Well it’s been quite a winter and I’ve been mostly quiet on the blog front, so my apologies to anyone who noticed! I’ve had a great winter with lots of wonderful skiing, mountain biking on the snow-machine trails, and butt sledding down large mountains. I recently started a new home-care job for a local woman, and she and her partner are great. They’ve lived a life full of adventure and we very much enjoy sitting around the living room and swapping travel stories. I’m having a lot of fun with them, though admittedly my adventures have definitely slowed down since I’m there 72 hours a week on top of my regular work schedule… Once the school year is out my other work commitments will lesson and things will even out. I anticipate having 3 days off each week and having loads of fun adventures this summer! I actually picked up a hitch-hiker this afternoon who gave me directions to several fabulous sounding mountain bike trail systems in the Mad River Valley – see everyone should pick up hitch-hikers, you never know what you might learn!
Between house sitting and my new job I tend to only be at home a few nights a week, if that. In the winter, that has made keeping my house not frozen solid very challenging since I hate running my heater when I’m not home – seems like such a waste! In the dead of winter most weeks when I was gone several days at a time I’ve just let things freeze, since I don’t have any real running water, it didn’t seem to hurt anything. My under-the-sink 12 volt water pump did freeze a few times, but I generally remembered to drain it, and when it did freeze it was quick and easy to thaw out, and didn’t seem to be damaged by the ice at all. I also put a little extra foam board insulation along the back wall and the floor under my sink, which has helped my water stay in a mostly liquid form even on chilly nights. Still I think I might consider a better heater for next winter (something with better temperature control which I’d feel OK about leaving running for a few days when I’m not home), which along with my plans to use hay-bales to “Skirt” my house – should keep things un-frozen in the future.
I’ve been thinking a lot about energy usages lately as I’ve been playing a brilliant online game called Vermontivate. In it towns in Vermont compete against each other and players earn points for their town by doing energy related “challenges.” Last year, Calais came in 2nd place state wide, and so far this year we’re holding steady in second place once again. Still hoping to push to the head and win a town-wide ice-cream party! Vermontivate is designed to promote increased consciousness around climate change, and encourage individuals and communities to take steps towards reducing their carbon footprints. I encourage people to check it out, and if you want to join the game, shoot me an email and I’ll send you an Invite, that way I get lots of bonus points for signing you up! Even if you aren’t in VT, you can create a profile and check it out.
One of the projects I recently took on for a Vermontivate Challenge was creating a tiny house DIY space heater using clay pots and tea candles. There are many blogs that have posted about this, but I first learned about the idea from this youtube video, and decided to test it out myself. Here is what I did, and what I learned.
I had two clay pots in my shed from a garden project last summer so I stopped at the local garden supply store and bought a clay base as well as a few clay flower pot feet. I then bummed some small tea candles from my moms candle collection, and got started.
This picture shows the base, a clay plate with 5 Tea-Candles on it. The candles you can buy online or at any hardware store in bags of 100 or more, they cost only a few penny’s each (here’s 100 from Amazon for $10!). The base I bought for $3.99. I lit the five candles, and then placed the small clay pot upside down over the candles and plugged the whole in the center of it with tinfoil.
I then placed the larger clay pot upside down over the first, and left the top hole open to let heat out. The clay feet were perfect and allowed plenty of air flow to the candles. I’ve also seen it done by building a pile of small tiles on either side of the pot to create the same effect. The finished product:
As of now, the candles have been burning for about 3 hours and my house has gone up in temperature 8 or 10 degrees on the table not too far from the heater and 5-6 degrees across the room.. While the video I watched claimed the candles would burn 4-5 hours, mine are flickering and seem to be on their last few minutes. I’ll post in the comments exactly how long they burn! The inner clay pot is WAY too hot to touch, and the outer clay pot is too hot to touch for more than about a second at a time.The air coming out of the hole at the top of the pot is very hot, and it definitely feels warmer when sitting next to the heater than a few feet away from it. Clearly this will not be a practical or effective way to heat my house in the dead of winter in Vermont, however perhaps I can burn it instead of my propane to take the chill out of the air in the fall and spring. I think it would be more effective in a smaller space, perhaps something like a 8×10 shed or tiny house.
Even though the candles only cost a penny a piece, I do question the overall environmental impact of buying and burning 5 candles once or twice (or more!) a day over the very minimal amount my propane heater needs to run to keep the chill out…. so I’m not convinced my net energy usage drops all that much. Still it’s a fun idea and I’m glad to share it around. Perhaps I’ll try getting a few small scented candles next time, then I’ll have a warm house that smells great too!
Until next time, happy adventuring!