Toasty House, Hasty Shower, Part II

Challenge #2: Staying Warm for Winter.

Cashew demonstrates the joy of having a doggie door.

The Kill A Watt gizmo in the Green Families Challenge Kit held more surprises! (See previous post, Toasty House, Hasty Shower, Part I.) I found a suitable outlet and plugged in Paul’s cell-phone charger, a common electricity “vampire.” The directions said “Don’t be surprised if the total cost display is 0.00 initially. It will take some time to accumulate cost.” So I went shopping, watched the Grammy’s, and still no reading. The phone was then completely charged, so I switched appliances: the toaster. Plugged in, the reading quickly increased: it costs us $1.36 per month just sitting on the counter plugged in! I pushed it down as though toasting something, and it reached $3.26 in one minute. I may have to swear off toast completely.

Then it was on to test the microwave, which I figured would use so much power we should only turn it on to sterilize towels for midwives and instruments to lance wounds. I reset the clock on the microwave (anything plugged in and glowing slurps up power) and watched the reader. Strangely, it did not register any consumption. So I nuked a cup of tea and the little Kill A Watt reader just started beeping, but still no cost showed on the screen. So the microwave stays.

Then into the living room, where Paul has his orange ball heater for warming his area on the couch (Cashew enjoys it, too). We unplug it when not in use for fire safety, but when it’s cranked up, I figured it would be hogging tons of electricity. As it turns out, leaving it plugged in costs 42 cents/hour, and set to medium-level heat it would cost $3.75 month. That is much cheaper than heating the whole house, so Paul gets yet another Gold Green Star!

Beating the Draft
Once I located an 8-volt battery for the Thermal Leak Detector, I began testing potential heat leakage around the house. I wasn’t expecting any glaring drafts, as we have double-paned windows through most of the house, the single-paned windows have wooden blinds, and, of course, the doors have weather stripping. The front door showed a wiggling 2-degree difference, as did the single-paned windows until I closed the blinds…then we broke even. I tested the doggy door, which could be a culprit, but it, too, has weather stripping and the Plexiglas doors snap shut fairly tightly. It showed a 1-degree difference from the ambient temperature, so Cashew can stay!

Our one wasteful heat source is building a fire in the fireplace. Nothing better on a rainy night! I’ve read that modern fireplaces only have about an 8-percent heat efficiency output. No doubt our ancestors sitting in caves around a fire gnawing on antelope bones benefited much more from this mode of heating than we in our semi-sprawling two-story homes. But there’s something to be said for warming your heart as well as your hearth with a cozy, crackling fire. I’ll buy up an extra acre of rain forest to offset our fireplace… and the toaster.

Karyl Carmignani

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3 Comments for Toasty House, Hasty Shower, Part II

Barbara S. | February 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm

This was really interesting! And amusing. Thanks for all the info.
I'm be more aware around the house. Barbara

doncarmignani | February 2, 2010 at 8:10 am

Really great article. I've often wondered about this. Glad you did the tests and shared them! Also enjoyed your three articles in the ZooNooz! DAD

doncarmignani | February 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Really great article. I've often wondered about this. Glad you did the tests and shared them! Also enjoyed your three articles in the ZooNooz! DAD



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