Winter House Performance So Far

Winter has finally arrived here in Stowe, Vermont. For the last month, snow has been teasing us with flurries here and there but nothing has stuck. Stowe’s skiing was supposed to start on November 19th but there wasn’t enough snow for that to happen. But this weekend, after a few days of light snow, the town filled up with skiers and the slopes were in full swing.

I would estimate we got about 4-5” of snow – enough to try out the shovels, the tractor snow thrower and figure out what needs to be kept clear. One of the main things about snow we were told prior to moving here is that, if you don’t take care of snow properly when it falls, get used to it because it will be around until mud season because the temperature will never go up high enough to melt it until then.

The temperatures have been cycling between 30F and 10F and so we have been working through the process of heating the house efficiently. So far, even down into the low-teens, we are just heating the house with the heat pump outside of our mechanical room on the first floor. We are keeping the temperature at 69F which seems very comfortable. Since the heat makes its way upstairs, it tends to be about 71F on the second floor.

I have set up the bathroom floor heaters to kick on around 5AM and shut themselves back off at 10AM so there is likely a little heat coming from those sources. Holidays have the house more populated than usual so there is more ambient human heat being introduced into the space as well. If you add in the intermittent sources like cooking, hot showers, solar gain (rare lately) and a wood fire a few days ago, you have a decent amount of heat contributing to the heat pump’s efforts.

So far there are a few downsides with the house, albeit minor ones.

  1. The concrete floor temperatures are pretty chilly, especially at night or when it is cloudy.
  2. The incoming water is causing condensation and, hence, dampness in the mechanical room.
  3. The Zehnder has a hard time evacuating the shower steam quickly in the main bathroom. If you don’t keep the interstitial pocket door open between the sink area and the shower area when showering, the steam stays trapped in the shower side. With guests, we are having more hot showers than usual and it is causing some paint issues.
  4. If you keep bedroom doors closed at night, they get less ambient heat from the heat pump. Because of the Zehnder, they aren’t frigid but they are definitely lower than the ambient temperature of the main room.

The STUV fireplace has been incredible. For such a small chamber, it takes very little wood to generate a great deal of heat. On the two days we had the fire burning, the heat was hitting 78F upstairs. It was a toaster 74F downstairs.

So far, my verdict is that the house is performing very well. Sitting here now, the temperature outside is 17F and the entire house feels great and is consistently warm using just a small heat pump on the first floor even after an extended period of dark, cloudy, snow-filled days. That was the goal and it appears the goal has been met.

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