free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 144. YOUR BUDDY: THE SPACE HEATER

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


There's been a lot of angst lately about the U.S. natural gas situation. Talk about "going over the cliff"... old people freezing to death in their homes due to expensive gas or fuel oil etc. Matt Simmons is predicting an oil price spike to $330-$650 per barrel, and a gasoline price spike to $12.50-$25.00 per gallon for the winter of 2005-2006Source. All the peak oil pundits say: The U.S. is in big trouble if this is a cold winter. Yep, it's enough to make you shiver from both terror and cold.

But never fear. Today I'm going to talk you through some revolutionary technologies from Japan which will help you reduce your natural gas bill to damn near nothing.

First of all, you're going to want to turn off your furnace. I know how Americans heat their homes, and it's fucking ridiculous. Two or three stories, piping hot, every room, all the time, even when nobody's home. You're not going to want to do that anymore. The furnace is your enemy, and the spawn of Satan, so turn it off.

Next, you're going to want to purchase one of these miracle machines:

Your buddy: the space heater

These bad boys come in all sorts of styles and variations. Mine has 3 settings (350, 700 and 1050 watts), and costs about $30. Basically, you just plug it in, put it next to where you're sitting, turn it on and presto, you're warm.

Now you may wonder how effective these units will be in the cavernous rooms found in American homes. Good point, but the Japanese have another techno-fix -- sliding doors which they call fusuma and shoji:

My apartment, for instance, is very small, but it has no less than 4 sets of sliding doors, so I can close off a small area, and just heat (or cool) that area while I'm in it. Strategies you might want to use in the U.S.: set up the room where you hang out (TV, internet etc.) in a large closet, or the smallest room in the house; or go over to Home Depot, and improvise a little blocked off space of your own.

Now you've got a small space with the drafts sealed, and your space heater can really keep you toasty. It may seem a little weird at first, but this is actually adventurous living on the "new frontier". Think of your little room as your "space capsule".

Here's a couple of other tips: Don't leave the heat on when you leave the house. And don't leave it on while you're sleeping either. Instead you're going to want to invest in one these high-tech energy-conservation systems:

The Thick Blanket

This will keep your head warm while the furnace is off:

The innovations don't stop there. This is an amazing Japanese device for totally eliminating natural gas use in clothes dryers (yes, that's my underwear):

Japanese natural gas conservation system

Now, wash your clothes in cold water, and you're basically natural gas free. I personally only use natural gas to cook and shower, and I could eliminate the cooking part in a couple of hours by buying an electric range.
--by JD


At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 12:17:00 AM PDT, Blogger EnergySpin said...

Quite an impressive array of "techno-fixes" JD.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 1:47:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're an American living in Minnesota and you're worried about freezing, go to your local sporting goods store and lay down $400 for a sleeping bag rated at 20 below zero. You'll sleep toasty warm all winter long.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 4:10:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you don't cover keeping the water system from freezing which in most cases is spread out around the house. In some cases the inlet is in the basement and could be isolated but then no showers. I am in the "woodburbs" of southern NH and am apalled by the size and design of the new houses being built as for the same money one could have a slightly smaller passive solar design that uses a fraction of the energy to heat. A good part of my working life I remodeled and renovated circa 1800 hand hewn frame houses and often reflected on the lifestyle of those who made and occupied them---extended families with many male workers. But read recently in a book on stone walls that the average one used 30 to 35 cords of wood a year. My cottage is small, I heat with wood, and live quite luxuriously below the "poverty line." I do hope people have the sense to double up or try techniques as you reccommend this winter and not just bitch.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 4:31:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a lot of waste goes on, this taken from an amusing site:

I live in amazement at how energy-unconscious a lot of Americans are. The generation-X'ers aren't so bad, and well educated, well-informed people are just fine. But there is an underlying core of people, mostly in the pro-Bush "red" (ie. dumb) states, who don't understand that it's totally unreasonable to leave 3 TVs on all day, even when you're not at home, with the a/c set to 84°F in the winter and 60°F in the summer. We bought a house here and as part of the buying process, we asked to see the energy bills from the previous year. They weren't too bad - a little high I thought but do-able. A year on, I compared our energy bills for the same house. On gas, we were spending about half as much despite having had a gas water heater put in. On electric, about a third as much and on water, less than a quarter as much. This was for the same house! I'm at a loss to explain how the previous owners managed to burn over twice as much gas, use three times as much electricity and four times as much water.
Well not so much of a loss. For example, our garden has a pair of floodlights to illuminate it at night. Looks pretty and has a nice safety aspect. When we bought the house, there were two 400watt bulbs out there. I swapped them for low-energy bulbs rated at 19watts each and the light output is the same. From 800watts to 38watts. Lights are on for an average of 7 hours a night - longer in the winter, shorter in the summer. So we're down from 5.6Kw a night to 266w a night. Add it up, those floodlights alone save us 1.9Megawatts of power a year.

