2013/02/10

Winter Chore, Staying Warm

Like most homes in Japan, ours has no central heating and so we use room heaters to warm just the room we happen to be in.    When we go to bed at night, the heater must be turned off of course and so we sleep under piles of blankets - a cashmere one, some synthetic ones, and two thick Japanese kakebuton - which keep us warm during these cold winter nights.

By the way, in case you are wondering, Momo the Wonder Dog has an electric heater under her bed, so is very comfy-cozy.

Hitachi kerosene room heater with electronic controls and electric fan.
We have a solar water heater with a backup which is the "instant" type.  The backup is also fueled with kerosene and goes through about 40 liters or so of the stuff every month.   We have a 90 liter tank which supplies the water heater.    I used to have the water heater tank filled by a local business - Kurakawa Store - who would come around with a truck, but I cancelled that service when I started growing vegetables as there was no longer any place to park the truck and run the long kerosene hose around to the tank behind the house.

So, how do we get kerosene?  Well, it is sold at home centers and gasoline stations, so sometimes we get our 18 liter cans refilled by taking two of them in K's car to the home center in town.  But I prefer to keep buying it from our local "mom & pop" store -Kurakawa's - which also operates the delivery service.   I costs a bit more there, but I like the idea of supporting my neighbors' business rather than some faceless national corporation.  They are just half a kilometer down the street  so I have developed a way to transport it without having to carry it by hand or rely on K to drive us.

My touyu (kerosene) carrier. - in this case, my Raleigh Club Sport with trailer.  The blue line hanging down is a Bungee cord that goes over the box when it is closed.  I also use this set up for taking our recycling to the local center twice a month.
I have a trailer that attaches to my bicycle.  It is called "Carry Freedom" and is made in Scotland.  With two wheels, sturdy aluminum (or aluminium as they say in the UK) frame, and hardwood bed, it can carry up to 90 kilograms of cargo.  (Well, that is, if the rider can pull 90 kilograms!)   I took a large plastic storage box which can hold three 18 liter cans and mounted two large rubber "feet" (about 5 cm in diameter and as tall) on the bottom.  They fit into holes in the bed of the trailer to keep the box from sliding off.   The trailer has two reflectors at the back and though you can't see it in this photo, my rear light is visible to cars, it being mounted on the seat post below the level of the saddle bag and above the top of the trailer box.   The trailer is easy to take apart in a matter of seconds for storage.  

Three 18 liter cans of kerosene weigh a total of about 43 kilograms (95 pounds).  Happily, there is no steep slope between our house and Kurakawa's Store!  The trailer makes it easy to haul that load, though I do start out rather slowly. 

A couple of times, when Kurakawa Store ran out or the kerosene truck was being repaired, I have ridden to the nearest home center which is about 5 kilometers away.  Those times, I carried a smaller box with just two cans in it to lighten the load.

I'm not the only one to pick up kerosene with pedal power.  This tricycle I saw at the home center is electrically assisted like my Yamaha PAS City bicycle.

We are experimenting with electrical "oil radiator" heaters this winter to cut down on the kerosene use.   As fossil fuels deplete the cost of kerosene will keep going up.   (No, Virginia, Santa doesn't have any oil and fracking won't save us.)   While the kerosene heaters are fairly clean burning,  these heaters are not vented.  Also, I don't like how they put out large amounts of water vapor (the main product of combustion along with carbon dioxide) which condenses on the cold glass of our windows and runs onto the wood floor if we aren't careful.  :(

Electric oil radiator heater

Hopefully, we will  install some solar electric panels in the not too distant future and be able to generate more than enough electricity to cover the additional kilowatts we use with the radiators, as well as contributing that much less to climate change.  In any case, until I find better way to heat water, I'll still be pedaling for kerosene.

2 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

Thank you for the Carry Freedom tip. It looks like a good solution to decrease our energy footprint.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Don. The trailer greatly increases the utility of the bicycle, making it more feasible to do errands formerly done by car. I was lucky enough to find a secondhand but unused one for a good price.