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Tuesday, November 6. 2012
"Let's face it, they're goners!"
Admittedly, the news sounds pretty grim. The thought of people suffering from the bitter cold really tugs at my heartstrings. I'm just filled with empathy for the innocent souls who-
Oh, hold on a sec.
Sorry about the interruption. Had to turn the A/C on. It was getting a little stuffy in here. Damn Florida Keys weather.
Anyway, I thought this whole global warming thing was settled and we could expect to see this silly 'winter' business turned into a quaint anachronism by now, but apparently this isn't so.
With that in mind, I'm reposting my own contribution to the subject of staying warm, originally titled "How To Survive Living In A New England Igloo".
First, let us examine my credentials. Do I have the right to opine on cold weather living, someone basking in the warm, balmy Florida Keys?
Well, I lived in that wimpy state of New England for three years and breezed through those delightful minus-10-degree days without a qualm. But living in the quaint province of New England was nothing compared to living in what many consider to be the coldest hell on earth:
A Northern California coastal fog belt zone.
It all starts with the feet. Keep the feet warm and the entire body follows.
The Feet — Outdoor
I used to go to Candlestick Park to watch S.F. Giants games, and what an ice box that baby was. When the fog rolled in, it was pretty miserable. Your body might be okay, just from standing and yelling and such, but your feet would be a couple of frozen ice blocks.
Enter the electric socks.
I figured they'd have some kind of thin wire mesh running throughout the entire sock, keeping the whole thing warm, like an electric blanket.
Not even close.
Instead, there's this tiny, flat strip of soft metal that runs under the curve of the toes, woven into the mesh of the socks, powered by a battery. It was simply amazing how warm my feet got from that one tiny warm strip of metal. The next thing I'd know, my feet would feel like they were ready to melt off and I'd be frantically clutching at the OFF switch.
And speaking of extremities (and I don't mean Bulldog's politics), don't forget the electric gloves.
If you're sitting in a chilly room, keeping your feet warm will go a long way to fending off the shivers. For that, I'd recommend a heating pad placed under the rug, or on top of the rug with a small piece of carpet placed over it.
One thing to note is that they get way too warm for indoor household use, so they really need to be on a dimmer. But it can't be a regular light dimmer as the pad draws too much juice. It has to be a 'motor control' dimmer, like used with ceiling fans.
In my case, I bought this dual unit at the hardware store:
That allows me to put the desk lamps (two 25-watters) on the dimmer side and the heating pad on the other. Crank it up to 'Max' until it gets warm, then knock it down to 'Lo'.
Those pipe units that blow hot air out into the room are a real winner. They say that 90% of a fireplace's heat goes up the chimney, and I can believe it. I lived in the aforementioned fog zone in a small, drafty cabin with a Danish fireplace that barely put out heat even at full roar. So I bought a unit of pipes that acted as the grate for the wood and had a hair dryer-type blower hooked up to it, shoving the hot air in the pipes out into the room. It was a precursor to the snappy model in the pic. It was one of those things that felt like it paid for itself in the first ten minutes.
On the subject, if you have wood to burn, the most heat-producing thing I've ever witnessed outside of an industrial furnace was one of these babies:
I've tried the various types of space heaters and have found that the regular ol' type with the glowing red heating element and a fan works the best. The oil-filled types are certainly economical, but they don't heat a room worth beans because they're not moving the air around. The quartz and ceramic heaters are also economical, but only heat the side of you facing them. If you really want to feel comfortable, you need something that produces raw heat and a fan to mix it with the room air.
And it's certainly cheaper to heat a room than a house, so if you spend 99% of your time in the computer room, it'd make more sense to buy a space heater and keep the rest of the house just warm enough so that your hand doesn't freeze to the refrigerator door handle when you make a mad dash to the kitchen.
The house heater is putting out X number of BTUs, so if you're dumping some of it into an unused room, that's less for the rest of the house. If the vent doesn't have an 'open/closed' lever, don't hesitate to take steps. Either tape a piece of cardboard over the opening, or remove it and stuff something in the pipe.
The flip side is that you can go too far, so what's coming out of the open vents is so strong that it actually creates an uncomfortable draft in the room. There's a balance to be found between the two.
Drafts vs Fresh Air
There's a big difference between "drafts" and "ventilation". I hate drafts, but I like fresh air, so I usually have a window or two cracked even in the dead of winter, but it's never drafty in the room because of other factors. The best trick is to have tight-fitting mini-blinds over the window, so the incoming air is diffused by the blinds, rather than coming in as a stream of cold air, i.e., a draft.
