My very cold Cottage

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melhofert
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri 2nd Oct, 2020 12:04 pm

My very cold Cottage

Post by melhofert » Mon 5th Oct, 2020 10:10 am

Morning everyone!

I'm new here, hope everyone is enjoying our autumn weather.

We moved into a 15th century cottage (thatched) about a year ago, and learning as we go. It doesn't have any central heating, so only connected to electric. We have no other source of fuel.

I was hoping to pick your brains on what is the best way (and cheapest) to heat the cottage? Last year we used some oil electric heaters, which worked, but cost us a small fortune over Dec - March. We did install a wood oven in the biggest hearth, which I think will be a big help and heat up the ground floor. Just wondering what else we can do, and what other people have done.

CliffordPope
Posts: 615
Joined: Tue 16th Nov, 2010 2:57 pm

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by CliffordPope » Mon 5th Oct, 2020 5:53 pm

We have a combination of original open fireplaces in most rooms and a solid fuel Rayburn in the kitchen, all burn logs.

We tend to light a fire when a concensus agrees that more pullovers cannot cope alone - ie about now - in whichever room we are in.
There comes a point when we light the stove first thing in the morning and keep it in all day. It means the kitchen is always nice and warm, and the heat spreads out a bit through the house, although bedrooms are always cold.
The stove runs a few downstairs radiators, provides hot water, and does all cooking.
If we want to watch TV say in an evening we light the open fire and let the stove go out earlier.

The Rayburn burns more efficiently, but you can't beat an open fire for toastiness and a generally nice feeling of cosiness.
Wood is expensive if you have to buy your own.

a twig
Posts: 607
Joined: Sun 6th Oct, 2013 10:18 pm

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by a twig » Mon 5th Oct, 2020 10:27 pm

https://www.blazewear.com/ - toasty wherever you are in the house - other brands are available etc

CliffordPope
Posts: 615
Joined: Tue 16th Nov, 2010 2:57 pm

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by CliffordPope » Tue 6th Oct, 2020 4:55 pm

Cosy, but they only make them in singles. :)

elizabeth
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon 2nd Jan, 2012 4:56 pm
Location: Devon

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by elizabeth » Sat 10th Oct, 2020 8:30 pm

Hello melhofert,
welcome to this site. We too live in a thatch cottage. The walls are made of stone and cob. What are your walls made of? Can you add any insulation? Can you add any loft insulation? To improve heat retention, we use heavily lined curtains and keep doors to unused rooms closed. Draw your curtains earlier. Our stairs are accessed through our lounge and we have a thick curtain covering it to stop warm air escaping up the stairs. Keep, if you can, an ambient background heat, so you avoid the heat up/cool down temperatures which in older houses can be more difficult to manage.
Our cob walls take a long time to absorb heat but once they do they become like storage heaters and work best with a consistent temperature.
Also check you have no damp issues as this can attract the cold. You may need to make some temporary measures to get through this winter. I have been known to wear in addition to thick jumpers, a hat and scarf around the house.
Hope these suggestions are helpful.

88v8
Posts: 2795
Joined: Wed 15th Jun, 2011 7:01 pm
Location: Glorious Gloucs

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by 88v8 » Sun 11th Oct, 2020 9:38 am

Hello and welcome.

Our C17 thatched was cold when we moved in.

A large part of the problem, we eventually realised, was cement, and plastic (vinyl) paint. Cement pointing, a concrete floor and damp-proof membrane in the sitting room.
Vinyl paint obsessively slapped on the internal walls by PO.
All this results in damp walls and condensation, so that any heat you put into the house just disappears into trying to dry it out.

Once we got rid of the cement pointing and replaced it with lime, removed the concrete and 'damp proofing' and replaced it with limecrete, that allowed the building to 'breathe'.
Much of the evil paint is still here, but it's on the list.

The other structural problem was ground levels at the back which led to internal damp. We solved this with the usual process of dig out, retaining wall, French drain.

The final improvement in terms of general comfort was two dehumidifiers (Ebac 2650), which we run 24/7. These suck out about a gallon a day between them, which may not sound much but they lower the internal humidity by around ten points.

The overall takeaway from this is that one cannot effectively heat a damp house.

Do you have hygrometers? We have one in each room. The one beside me as I write, shows 68% which is rather high, but it's always highest in autumn, and this is one of the vinyl-coated rooms so it has a condensation problem. I like to see <60%.

Having sorted out the damp and condensation... heating:

Storage heaters/Economy 7. The heaters are 30/50 y3ars old, no electronics, no fancy controls to go wrong.
They provide a good background temp. You cam buy similar ones on eBay.

In the evening, we have two woodburners, one in the dining room which is the centre of the house, we light that about 1800h, then after dinner at about 1930h, I light the one in the sitting room and we let the dining room die down.

Insurers tend to make an awful fuss about woodburners and thatch, not without reason as many owners seem not very good at using them. You need chimney height - 3ft above ridge - a double-skin wrapped liner, and most important, a thermometer on the stovepipe so you can see what temperature it's running. Even then, your insurer is unlikely to be happy.

The bill for our all-electric 1,000 sq ft house is about £1,600 a year, plus about four tons of seasoned hardwood which is probably another £450.

You could no doubt save on fuel cost if you put in oil or LPG heating, or some fancier system, but the installation costs...... keep it simple, I decided.

Oh, and we heat to about 63F. Elizabeth and Clifford have the right idea... wear two pairs of socks and a wooly.

