Winter preparations

 Hello Dear Reader,

I had a lovely time yesterday with Foster Mummy and Man Wonderful and we often find solutions for problems over a cuppa. We were discussing heating and not heating our houses. I don’t heat much of mine. I only heat two rooms, the living room and my office. My office has an oil filled radiator that I have on the lowest setting and it keeps the room very warm. It has thermostatic control that turns itself off once the room is warm enough. I only turn on the central heating in dire circumstances! See the video below of Cornwall being battered by the sea, it’s always wet here in the Spring, Autumn and Winter and the humidity is usually at least 95% at this time of year. We do get a few crisp dry days but the sea air makes it damp.

I can get away with so little heating because my house has big south facing windows and any light warms the house. We also have cavity wall insulation and loft insulation, thick lined curtains, door curtains, lap blankets and an electric blanket on our bed. However, parts of my house, such as behind curtains, the corners of rooms get colder and the warm circulating air means there are damp spots and mould can grow there. I get rid of it as soon as it develops by spraying a very diluted bleach solution and clean it off where ever I find it. I’ll often touch up with some emulsion paint to keep areas bright. I also air the house whenever the air is dry. I light the open fire and now the wood stove and that pulls the cold air around the house.

We are a little obsessed with damp and mould. The picture below is a sample of a worse case scenario, I never get anything as bad as this as I keep on top of it. I keep clothes that I won’t wear for a while in vacuum sealed bags to stop any mould. Foster Mummy told me about the damp traps and I’ll buy some when I find them to put on window sills to try and combat some of the damp so it doesn’t turn to mould.

My winter preparations are about shrinking the house down to the rooms we use and preparing the rooms I don’t use. Firstly, I pull all the furniture into the middle of the rooms so the air can circulate behind and I make sure I air the rooms when ever I can. I stash bedding and pillows in vacuum bags and turn beds on their sides. I can always heat and prepare the rooms if I have any visitors.

It’s not really cold yet but the air is constantly cool and humid and I keep a low fire lit when I can (although I need to burn wood sparingly, it’s not free after all) to keep the house dry.

Well that’s me done for the day. What ‘odd’ weather conditions do you have to make allowances for and prepare for? Anyone stocking up on salt and grit yet? Anyone got any hints about dealing with extreme weather without spending a lot of money?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

CT mom – this is how we get hot water for washing. We have electric showers in the UK. The cold water comes in, it’s heated without storing it and pumped out hot. No storage tank, just what we want. So I don’t use gas to heat the water.  
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28 thoughts on “Winter preparations

  1. You really need a dehumidifier…they draw out the moisture in the air (as I'm sure you know) I'm afraid I blame the washing.

    I have a condensation problem in our bedroom and each morning I have to wipe it away (using a micro fibre cloth) the parts I can't reach get mouldy…

    Funnily enough the room where our wood burner is doesn't have any problems as it keeps the air very dry.

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  2. to be honest I am ignorant of the running costs but I believe they run like a fridge so the cost is certainly much lower than central heating…I had one for a couple of years and it had a sensor that turned itself off when the air was dry.
    Jeff Howells – Builder Jeff as I like to call him has a lot to say on condensation – he writes for the Telegraph but has a website and a book which has become a bit of a Bible for me – lots of sensible practical advice.

    The other thing I thought for you is a green house as a kind of sun room to dry your clothes in – I occasionally look out for them on ebay when I do my local searches and sometimes they go for next to nothing – if your husband is practical you might be able to set it up very cheaply plus come spring you could use it for it's proper purpose and bring on your veg early.

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  3. Froogs,
    You need to compare what it costs to heat vs running a dehumidifier. Here's a link that gives an idea:
    http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/small_appl.html
    We do keep a dehumidifier in the basement, it really helps. Our current one is an energy star model. the link above states that if a dehumidifer is run 12 hours/day, this would use 700 kilowatts of electricity/year to run. I have no idea what your electric rates are. HTH

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  4. Perhaps it is possible to open your windows for a short time every day to get some fresh (but cold!) air into your rooms. Not sure how long you need to leave them open to get a benefit though.

    I stocked up on salt at the end of the last snowy period last Feb but certainly could do with getting a few more packets or tubs ready in the garage.

