Saved on heating bill

lucky_12February 6, 2008

I purchased an electric mattress pad that gently warms your bed. It allows me to turn the furnace down at night. In December my heating bill was 16% lower than last year and in January it was 30% lower than last year.

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We keep the thermostate set at 62°F during the day and 58°F at night and use an energy efficient infrared space heater (Sun Cloud) in the main area of the house.

We keep the vents and doors in the bedrooms shut and use flannel sheets + extra blankets - which use ZERO electricity. We have also used a low-cost old-fashioned method - a couple hot water bottles. We did this during the power outage during an ice storm in December. We heated the water on our camp stove.

We've also warmed the sheets with our 21st Century form of a warming pan... a hair dryer. Hold the hair dryer between the sheets (be sure to "tent" the blankets with one hand and don't let the hair dryer rest on the sheets (think fire hazzard), and don't leave it unattended). It takes 3-5 minutes to take the chill off - instead of something using electricity all night long.

Another big energy saver... We added insulation in the form of recycled bubble wrap to all the windows and that has really helped keep the cold at bay (see link below for how-to). A great idea for anyone who lives in an apartment or rental, or has old, drafty, single-pane windows.

Our utilities for January were 1/3 less than the neighbor to the north and 1/2 that of the neighbor accross the street (all similar size/age homes with 2 adults).

We couldn't possibly compare this years winter energy use to last years because "Global Warming" has caused an unbelievable FRIGID winter compared to last year. This winter includes 3 times as much snow as we normally get for the year - and we still have a lot of winter yet to go...


Here is a link that might be useful: Bubble Wrap Window Insulation

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 3:42PM
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I laughed when I first read the bubble wrap thing but looking at the pictures it doesn't look all that bad if done properly. All but 3 of my windows have been replaced now so on the 3 oldies I bought that film you double tape and shrink to fit with the hairdryer. It works well. Since those 3 windows are in bathrooms I've just left it up all year. I'm going to mention the bubble wrap idea to friends up the street though

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 8:44PM
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Grainlady... does the bubble wrap really cling to the window with just water? or does it unpeel and fall off occasionally?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 8:46PM
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pkguy - I used distilled water for application. I was afraid minerals in our hard tap water had the potential to etch the glass. We have a relatively new house - almost 2-yr. old - with high-end energy efficient windows - so don't discount the application of bubble wrap on any and all windows. We also have energy efficient Levelor shades on each window and you can still notice a huge difference in the windows.

Every couple weeks I'll check to see if each panel is sticking. I've had to spritz a few corners. A piece of tape would also work, but we found it unnecessary.

The unexpected bonus.... We had problems last winter with window condensation on the windows (we run several humidifiers) and the bubble wrap prevents nearly all of that.

Hint: Cut the bubble wrap so that there is NO extra. You want it just to fit or a tiny bit smaller than the window for a better fit.

Do a test - even on your "new" windows. You won't believe the difference in the cold temperature between a bubble wrap window and a window that's not covered. With todays energy costs, it's simple project with $$$$ saving benefits.... even as goofy as it sounds.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 6:36AM
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Just have to find my supply of bubblewrap down in my basement jumble pile. I know I have some somewheres.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 6:21PM
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No trouble with Peeping Toms/Tammys, either.

Do you cut a hole in the middle of the bubble wrap and glue in a piece of regular clear plastic, so you can see out/check up on the neighbours?

Wouldn't want you suffering from claustrophobia, either, would we?

Enjoy your winter ... what's left of it.

o j

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 7:32PM
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I really like the bubble wrap idea. Problem is as Joyful mentioned - visibility. And it would also cut down on the heat in during the daytime too when the sun shines in. But I've been kicking around the idea of a rollup shade of bubble wrap to let down at night and roll up during the sunny days, and for times when I want to get out the binoculars and gaze at the neighbors, er, look at the scenery, yeah, that's it, scenery!

The bubble wrap would sure help make an effective window quilt too, I would think.

