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MetroMPG 12-16-08 02:12 PM

Squeezing the most from a tiny, old, uninsulated apartment
 
1 Attachment(s)
I'm staying on the Nova Scotia Atlantic coast for the winter (until March, approximately).

It's a tiny apartment - 287 square feet! (26.7 m^2.) - in an old house, maybe 100 years old.

For the challenge, I'm monitoring & trying to minimize energy consumption - but mods have to be within reason because it's a rental, and a short-term one at that.

Here's the set-up...
  • ALL electric - baseboard heat, hot water.
  • Only non-electric thing is a propane BBQ, which gets used maybe once or twice a week.
  • The little fridge (about 4 sq. feet) only uses about .4 kWh a day.
I'm not sure what the heat draws, but I'm guessing it's 2000+ watts.
  • On days where the overnight low was -7C to -10C (14-19F), total kWh for the 24 hour period has been between 19-23 kWh.
  • When the low has been between +3 to +9C (37-48F), total usage has been 10-16 kWh.
And here's what's been done so far...
  • Since it's more or less a 1-room place and I spend 95% of my time in that one room when I'm here (which is most of the time -work from home), I've closed the door to the walk in closet and hung a curtain between that room and the kitchen/bath.
  • Put clear plastic on the 2 windows (unfortunately no southern exposure - west & north).
  • Unplug all electronics when not in use (my laptop is my work/entertainment center)
  • Use a 1500w toaster oven rather than the stove, where possible
  • And of course, keep the thermostat low, dress warmly and turn it WAY down at night (15C / 59F)
Here's the old pile! (The yellow one.)

http://ecorenovator.org/forum/attach...1&d=1229458290

The window on the top left is my west facing one.

Heat is obviously the big energy hog here.

Daox 12-16-08 02:20 PM

Ah, the luxurious pad I've heard so much about. Looking forward to hearing more on the subject. :)

TimJFowler 12-16-08 03:19 PM

How much of a difference in comfort / energy use has sealing the windows made?

MetroMPG 12-16-08 04:01 PM

I wish I could give you a number for energy use difference, but I didn't do any before/after calcs. (And I think it would be hard to gather experimentally, since the outside temps are constantly changing).

But comfort wise, it has definitely reduced drafts. The biggest bonus is that it has stopped most of the condensation forming on the inside of the outermost (non double-pane) glass. So I can see outside! When I first got here, the condensation was literally running on that glass before I put the plastic on.

MetroMPG 12-16-08 04:16 PM

Oh, and power here is about 9 cents per kWh, and is apparently 75% coal, 13% natural gas, the remainder being oil, hydro, wind and tidal.

It's funny. On Nova Scotia Power's web site, the order they list their generation methods is the inverse to the proportion each represents in the mix: they put the renewables at the top, and coal/oil/nat gas at the bottom. :)

MetroMPG 12-19-08 11:25 AM

Coldest night of the year (so far) last night (-10C / 14F), and not surprisingly the highest energy consumption in 24h: 24 kWh

Bummer!

24kWh would be enough to drive the electric car about 130 km / 80 mi! :)

Daox 12-19-08 12:06 PM

Wow, thats a lot of juice.

MetroMPG 12-19-08 04:36 PM

Yeah, I'm considering building a smaller "room within the room" with the baseboard heater inside it. :p

strider3700 12-19-08 06:11 PM

In Japan they have a device which is basically a coffee table with blankets that hang down to the floor on the sides. attached under the table is a small heater. The idea is they let the house go cold and stay sitting on the floor with their legs under the table. Later they sleep mostly under the table. It's a far smaller area to keep warm and should use way less heat.

GenKreton 12-22-08 10:19 PM

I think you need to wear more clothing. 15C is what we keep our apartment at right now and it goes to 12 C while we aren't there or sleep. A few dollars for a good hoody can go a long way!

groar 12-26-08 06:22 PM

I knew I have to improve my situation again (currently at 37kWh/day for 100mē with freezing/near freezing temperatures, and 20kWh/day in summer without AC). This is a confirmation.

I can't have so low internal temperature with the baby (and my baby skin ;)), but inside/outside temperature difference is lower in my case.

