We are (with the exception of a small wood stove for burning scraps in
the basement) an all electric house.
Our year round, daily average energy consumption is around 65 to 75
kilowatt hours. With total cost of about $3,000 Canadian per year.
What's that; say 2000 quid? This being a 60 by 37 foot four bedroom
single storey bungalow, insulated wood frame with unheated basement,
built in 1970 .
During our somewhat lengthy and cold winter and especially when temps.
are below zero C and it is windy, it increases to well over 100
kilowatt hours per day.
Just wondering how you 'chaps' in UK are finding your energy
consumption during what we understand are colder, more snowy weather
conditions for a few days recently.
We put on our winter tyres in mid November this year, the date on
which steel studded tyres being permitted having been advanced last
year, to mid October from the usual November 1st.
They are normally permitted until May 1st fallowing year, unless
further extended by our Minister of Transportation. However it was
only recently we added the extra weights in the back of our two rear
wheel drive vehicles. My Nissan pickup has some 180 pounds of extra
weight in a shallow wooden box near the tail gate.
Very few problems; e.g.. schools closed because of snow storms for
only a couple of days so far and ferries disrupted, as often, during
each winter by bad weather across the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Energy efficient lighting wont make any difference to winter electricity
consumption if electricity is all you have. You need watts of power in
to compensate for power loss. lightbulbs contribute to this.
They are just electric heaters that also give off light. Like an Aga is
a space heater that you can also cook on.
I would say that fr a small well insulated hiuse in very sub zero
conditions, 5KW continuos is what it would take - mine takes 10Kw or more.
5Kw is around 100Kwh/day. spot on with what the man is getting.
Its interesting to plot the power versus outside temperatures, assuming
teh liner relationship implied by U values. For say an average indoor
temperature of 20C.
In the UK the average temperature outside is about 9-12C depending on
where you live. Lets say 10C. so average heatloss is for a 10C temp
Go to -5 and its a 25C difference. 2.5 times MORE than average.
I find that spring/autumn really all we need is the 1Kw Aga and a bit of
electrical contribution from all the kit in the hose - say 2Kw total.
In summer we need nothing at all apart from a little hot water.
In sub zero, we are running at at least 5Kw with still the 1Kw from
electricity, so we go up 3x in oil burning from 1Kw to 3Kw.
wind was never allowed for in the original heat calcs, so a sub zero
wind is a nightmare. Mainly due to losses through the floors and lower
They are insulated, but a sub zero blast under the floors removes the
nice insulating blanket of warm air that lives there.
I got serious improvements in insulation in the loft by plating over the
rockwool with chipboard..rockwool is useless in wind...and by sealing
any cracks I could find around window frames etc etc.
The OP again: Further. It's 10 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. That's
around minus 11 Celsius. And somewhat but not highly, for here, windy.
Had the heat turned down during the night. And in the kitchen-family
room area of the house temp. was around 12 degrees C (approx 56F).
Quickly warming up.
We are less than a kilometre from the coast of the North Atlantic.
Just saw neighbour complete with his fold-down ear-flaps (sealskin I
think) hat, walk up the road towards the church. It snowed a few
centimetres last night so will go out and shovel off the front step,
check daughter's house behind this one and if necessary run the snow-
blower down the driveways.
Shouldn't take long. Then come in and take a warm shower; having
developed the habit of allowing warm shower water to stand in bottom
of the bath tub to cool down to room temperature; thus saving an
estimated 12 cents each time. Of course one has to run the bathroom
fan to avoid moisture remaining within the house structure so some of
that 12 cents probably gets chucked outside.
There is no piped in gas here, only propane which can be delivered or
picked up in the typical refillable bottle, which have to be checked
and re-certified/replaced each ten years. It is quite expensive and is
used for camping, bar b-qs and by some for vented propane fireplaces.
Such 'fireplaces' often have a dual vent with air in and air out; only
problem is that if they face a wind or with blowing snow they can
block up; even one that is some 7 feet off the ground!