When I used to keep things quite a bit cooler in here in the winter, I used an electric blanket on the bed for a few minutes along with blankets over it and turned it off when I went to bed. Run it about 5-10 min and the bed is nice and warm. Works like the mattress pad. I think it's more effective than the hair dryer. Tried that a time or two when it was really chilly.

Now I will say the hair dryer is effective as the bachelor's iron, if you don't feel like going down to the dryer. Fire up that hair dryer and run it over some wrinkled pants or a wrinkled shirt and it's freshly pressed and toasty warm for those winter days!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 1:21AM
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Naturally, a lot depends on your window placement and use...and your general curiosity to spy on the neighbors.

Watching the neighbors has never interested me, but I'm really into saving on my utility bills. I rarely open any blinds, other than the dining room. No windows in the kitchen (thankfully)!

We only have windows on the east and the west sides of the house, so we don't receive any passive heat gain from the winter sun - the sun too far in the southern hemosphere to have much effect from the west windows. In another few weeks that will change. By then we'll also no longer experience the extremely cold temperatures we've had, and off comes the bubble wrap. So we'll only have it on for about 3 months (Dec. - Feb.). December was unusually cold this year, so in normal years, only 2 months of bubble wrap.

The windows on the east (street) side of our house are unused spare bedrooms and the side light on our front entrance door. The blinds in the bedrooms are never raised anyway....

The west side looks out onto an undeveloped cul-de-sac and a golf coarse, so there's not a whole lot to spy on. I can look out the French Door that leads out to the deck and back yard (although I have an energy-efficient covering for it as well).

The Master bedroom (northwest) has windows on the west and they are covered with bubble wrap, insulating Levelor blinds, and insulating/room darkening curtains. I never look out the bedroom windows - I go to bed when it's dark and I get up in the dark (5 a.m.), so there's nothing to look at.

Originally we left our dining room window (3-sided bay) uncovered, but we quickly discovered it was too cold to raise the blinds or you'd get chilled while eating, so we covered all but the side that faces southwest. It catches a little sun and provides a nice view of the golf coarse, so it's open during the day. The bay window will probably be the first to get the bubble wrap removed - later this month. The living room always has the blinds drawn because we only use that room an hour or two at night. They aren't good for spying on anyone....anyway.

So it looks like I have the perfect house for bubble wrap insulation.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 9:03AM
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Dear Grainlady,

The bubblewrap is a great idea. I mentioned to my DH that what we spend on the window kits each year equals almost everything we save heating the house which from a financial standpoint is a drag. I like the idea that in most cases, you can get the bubblewrap for free and reuse every year. We will definately try this.

One window I could never stand to bubblewrap is the kitchen window - that's the one I use to spy on the not so nice neighbors to the north of us - LOL. Fortunately it's practically the smallest window in the house.

BTW, my in-laws used to have a grain heater which used corn as it's fuel source. Always took what my FIL said with a grain of salf regarding savings by heating with this method.

Is it indeed much cheaper to heat instead of natural gas or heating oil? Any information would be much appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 5:17PM
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I guess I'm an unusual person, but I have a definite interest in weather and nature. To close me me off from seeing outside is a real punishment to me. I don't get claustrophobic but I want, nay, I need to know the weather since I travel for work, plus I'm a weather nut. One of the things you need for forecasting is of course the ability to see what's going on. Additionally, even though I live in a residential area, I'm near a nature preserve and get a lot of wildlife. I like to see the birds, deer, rabbits, and the like come into my yard and attack the feeders. It's also a good entertainment for the cats! When I'm washing dishes it's a nice distraction to gaze outside, think of what needs to be done, and whatever. And it's nice to be able to see who's coming to the door, whether it be friend or religious recruiter! :) If you hear a sound, you can look out and see if someone's vandalizing or if a branch fell. It really bothered me when I worked in a cubicle! It's clearly a difference of interests.