I have always to identify the source of around 100W consumed continuously... ie 80kWh/month.

We don't have monthly bills, only a yearly one with 10 estimated monthly payments. Since one month, every day I'm noting daily/nightly consumptions and it permitted us to see a heating system misconfiguration (the clock of one of the 2 programmers was 10 hours in advance).

To comfort myself, our 1130 kWh/month in winter are used by 3 people ;)

Congrats,

Denis.

MetroMPG 01-15-09 12:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by strider3700 (Post 1528)
In Japan they have a device which is basically a coffee table with blankets that hang down to the floor on the sides.

Reminds me of when I was a kid and I'd get out of bed with my blanket and camp out over one of the hot air vents in the floor. :)

Quote:

Originally Posted by GenKreton (Post 1549)
I think you need to wear more clothing. 15C is what we keep our apartment at right now and it goes to 12 C while we aren't there or sleep. A few dollars for a good hoody can go a long way!

I'm already at 3 layers, including fleece and a hoodie! :D I think this may simply be a case of people having different thermostats. I know I tend to get cold before most other people.

Maybe I need to put some insulation on ME. Should have eaten more over Christmas!

By the way: I have since confirmed there is NO insulation in the walls of this old house.

Also, and this is a good one: there's nobody in the apartment downstairs, so the heat is off. My same-floor neighbour tells me that when the downstairs heat is on, you can feel it in the floor. Should help cut down my energy use "sharing" theirs. Hopefully we'll have a new (quiet :)) neighbour next month.

truckncycle 01-15-09 02:08 PM

You may also want to add gaskets behind your switch and outlet plates. They are cheap and they will help with air infiltration. Especially since you don't have any insulation.

It looks like Black and Decker is going to be selling a thermal detector in May. It would be nice to have something like that to see where the cold is coming in. Of course in your situation it would probably just show you the exterior wall.

MetroMPG 01-15-09 02:34 PM

I'll check those plates. It's actually not a drafty place (since putting the plastic film up on the windows). But I think you're right about what a detector would show: the walls are cold to the touch.

Higgy 01-15-09 03:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 1724)
Reminds me of when I was a kid and I'd get out of bed with my blanket and camp out over one of the hot air vents in the floor. :)



I'm already at 3 layers, including fleece and a hoodie! :D I think this may simply be a case of people having different thermostats. I know I tend to get cold before most other people.

I use to do that too. :)

Also, regarding the temperature in the house or apartment. There's a definite difference in temperature when you keep your house at lower temperatures when you're in a cold climate as compared to a warm one. Mind you, where you're living now is probably not as cold as when you lived in Saskatchewan, but the humidity is higher which shoots right through clothing sometimes. In my house it's at 20-21C right now, and that's with us wearing sweaters and slippers and what not. But our temperatures outside are ranging from -25 to -35 with a -30 to -49 windchill just about everyday (it's been a bad December and January so far). So putting our thermostat to 15C...ya, that just won't fly when you're trying to come in from the cold and get your body temperature warmed back up from being outside shoveling for an half an hour to an hour. Especially when you throw humidity on top of that. If we lived in a warmer climate, we could probably get away with lower inside temperature when we're at home.

I think the biggest issues are like what you said, Metro. No insulation in the walls, and no one living below you to heat up the floor, so you're basically doing all the work.

I use to live in an apartment where the heat barely worked, and I lived on the outter most apartment so one of my walls had no apartment on the other side. I basically use to throw a blanket around myself and have the space heater on me during the winter. I also threw big blankets over the window to keep out the cold.

MetroMPG 01-28-09 10:08 AM

Success!

I just found my hot water tank, and it was set at 140F. I turned it down to 115.

It's in the basement of the downstairs apartment, which is still vacant. I have keys (don't ask), so was able to go down and ...

(1) identify which of the four (non numbered) tanks was mine
(2) learn that it's hard wired in to 240v, so I can't easily use a timer, and
(3) find the thermostat adjustment behind an access panel on the side of the tank.

The other good news is the tank looks recently replaced and is at least insulated. The old (numbered for each apartment) tanks are still down there.