When it comes to sealing household drafts, like under doors and around windows, most things can be sealed with a visit to the hardware store:
— Sliding wooden windows in older houses can sometimes leak like a sieve, but you can use tape to seal up the edges during the coldest months. Most types of tape will leave a bit of residue behind when you peel it off, but electrical tape probably least of all. If you don't like the idea of ugly black electrical tape around your windows, the marine stores usually sell white and blue electrical tape.
— When it comes to gaps under doors, there are all kinds of 'door sweeps' on the market, from rubber to felt to a hinged type that lowers as the door is closed. And in severe cases you could always raise the threshold (the piece on the floor the door closes over), although then people would trip over it, so if the gap is really that bad, it'd be best to just replace the door.
— Chimneys are also a major source of drafts. If the draft plate in the chimney doesn't close tightly, the next step would be tight-fitting glass fireplace doors that could be opened when in use. If you weren't going to use the fireplace at all, you could stuff an old blanket up it, but you'd have to promise to tie a string to it with a note on the bottom end saying "REMOVE ME FIRST!" for future residents.
While people differ dramatically in regards to how they like the room kept overnight, I think most people sleep best in a cool room but with warm feet. What I'll do is pull a normal blanket over me, but drape an extra blanket across my feet. If it gets extra-cold overnight, it's easy to grab the extra blanket and pull it over you.
I'm also a big fan of electric blankets in cold climes, setting it to 'Cremate' fifteen minutes before jumping in the sack. If your normal blanket feels right but your feet are still chilly, use the electric blanket on 'Low' over just the feet.
It's Not Just The Room Air
When I was living in the aforementioned nasty Northern California coastal fog zone, I fought the cold for 10 months out of the year. At one point I made an interesting discovery.
What people tend to do is wake up or arrive home to a cold house, set the thermostat to their usual temperature and wait for it to feel comfortable. The thermostat gets to that temperature and shuts off the heater. Then the next few hours are spent with the place barely feeling like it's warm as the furniture and walls and floor and ceiling cool off the freshly-heated air and the heater cycles back on, over and over again until everything's finally up to room temperature.
I found that if I just kind of suffered for a while and let the place get extra-warm, that all of the surrounding material items would warm up quickly and the house heater and I didn't feel like we were fighting the cold for the next few hours. Nor do I think it cost much more, in that while it used up more juice heating the house up in the first place, the heater didn't cycle on near as much afterward.
Keeping It In Perspective Dept.
And the next time you're thinking of complaining about the cold, consider how cold it must be that throwing a mug full of water into the air...
never touches the ground.
Posted by Dr. Mercury in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 10:30 | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)
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Of course it's record breaking. You only get one shot at each day,(unless you're Bill Murray).
Though it is nice to know in advance your power is going to go out.
Um, thank you. You're mentioning 'recordbreaking' reminds me I should touch that base in my upcoming AGW post. It would be fun to make a graph of all the times "recordbreaking" has been used in a weather-related article over the past three decades, then watch how it starts to spike around 2000 when AGW came into prominence.
"unless you're Bill Murray"
Or Jonathan Silverman in '12:10', a very clever time-loop story. Highly rec'mended.
A lot of the time, the news will say we broke or almost broke records. Then you go and look at weather.com and find the record was set in 1954 or generally a long time ago.
Here in the PNW, I was wearing my winter clothing thru June. Global warming? Bring it on!
7 years ago we planted Alfalfa for its love of heat and ability to drive tap roots thereby not needing much irrigation. It's all been rotated out again.
Not to be picking nits here, but California is a state. New England is a region. :>)
"REMOVE ME FIRST!"
Absolutely true story. Fire call came in for structure fire. I responded directly to the scene as I was the OIC that day for the vollie department in our town. I got to the house and only saw smoke coming out the open front door and the owner, his wife and kids standing outside. I got out, put my gear on walked up to the guy and asked where the fire was - he said living room. Ok, so I walked up to the door and took a peek inside - right in the middle of the room was a smoldering blanket causing all kinds of smoke. I grabbed it, threw it outside, opened the windows, problem solved. New carpet of course, but hey.
He did exactly what you said and forgot about it, panicked, pulled it out, it caught fire in the fire place, etc., etc., etc.
"Not to be picking nits here, but California is a state. New England is a region."