I don't have a lot of knowledge on the corn stoves but I find them intriguing. Joyful has knowledge on them and could better tell you about them. I would think that an issue is fuel (corn) storage. It would be quite an attraction to rodents. I assume you're asking if it's cheaper to heat with corn rather than gas or oil? Like anything else, it depends on the price but again, someone else can probably give you better ideas on the BTUs vs amount of fuel so you can get an educated guess on the cost comparison. Don't forget to factor in the cost of the stove and any required maintenance and the longevity.

It's -10°(F) here after a -17° night with 20 mph winds. Going to be like this for quite a few days. I do feel the difference. One thing that hasn't been mentioned in a long time is the importance or at least value of insulated drapes. I sure noticed a difference after opening them up this morning! I should keep them closed today but I need to see out! LOL The sun will soon be shining in so that will help. Made a big difference yesterday. At this time of the year there's more "power" in our sunlight. Anyway, my point is the insulation value of the insulated drapes is dramatic. I really noticed that the first year I lived here. They had sheer liners and a thin woven drape and I didn't change them until after a winter in the house. Put up the insulated ones I bought for the apartment and whoa, what a difference! So on hot days, I keep them closed a lot and on very cold days, I usually close them and keep them closed when I'm gone.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 11:36AM
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I like to look out my windows too. In the past as a substitute for plastic in the windows, I've bought a curtain rod that fit inside the window and then cut down inexpensive clear shower curtains. It blocks heat loss while allowing light in. In the event someone wants to look outside or open the window, they can.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 1:10PM
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We used to say that heating with corn (using single-source space heater, no pipes - though some furnaces are available) was cheaper than any heat available except wood that one cut oneself.

Cutting wood needs a substantial amount of specialized equipment ... and it's a lot of work! Heats the worker about 8 times between cutting up the treetop lying on the ground (following logging) and throwing the block of wood into the fire.

Useful stress-reliever, though ... we used to say that when Dad started splitting wood, or Mom get really busy with the dust mop ... it was a good time to get out of sight for a while!

With a 60,000 BTU stove and good circulation and insulation, some said that they could heat up near a 2,000 sq. ft. house. Sometimes distribution was a problem: hot room nearest the stove.

In this area, near the Great Lakes (north of Lake Erie) users used to say that they'd use about 150 - 200 bus. of corn during a heating season. Which made for lower cost back when corn was cheaper. Some stove manufacturers have licensed their stoves for using wheat and rye as well as corn.

They are using quite a lot of corn to make ethanol now, but the usual feedstock is shelled corn ... and it costs a lot of petroleum for fuel, fertilizer, pesticides etc. to produce the corn, and processing the ethanol: I've heard 4 litres of petroleum to produce 5 litres of ethanol.

And, as there are fewer BTUs in ethanol than gasoline, one gets fewer miles per gal./km. per litre than using straight gasoline ... but does ethanol-laced gas come any cheaper?

I sometimes choose to buy it, for I feel that it cleans my engine.

For most people, a corn-fired heater was an alternative heat source, for it used to need to be serviced oftener than once per day, removing a piece of residue from the firepot, or it blocked the flow of air from the small combustion fan to the fire, and the fire went out. It's hard to believe that a small 5" sq. firepot can heat a house ... burning a little over a bushel per day, usually.

ole joyful -- (used to) provide all of the hot air that the average person needs! (some claim that he still does)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 1:03AM
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I bought myself an electric blanket a couple of years ago. It's for a double bed and the plug says 109 watts. However, it has six heat settings (I only use the first), and it's thermostatic too, so the energy used should be significantly less than 109w.

Despite the seemingly low wattage, they create a lot of heat. I have only ever used the lowest setting. It demonstrates just how wasteful the old type 100w light bulbs really are. I was amazed how much potential energy there is in approximately 100w of energy.

