeze up first because running even a little bit of hot water constantly will rack up and enormous electric bill. All HW tanks have drains at the bottom but many of them are not situated to easily deal with the drained water. That is the case at my place. I would need to run a hose outdoors to drain it.
I am going to replace the hot water tank with an on demand tankless electric HW heater. They cost about the same as a traditional HW tank but are way more energy efficient saving the average household about $200 a year. They don't store any heated water, theyu only heat water on demand when a HW tap is opened.
They have a couple of ideal qualities for my purposes. In extreme conditions when you need to keep the water running to stop it from freezing up you can simply turn the power to the HW heater off and open the taps. The water will run right through the HW heater so there is no expense. You also get hot water immediately when power is restored insteadlof waiting for several hours. There is also no tank needing to be drain.
The temperature outside is now up to about -7 and the wind has died down. The inside temperature is now around 36 and I have turned off all the heaters except for one. It feels almost balmy both outside and inside.

Q Jeff: Do you live without heat by choice?...

Q Carole This really hurts my head.  No heat @ 36 below.  Do you eat and drink Kryptonite?  It was 83 here today, that would be above zero.  With those kind of temps, is it standard to make sure all piping is insulated?  Do they freeze even if they are insulated?  Ive used the "keep the water on" for very brief freezes.  Is there a reason you dont just open up the cabinets and heat the house for a bit?  How much would it cost in elec.(coupled with fireplaces on) to heat house to say 40?

Peter: Yes it is voluntary / preferred. I have done it for most of my life. Until I got married at 46 in 1993 I had rarely slept indoors even though I mostly lived in cold northern climates. I reverted to mostly outdoor living after my 3 year marriage until moving to Ocean Falls in 2005. With an average of 20 feet of rain a year Ocean Falls is too wet to live outdoors so I live indoors without heat and open windows year round except for extremely windy periods.
It reminds me that civilization isolates us from nature and causes us to become overconfident about our place within it [nature].
I came up with this understanding while a fire lookout man in my youth when I spent months at a time on mountain tops by myself. When coming down and re-entering civilization after such stints I simply couldn't take civilization seriously any more.

Jeff: Peter said: "When coming down and re-entering civilization after such stints I
simply couldn't take civilization seriously any more."

That's facinating. I used to live on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Rez and went
back there to go to Sundance for many years. It was rustic camping, no showers,
open pit latrine, sitting on the ground, eating whatever was handed to you, etc.
Every time I came back into Bismarck to fly home I was shocked at the waste,
noise and stupidity. In a few hours I'd be back home, but it would take me a
week to re-adjust to 'civilization.'

I'm impressed.

Peter: It's not about money. It's about remaining connected to a larger reality than the one invented by human civilization.
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."


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