Warm Up the Winter – heat sustainably!

Cold winter weather leads to the familiar home heating dilemma of how to keep the house cozy in freezing temperatures – and how to do it in a way that won’t break the bank, the planet, or in a way that won’t keep you shivering the night away either!  Here are a few tips and ideas for alternative sources of heat and ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the heating system you have.

Tim Murphy and a Masonry Heater, photo courtesy of Home & Cabin magazine

Tim Murphy and a Masonry Heater, courtesy of Home & Cabin magazine

If you’re in the market for a new way to heat your home, this one with light your fire:  Masonry Heater: Masonry Heaters are similar to wood stoves in that heat is generated by burning wood. A masonry heater can provide even heat all day from just a single fire. Masonry materials take a while to heat up, but once they are warm, they will radiate heat for much longer than a metal stove.   It consists of a small firebox surrounded by a masonry mass made from some type of masonry (brick, tile, stone, stucco etc.). The channels of masonry absorb the heat and radiate it out. The fire burns hotly and quickly, which reduces unburned emissions. Masonry heaters are a sustainable choice for the home, as they use wood, a renewable resource, and they burn it efficiently. As an added bonus, you can incorporate a pizza or bread oven into your masonry heater and enjoy some wood-fired foods!   Stone Masonry and Heater Builders is a local enterprise specialzing in same.  They are the ones who built the system at the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove.  Mason Tim Murphy has one in his home and his family was warm and cozy through #NLDark!

Space Heaters: If you have a central home heating system that is not adjustable from room to room, a couple of space heaters may be a good investment. This way you can simply heat one room at a time, instead of the whole house.

DIY Space Heater: Well, say you don’t want to invest in a space heater, or in a power outage… Here is a very alternative and economical solution. Instead, (if you don’t have these three items already) invest in tea lights, a couple of ceramic flowerpots and a loaf pan, and try this DIY Space Heater!

Insulation: If your home isn’t well insulated, it certainly won’t be too warm. Adding insulation and other energy-saving efforts might be a worthy investment!  Check out NL Power

Seal up the drafts: “Find the draft” is a fun game that can be played using a candle or a stick of incense, and following where the flame flickers or smoke drifts to on a blustery day. Check all the windows, doors and any other place a draft might be messing with your warmth. Once found, seal up your drafts with caulking, foam sealant or weather stripping. You can also insulate your windows with plastic, using a handy dandy window insulator kit which can be purchased at your local hardware store (e.g. Canadian Tire).

Home Heating System Maintenance: Home heating systems need to be cleaned out and maintained (usually on a yearly basis). It’s a good idea to have your system looked into to make sure there aren’t any kinks messing with its efficiency.

Blankets: If you’re trying to stay warm on the cheap, try hanging some heavy blankets in doorways and over windows, this will help keep the heat in. This is especially good for the kitchen to trap the heat from the oven.

Rugs: Putting down a few rugs on those cold winter floors can help to insulate and keep your feet nice and cozy!

Check out Take Charge NL a Newfoundland Power program designed to help save energy – and money!.

And lastly, try wearing more sweaters! Sweaters are both warm and fashionable, and you can wrap yourself in a blanket for good measure. Sometimes it’s nice to try this “old-fashioned” method, it’s certainly sustainable, and National Sweater Day is coming up February 6!

needs must ~ notes of hope from #NLDark

‘Needs must’ is an old phrase is not heard so often any more, but it fits perfectly with the #NLDark situation, and sustainability.

Puzzle completed by the glow of the snow

Puzzle completed by the glow of the snow

On those days early in 2014 there was not enough electricity being generated in Newfoundland to meet the demand.  Everyone was affected.  The house was heated by the fireplace and my family was entertained by a Yellow Submarine puzzle, completed by snowglow.

The environmentalists, the green people, the Al Gores and David Suzukis and so many more have been talking about conservation for decades.  #NLDark proved that we can conserve when ‘needs must’.  

Our power grid is a closed system.   The planet is a closed system.  We can change what we’re doing so that it – the power and the planet – keeps going along.  We saw that in action through #NLDark.  Yes yes yes there were challenges, but this is not about that.  This is about the hope that came out of it.  Co-operation, support, and conservation.  (There was also a very hearty showing of innovation and consideration, but that can be a different post.)

I  know where I was when the rotating power outages started – heading up Torbay Road to pick up a pizza for a Christmas holidays sleepover party.  No power on one side of Torbay Road, full blast on the other.  Eerie.   I didn’t know what was going on. 

Then Good Thing #1:  People co-operated.  At the Torbay Road Newfoundland Drive intersection (six lanes heading toward Torbay), the collective ‘we’ figured out the 24-lane-stop-intersection fast, and got it going with grace.  If someone went astray (not waiting for their right turn), the collective we picked it up and resumed the accepted pattern.  Nice eye contacts between drivers in parallel lanes.  Ten points for us!

Then Good Thing #2:  People supported.  Just a little further up the road Peter’s Pizza pick-up was like a kitchen party.  The guy behind the counter seemed new, but was very friendly and upfront:  there is a backlog.  When he came out with a pizza he’d kind of announce it.  One man was reading out the twitter feed to the rest.  Another came in to pick-up a pizza ordered pre-outage.  We welcomed him.  He went to pay and was walking away from the counter when the Peter’s Pizza guy called him back and asked quietly (but we could all hear)…. “Did you mean to leave a $20 tip?”.  “Yes.” said the late-comer.  We all looked up!  “It’s going to be awhile.”  said Peter’s Pizza guy.  “Maybe I’ll get mine first,”  said the new-comer.  All laughed (and he did not get his pizza first.).  Gold stars!

Then Good Thing #3:  People conserved.   Arrived home to a powered-house, but little was on in the way of electricity.  Our kids – the same kids who are unable to turn off a screen or a light – were on it.  Turn off the Christmas Lights, don’t run the dishwasher, conserve conserve conserve was all over facebook.  And it went on from there.  People conserved.  Hallelujah!

What we waste is the difference between what we need and what we use.  #NLDark showed that we have what it takes to do better when needs must.   And that can be cozy.

the cat wasn't worried

the cat wasn’t worried