Anyway, it's very cheap to use and has the potential to replace or supplement a much larger heating appliance during the night. The extra bonus is that during the night is the time when the temperature usually drops and houses need more heating. If it allows you to turn down the heating (or simply avoid turning it up higher at night), then it will save fuel. Most central heating appliances have electric motors for fans or pumps, which usually consume more than 100w of electric. Not running this will save electric alone, but you'll also be consuming less gas or oil too.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 2:18PM
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I dun got kewrious again so I did a little quick & dirty research. Average price for corn in 2007 in the US was $3.40/bu according to the USDA. I'm assuming that's shelled & dried to a level useable in the cornburner stove. So, at 150-200/bu it'd be $510-$680 annual cost. YMMV of course. In order to heat the house, you'd need to circulate the air of course so you'd increase your electric bill some for the circulation and the hopper feeder and that would need to factor into the equasion if you're truly considering it since it'd be a required expense to get a true comparison.

Then I looked up my heat bills. (This includes a 40 gal water heater and pilot lights on water heater and furnace) My last 12 natural gas bills totalled $1,175.12. Kept going for the prior 12 to have two calendar years to compare and it totalled $885.39. Have to do some digging to get more info beyond that and granted this year has been much colder than prior years. (Actually more normal than the previous couple years) We had a couple wimpy winters, but I thought it was interesting. I used to log my bills and total them at the end of the year. It's been probably 5 years since I did that (won't go into why) and as I recall about $600/yr total was pretty normal.

So, I guess for me, the cost of the stove, fuel, circulation, etc, probably wouldn't be a great investment. For some it could be great though. Possibly if I could tap into the ducts for circulation it would help eliminate some of the electrical needs. Oh the variables!! :)

Good luck to all on lowering the cost and increasing the comfort level. Yes, they can go hand in hand. Which reminds me, I need to add water to the humidifier.

It just struck me that there was the old song based on the old saying of "put another log on the fire..." so I suppose we'd have to update that to throw another COB on the fire!

Here is a link that might be useful: Ontario Ministry of Ag site

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 1:17AM
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I've found that in winter (even here north of the Great Lakes) a flannelette sheet is much warmer as I crawl into it than regular sheets ... certainly not frigid.

If, living more or less in the warmer south, you're softie enough to want an electically-based assist to warm your bed, I'm frugal enough to think that using an electric blanket would be longer-lasting that a mattress pad. You might need to turn it on 5 minutes or so earlier, to allow it to warm the bottom sheet, etc. slightly ... but lying, rolling, squirming on a mattress pad, and bouncing (if it's a double) would produce a lot of wear and tear on the pad, but the blanket just lies quietly on top of you (except possibly, and most likely temporarily, during strenuous exercise) so should be still going strong when the wires in the poor old (under-body) pad are pretty well shot.

And please - try to avoid sending more stuff to the garbage, for I live within 2 miles of a landfill, recently bought by a major city ... for $220 *million! (not pennies!)*.

Question: if you lived within 2 miles of a 20 - 30-year-old garbage dump ... would you drink the water from your well??

We need to get serious about saving energy - if you think global warming something of a problem now ... just imagine what it'll be like for you young 'uns, or your kids/grandkids (I don't got none of the latter) when about half a billion people now using minimal energy get even a few of those toys that we've been enjoying for years.

Good wishes for sensible, frugal living.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 5:47PM
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Timely article in Mother Earth News - February/March 2008:

8 Easy Projects for Instant Energy Savings

1. Personal Computer Power Management
2. Install Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
3. Seal and Insulate Heating Ducts
4. Reduce Inflitration Losses From House (Seal Leaks)
5. Vent Dryer to Inside During Winter
7. Eliminate Phantom Electrical Loads

I'd like to add my thoughts on #5. NEVER vent a gas dryer to the inside. I'd also suggest NOT using liquid softener or softener sheets if you vent your dryer to the inside. That's a lot of toxic chemicals you're adding to your household.

"The nicotine of the laundry industry (fabric softener).

This wouldnÂt be so terrible if the potential health effects of the chemicals used to make these products werenÂt unbelievably awful. I will list just a few: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), AlzheimerÂs, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dementia, ParkinsonÂs, Multiple Sclerosis. And, incredibly, there are even more."

