Friday, December 14, 2012

Icicles and Energy Efficiency

Icicles are so cool!!!

Unless, of course, they're hanging from your house, that is.  Ugh.

Obviously, icicles are created by the melting and re-freezing of snow.  Icicles on windows and roofs are partially formed due to heat escaping from a building.  The more heat that escapes, the more frost and snow melts, and the bigger the icicles.  Fortunately, my icicles appear to be an acceptable size.

Icicles hanging from the roof above the second level window.  Possibly 5-6 inches long

This is good.  It means that I'm doing a pretty decent job of creating an air seal in my home that was built in the 1890s, and has minimal insulation due to that fact. I'm happy to say that using shrink wrapped plastic really does make a difference.

I also looked at the attic window.  

The attic is unheated, so I don't actually use it.  Instead, I layered a bunch of blankets along the entry door to keep heat from escaping into that area.

Shorter, thinner icicles hanging from the roof above the attic window.

There are still icicles there, of course, but they're shorter, meaning that not nearly as much heat has managed to seep into the attic as I feared.  The upper roof doesn't have nearly the same amount of heat loss.

Score!!!

In this climate, ice is a fact of life.  

It'll always happen, and I realize that.  My concern, however, is judging how much heat is lost by observation of the icicles.  My neighbors on either side, for example, have homes that aren't quite as old, and the insulation, therefore, is thicker.

Amount of icicles?  

I could could use both hands to count them.  Very different from my own house.

Yet, I could see other homes that had significantly more, as well as larger, icicles hanging from them.  This let me know that I'm going in the right direction.  There's a definite difference in the overall heat inside the house, as compared to last year, and I don't believe that is due to "getting used to it."

I think I'm learning how to increase the energy efficiency of this house.  

Caulking air leaks and using plastic on the windows appear to drastically reduce the amount of time the heater remains on... which is very good, considering my computer is right next to a vent, and when the heater turns on, I'm blasted with cold air that quickly turns warm.

Not exactly a good feeling...

Energy efficiency means decreased ecological impact.  While my ecological footprint is still rather huge, I've lessened its impact tangibly.

How much so, you ask?

I'll be able to give you a guess on that one next month, when I get my December energy bill.  It'll be the first one that actually has an overlap between 2011 and 2012.  I'm rather excited about seeing the difference!

I'm hoping to see a huge change from last year to this one!




** As an aside... if you're interested in knowing the science behind the shape of an icicle (beyond the basic "water melts and you get ice" idea), Science Daily has a rather interesting short article from 2007 about the mathematics behind the process.
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