Another comment is correct; there is no point using energy efficient
bulbs (or appliances?) within the house. Some form of heating is
required, here, almost every month of the year. Especially at night
when the lights tend to be on. 'Ordinary bulbs' (40, 60, 100 watt)
cost about 25 cents apiece. Our bathroom is often heated, while
occupied, by the six 40 watters above the sink vanity.
The use of oil heat is fast disappearing; the competitive cost and
convenience of electricity, problems with leaky oil tanks, need for
chimneys, furnace maintenance costs all taking their toll. Also and a
few accidents due to deteriorated combustion chambers. Some have
converted air or water heating oil systems to 'electric furnaces' thus
retaining the former heat distribution but getting rid of the 'burning
apparatus' part, along with tanks, oil deliveries etc. Over 90% (soon
to be 100%) of our electricity is hydro generated.
Virtually no homes have air conditioning here, mainly a vanity, except
for perhaps eight days per year. Although some homes are now using
heat pumps, some of which can be reversed to cool as well as
heat .......... I bet, if of the 'air' variety they are not wringing
much if any heat out of the cold air this morning. They don't work
well at low temperatures and the homes revert to the auxiliary
electric heat that is built into them. In some cases those auxiliary
heaters are not adequate and complaints after spending those higher
capital costs (somewhere, for a not too large 3 bedroom house, around
plus $15,000?) ensue. Heat pump systems, which are essentially
refrigerators in reverse also need a certain amount of maintenance'
And you can buy a lot of electrcity (about 5 years worth) for that
extra $15,000!!!!! Our electric heat is individual baseboard heaters
in each room. Each with it's own thermostat.
The maintenance on our electric heat in since 1970 has been less than
$100. Two/three thermostats and one circuit breaker.
Things that waste electrical energy is outside lighting that is on all
night, in our case one long life rural bulb, that we have on over
front door at night for insurance security purposes; it can also be
turned on and off remotely by the neighbours when we are away. Other
lights are on motion sensors and on for only a few minutes each time.
And the clothes dryer; but those pounds/kilograms of moisture could
cause problems if sealed anywhere within the house structure, seeping
out into the walls etc. and condensing there wetting the insulation! I
didn't insulate this house myself and know the vapour barrier is not
perfect! Ceilings are heavily insulated and our 60 foot long, low
roof pitch attic is well cross ventilated and often checked; so no
moisture build ups up there. Bathroom fan and clothes dryer vented
The result is fairly dry house, but we like that and it ensures no
condensation and mould problems.
The almost completely in ground basement, windows below ground level
in window wells, is unheated and remains at around (I just checked)
49degree F. (+ 9 C).
Still somewhat windy. The unheated attached garage section of the
house is today at the windy end of the house and that and the recessed
front door helps 'break the wind'.
Hope this of interest. Terry ex-Liverpool 1956. Must go get another
PS. The TV weather channel says minus 12C, wind chill minus 23C. winds
to around 50 kilometres/hour. One thing aboot lower temps is that it
not as slippery and the snow is lighter to shovel, than when wet and
We got down to that for a few nights over the last couple of weeks, but
day time temps at their worst (SE England) have been no lower than about
-4. (although the north and Scotland has seen significantly lower temps!)
Surprising that it falls so far... our place is also quite exposed to
the wind, and the insulation standard is currently quite poor in some
respects, yet the night time temps will rarely fall below about 18C.
Daft question, but how do those work - go thye just use an air jet or
some form of brushes etc? (I can't imagine clearing the sort of snow we
get here would be that effective with just an air jet)
Hmmm, that might be taking it a little too seriously! ;-)
Propane is not a particularly cheap option here either, although some
places without mains gas will use it for cooking, and often oil or cheap
rate electricity for general heating. Fortunately we have mains gas at
about a quarter the price of electricity at the moment.
Similar applies here - but only for about six months of the year in the
I think the price gap here has close somewhat as well. Not having oil, I
don't have any personal experience though.
I would have thought that ground source heat pumps would be quite viable
there. Your basement temperature indicates that there are accessible
heat reserves a few feet down even in the worst of the weather.