If your laundry room is tiny, make sure you leave a door open or you may do more than add some moisture to your winter house, you'll also be fostering a good source for MOLD.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mother Earth News

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 6:42AM
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The figures in that Mother Earth News article are shocking. How can anyone use that much electric!

Their computer power management alone claims to save 1,779 kWh a year, which is almost double the electric consumption of our entire house! We average around 950 kWh a year.

We don't live in an eco-design house or use special energy saving appliances, it's all standard stuff bought many years ago before they started to energy rate everything. Probably less efficient than many new items. The only things we have changed are the light bulbs to energy savers.

Obviously we don't cook, heat water or space heat with electric. Nor do we use a dryer. Otherwise we live quite normally without thinking much about electric consumption.

I just can't believe their individual appliances are using more electric than our entire house!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 12:24PM
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Dear JoyfulGuy,

Thank you for all the information and for your honesty.

My FIL lived in rural Iowa - so yeah, corn to heat it was not too much of issue but he could be a real baloney artist too.

We live near the city but were still interested however, it sounds that it might be better to use more of the other strategies like the bubblewrap, better sealing of the ductwork etc.

We're already using heavy insulated curtains - and yes on really cold days they help tremendously. We also live a tiny house - so not as much to heat.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 7:52PM
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"We average around 950 kWh a year."

Wow, what do you have that's electric? An average refrigerator in this country uses that much electricity! That's not allowing for any other appliances, lights, fans, etc. I realize the UK folks often have a small frig, similar to what we call a "dorm" frig and shop nearly daily.

Someone that uses their computer 8 hrs/day uses that much electricity in a year.

I'm amazed that anyone gets by these days on roughly $100/year for electricity!

Are you sure about that? Maybe you want to go to the compare electric rates thread and post some info on your bills. I know I'd be interested in seeing it and how you're doing it!

I do agree with your skepticism on the computer figure in the linked article. Possibly if you're running a mainframe system... Considering an average computer uses a couple hundred watts of power:

200x24hrs/day=4800watts x 365 days/year= 1,752,000 watts

Since a kwh is a thousand watts/hr, 1,752,000 watts divided by 1000 equals 1,752 kwh/yr if a computer runs 24/7! They're going to "save" 1780kwh by power management? I doubt it. Even using their figures that they use 270 watts for TWO computers, if we assume they run them 24/7 they use 2365.2kwh/year. I'd need a lot more info than he put in to believe his claim.

$10/mo savings using CFLs? I'd agree with that.

But I am interested in how, using bubble wrap, they saved 955 kWh... in propane! Boy that fan must run a LOT! But then, they saved another 2,320 kWh in propane using an electric mattress pad so....

I'm curious about this guy and how he figures things. Or maybe we should hope that whatever he's on is available over the counter soon? :)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 11:44PM
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Not meaning to dampen anyone's goal of lower heating costs, but as many folks age, hypothermia can be an incidious event as the result of too little or no heat.

Since my DH's coronary. he is not comfortable at 62 F daytime, so the thermostat is at 68F. We are still able to be much cooler at night due to a discovery.

After a sleet storm in the area hospital where I worked, several of us 12 hour shift nurses had to work four more hours and then sleep there overnight for the next day's shift. None of us slept well as the plastic coated hospital mattresses (covered with two bottom sheets) kept in too much heat. A few years later, DH and I replaced our vintage mattress and also bought a waterproof mattress pad on top of which I placed two regular mattress pads. Amazed to discover that the plastic pad serves as a reflector of our body heat-so a cooler night temp is very acceptable now. Had never seen this mentioned by anyone before.