The bad news is the pipes aren't insulated though. Unless you count the mass of cobwebs and spiders trapping/generating a little heat.

MetroMPG 01-29-09 10:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 1522)
Coldest night of the year (so far) last night (-10C / 14F), and not surprisingly the highest energy consumption in 24h: 24 kWh

Bummer!

24kWh would be enough to drive the electric car about 130 km / 80 mi! :)

Guess I have to update that stat:

Coldest night of the winter so far: -18 C / 0 F (17 Jan 09)
Power use in that 24 hr period: 39 kWh (not coincidentally, also the highest)

TestDrive 01-30-09 04:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 1724)
By the way: I have since confirmed there is NO insulation in the walls of this old house.

Also, and this is a good one: there's nobody in the apartment downstairs, so the heat is off. My same-floor neighbour tells me that when the downstairs heat is on, you can feel it in the floor. Should help cut down my energy use "sharing" theirs. Hopefully we'll have a new (quiet :)) neighbour next month.

Until someone starts heating the floor for you: 1) Anywhere you routinely sit, put down a couple of sheets of corrugated cardboard and cover with a small throw rug. 2) Anywhere you routinely stand, put down a throw rug. 3) Nice warm socks well insulated foot wear.

West and North walls must be exterior walls, what about the others? If it's only the two, you might try insulating exterior walls from the inside. eg. Corrugated cardboard boxes, stuffed with crushed newspaper and stacked floor to ceiling against those walls. You can probably get the cardboard boxes for free from a local grocery store just by asking. If you can track down the guy that fills newspaper racks in your town or a local news stand, typically on ly the dated portion of the front page/cover of unsold periodicals is returned for credit and the vendor is responsible for disposing of the remaining bulk. Most times these guys will be happy to give you old newspapers for free and that would let you fill those boxes in a hurry.

MetroMPG 02-02-09 08:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TestDrive (Post 1935)
Until someone starts heating the floor for you...

Still no sign of a new downstairs neighbour.

Lining the two outside walls with insulated boxes would work, but then I'd have no room! (280 something square feet, remember) :D

If I knew I was going to be here for long (I'm not - I'll be leaving next month), I'd consider something like insulating wall hangings... like blankets.

MetroMPG 02-11-09 01:34 PM

got old power bills
 
Good news: I just paid my bill and the lady at the town hall gave me raw kWh readings for this apartment back to Feb 2007.

So I just need to do a bit of math and I'll be able to compare my power use for 2 years back after this month, and 1 year back before this month.

MetroMPG 02-11-09 07:45 PM

I just got last year's electricity bills for the apartment, so I can definitively say I'm using less power!

monthprevious tenant ('07/'08)me ('08/'09)% difference$ difference **
Nov/Dec785 kWh477 kWh-39%$ 27.72
Dec/Jan829 kWh539 kWh-35%$ 26.10
Jan/Feb908 kWh738 kWh*-19%$ 15.30


* My reading - meter reader may not have gone by yet this month
** @ $0.09 / kWh

I haven't compared the temperature though - and being 100% electric heat, that's the biggest portion of winter power usage.

truckncycle 02-12-09 02:23 PM

I read back through all your posts. One thing that I didn't see you change was your shower head. Our last two gas bills have dropped by .2 therms a day over the previous year (.7 vs .9 for December and .6 vs .8 for January). We changed to low flow shower heads in the fall. In the beginning of January we also replaced our water heater. It is more efficient than the old one but doesn't have an extra blanket like the previous one. Our water heater and our dryer are the only gas users that we have.

MetroMPG 02-13-09 03:34 PM

You're right, truckncycle. Instead, I just turn the flow down manually, pretty low. Fortunately I have normal taps and can do this - it's not a binary on/off twist hot/cold style of tap.

And.. I'll admit that extended hot showers are a guilty pleasure. I tend to burn a lot of energy doing that in winter months.

MetroMPG 02-16-09 10:49 AM

Looks like the downstairs apartment has been rented. I can hear the oil furnace running as I type this, warming my floor. :-P

I hope they're quiet! And like to keep their place toasty. It'll be interesting to see if anything happens to my power use.