One thing I cannot understand though is Detroit's inability to grasp the concept of a fuel-efficient car. Or for that matter, a car that handles well. How is it that Japanese and European cars have better handling, and more power from smaller, more fuel-efficient engines than just about anything that the American manufacturers can produce? I know it's to do with energy costs and prevailing economies, and in Europe and Japan, the high cost of fuel necessitates great cars. But can't we have just one Ford or Chevy that handles well and has an engine that works? Just one? While Honda and the like are going headlong into multi-fuel and hybrid engines, Detroit continues to churn out massive SUVs with gloriously underpowered, inefficient engines. "The most powerful car on the planet" one commercial proclaims. Strange. There's 12 cars made in Europe right now that are more powerful than this particular one. Apparently Europe isn't on the planet though. It's all very amusing.
Then there's the Hummer, a military vehicle which was softened up (only slightly) for the public. That spawned the H2 which is in fact a GM Yukon with a clever body kit and some suspension and drivetrain mods. It is most definitely not a military vehicle. Both Hummers look ridiculous, have laughable single-digit fuel economy figures, heart-stopping insurance rates, and are so grossly oversized and impractical than whenever I see one driving around, all pimped out and posing, it just makes me laugh. I'm sure the intention is for people to stop in awe and point and stare. However, the overriding impracticality and sheer expense of these behemoths just makes me think "well the dealer saw you coming a mile away."

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 5:56:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“I know how Americans heat their homes, and it's fucking ridiculous. Two or three stories, piping hot, every room, all the time, even when nobody's home.”
Are you serious? Unbelievable!
I’m starting to understand why most doomers seem to be American…

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 6:58:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my God. It's posts like this that make me love this weblog. Thank you, JD, you bastard.

If only they would elect you as dictator.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 7:29:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first post you've made that I actually agree with.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 8:15:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Space heater? I have computers! If I leave my door to my computer room closed, my entire room will be rediculously hot by the time I get home, even when it's very cold outside. How much better can it be to get to use the electricity to run my computer, and get to use the entropy produced at no cost!

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 11:13:00 AM PDT, Blogger James Shannon said...

Adenosine said...

"Space heater? I have computers! If I leave my door to my computer room closed, my entire room will be rediculously hot by the time I get home, even when it's very cold outside. How much better can it be to get to use the electricity to run my computer, and get to use the entropy produced at no cost!"

I think you stumbled onto something Adenosine! Using waste heat from electrical processes in the house and recysling it into a heating system could save lots of money!

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 11:38:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

james, it's already recycled into a heating system by default. Any device emitting heat inside the house is going to warm it. Hence, it is more or less impossible to waste electricity in winter.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 12:14:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you've never seen the office building with a AC unit in the server room, have you? We have that here. We use the AC to pull heat out of the server room, while the rest of the building gets heated... plus the AC unit is set to cool colder than the heating system of the building is set to heat. It's a rediculous waste of energy.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 12:47:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, that is stupid. Unless the AC dumps heat into the rest of the building, in which case it would be quite efficient.

However, at home people don't tend to have air-conditioned server rooms. Everything but clothes driers and some fuel-burning appliances discharges heat into the open air, and warms the house.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 2:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger eltonwilson said...

Anyone try the tankless instant electric hot water heaters? I heard they were popular in Europe. Seems much more practical and efficient then the currect gas heated tank.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 8:24:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

What about large office buildings and hotels? Will we ever see them with space heaters or at least some passive solar instead of noisy air conditioning running 24/7, in every room, on every floor, that you can't turn off?

Man, you thought your own heating bill was bad, how is the Hyatt feeling?

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 8:29:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 8:46:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“May I also suggest that you ditch the gas furnace and get a frigging reverse-cycle ducted air conditioner running on coal-generated electricity, if you really want to ruin the environment!! Like down here in chilly Australia.”
You obviously aren’t in Queensland – it’s almost 40 degrees outside! Damn hot.