Personally need all the south view windows to keep the SAD away. We use a small space heater as needed.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 12:41AM
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Radiant electric heaters, such as quartz heaters and "dish" shaped heaters with glowing elements, can make you comfortable at surprisingly low inside temperatures. I turn my heat down when no one is home, and I just got home about 30 minutes ago and turned it up, but the temperature in the house is still a little below 60 F. I am sitting at my computer with one of the "heat dish" style heaters (1000 watts) directed at me from about 5 feet away, and the whole area around the computer is very warm and comfortable. The radiant heaters are good for any situation where you're sitting in one place, such as at a computer, watching TV, reading, etc., because you can direct the heat at you and feel instant warmth. Heating people directly rather than heating air saves energy.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 12:03AM
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I like to have some hot air around me - some of my friends say, me being who I am, that's not hard!

That's why I like to have an electric heater near the computer, aimed at me. Another near the chair where I (occasionally) watch TV - but I can snuggle under a nice blanket, then.

That story about conserving body heat by having a moisture-proof covering on a mattress I find quite interesting ... and I think that I, too, would want a couple of mattress pads over it.

And it still seems to me to be preferable to have an electric blanket rather than a mattress pad, for durability reasons.

Question ...

... if blueberrier1 should get a dog ...

... would it of necessity be a terrier one?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 1:43AM
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My landlord pays for heat but I live in a old, drafty corner apt so it's pretty cold. I have huge 6ft windows and I've covered a couple with plastic but my blinds are inside so I cant's open those anymore-I need a lot of sunlight and I don't want to seal them all off, plus I get air leaking around the outside of the windowsills, even on the floor against the baseboards, I've been stuffing the big cracks with cardboard any other advice?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 6:35AM
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greengirlreba, for the airleaks around the windows and baseboards, I'd talk to the landlord about some of the spray foam insulation. They have the type that expands a lot for closing of large areas and the "minimal expansion" which is perfect for around windows and the small areas. It really does a lot for closing off those leaks. And if it's small cracks a few tubes of caulking will work wonders too. I'd talk to them and see if they have a maintenance person who could do this. Maybe you could offer to help with the labor if they buy it, or maybe you just want to get the OK and do it yourself. It's not hard. Take the trim off from around the windows and spray it in. Follow directions. Stop before becoming even with the wall because it will expand more as it cures. Any excess cuts off easily with a hacksaw blade or a serrated knife, or even a plain knife. It's very sticky however so I'd wear some rubber gloves and old clothes in case you get it on you.

The window sealing plastic is great for the windows, but doesn't cover the leaks around the windows. I think you'd really notice a difference by doing this and caulk/seal off around the baseboards too. Also, any electrical outlets or switches on the outside walls? They leak a lot of air. There's little foam pad insulator kits available cheap. You take the cover off, put the pad over the switch/oulet and put the cover back on. Simple and cheap.

To find the air leaks easily, just wet your hand and move it around on a cold windy night or day. You'll probably feel the draft and can take some blue painters tape and mark the areas you need to work on.

For the big windows, if you don't want to buy drapes, look for some old quilts to hang over them. That will help a lot on the cold nights and can be removed to restore the view and sunlight during the day. Or make your own with some bubble wrap! A cardboard tube and some rope and you'll have a roll up shade. With just bubble wrap, it'll let some of the light in during the day, although it'll of course block some.

What kind of heat do you have? It'd be an incentive for the landlord if it can save on some heat. And you'd be a lot more comfortable.

Keep us posted, let us know how it works out and what you do.

Oh, one other thing offhand, (also easy and cheap) is to hang dense things on the walls. Got a couple big nice quilts? Even old (garage sale) insulated drapes or anything like that hanging on the wall. That's insulation and works well as I understand. You could even do some insulating by putting up styrofoam insulation sheets or bubble wrap if you're not overly concerned with the looks

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 2:41PM
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cynic, thanks for the advice, the foam sounds like a good easy way to make a big impact. I have hot water radiators, some of the leaks are pretty easy to find, if I stand next to the window I feel a breeze! I have a good landlord and maintenance person so I'll ask them what they're willing to do.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 12:15AM
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OK, curiosity got the best of me. I live in "hot" climate where the number of freezing days per year can be counted on less than one hand. (this is by way of explaining my ignorance on the subject) Heating with corn. How does this work? Dried on the cob and burned cob & all? If so, my imagination is visualizing corn popping all over the living room. Or, dried cobs only, no kernels. If so either way what does this smell like? Quit laughing!!!