Yes, its interesting to get other perspectives on it! (especially when
you see the amount of fuss that gets made over here when we have a few
days of cold weather!)
Yes, I think air-source falls over at about -20F, which is normally a
significant portion of our cold days here. Ground-source is the only way
to go. I've got the space to do it, but the installation companies
charge a huge fee, and most of that seems to go on digging trenches and
laying some coiled pipe. I can do that bit myself - but GSHP's don't
seem to be quite "there" yet in terms of DIY; i.e. I've not seen any
good sites explaining coil length/depth for different scenarios, and I'm
not sure if all the equipment can be bought except via the companies who
are going to want to sell you a "package" that includes installation.
Plus my power company offer reduced rates if you have a GSHP - but only
if it's installed by one of the companies on their 'approved' list.
Ours are like that, but the thermostats are just graduated low-high rather
than any kind of meaningful target temperature. I really want something
where I can set an actual degree valua, and also program them to ramp down
at night and come on 30 mins before we get up - but I think I might piss
my power company off in doing that (part of the deal of having them on
an off-peak setup is that they're connected directly to the
load-control equipment, so I don't know if I could get away with
bypassing their normal thermostats and adding my own)
Here I can have the power company install a "yard light" that's on a
special fixed rate per month no matter how much I use it. Opportunist
crime seems unlikely because we're several miles from the nearest town,
though - but at the same time we have a couple of neighbours close enough
that 'planned' crime is unlikely (due to the risk of being seen).
I did find a telegraph pole with a light on it dumped in our woodland, so
the previous owners had a yard light at some point in the past.
Yeah, I figure I'm better off insulating the heck out of the dryer
ductwork given it's on for an hour a day generating heat and then for 23
hours it's just a good way for cold air to find its way inside.
Yep, exactly the same with ours. I'm going to frame + insulate down there
this year. Half of it's wood storage, but there's no wood furnace any more
- I want to get an external one though, but will build a wood store onto
the back of the garage then instead. Kids want a playroom down there, and
I want a computer room...
Ahh. Our big garage is separate, but I reckon it's got about 5 years max
of life left in it. I'm itching to rebuild it, and will probably relocate
it and attach it to the house then.
Warm again today here: -2C, -7C windchill. Know exactly what you mean
about the wet snow - hate shovelling that stuff. Our propane tank's way
round the back of the property, so I have to clear several hundred feet so
the delivery truck can get to it. Wife wants a snowblower, I want a
vintage D8 Caterpillar. I suspect compromise might be in order ;)
I'll throw my 2 things of local currency in here, too - I find comparisons
on things like this between different countries interesting.
We're in a 4-bed place of about 2000sqft up here in northern Minnesota,
with an unheated/uninsulated basement of about another 1000sqft (all
poured concrete walls / floors however). Old single-glazed French-style
windows, lots of 'em, and they leak cold air something rotten.
We've got about 15kW of electric heat capacity, and a propane furnace /
ducted air system serving the ground floor of the house only.
It's actually been relatively warm here this winter - temps have been
hovering around zero degrees C for the last week. We've had a few days of
around -30C, but not nearly as many as normal.
Our electric heat is all on off-peak (as is the clothes dryer and water
heater); it's all load-controlled so the power company can shut it off
during high-demand periods - with the propane furnace in theory taking up
the slack when the 'leccy heaters are off.
Last month we used 1774kWH just for the electric heaters (and dryer /
water heater) at 4.5 cents/kWH (2.7 pence) for a total (inc. misc fees)
of $81.93 (£50 near enough)
I'm not sure on propane usage exactly - we dumped around 200 gallons in
the tank last spring right at the end of the heating season, and we've
basically gone through that much since turning the furnace on right at the
end of October. I think it was around $400 for that much at the time, so
it's somewhere around 400 / 2.5 months = $160/month in propane (£98 ish).
In other words, it's *far* cheaper to heat the house using electric. I
think the current rate for propane here is down to about $1.80/gallon, but
that's still far more expensive than electric. We normally run the propane
furnace at around 65 degrees during the day and 60 at night.