Actually it’s scary here watching Australian’s following the American culture so closely. Instead of getting cheap fans to cool a single room and opening the windows to catch the breeze, there is a strong trend of cooling the entire house with ducted air conditioning systems.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 9:08:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ducted air conditioners are a necessity in high humidity hot climates like we have here in Florida. If you don't have one, every paper in your house will curl up, and mold will grow everywhere. We have a very high efficiency unit in our well insulated house, and leave the thermostat at 80 degrees. Coupled with skylights that provide most of our light during the day, and ultra efficient appliances, we never use more than 500 kilowatt hours in the hottest summer months, and often use substantially less. However, your general point is well taken: my fellow Americans are a bunch of spoiled, fat wimps.

At Friday, October 28, 2005 at 11:25:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the average suburbanite who bitches about $350 a month gas bills would be pretty astonished how much warmer a few minor changes of habit can make. In my apartment at least, simply using that plastic-insulator stuff over windows and heavy drapes combined with a space heater (it's worth $50-60 for a powerful one) and the heat from my PC (aluminum case, it actually makes the living room 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house) I am fine.

I think another thing people need to do is wear warmer clothes, I'm sick to death of people complaining about gas prices when they keep their houses at 75 degrees and wear t-shirt and shorts inside.

The coming energy crisis can be severely diminished if people can just grow some common sense, well not everybody it seems alot of young people in the US my age (21) are pretty sensible, a friend of mine has already adopted the only-heat-one-room policy and easily cuts natural gas consumption 75%

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 8:21:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man. Japan is a lot like China. What gives. I thought they were high tech and all. This is 2nd World.

At Sunday, December 18, 2005 at 2:24:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought the Solar Powered Laudry Drying System.

Amazing technology!

At Monday, December 19, 2005 at 4:52:00 AM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Tee hee hee.

I have an amazing wind-powered air conditioning system. You just leave two windows open and the air goes through. It's like a light breeze inside your house.

Well, it is a light breeze inside your house.

At Saturday, December 24, 2005 at 11:59:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a fucking mental patient.

At Thursday, December 29, 2005 at 12:50:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD perhaps you can publish a link to where we can find that specific space heater. I've been looking for one like it but reach dead ends over the useless ceramic, blue flame propanes and other gimmick gizmos. Nevermind the denialists. I hear the mental wards get out for the holidays.

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 11:08:00 AM PST, Blogger John O'Neill said...

I like most of the ideas in this entry (hat, clothes hanging rack). However, I'm a little worried about space heaters: I think they're prone to fires, like toasters. Also, they would be dangerous in a room with an unsupervised child.

What we really need is some kind of free-standing radiator, which uses heated water -- instead of red-hot electric coils exposed to the open air -- to heat the room. You could have some sort of shielding system to prevent someone from touching the hot parts.

Nonetheless, I like the idea of heating individual rooms instead of the whole house. I don't care what the temperature of the living room is when I'm sleeping.

At Monday, March 20, 2006 at 8:10:00 AM PST, Blogger William Nerand said...

"Natural gas free" , eh?

Well ... unless I missed something in the post, the space heaters you recommend run on AC electric, right?

And that electricity you're using is generated by turbines down at ye old power plant.

And those turbines run on ... that's right, natural gas.

It's not an efficient conversion either ... it takes about 3 joules from natural gas to produce 1 joule of usable AC power in your home.

So "natural gas free" is not a very accurate description of space heater use.

At Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 7:09:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Hello, not all electricity is produced from natural gas. In Australia it's almost all coal. In Japan it's mostly nuclear, coal and hydro. In Sweden it's all hydro. So actually, depending on where you live, a small portion might come from gas - or it might not.

Plus, even with the inefficiencies of electricity transmission, a space heater is much more efficient than heating the entire house from a furnace.

At Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 5:11:00 PM PDT, Blogger David Grenier said...

We kept our heat down to 52 degrees in our house this past winter and mainly supplimented it with those high-tech items like sweatshirts, hats, and thick blankets.

I do like the idea of a space heater, but I'm worried about the fire risk (there are always housefires around here in the winter, and I think that's often the cause). I should check into them more before next Winter, though. If I could find a safe one with a timer (my wife seems to have a really hard time remembering to turn stuff off) that'd be awesome.

At Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 6:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Mel. Hauser said...

One thing I cannot understand though is Detroit's inability to grasp the concept of a fuel-efficient car. Or for that matter, a car that handles well. How is it that Japanese and European cars have better handling, and more power from smaller, more fuel-efficient engines than just about anything that the American manufacturers can produce?

The same thing runs through my mind every fucking time I read some POD diatribe about the oil market leading to the self-destruction of GM and its bloated peer divisions.

All Detroit had to do for the last five years was evolve. Slightly. Just enough to demonstrate a basic behavior that all organisms demonstrate: the desire to continue living. Instead, they opted to become the fucking pimp-pusher complex of the free world, cribbing prehistoric models like they were the new K-Car.

When--and allow me some doomer flow, here--they bankrupt and leave thousands of hungry employees scrambling to find jobs, it'll be their own fucking fault. I don't see the end of the planet as a final sum of PO, but I do see a hell of a lot of homeless people living in abandoned Excursions.

At Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 2:16:00 PM PST, Blogger TraderGordo said...

Space heating and cooling is a neccesity for efficient energy use. Of course electric is probably the least efficient form of space heating. Regarding fire hazard - the newer ceramic element models don't get as hot (i.e. glowing reg) as the older metal based electric heaters, and they have safety features like cutoff switches if it overheats or is knocked over. You can also use kerocene heaters, biofuel heaters, etc. I just switched to one of the most efficient space heaters out there, a woodstove:

It heats my house exceptionally well.

As for the tankless on demand water heaters - these might not be as efficient as the manufacturers have led us to believe. See:
Many customers are not happy with their overpriced, overhyped, underperforming tankless water heaters.

Best things you can do are turn down the thermostate in the winter, up in the summer. Dress appropriately for the season. Use efficient light bulbs and efficient appliances. Space heat and cool. Insulate your house better. Get an efficient vehicle (doesn't have to be an overpriced hybrid). I think its also a great idea to plant a fruit tree or two if your climate supports it. Even better if it can shade your house in the Summer but allow light though in the winter!

At Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 4:29:00 AM PDT, Blogger Stew said...

This I am going to stop: I use electricity to remove heat from my refrigerator and dump it into my home, where I then use electricity to cool my home and dump heat to the outdoors while using gas to heat my water which then loses heat to the surrounding interior area which then requires electricity to move that heat to the outdoors and since I am using electricity to cool the interior space, the heat loss from the water heater is greater.... D'oh!

Then in winter, I am using electricity to move heat from the interior of my refrigerator, while the outdoor temperature is hovering around 0 degrees F - Am building soon (or remodeling some small home) and plan to look at the house as an integrated system to try to economically move heat from where it is not wanted to where it is wanted with as little energy input as is feasible within a reasonable rate of return on th invested dollars.

Just one non-doomer's view-

At Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 10:57:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On site use of natural gas for space heating and water heating is much more thermodynamically efficient - and therefore releases much less CO2 - than the use of electricity from a power plant. The only exception to this that I've found is for space heating or cooling with an electric heat pump. Apparently electric heat pumps are so efficient that they use less energy using grid electricity than the energy used when burning natural gas on site. I have more to learn about these things!

Back to the more conventional choice of electric heat versus gas heat. If the power plant burns coal, then on site use of natural gas is 3 times more efficient. If the power plant burns natural gas using a combined cycle combustion engine, then on site use of natural gas is 2 times more efficient.

See this EPA site for details:!OpenDocument&Click=

If we want to get REALLY efficient, then we start using hydrogen fuel cells. Initially hydrogen can be efficiently and easily reformed from natural gas. The fuel cell then uses the hydrogen to power the house. This would be the ideal way to use natural gas to power an electric heat pump.

To restate, reform natural gas on site to provide hydrogen to a fuel cell. Run the entire house on the fuel cell, including an electric heat pump for space conditioning.

Ideally we'd then use solar and wind power to electrolyze water to create the hydrogen for the fuel cell. This would replace the use of natural gas. Then we'd have zero emissions of any kind, CO2, NOX, SO2, etc.

If (when) we eliminate the insane subsidies that we give to coal, nuclear and oil industries and instead apply a fraction of those subsidies (say half) to solar, wind and fuel cells, we will have arrived. Our power will come from distributed, redundant, clean, safe fuel cells. Let us usher in the Hydrogen Economy now!


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