Ivor

melhofert
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri 2nd Oct, 2020 12:04 pm

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by melhofert » Tue 13th Oct, 2020 1:38 pm

Thank you everyone for your replies! Lots to take in!
All this results in damp walls and condensation, so that any heat you put into the house just disappears into trying to dry it out.
We do not currently experience damp walls, but I have noticed in the mornings, condensation on all the windows throughout the house. So there must be too much condensation in the air. I haven't gone out to buy a dehumidifier just yet, only because I heard they could be just as costly running electric all day. I will however order a hygrometer as you say, and test this out. They seem to come cheap on amazon :-)
Storage heaters/Economy 7. The heaters are 30/50 y3ars old, no electronics, no fancy controls to go wrong. They provide a good background temp. You cam buy similar ones on eBay.
I have started to look into this, and on our current system we cannot get this (We currently with bulb) which will just force our hand in moving supplier.
In the evening, we have two woodburners, one in the dining room which is the centre of the house,
So we have now started to use our one woodburner in the main / middle of the house. It does work wonderfully and I try to not start the fire until after 3pm. Once it's on, it heats up the main room of course, and partly the study next to it (sadly not my kitchen & the bedrooms)
We too live in a thatch cottage. The walls are made of stone and cob. What are your walls made of? Can you add any insulation? Can you add any loft insulation? To improve heat retention, we use heavily lined curtains and keep doors to unused rooms closed. Draw your curtains earlier.
Yes, our walls are made of wattle and daub. No insulation anywhere, and single glazed windows. I got us some heavy curtains for winter on all the windows and also one long heavy curtain that hangs behind the front door and another between the kitchen and the main room.

I guess I'm on the right track - but I need to tackle the condensation and add some loft insulation (once I get rid of the mice) :?

CliffordPope
Posts: 615
Joined: Tue 16th Nov, 2010 2:57 pm

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by CliffordPope » Thu 15th Oct, 2020 10:52 am

Regarding condensation on windows:
There are obviously two sides to this - a) humidity in the air waiting to condense somewhere, b) windows being cold acting as an obvious place to condense on.

My experience suggests that unless you can eliminate the excessive moisture in the air then it has to condense somewhere. Windows act as a relatively harmless "dehumidifier" - the water can simply be wiped and mopped up. It's a bit of a chore, but where would you prefer it to be condensing - on walls, spoiling wallpaper and pictures, in wardrobes, etc? The only alternative is to buy a proper dehumidifier, probably one upstairs as well as downstairs, or else to heat the entire house at enormous cost.

Where does the moisture in the air come from?
a) cooking and bathroom. Presumably you already have extractor fans, and close the doors when in use? There is a contradiction here - a stove will already be drawing in air, and you mustn't have another extraction point fighting the draught the fire needs.

b) people breathing out? Not a lot you can do about that.

c) cold air coming in at night? Or warmer air during the day time cooling during the night. Ventilation is always supposed to be important, but there is no point in paying to run a dehumidifier and then attempting to dehumidify the entire county.

After 35 years of living in a cold house I conclude that there is not a lot you can do about it. If you don't like the consequences of living in a period house then modernise it, line all the walls, obliterate all the nice old archtrave, stonework, etc, and turn it into a modern house, masquerading as a period sham. No one ever managed to stop condensation on windows in the past, they just lived with it. Period Living.

melhofert
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri 2nd Oct, 2020 12:04 pm

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by melhofert » Fri 16th Oct, 2020 2:50 pm

Thx Clifford

This will only be our second year in the cottage, and the first with the wood stove, so learning as we go.

Just interesting to see what other people are doing to heat their homes and knowing now we are not the only ones experiencing this coldness in an old house. :D

88v8
Posts: 2795
Joined: Wed 15th Jun, 2011 7:01 pm
Location: Glorious Gloucs

Re: My very cold Cottage

Post by 88v8 » Sun 18th Oct, 2020 10:06 am

Curtains.... good. There's a nice cosy feel to thick curtains.

Information is your starting point... the hygrometer - as I mentioned we have one in each room - will tell you how damp it is. And relative to e a new house, it will be somewhat damp.
We start at about 70% RH in autumn, then as the woodburners dry things out the RH falls, and by March it's down to 45%, which for a modern house would be normal or even on the high side.

No dpm, no dpc, it's going to be 'damp', that's how it is.

Even in a newer house, condensation on single glazing is routine. I recall my parents' 40s house, Critalls, the bedroom window was awash on winter mornings.
Here, the kitchen is worst, north facing, no heating. Despite the extractor fan.

I have a Karcher window vac. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Karcher-Wind ... SweFJfixV5 which is part of the morning routine.

We have some thinseal double glazing - air gap ¼” - which reduces the condensation but does not eliminate it.

As regards dehumidifiers, they are on 24/7 but on Auto they only run as required. Lowering the RH will make the cottage feel warmer, even without additional heat. As Clifford says, best to switch them off in summer at least while the windows are open.

Storage heaters... we use 73% of our electric on the night rate.
Preently with Ovo on an Ecomony 7 two-year fix. I've looked recently to see if there is a better option, Yorkshire Energy would be a tad cheaper, but by year end they might not be. It seems that the prices chop and change all the time.

Heaters are best under windows, as one would if positioning radiators. This may need some adjustment to window sills and curtains so the heat doesn't vanish behind the curtain. Our walls are mostly coursed rubble, so the cables run in a wiggly path buried in the pointing. With timber frame/wattle, you may end up with surface cabling.

Needless to say, one can't channel cables into wattle, although you might need to explain that to the electrician.
One thing with houses this age, most tradesmen have not a clue about the peculiarities -why would they - so one has to be very much on top of their work.

Anyway, I'm rambling on.

Do buy a thermometer for your woodburner if it doesn't have one. Otherwise it will inevitably get overheated, which distorts the casing so it develops air leaks, makes it hard to control. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Stovax-stove ... xy43FRaN2o
On the stove pipe, about a foot above the stove.

Ivor

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