Same here. There's about a foot of snow on the ground, but we've had no
school closures or late starts yet. I was out shovelling snow in a
t-shirt the other day because the sun felt so warm. I expect this warm
spell will end soon and we've get another major snowfall, though.
We were in Alaska and Canada last October. It seems that schools in
Fairbanks (and, I think, all of Alaska) are not allowed to close until
the temperature gets down below -50F!
We also noticed that public car parks have sockets into which engine
block heaters are plugged to avoid engines freezing up.
Not directly comparable with the average UK winter, but an indicator of
how cold it gets there.
Ouch. They'll usually do a 2 hour delayed start here if it goes below -30F
windchill. We had a handful of days like that last year, but nothing this
year. Outright closures are rare.
Yep, we get those here too. Block heaters / sump heaters are very common.
I need to get one for our Toyota (they're only about $50) as it sounds a
little unwell for the first few revs when it's an extremely cold day.
Lots of comparisons and comments there Jules. Thank you. Hope they may
also be of interest to my UK ex-kin. Having been in Canada some 50+
years and built and then maintained two wood frame homes and brought
up a family in them it is interesting to compare notes.
If we built again today (unlikely at at age 76!) we would be using
thicker walls and more insulation. Today that would be two by six (500
mm by 150mm) framing and more attention to insulation etc. is normal.
The so called R-2000 standard. Both our houses were built by two local
carpenters using two by four framing, with myself doing the plumbing/
electrical etc. We still live in this second house and the first one
is still in good shape with its fourth owner. Wood frame construction
is very forgiving, generally easy to maintain and/or modify. Also
today thicker plasterboard would be required for walls and ceiling to
meet fire codes.
Originally on well and septic field; this house has town water and
sewer for last 30 years plus.
Temperature today minus 11C. Not as windy as yesterday. Few
centimetres more snow. Not enough to shovel. Birds around looking for
feed, so went out on the wooden deck/patio in rubber boots and
dressing gown and refilled the feeders. Chilly for a moment. But it's
a 'dry' damp.
Yes, ground source heat exchanger/pump systems much more effective
than air systems. And for residential use quite expensive; $20,000 has
been mentioned for a typical home. But not sure if that includes the
ground excavation etc. Obviously the time to do that is during first
construction. Whether there is a enough area in what is now the
typical urban plot am not sure. We have a quarter acre here, even now,
after donating the back half lot to daughter. The new local school has
fifteen wells drilled into the ground each will have a loop of fluid
being circulated to extract heat from the ground.
Our almost completely in the ground poured (8 inch) concrete basement
is uninsulated, for the most part, except for small area used as an
electronics workshop. The rest of the approx 48 by 36 foot area is
used for storage (50 years of junk!) and workshop. Except during very
cold/windy weather the temperature down there remains around 50 to 55
degrees F. You may remember I checked it yesterday and it was 48F when
outside was 10 degrees F and windy.
All windows in this house are double sliders; not very modern or
elegant but virtually maintenance free. There are two separated sets
of Al. metal channels within each wooden window box set into the
walls. The metal channels are about 1.5 inches apart and in which
sliding glass each also in it's metal frame slide, and interlock.
There are four pieces of glass in each window, the inner and outer
sets being interchangeable. They have been in place since 1970. If a
window needs replacing it is matter of taking that sliding unit into
glass shop and getting a piece of glass cut to that size. Then either
fitting it oneself or often the shop will do it for a nominal charge,
thus also ensuring the cut size was correct. No visit to the house
being required by the glazier. Has turned out to be a happy choice.
Somehow we cracked two pieces while sliding something into the
basement through its widest window (six feet by two feet) and it then
cost, few years ago $35 (bit less than 20 quid?) for two new glass.
For the upstairs we made the windows the minimum required by code (was
10% of the floor area). Also, having the land width we added two feet
to both ends of this house before building at very little extra cost.
Increasing the main floor area by approx. 150 sq. feet.
