Heating your home

I decided that last winter would end when we changed our clocks; i.e. on March 27th when “British Summer Time Begins”. This may sound silly but up to that point I had been heating my home with computers, either with a row of them in my living room or with them dotted around each room. In order for them to generate enough heat, because really a typical computer wouldn’t be that warm 24/7, I have been participating in SETI@home which is the search for E.T.s – each computer is installed with a bit of software that downloads radio teliscope data and inspects it to see if there are any strange signals indicating intelligent life out in space – it’s very techy and I’ve been doing this since 1999.

The thing is, as well as being very techy, it’s also very energy-hungry, but I sort of justified it because, well, I was heating my home without pumping oil through my central heating boiler. To be honest I had actually continued to run my computers through the summer of the previous year, which made things pretty toasty, but I live on my own so I didn’t annoy anyone. However, when it came to the end of last winter I decided enough was enough; I had been monitoring my electricity usage each week and came to realise just how much it was costing; this coupled with my green-issues I knew it just wasn’t right. So when last winter ended on March 27th I switched all my computers off.

It got pretty chilly; my computers had added a nice constant warmth to my home throughout the coldest months, and in addition to seeing how much electricity I was now using (like only 10% of what I had been) I was watching the temperature on my thermometer. It started off at around 10’c and then for the first month as the weather warmed up it got more comfortable until summer arrived.

Now the clocks have changed again (British Summer Time ended on October 30th), and I had sort of planned to switch all my computers back on again for the winter. But I haven’t.

Two reasons:

  1. I saw how much money I wasn’t spending on electricity (and being a tight-fisted g!t I like saving money)
  2. Since I had my roof re-done earlier this year I have a stack of wood in the form of old roof battens to burn in my wood-burning stove.

My home isn’t all that warm though; just today I woke up to the thermometer on my bed-side alarm clock reading single figures (9.9’c). I have had some computers on; I have the one in my office which is outside my bedroom, and there is one in my bedroom itself which I put on to take the chill off before bed, but mostly I’ve been burning wood in the evenings.

My stove heats my living room, so it’s nice to be in there reading a book, but the heat doesn’t really permeate much into my bedroom above or up the stairs into my office so I’m still bouncing around thoughts of “what is comfortable?”

I’m quite used to donning an extra layer, wearing fingerless gloves around the house and wearing socks in bed; I’m not one to crank the heating up before doing all of this, swanning around the house in next to nothing while the heating chugs away and the planet is destroyed… is that you?!

What temperature is just right?

There are some health-service issued thermometors that illustrate what temperature your home “should be” but I don’t agree with them. I do appreciate that being constantly cold isn’t good for the health (or the mood) especially if one has underlying health issues or isn’t so mobile, but I think the “good” temerature level is set too high and fails to consider the energy inefficiency of many homes (including those provided by the state) and what the heating system presently installed is comfortably capable of providing. Here’s the thing:

Similar to a car, a central heating boiler will have a “most efficient level” of operation, so if you drive your car at 50mph whilst in 5th gear, on a flat road, in calm weather, then that will get you to your destination in a more fuel-efficient manner than if you go slower or faster or use another gear. A central heating boiler will work similarly; if the weather drops colder then you may feel inclined to turn it up a notch or more. This “healthy home temperature” does not take into account any of this, they just say “your home should be 18-20’c” they don’t suggest any of the following:

  • put on some extra layers
  • spend some time out doors throughout the day
  • confine yourself to a smaller and better insulated room in your home and limit the heating to that one
  • keep moving
  • drink warm drinks and eat hot food
  • avoid warmer places

I think spending time outside during the colder months is the key, it really acclimatises you and when you step inside, even if your house is ‘cold’ it will feel warmer when you return.

Keeping moving whilst indoors is also important and here, as I’m finding a lot, yoga is a good solution! Sitting in front of the TV, on your computer, tablet or phone for hours on end will leave your body cold and they also shut of your body’s senses so you don’t even notice until you switch off.

Avoiding warmer places will also help. If you go out to work you may put the heating on in your car, and then you might be working in an overly-heated office. When you get back to your cooler home you will inevitably feel cold.


  1. 9.9 C is too cold for me! My normal daytime temp during winter is about 20 C. I’m ok with about 18 C during the night. The fact that your computers generate enough heat to keep you warm was interesting – while working on my masters, I used a computer that generated so much heat we had to keep it in a special room in the lab with fans blowing on it to prevent overheating.

    • Gotta love such computers!

      I find I’m okay with the temperature being around 12’c when I go to bed, and then by the morning with no heating it will be a couple of degrees cooler. It took me a week or so to adjust though when the temperature dropped following the summer… 18-20’c would be too warm for me!

      • our summer temp averages about 35 C so 18-20 C is “cold” for me! It’s all relative – kiddo #2 moved to a cooler area and said I’m not allowed to say “It’s cold” unless it’s less than 10 C.

  2. Usually when winter starts, I’m always cold. Once I start spending time outside at the barn with the horses and freeze a few times, then it doesn’t feel so cold anymore.

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