    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 4:35PM
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greengirlreba, cynic's suggestions were excellent. But until something gets done, consider wide duct or masking tape on the the window trim and sills, making a corner of tape (half on wall, half on trim.) Not ideal but it does cut the draft almost completely. In fact I insisted window installer place a run of duct tape around opening even after insulating (plain fibreglass, foam wasn't as commonly used then) before replacing the trim. Sandy

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 10:21PM
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I don't recommend this, but I used to live in a 100 year old apartment in Chicago. I used to get clear caulk and caulk the leaky windows closed in the winter and then scrape the caulk off in the spring. The wind would blow right through those windows! This apartment also had one of those centralized old natural gas heaters in the middle of the living dining room, so I would turn that down at night and turn on an electric heater for the bedroom with the door closed. I saved a lot of money that way and also stayed toasty warm.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 10:20AM
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pris, no problem, don't be embarrassed! You use shelled corn in the corn burning stoves. Cobs will burn if you're using an old time cookstove or something but for the corn fired furnaces they use shelled. There's an auger that turns to feed the corn in. I'm by no means an expert on them, just what I've read. Go to the links I have in a posting above and you'll get a much better idea of how they work.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 9:32PM
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Hi pris,

Most corn-fired space heaters have a small hopper that holds about a bushel of corn and needs refilling about once a day, perhaps oftener in really cold weather - furnaces about double that or more.

People may choose to store the kernels of corn in a metal-lined box with a lid if they are worried about the depradations of rodents, bringing the corn in with a plastic pail. It needs to be dry enough to store, about 15% moisture, so that it doesn't mould.

There's a small auger motor under the hopper with a gearbox that reduces the speed from regular motor speed to, usually, about two revolutions per minute for the small 2" auger and an adjustable controller adjusts the amount of running time, often 2 - 4 seconds and stopping time, often around 10 seconds, to produce the amount of heat required.

The auger drops a few kernels at a time into a double-walled firebox that's about 5" square - it's hard to believe that such a small firebox can heat a house!

Corn needs an air stream to burn and a small combustion fan pulls air through a pipe from outside and blows it through the perforated inner wall of the firepot. Corn burns hot - the dropped kernels start to burn within a few seconds. As you know, it takes about a minute of heating to make kernels of popcorn explode ... in a corn-fired heater, they don't have time to even think about exploding before they start to burn. Grain-fired heaters are very safe - if the air stops blowing, the fire goes out in under three minutes.

Another small motor, with a small squirrel-cage fan on either end of the shaft, pulls air from the room and pushes it through a heat chamber around the firebox of the stove and back out into the room. Most folks don't like the heat of the coffeepot that one puts on top of the stove to stay warm ... one of my friend's dealers in Indiana has a picture on their website of their fairly large cat stretched out along the top of the stove, luxuriating in the warmth: you know what seekers cats are after warmth, following the spot of sunlight on the floor around through the day. I wonder whether people will get the wrong impression - that maybe that stove doesn't give much heat.

It gives lots of heat!

They're environmentally friendly, as they use power draft and the testing company had to re-test them to make sure that their instruments were working properly, for there were minimal pollutants produced.

Earlier models needed to be considered as an alternative heat source, as they needed to have a small residue removed from the firepot daily, or it built up to cut off the flow of air, so the fire would go out. O.K. for farmers who needed to milk cows daily ... but most folks want to leave their homes occasionally.

Check one kind out at

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 9:04AM
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I forgot about another cheap and easy insulation. Two actually. The "V-seal" type that folds over is easy for certain applications. Also the "caulk saver" which is a dense foam, very flexible, looks like a thick rope and comes in various diameters to fill cracks. Does a great job of conforming to the spot it's filling.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 4:51AM
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