Freeze Yer Buns Challenge

maggie-will-hatsFellow blogger Crunchy Chicken recently launched the Winter 2010-2011 Freeze Yer Buns Challenge, encouraging everyone to turn their thermostat down this winter.  She’s open to any temperature settings that works for folks but encourages people to push their limits a bit, especially at night.  I think her target is 62 during the day and 55 at night.

I feel like we’re already participating although in a rather unique way.  We have our thermostat set at 52 degrees and are relying on our solar furnace to heat us up to a more comfortable temperature during the day.  Our main motivation is keeping our electrical bill down so that we have a shot of winning the SIREN Energy Showdown grand prize – a one kilowatt photovoltaic system!  Will also likes the idea of just acclimating to a lower indoor temperature to lower our carbon footprint all winter, since we did fairly well adjusting to life without air conditioning this summer.

For the past couple of weeks it has been unseasonably warm (several days we opened all the windows to let the warm air IN) so with the solar furnace it has been in the high sixties during the day, dropping to about 55 overnight.  Yesterday it was cold but sunny so the solar furnace ran all day and brought the temperature up to about 65.  Then last night it got cold and our furnace actually kicked on for about ten minutes this morning to heat us from 51 to 52.  It has been between 52 and 54 all day and I’ve been here working.

And you know what?  It’s cold but it’s not unbearable.  I do wish we had some sort of supplemental heat for the bathroom – I hate stepping out of a hot shower into a cold room – but otherwise it has been okay.  I wear about three layers of long sleeves plus a hat, drink a lot of hot tea, and get up to exercise every hour or two to heat my body up again.  Perhaps life with minimal heat will improve my cardiovascular health!

Or perhaps in another month or two I can coax Will into turning up the thermostat to a balmy 58.  I’ll keep you posted… this!

5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Andy said,

    November 16, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    Are there any ways to insulate even more? You can never have too much insulation 😀
    My apartment building has amazing 20″ thick walls, so were rarely turn the heat on. It stays about 62 normally, though we tend to have one week a winter when it gets down to about 58. Of course this is partially heated by other apartments in the building (though we’re the only one on this floor), and because we are partially into the ground (one side is ground level).

    You could also consider where your energy is being used. Instead of buying loaves of bread or crackers, you could make your own at opportune times to warm the house. While it’s less efficient to make 1-2 loaves at a time compared to wherever store-bought bread is made, it at least gives your energy 2 uses in one. Plus homemade crackers are absolutely delicious.

  2. 2

    Maggie said,

    November 19, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    Andy –
    We could certainly use more insulation. We’re in the process of signing up for a weatherization assistance program and have been waiting to see if we qualify because they’ll come in and give us a full energy audit plus help pay for the cost of insulation and other weatherization steps. We also have a bad habit of overanalyzing before we do anything. Our attic has a decent amount of insulation but could definitely use more. Half our crawlspace is insulated and the other half is not but we’re torn on whether to insulate so that the crawlspace becomes conditioned space or to insulate between the crawlspace and the house. The walls in the newer part of our house have insulation but the walls in the older part of our house probably don’t. So we also have to make some choices on where to start!

    I like the idea of using the stove to help heat our house while also providing great homemade food. Alas, both of us have been in the mindset lately that we are too busy to cook and that it’s a big hassle. I’m hoping to change that soon and I’m super excited about making homemade crackers…

  3. 3

    Emily said,

    November 19, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

    How warm has the solar furnace been making your living room? (And how big is the living room? You have the 4’x8′ panel?) We are freezing our buns, but heating the “library” (as we are now calling the guest room, now that it’s rigged more for sitting than for guests sleeping) to about 62. We’re currently using an electric space heater (oil filled radiator type) but since the room’s on the SW corner of the house, I’m thinking a solar furnace could be great for this room.

    Thank you so much for blogging about this…it’s so helpful to be able to follow someone through the process…

  4. 4

    Maggie said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    We have a large solar furnace – 4′ by 10′. Our house has a fairly open floor plan so I’m not quite sure how to quantify the space… The living room is about 150 square feet but it opens into the dining room which is maybe 200 square feet and that opens into the kitchen which is about 140 square feet. On Wednesday, it was about 45 outside and the sun was shining brightly and the solar furnace heated the living room up to about 70 (from 52) while the rest of the house was about 64 or so except the bedrooms (which we leave closed). I think the solar furnace should be able to heat as effectively even when the outside temperature is much colder but we haven’t experienced it yet!

    If your library has a door to close it off from the rest of the house, I’m sure you could heat it quite nicely with a solar furnace (assuming you have good solar exposure) and probably a 4×8 or even 4×6 panel. And if you have a space heater already, that would make a great back up system for cloudy days.

    For the past two days it has been very cloudy and the solar furnace has only kicked on twice, for about ten minutes, so we’ve been wearing lots
    of clothes. I’m thinking 52 is maybe a little too cold to do all winter although it’s not bad at night.

  5. 5

    Emily said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    Thanks, Maggie, for the great information. I agree – a small panel would probably be enough for our small room.

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