Sunday, November 20, 2011

straw bale house performance

Thought I would post again about our little strawbale house on the prairie. It got down to minus 26 last night and sits right around minus 20 today. But, the sun is shining here in Sunny Alberta! What that means is that our passive solar design is busily heating our home...for free...without petroleum...without any cost or extra energy whatsoever.

We have not had the propane fueled in-floor heating run since at least two days ago. When it runs so seldom it is hard sometimes to remember when it last worked. Usually though, we turn that heat on only when we decide that we would like the comfort of hot floors on a cloudy, cold winter day. Luckily that seldom happens here in Alberta. Our winters are noted for their cold, but cloudless days. The sun blasts through our south facing windows, its radiant warmth soaking into our concrete floors, granite counters and various furniture. Once the sun sets, that stored heat is slowly released into the home. Actually, even on the coldest of days it sometimes gets too warm in our house and we are forced to crack open the window in the kitchen to let in some cold.

Besides the passive solar heating, our main source of heat is the little wood stove in the living room. It is one of the smallest stoves on the market, but once it is hot we have to turn all the settings as low as they will go to avoid sauna-like temps in the main living space. A heat-powered fan sitting on the stove pushes some warm air down the hallway to the back bedrooms...everyone is comfy cozy.

As I type, watching football on a Sunday afternoon, we have not had any fuel-based heat source in our house since before bedtime last night. The stove has been cold since sometime in the middle of the night and it has been a t-shirt temperature ever since. At some point later this afternoon, probably around suppertime, I will start the woodstove again. I really love this house.

p.s. The power went out earlier this morning and I started thinking about our neighbour's houses. How long can the power stay out before an ordinary house starts getting uncomfortably cool...or cold...or water lines start to freeze? Especially when it is minus 30 or 40 degrees in the middle of January.


  1. I just lit the wood stove and it is 5:10 pm. It isn't cold in the house at all. Still perfectly comfortable in a t-shirt, I just know to get the stove going now so it is nice and toasty tonight. I'll only stoke it once between now and bedtime.

  2. We have considered installing a wood stove but the winters just aren't cold enough or long enough normally. When the "global warming" ends and we start the cycle of "global freezing" I might use one, but until then, it just doesn't work for us. I do like the heat. It feels better even if it is just in my mind.

  3. My only comment would be to plan for things that aren't 'normal'. In your case Mike, perhaps there is a very small model of stove? When you do get a bad winter storm and people are in trouble, you guys will be safe and sound. Just a thought.

  4. I've thought many, many times what I would have to do with my family were the power to go out for a long time in the winter, with no heat in our home since the furnace would be gibbled. A wood fireplace or stove is in our near future for that very reason, nevermind the many other reasons to have one.

  5. I always think about the ice storms years ago out east. Those guys were without power for weeks in some cases. A main city like Edmonton would be the priority of course, but what is something happened where the power was out for even two days at minus 30? Hell, even one day would cool down some homes awful quick.