Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The ice age

I have decided that we can no longer afford the luxury of warmth and I have turned off the heating.

This is despite the fact that the thermometer is still hitting minus figures overnight but the price of oil is now stupid dollars and I want to be able to afford to eat.

I announced this new austerity measure over our Shrove Tuesday breakfast pancakes to H9 and R7.

"What happens if we're cold?" they protested.

"Put on an extra jumper," I said remembering chilly childhood mornings where I scraped patterns in the frost on the inside of my single-glazed bedroom window.

"I can't wear a jumper to bed!" said H9.

"Put on an extra blanket then," I said, thinking fondly of the heavy layers of sheets, blankets and bedspread that preceded the arrival of the duvet.

We have double glazing (newly installed throughout the house), we have loft insulation (with extra mice for added warmth) and we have to very efficient wood burning stoves. Who needs oil?

Well, we do, to heat the hot water. I lay in bed this morning trying to work out how long it would take us to save up for a solar hot water system. Doable, surely, if we put our minds to it.

I was inspired to turn off the heating by Lins Lleisio who has a lovely warm unheated (except by wood burners) house. She tweeted a link to the BBC website about How Warm is Your Home? Which basically points out that we're all sitting round in T-shirts in well-insulated homes, heated to a toasty warm level while the Earth quietly runs out of oil. Food for thought.

So the heating is off and the time that the water is on is much reduced. It's not raining so the girls and I will be walking the school run again this afternoon to save petrol. Little things, but it all adds up.


  1. We have gas, which is a lot cheaper, but I'm at home all day, so the bills are still high. I've started to turn the radiator in my sitting room way down before I go to bed. I don't turn it back up until a few hours before I want to sit in there, the following day. Luckily, we have thermostats on all the radiators.
    We have a large south-facing roof, so solar water-heating is something I am banking on in the future.
    I've been thinking about long-term heating bills a lot lately, and realised that the warmest house I ever lived in was an old terrace. The houses on both sides were lived in, so heat loss was basically front and back only, apart from the roof.

  2. Good for you, although they are forecasting snow....

  3. Here, in the colony across the pond, we have gas-fired central heating. And air conditioning.

    In the winter, we heat the house to 20°C (68F). Put on an extra sweater (or two) if necessary. If the summer, we cool the house to 24C (75 F).

    Remember, "Be cool, but stay warm." (That's a Canadianism.)

  4. I wonder if it is possible to attach a back boiler into the woodburner. Our open fire used to have a small copper box at the back, which by means of simple pipes heated a large water storage tank. Effectively it used heat going up teh chimney to provide hot water. I have alwys thought that ground source heating is a good idea too, especially if you have some obvious land available to bury the pipes.

  5. Thought it was interesting that in the article it mentioned that we must be turning our thermostats up, to explain why energy use hasn't gone down as homes have become more energy efficient.

    When I first moved here from a centrally heated home I thought I'd absolutely have to get the downstairs wet room heated. Doesn't bother me in the least now, the water is beautifully warm - and therefore so is the room after the shower!

    Although I have always liked a colder bedroom, I initially found our bedroom a tad too much on the chilly side, again now I am used to it not a problem. In fact when I go and stay in a centrally heated home I just find it too warm, I end up very groggy and have to open the window wide (very wasteful).

    I am aware that when others come to stay they think it is a cold house, but we heat the room we are in... so the sitting room with the wood burner is usually always cozy. We just have cold zones – and have absolutely no heating in the hallway & wet room out back and all of upstairs - but heat rises up there so not too bad.

    And we put a jumper on and use fleece throws. Think we're all going to have to get used to that, whether on gas, electric, oil etc.

  6. We have an involuntary turning off of the central heating asthe boiler broke on Christmas Morning (great timing). We have frozen ever since. One warm room - the sitting room with its wood burner - one nearly warm at times (but only mid-50s) with the Hergom stove burning the oil destined for the central heating and giving us hot water. I fear 'tis the shape of things to come though, even when Warmfront have come and given us a new boiler . . . 6 tops and a fleece is still not enough in a cold house!

  7. You can too wear sweaters to bed... and sox and many other layers..

    We've just used the log burners over winter with a meagre 2 hours of oil for hot water but we, like Mark, are investigating re-using the energy created by the log burners.

    This winter I believe my kids have been the healthiest at school. We melt when we visit grandma!

  8. Excellent post and very interesting reading the comments too. Our oil bill has completely run away from us so we're going for the extra jumper option too. Would love to use solar panels but the intial outlay is just too expensive.

  9. Working at home is bad for this Mags - I am skinny and seem to live in a thousand layers which makes my poor eczema prone skin go wild. The alternative is to turn the heating up a little and peel a layer off. Expensive and also not great for skin! Ah well, I try!! x

  10. My childhood too was marked by icy bedrooms, tepid bathrooms, tartan legs for anyone lucky enough to get the chair by the fire, and a hateful paraffin heater in the kitchen!

    But we were never ever cold in our beds, because my grandma crocheted us all soft semi-circular shawls to wear round our shoulders in bed; the best draught excluders I have ever known!

  11. I am also worrying about our high heating costs. We buy logs and coal and have electric heating, we only have a tiny cottage but we are spending an absolute fortune. M has angina so we can't turn the heating off, the air has to keep warm. I wear loads of layers already. Sometimes I think of living and sleeping in the one room downstairs. I know someone who does that.

  12. Thanks for posting this! It's become to easy for me to flip on the boiler rather than slipping on an extra layer. I need to start setting a better example! Hopefully warmer weather is around the corner, but until then I'm going to try and follow your lead!

  13. We don't have central heating and in the winter our house is glacial . Downstairs we have two gas stoves which do a marvellous job and cost a fortune to run .
    Upstairs is usually beyond bracing but electric blankets are lifesavers .
    Any further energy cutting would involve a risk of hypothermia and I can't wear any more fleece layers without becoming immoblised !
    But this weekend the realisation of exactly how dependent on nuclear energy Japan is and the dangers involved have made it clear that something must soon be done .


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