Uh, I believe the proper term is "principality", but I used "state" because I want us to all be friends here. It is adorable, you'd have to admit. At least, to a native Californian. We think it's just precious the way New Hampshire and Vermont slip right into our back pocket, Connecticut and Mass fit just perfectly on our charm bracelet, and Maine can be folded into a delightful rain hat. "Let no state go unused" is our motto, and we certainly feel that way about the beautiful principality state of New England.
"He did exactly what you said"
If he'd done exactly what I'd said, he would have seen the warning sign before lighting the fire. :)
Maybe I am picking nits here but, I believe "commonwealth' more closely represents the word/descriptive that ye seek. While it refers more to a state (singular) and therefore not a region, I wonder where the Prince is, that would qulify it as a Principality".
There is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Residents of the other New England states often consider themselves residents of the implicit Commonwealth of New England, given how often they refer to themselves as New Englanders. But would residents of the other five states consider themselves residents of the Greater Commonwealth of Massachusetts? Leave that to the mass of people who reside in the state of Mass.
Familiar with that, Gringo, as I'm married to a "Commonwealth of Massachusetts" lady. I understand there are only 4 states that are known as "the Commonwealth of..". (the other 3 are : Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky). Still considered a state, the distinction is on paper only. But, "The Sate of Massachusetts" isn't the term used as far as I can determine or what I have ever heard used, when I visit the "outlaws".
Gar - You're correct, there are four states that refer to themselves as 'commonwealths', and Texas likes calling itself a 'republic', but there's no dif on paper. It just sounds distinctive, and, if you're one of the four podunk states, I suppose little things like that count. Sounds a little desperate to me. 'Reaching', as they say in the psych biz.
i had a girlfriend once who turned out to be a commonwealth of the 6th Fleet
Don't underestimate the benefit of a bit of radiant heat barrier (the kind with bubble wrap) for producing a nice warm spot. A section cut to fit around 3 sides of your chair will use your own heat to give you a snug feeling. If an external radiant source is used, you have to watch out for the TV dinner effect. It also ends the sensation of one side warm, one side feels cold with radiant heat.
An unheated space like a garage or shop is best heated for use with a radiant source. As intimated above, forced air has to heat the air and then the air has to heat the physical objects in the space. It can be done but you need a couple changes of the air to reach equilibrium. Radiant heat, warms you as it also impinges on the objects and the air.
As you may or may not recall Doc, I live in a chilly house.
58 inside right now but I cut some wood this a.m. and have a fire started.
Anyway, re staying warm in bed, I use a heating pad if I need warming up at bedtime. Laying on it will warm your body up over time.
You are quite right about keeping the feet warm. An extra blanket down there is good advice as well as the obvious.... keeping the covers tucked under the mattress.
And I also tend to pull a blanket over my head, just leaving my face exposed, but I have found that can annoy your bedmate.
As for the State of New England.... sigh... if it were only so. Imagine how it would change the balance of power in the Senate were there only two senators from the region?
Those original 13 colonies were certainly clever, all right. They said, "Okay, what we'll do is keep our states real tiny, then, when they break up the rest of the continent into three or four states, we'll be able to control Congress!" Damn plan almost worked, too.
The original states were the same size as their descendents.
The colonists needed as much time to walk to the NY border through the wilderness from Boston, as the pioneers took to cross the open prairie or reach California by train.
Well, almost ;-}.
Hanover, New Hampshire.
28 below zero Thanksgiving Day 1994.
The dog, a golden retriever, didn't seem to mind. The creek was frozen into all these interesting shapes. The cat had gotten so fluffy, he looked like a fur ball.
I will say that even after having survived some pretty nasty New England weather, nothing prepares you for the Northern California "June Gloom" when it hits.
Perhaps because it comes just at that time of year when you're programmed to expect balmy, slightly humid weather, sun and endless daylight. Instead, you get 55 degrees, a thick marine layer, a raw-feeling wind off the ocean and the water looking grey and dirty. Cabin fever in August is a rip.
But, I actually love the fog; it does the most coolest and eerie swirly things as it sweeps through the streets and curls around lamp posts, softening the light. It feels warm and soft as it touches your face.
But we're making up for it now; a late season heatwave. 80 degrees and sun is such a treat!
Mine neither. heat was ok, but dragging the generator around with me was a royal pain
The smart shopper buys a single-seat power lawnmower and then replaces the cutting blades with a generator.
No muss, no fuss, no lugging.