Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"

For the past two weeks I don't think the temperature has gotten above 0º F and its been going down to -20º most nights, roughly 25º below normal. This has been unpleasant.

My masonry heater has been working overtime, usually three firings (each time using 50+ lbs of dried oak) a day, but even with all the insulation I've put in the floor and ceiling it can't keep the temp in the house above 50º.  With this cold weather the only way I'll be able to get the whole house "habitable" is if my insulation is perfectly placed and there isn't any outside air infiltration. That's not the case right now with the farmhouse still under construction. 

For the more technically minded, the heater puts out roughly 20,000 BTUs/hour.  The question of sizing one is complicated.

Just before its time to light another fire, and lighting more than a fire every eight hours will cause the refractory mortar in the firebox to fail, the inside temp at the outer reaches of my first floor is right around 32º. Cold.  I wear a lot of layers, including a hat, and sit most of the day on the heater's bench reading online and watching soccer matches. Carl stays on the bed under the covers.

I run three little electric space heaters under the water pipes down in the basement, where the temp is staying in the upper 30s.  I bought a little hand held infrared thermometer to help me find, and plug up, the cold spots.

I'm also concerned that my septic system could freeze up. There are only about 5" of snow outside, not enough to insulate the below ground drain pipes much.  There isn't an easy way to tell if the system is plugging up, short of it coming back up through the drains, so I'm limiting how much I put down the drains. That means minimal toilet flushes and showers, as well as collecting all my dishwater in a stockpot so that I can dump it outside. If my septic tank fills up due to the outlet pipes being frozen, I've read I can call a guy to come pump it out. I'm not interested in trying to clean it out myself. That sounds like a nightmare.

Another problem caused by the cold is that the loader, the tractor that I want to use to clean the snow off of my drive so I can get my van or truck out on the road and go to town, has sprung a leak (hole?) in the cooling system, dumping antifreeze on the shed floor. I'm going to need to figure out what is wrong and, once it warms up a bit, go out and fix that.

I was hoping to get a lot of work done inside the house this winter, choosing to stay and work instead of going to Mexico. I'm not going to lie, its pretty rough here right now; a bit like camping where you can never really get clean, or warm.


(a slightly longer version of the above is here.)