Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Praise of Things Warm

When I built Emory Cottage, I built in a few small luxuries.  I've lived here for about six months now, and the weather is beginning to turn chilly.  Now that it's late in the fall, I have realized that my small luxuries all have to do with keeping warm.

The first, and perhaps the greatest of the luxuries is the hot water system.  I bought a good gas-fired water heater, but the most important thing is that the hot water pipes are arranged in a loop and equipped with a pump.  So, hot water is pumped out of the tank, through the loop, and returns to the tank.  That means I have instant hot water everywhere in the house.  (That's good, because the guest bath is about as far as you can get from the water heater!)  The plumbing contractor installed the piping and a fractional-horsepower pump.  I insulated the pipes with closed-foam insulation, available from Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.  An eighteen dollar Intermec seven day electronic timer runs the pump when I'm at home and turns it off when I'm away or asleep.

I was a little worried that my hot water luxury would be expensive to operate, and I am happily surprised that it's not.  My gas bills have been less than those for the tiny apartment where I lived while I was planning and building Emory Cottage.  While I was waiting for water to warm up in the apartment, hot water was coming out of the tank and cold water was going down the drain.  When I turned the water off, pipes full of hot water warmed the spaces in the walls.  I'm using less water, too, because I don't have to let it run to warm up.  So, this luxury actually saves a few cents to a few dollars every month.

The second luxury is a mirror heater.  That one does cost money to operate; it consumes about 70 watts whenever the vanity light in the bathroom is on.  It's worth every penny of it because I can see myself in the mirror when I get out of the shower!

The idea for the tile heaters in the bathrooms came from the Roman hypocaust, the forerunner of modern central heating.  The tile heaters cost money to run, too, but it is a delight to step out of the shower onto a warm floor.  The toasty toesies make it worth every cent.

By replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, I have probably saved enough electricity to pay for operating the mirror and tile heaters.

The final luxury is a gas starter in the fireplace.  I can go from dark and cold to a cozy fire in just a few minutes.  When I finally get too old to carry logs, I can install a "gas log" and still have fires in winter.

I'm looking forward to a toasty-warm winter in Emory Cottage.