Old Stone House

Blog Action Day: Localized Heating

October 15, 2007

Filed under: Day to Day,Energy Savings @ 2:10 pm

In support of blog action day, here is a small contribution.

The first winter we stayed in oldstonehouse we were quite surprised at how cold the house was, as well as how expensive it was to keep the house that ‘cold’. Our average heating bill cost about 700% more per month then our previous home – and this was to simply maintain a temperature of 18C/65F! Needless to say we were fairly determined to remedy the issue.

Since that first winter we have worked to increase our house’s efficiency, lowering our heating bills each year. However, there is only so much we can do. Once the doors and windows are airtight and the attic is sealed etc, there is still the issue of our house being uninsulated, and we won’t be addressing that anytime soon. Because of the plaster / lathe construction, the only way we could ever hope to insulate the house is by gutting the interior walls and starting from scratch. We have no desire to do that.

As such, we’ve changed our focus from conservation (how we could waste less heat) to consumption (how we could require less heat) and decided to follow the practices of generations of families before us and now depend on localized heating.

Localized heating is exactly what the names states – heating that is meant to serve only a small/isolated area – a local area. If you only need to heat 10% of your homes volume because that’s all the space you use, there are obvious savings to be made. However it’s virtually impossible to only heat 10% without losing heat to the rest of the house… except for us – as we have a door between every room!

The home’s original owners were far more skilled at heat conservation than present day society, as they had the good sense to install doors between every room in the house. We have adopted the principals of the home’s builder and during the winter months keep all the doors in the house shut. We set the thermostat to 16C/60F, 24 hours a day, and have added radiant oil heaters to several of the principal rooms. These heaters are run by heavy-duty digital timers that are set to correspond to our daily routines. We wear socks, put on sweaters, and use extra quilts.

The result?

Last year we managed to reduce our heating costs by 70% over our first winter – this substantive savings is directly related to our localised heating principals, as opposed to any improvement we’ve made to increase our houses overall efficiency. Our home is certainly not as comfortable as a new home, as some areas of the house are quite cold, however, we decided the day we moved in that we would inherit all the joys and sorrows that this old house had, and for better or for worse, warm or cold, we are committed.


  1. We also have doors between the rooms. This helps with the heat not going up the stairs. That’s great, how you reduced your energy consumption! I had previously e-mailed you about insulating an old home. Sadly, you told me what my husband and I already knew. I love our old house, but don’t know how long we will stay, because of the expense of heating the house. Since oil has gone up, it gets harder to heat it.(We have been there 10 years.)
    I actually found your site by accident, I will keep checking back.

    Comment by Barb — October 18, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

  2. I have just purchased a 168 year old stone house for renovation in SE Ohio. Comments here have left me somewhat deflated. The interior is largely intact so insulating there isn’t viable.
    Feeling pretty lucky that nearly every room has a door and those that don’t will certainly have one soon.

    Comment by Taryn — November 16, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

  3. It was wonderful to hear from others who embrace warm socks and sweaters!

    We love our 160 year stone house but have to admit freezing all winter is a challenge to our commitment.

    I find great comfort in our two woodstoves and thanks to the genius construction (natural small gaps in original wood floor boards) heat radiates nicely throughout our two storeys.

    Electric, oil heaters in bedrooms help when the wind is strong. I am a firm believer in keeping all doors closed also and thought I was the only one…until I found your site.

    Thanks for making me feel ‘normal’.

    Comment by Jenn — April 18, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

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