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  5. I guess we really don't appreciate what we have until we read about what other people have to think and plan about. It's still quite warm here in Portugal, unusually warm, in fact (27ºC was the high temp today, with lowest around 12 or 14) but even in cold of winter it doesn't get that bad. A cold day in the Lisbon area is around 5 or 6ºC, of course it gets worse inland and to the north though.
    But we do get mould and musty smelling clothes in the winter, because our houses aren't prepared for the winter! So… although I'd love to have a fireplace (and haven't) I use oil heaters when it gets worse, and insulate windows and behind doors, of course. There are some dehumidifiers I've used for the closets that you could try–they trap in the moisture in the air (inside they become full of liquid) and leave everything smelling nicely. They are full of calcium chloride and can eventually be recycled, if you wish…
    Have a nice sunday!

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  6. Any American reading this – you pay approx 3.5 dollars a gallon for gasoline,which affects all your energy costs – we pay the equiv of $12.60 a gallon for fuel which affects all our energy costs – we pay three times as much for all energy sources than you do – even lighting or any electricity use is too expensive – i can't do that and pay off my mortgage – so I do without

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  7. Froogs, I am aware that energy costs more in Europe than here in the US. Since the US still has petroleum reserves, it's cheaper. That said, each state has a different tax system; where I live has the highest or close to it, tax on gas. $4 and up is more common. Natural gas is becoming more scarce, I understand that those rates have escalated here in the US. (we don't have gas here-too rural)
    Our electric rates in this state are exceedingly high as we are not able to produce any electricity in state, so we import it from northern New England and Canada. We are on a budget plan of $264/mo=197.3 euros. While our residential rate is 9.48 cents/kilowatt, the delivery portion of our bill almost matches that; this month it was $111.09.

    What are your rates for electric power? Are you charged both for power and delivery as I am? (just curious)

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  8. Hi CTMom, I used 19186kw of gas last year and 5790 kw of electricity. I pay £0.66 per day standing charge for the supply, whether I use it or not. I then pay 3.39p per KW for gas and 10.35 per kw for electricity. On the bare minimum and by being really really frugal my energy costs were £1440 last year. I can't afford any more and I try to keep below that.

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  9. Hi Froogs, have not commented before but love the blog. Before you buy damp collectors try a bowl with some cat litter (cheapest)on your sills. Worked a treat for me and costs next to nowt!
    Sue
    PS Make it a small bowl, slow learning cats may try to use it for it's usual purpose otherwise!!!

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  10. We suffer badly from condensation,i have been told that its cheaper to heat a dryer house than a wet one.I have 2 dehumidifiers which i havent used yet this autumn.Im reading conflicting info on central heating.Some people say its best to have heating on a lower temp all the time ,others say have it timed.Trying to hold off as long as possible before heating goes on, definately noticing the chill in morning and in evening.

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  11. Froogs-

    Is the 66p/day standing charge for each utility,meaning you are charged .66 from elec and .66 from gas or is this a flat .66 for both? ALso, when you do rarely turn on the central heat, is it run on electric or gas? You obviously use more gas than electric, I am guessing for hot water, cooking purposes.

    We heat with oil (cringe) and I budget $200/month or 148.88 euros. Add my electric on the budget plan $200 or 196.52 euros, msc propane/charcoal for outdoor cooking @ $4.50 or 3.35 euros.

    Our annual energy costs for the home total $5622 or 4185 euros. Granted we're a family of 6 when college kid is home, but much of these costs would remain the same: still have to heat the home, still have to cook (it's just be less), there would be less laundry (most done in cold and line dried), less showers (that would certainly impact the budget as we have 4 teens).

    An interesting discussion. thanks for sharing. : )

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  12. I remember years ago having mould when we installed secondary double glazing in a bungalow (1967). We were told it was because there was no ventilation and we didn't have the radiators on in the bedrooms.

    We then put the heating on occasionally and opened the glazing just a little. It did solve it. We were west facing a very large, flat field, that used to get all the wind.

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  13. Hi CTmom, I don't mind you asking, it's interesting to share. I pay 66pence a day standing charge for gas and electricity. We have one shower each a day. We don't heat the water – we use cold for hand washing. We boil the kettle about 4 times, we have 3 or 4 eco light bulbs on at a time, we have central heating from november to april for three hours a day and the thermostat is set to 17 degrees. we do three washing machine loads a week, i use the dishwasher once a day. we are considered to be average users.

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  14. me again, its weired how that is classed as average i would have thought you were a low user.I enter my meter readings in imeters and it tells you how energy efficient you are.Like the appliances rated A to e, im always shocked at mine as i think we are tight with energy.i use on average 71kw electric a week and 65 kw gas a week. Is that good or bad?

