In a recent blog, Allison Bailes did a great job defining heat and explaining heat flow. It’s important to remember, though, that Allison Bailes lives in Atlanta. When the temperature drops to 6°F in Atlanta, the story makes national news. But when the temperature hits -20°F in Vermont, we just tell our kids to remember to wear a hat when they walk to school.
I think it’s fair to say that residents of the Peach State don’t fully understand the value of heat. Now, if you live in northern Vermont, it’s vitally important to pay attention to heat flow. When the temperature drops to -20°F or -30°F, heat quickly flows from certain objects to the outdoor air, and the results can be inconvenient.
If you live in a house that is connected to the electrical grid, the solutions to this undesired heat flow are fairly simple. All you have to do is buy a collection of inexpensive gadgets and plug them in. Once you’ve got heat tape for your plumbing pipes, a block heater for your truck, a battery charger, and a couple of hair dryers, you’re all set. (Well, more or less. Occasionally it’s also useful to have an arc welder and a small bulldozer. But that’s another story.)
What if you live in an off-grid house? Well, then you have to learn a few tricks.
Every incident described in the following dialogue actually happened. However, it’s possible that the events didn’t all happen on the same day; there may be some poetic license involved.
A cloudless day in January
Setting: The tiny lobby of the post office in Sheffield, Vermont, on a January day. Two customers are chatting.
Martin: Hi, Bill. What’s up?