Heating is by individual electric baseboard heaters in each room. Four
bedrooms. But the unused room are turned down low and this time of
year are chilly but get some indirect heating from the adjacent heated
rooms. Regarding electricity consumption (now about 10.1 cents per
kilowatt hour) with no off peak or night time cheap rates, we have
the usual appliances, electric cooking, right now am drying out one of
the bird feeders in the oven, with a nice smell of 'cooking' cedar!
Two computers on continuously, TV used evenings, dishwasher, etc.
Electric hot water tank (30 US gallons. 120litres?), any heat escaping
from that heats the basement very, very slightly, But since it takes
an observed two weeks for the tank to completely cool down, that loss
is rather small, so we haven't looked at those 'Instant hot water'
heaters although they seem to be gaining some popularity? The thought
of the cost for wiring for over 9 kilowatts into (or below) say the
bathroom along with the cost of the high rate water heater being off-
putting! The last time we self-replaced our hot water, my son and I
did it one evening in Dec. 2006 for at total of around $250; and that
included a new $25 pressure relief valve. Tanks are now, I gather
closer to $280. Each heater/tank have lasted on average with our
somewhat acidic and often iron infested water about ten years.
So a water heating unit first cost, over the years of about $20 per
year, 5.5 cents per day, seems OK? They typically have two 3000 watt
elements that are wired flip flop, each with it's own thermostat. But
can easily be rewired for individual operation for high demand. Only
done that once in 40 years (visiting US relatives!) but the tank is
wired for 30 amp capability (#10 AWG) if required.
Electricity does not require delivery as does oil, or delivered (and
expensive) propane. There is no natural gas system here; although it
is understood that maybe 100 years ago there was a coal gas plant
serving part of the adjacent city of St. John's Newfoundland. (Long
before it became part of Canada!). Traces of that old installation
occasionally show up!
The electrical supply although coming from hydro generation many
hundreds of miles away is highly reliable. Also the use of almost 100%
aerial distribution means that power restoration is prompt (even
during storms) due to excellent work by very dedicated crews of out
local electric utility.
Not sure Jules where Minnesota gets it's electrcity? But this part of
Canada is working on the Lower Churchill hydro project in Labrador-
Newfoundland which will export into the north eastern US.
Thanks for the discussion. BTW my neighbour who once worked 'up north'
told me that plugging in a motor vehicle was only way to get it
restarted when it' minus 40F! Also big diesel construction machinery
runs all the time in those cold climates and even in Western Canada.
And even here where it is relatively mild we often have booster cables
at the ready to help out others or occasionally ourselves! Got a set
in the pickup right now.
The new 11HP 300ccs.+ Ariens snow blower (Snow thrower?), kept in the
unheated cold garage, although it has a mains electric starter (no
battery) has started first or second pull cold or hot so far! It has a
set of rotating blades at front in a big metal scoop that chop up the
snow and any twigs, leaves and stones and divert it to a circular
impeller. Thence up a chute that can be turned away from the ever-
blowing wind with a cap on top that can be adjusted to direct the snow
near or far. Full open and with deep dry snow this can can chuck it
some 20-30 feet. But beware of flying stones on vehicle and house
windows. I flicked one in daughter's driveway yesterday as big as a
small spud (Oh gee; Minnnsota knows a potato?). Speed of blower travel
can be set by moving a lever etc. the engine driving two wheels;
haven't put chains on yet. This machine with it's bigger wheels and
'luggy' tyres does not seem to really need them? But frankly while
have used it about four times since November, we haven't had much
snow. Maybe by end of winter we will have the pile of snow on the deck/
patio as big as a VW? Main thing is to watch for too much snow on the
roof; it normally blows away. Only had to shovel the roof twice in
last 40 years. One occasion it took me two shifts totalling 13 hours!
On the other only some nine hours of fairly easy sliding snow build up
in chunks off side of roof. Oh by the way; snow piled up around the
concrete house foundation conserves heat loss by shielding it from the
Must go and do something useful; cheers.
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