Monday, July 28, 2008

We Take Action

Here at Ne'er-do-well Acres we are public-spirited to a fault. This morning, we started an experiment of Global Importance.

We turned off the oil furnace.

OK, OK, it's July and it's 75 degrees out, so we aren't sacrificing our comfort. But our furnace also heats our water. The Oil Man came this morning, and we found that since June 2 we had used $181.40 worth of oil for water alone. (That works out to $1,161 a year at the current price. That won't break us, I guess, but still...)

There are three schools of thought (at least) on how to conserve when your water's heated by an oil furnace. One says that you should just shoot yourself, thereby removing the need for any hot water at all. A more optimistic view is that you can save money by installing a timer and heating water only for those few hours a day when you're most likely to need it. The idea is that the furnace wastes energy turning on all day to maintain the perfect water temperature even when you're not using hot water.

Still another school, however, says "Pffft. You'll use just as much oil heating up a tankful of cold water once a day as you would just keeping the water hot all day. We agree with School Number One and what are you using for ammo?"

This being the single time of year when we use the furnace only for hot water, we're going to see which school of thought gets the Ne'er-do-well Medal for Extreme and Utter Truth. At the moment, we're thinking we'll turn the furnace on when we get up in the morning and indulge in a frenzy of showering, laundering, and doing dishes (no, we don't have a dishwasher and yes, the dishes will rot in the sink overnight). Then we'll turn that sucker off again.

One complication is that we have at least two sets of overnight guests coming in August and we're not sure they'll share our thirst for knowledge. But they probably will. (Most of them, anyway--our friend Michael probably is in School of Thought Number Three.)

In the winter, we usually keep the thermostat at 60. Rob heats his basement studio with a woodstove and I heat my office with an electric space-heater, which is off or turned way down most of the day because my office gets a lot of sun and the house is super-insulated. Rob allows his stove to cool down in the afternoon and at 5 p.m. lights the stove in the living room, which heats the whole house more than we want it to sometimes.

This winter, we're thinking the thermostat will stay at 5o. At breakfast, we'll briefly turn on an electric space-heater by the dining room table. Otherwise, the cold in the rest of the house will encourage us to stay in our work spaces, which is all to the good because there isn't much you can do there

What we do about the hot water this winter will depend on the results of this summer's experiment. Let the shivering begin!

Before I go... be sure to check out the Class of 2k8 blog this week. The topic is "How a Story Becomes a Book" --from initial idea to publishing. Authors, agents, and editors will be weighing in. Sounds like it'll be fun and instructive.


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Anonymous said...

Good luck with your interesting experiment!

Have you considered installing a solar panel to heat the water? I've had a look around on t'interweb and found DIY instructions that should bring tears (of joy and gratitude, certainly!) to the eyes of Ne'er-do-well Acres' much esteemed inhabitants. *bows*

Trish said...

I remember that when we lived in Maine my husband would save oil by keeping the daytime temperature set to 58 and bumped it to 62 at night. Fortunately, I was pregnant and always sweltering, so that worked out well. After our son was born, he bumped it up to 62 during the day and 65 at night. That might explain why my son loves living in Florida now. He's finally warm.

Ellen Booraem said...

Thanks for the instructions, Ruth! And as I'm sure you expected, Rob was Absolutely Thrilled at the notion of building our own solar heating unit instead of staying safely in his studio and swearing at the canvas.

Trish, we actually have trouble keeping our bedroom cool enough. We're kicking ourselves that we didn't insulate the floor when we built the house. It's right over the woodstove, and even though we keep the door closed it gets hotter than we like it.

They say you're not supposed to open a window upstairs when there's a woodstove going downstairs (because the competing draft might prevent gases from going up the chimney, and may draw them into the house instead). But we just have no choice.