Which reminds me: in my power usage comparison to the previous tenant's consumption: they had downstairs heat in their figures, but not in mine.

gascort 02-17-09 11:05 AM

What about an electric blanket at night? I've also heard the electric mattress pads are quite nice.
Regarding the no neighbor downstairs bit, my brother lived in an interior apartment in a building so they only had two small exterior walls. His (and his roommate's) plan was to keep their heat off and rely on the neighbors' hot walls as much as possible. They made it to mid January, when his roommate was sitting at the kitchen table with his winter coat and hood on, eating soup from a spoon while wearing gloves. Apparently it was a very climactic moment; he threw the spoon down, said, "I can't take it anymore - I'm turning the heat on!" and stormed off to the thermostat.

Higgy 02-17-09 11:36 AM

That made me LOL.

MetroMPG 02-17-09 02:19 PM

Hilarious story. :D I also LOLed.

Good news! My power usage appears to be down significantly in the last 24 hours. I'll wait a couple of days to gather info then post the results. I'm going to be out for much of the day tomorrow, so it won't be representative. Need another "regular" day after that to get some numbers.

dremd 02-17-09 09:08 PM

How's the Radiant floor Heating feel /working?

MetroMPG 02-17-09 09:16 PM

It sure feels nice in here at the moment :)

I almost feel guilty, because apparently the new tenants haven't really moved in yet. They've just been moving stuff, car load by car load. There's nobody down there today, but the furnace is still running regularly.

I don't want to say for sure, but I check my meter daily, and the last 24h was down about 20% compared to what I've normally seen for the same outside temps. I'll know more in a couple of days.

It definitely feels nicer in here though. Even though my t-stat is set at the same point, having a portion of the heat rise from the entire floor (vs. only from the baseboard heater by a window, then straight up to the ceiling!) sure makes the place feel more comfy.

dremd 02-17-09 09:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 2131)
It sure feels nice in here at the moment :)

Glad to hear it; I guess that means that I'm going to have to install radiant floor heat some day. I'm a real whimp in the cold.

Higgy 02-18-09 11:47 AM

Hey Metro...after March, where are you moving to?

MetroMPG 02-18-09 02:39 PM

Ontario - 1000 Islands. I just came east for the winter.

Higgy 02-18-09 06:07 PM

Gotcha. Just wondering what you're going back to. I'm curious to see what new things you're going to do to your new(old) dwelling when you return.

MetroMPG 02-19-09 12:42 PM

Oh, I mostly spend the summers on my boat. Even less insulation than this apartment! (And smaller!)

MetroMPG 02-20-09 04:28 PM

So, it's been long enough since the radiant floor heating was switched on (downstairs tenant using the furnace) that I have a picture of how it's affected my power use:

I compared 3 days this week against days in the pre-heated floor era where the daily low temperature was within +-1C of each of the recent 3 days.

That worked out to comparing 3 days to 21 previous days this winter.

The result: average of 16% lower energy usage since the radiant floor tenant moved in! :D

And that's without me turning down the thermostat. But with the superior comfort of a radiant floor, I think I can twist the dial back another notch or two without sacrificing any comfort. I didn't want to do this until I had some "controlled" stats, but now that I've got those, even more savings are in the works.

Christ 09-14-09 06:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 2175)
So, it's been long enough since the radiant floor heating was switched on (downstairs tenant using the furnace) that I have a picture of how it's affected my power use:

I compared 3 days this week against days in the pre-heated floor era where the daily low temperature was within +-1C of each of the recent 3 days.

That worked out to comparing 3 days to 21 previous days this winter.

The result: average of 16% lower energy usage since the radiant floor tenant moved in! :D

And that's without me turning down the thermostat. But with the superior comfort of a radiant floor, I think I can twist the dial back another notch or two without sacrificing any comfort. I didn't want to do this until I had some "controlled" stats, but now that I've got those, even more savings are in the works.

We had the windows open all day and night usually, when we lived in an upstairs apartment... the thermostat was controlled by the downstairs neighbor, and she liked it 80. Good thing the heating bill was covered in the rent!

NiHaoMike 09-14-09 09:46 PM

Have you thought about getting a window heat pump?


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