Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Winter Heating

If you are in the northern hemisphere as I am, it’s starting to get a bit chilly, and people are cranking up the heat. While the poor have little or no heat, people in the developed nations have it pretty good thanks to fossil fuels. But since we know the party will soon be over, it’s never too early to think about how we’ll keep warm in an energy-constrained future.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post that directly addressed this issue. Briefly, if we follow the traditional Japanese model and concentrate on heating the body instead of the building, we can stay warm with far less energy. Of course that means we can no longer lounge about the house clad only in our skivvies. It means wearing a jacket or heavy sweater indoors, and piling on the blankets and comforters at night. In the family room of my house we have a kotatsu and a wood stove to take the chill off. No other rooms are heated. At night one takes a hot bath and hops into bed. You get used to it and come to realize that it doesn’t matter if it’s below freezing indoors and you can see your breath.

Naturally this can create other problems in the US, where houses are built with the assumption that they will be climate-controlled. If a house is not heated, it could get mold problems and frozen pipes, for example. That said, there will simply be no central heating in the future, so people should think about how to deal with this sooner rather than later. If you are still living extravagantly with regard to heat but know you must make the transition to “cold-house living,” now is the time to take the leap before it really gets cold. In thinking about how to do it, use your imagination. Everyone has unique circumstances, so your solution may be nothing like your neighbor’s. Just remember the basic idea: heating the body instead of the building.

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