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  15. Froogs-certainly you must have a gas wall heater for heating shower water? We installed one of these (but it's electric) as it makes no sense having a water heater holding gallons of hot water at the ready. Not as much energy savings if we were able to have a gas fired one.

    What is the source of the central heat? Is it electric or gas?

    You keep you home cool, as we do. It's 60 at night here, and I kick it up to 66 from 5-7 a.m. then 2-8 p.m.. Since the house is vacant during most of the day, we keep it as low as possible. Spec needs child needs the warmer temps so the house is toasty when we're home, until about bedtime (turns in for 8). It can get quite cold here in winter, as low as 10 below zero in the dead of Winter, luckily, those days aren't many.

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  16. hi ct mom, i've added a picture of what a Uk shower looks like, cold water in and hot water our immediately, so we don't heat a cylinder of water. I use a dish washer for dishes so I don't heat a tank of water. I wash my hands in cold water through the day.

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  17. Interesting discussion in the comments today.
    We're moving into a very hot dry West Australian summer and not looking forward to our electricity bill doubling at this time of year. With days in the 40C it's a must, fans and curtained windows just can't cope with the midday heat. We do open up the house in the late afternoon to make the most of the late sea breeze.
    We've been very frugal this winter and only used the gas heater 2 or 3 times and we have a gas wall heater which is quite good but also used sparingly.
    Have a great week every-one,
    coffeee/Sue

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  18. Our costs in Canada are way more than UK or USA. One month's electicity in the winter runs from $230 -$300. Our monthly propane bills (on top of the electricity) were one thousand dollars per month through the winter (winter lasts 6 months). We intalled a log stove to decrease our bills. Our problem in the winter is terribly dry conditions: many people have humidifiers but I dry clothes indoors on clothes horses which helps, plus we keep pots of water on top of the fires to provide humidity.
    Jane x

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  19. This is really intereresting. A frined of mine just had a wall mounted water heater installed in her house, but I know it cost her a fortune to have it installed

    judy

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  20. Froogs, thanks for the info and the visual aide! What you have in the shower is a smaller (about 1/3) the size of our heat on demand whole house water heater. Same principal, but a tad bigger. In theory, this saves over storing up to 80 gallons of hot water. If we had access to gas and could have bought a gas run one (MUCH more efficient over the electric), we would have qualified for rebates from the government. Oh well, at least we've lowered our carbon footprint somewhat

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  21. Gee, after reading all this I am so glad I live where I do. Subtropics in Australia. Our electric bill averages $800 per year. Our heating in winter consists of a lap rug on some evenings. (There is just the two of us)

    Froogs, try using oil of cloves instead of the bleach for the mould. Apparently bleach removes it temporarily but the clove oil actually kills the spores. Half a teaspoon in one litre water in spray bottle. Spray on and leave for several hours or overnight,then clean off. Worked a treat in my bathroom. Oil of cloves is sold in the chemist here.

    Cheers, Karen near Gympie

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  22. Luckily we don't need to put any heating on.My flatmate says in the 20 plus years he has lived here he has never once had to use the heating/radiator.We have junkies etc in the flats below and they usually have their heating blasted up so high we dont need to. One year before I lived here I came to visit around Xmas and had to borrow shorts!!Am fully stocked up with hot water bottles, blankets etc and have been working on stocking up further in case we have to move somewhere else( there is always the fear we cannot pay mortgage etc)My heart goes out to anyone who has to pay for heating and I wish you all well. xx

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  23. I share the problem as we're in quite an old block of flats with no central heating, we do have night storage heaters, one in the living room and one in the hallway, but they never reach the bedroom so we get a lot of mould and damp in there in the winter. We did buy a small dehumidifier and it's quite scary how much water it draws out. We don't have it on that often but it's nice even to do it once a week or every few days and it helps to dry washing too! I'm really paranoid about damp and mouldy things I hate it, ever since I did a houseshare and my room got completely covered in mould. All behind my bed was black and it even started to go on my pillow. Ever since then I have to have things dry it just makes me panic otherwise.

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  24. You could use 4 Thieves essential oil for mould problems. The history behind the oil is that 4 thieves doused themselves with certain herbs and spices and then they went out and robbed the houses of plague victims. They survived the plague. How true this is… but it's a good story.

    Anyway, add it to a little amount of cleaner, e.g. ecover, and clean off the mould. Follow up by distilling it into the air – a couple of drops of the oil into some water (they recommend 24 hours the first time). I use an ultrasound distiller.

    I also add a few drops of lemon essential oil to a cheap washing up liquid, much better antibacterial than the commercial products. Helps keep the plates and cupboards cleaner.

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