Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

One Month Without Natural Gas Central Heating

Infrared thermal panel, 300 Watt, 60 x 50 x 1 cm, cost 80 euro, excl. delivery. Manufacturer: Koenighaus, Emmerich, Germany, but there are many other suppliers.

By the end of October I bought online a 300 Watt infrared panel, with the intent to see if the room thermostat position could be lowered with 1-3 C without loss of comfort, placed it on my desk, next to the two computer monitors in use and leaning against the third unused monitor and was amazed with the thermal comfort it provided.

Shortly after, the temptation arose to see if I could do without natural gas-fueled central heating at all and formulated the following challenge:

  • For the entire month of November, switch off the central heating completely.
  • Minimal gas consumption is allowed for tap water and ultra short shower.
  • I may buy anything to increase thermal comfort, provided it uses no fossil fuel and only modest amounts of electricity.
  • Investments may not cost a lot.
  • Consider the exercise as a preparation for times plagued by fuel shortages, for instance in case of a major conflict between the US and China over Taiwan.

The background of this challenge is that European gas reserves could run on empty, later this winter, especially if this winter is going to be cold, see Reuters link and graph at the bottom of this post [1].

Personal situation: non-vaccinated and hence since today (6-11-2021) completely excluded from Dutch society (minus the super-market). Reason personal refusal vaccins: I am pretty sure I contracted Covid in March 2020 after a holiday in Bulgaria and could fairly easily handle that and am weary to let vaccins interfere with my good health and ditto immune system, especially not with these “head over heels” mRNA garbage, that needs to be “refreshed” every few months or so, a boon maybe for Pfizer c.s., but a considerable risk for the population. I would prefer to not take any vaccine at all, but if that means permanent social exclusion, I’ll settle for the upcoming Novavax/Valneva, more conventional vaccines. The point to make is that this entire winter I’ll be stuck in my home, apart from the daily 1 hour jog in a nearby forest.

My living room of ca. 30 m2 is split in two by a thick curtain, that was installed years ago for energy saving purposes, but so far never used. The smaller part of 10 m2 is where my bureau is and a 4 m2 South-West-facing window, enjoying direct unhindered sunlight as of 11:00. Apart from the infrared panel I have this:

Stoov Big Hug XL“, Utrecht, the Netherlands, very effective and cheap electro-wired body warmer chair cover. Comes with battery and 3 position regulator. Powered by a small laptop-like charger, can’t be consuming much. Only electro-wired clothing would be more effective. It certainly is at least as effective as the infrared panel, due to direct contact with the body. The third position is very warm, which is only comfortable in the first half hour in the morning. Battery + power supply are sufficient to guarantee warmth during the entire day (ca. 8:00-19:00)

Prospects are good. Today, 6-11-2021 was the coldest night so far and until November 20, temperatures won’t be lower. If I can stomach this, I can stomach them all.

Personal daily, as well as cumulative gas and electricity consumption data from November 2020, while in lockdown and at home all day (like in November 2021). Average daily numbers: cost – 5.06 euro, electricity – 5.18 kWh, gas – 4.56 m3 (divide all numbers by 30).

The final number for November 2021, after a month of not using the gas-fueled central heating: 50% less cost than last year, with much higher per unit cost this year.

Same data for November 2021. Average daily numbers: cost – 1.74 euro, electricity – 7.00 kWh, gas – 0.13 m3.

Date T living room T outside Elec. kWh Gas m3
November 2020 average 5.18 4.56
——————— ———— ——— ——
01-11-2021 08:00 xx.x 6.5 6.00 0.33
02-11-2021 08:00 xx.x 2.7 7.00 0.14
03-11-2021 08:00 xx.x 0.1 7.00 0.13
04-11-2021 08:00 xx.x 1.5 8.00 0.31
05-11-2021 08:00 xx.x 1.0 6.00 0.24
06-11-2021 08:00 15.5 5.2 8.00 0.36
07-11-2021 08:00 15.5 10.2 9.00 0.24
08-11-2021 08:00 16.0 6.0 8.00 0.32
09-11-2021 08:00 15.5 3.0 8.00 0.34
10-11-2021 08:00 15.1 1.0 8.00 0.36
11-11-2021 00:00 15.3 4.2 9.00 0.19
12-11-2021 00:00 15.5 1.0 10.00 0.53
13-11-2021 00:00 16.0 8.0 10.00 0.13
14-11-2021 00:00 16.5 8.2 12.00 0.53
15-11-2021 00:00 16.5 7.3 12.00 0.19
16-11-2021 00:00 15.9 5.8 11.00 0.22
17-11-2021 00:00 15.5 5.7 12.00 0.36
18-11-2021 00:00 14.8 5.0 9.00 0.36
19-11-2021 00:00 16.0 10.2 11.00 0.47
20-11-2021 00:00 16.5 8.1 9.00 0.57
21-11-2021 00:00 16.3 8.4 11.00 0.22
22-11-2021 00:00 15.0 1.2 7.00 0.53
23-11-2021 00:00 14.3 3.3 11.00 0.12
24-11-2021 00:00 15.3 3.1 12.00 0.22
25-11-2021 00:00 14.2 3.2 10.00 0.61
26-11-2021 00:00 14.2 4.0 13.00 0.19
27-11-2021 00:00 13.2 0.1 10.00 0.82
28-11-2021 00:00 13.2 2.1 13.00 0.27
29-11-2021 00:00 13.2 0.3 10.00 0.56
30-11-2021 00:00 13.4 5.0 20.00 0.75

(Temperatures in Celsius at dawn = minimum)
Began this challenge and recording as of 6 November and will be completed by the end of that month. Swithing off the central heating completely already occured before November 1.


03-11-2021 – Eventually you will get your bed warm from your own body, nevertheless, without heating it doesn’t go fast enough. So I bought 3 old-fashioned bed jars, 2 rubber ones from the Action for 2.99 euro en one from the HEMA for 19.00. That really solved the problem, 8 hours per day entirely covered, thermally speaking. The cheap ones are better due to their flat shape and stay where they are, the aluminium cylinder gets kicked out of bed during the sleep.

04-11-2021 – Between 8:00 and 19:30 I sit behind the bureau (with interruptions). In the evening the curtain is opened and I move to the sofa to watch the news and usually some (German) sitcom, like Tatort, Friesland, Usedom Krimi, and so on. For that purpose the infrared panel moves with me and is placed on top of the back of the sofa, which works fine. Neverthess, bought this warmth cushion for 19.99 euro, to put my back, or under my feet during the day:

Power consumption 100 Watt max.

06-11-2021 – Coldest morning so far this month. 5.2 C outside when I get up, the minimum last night was 3 C. As always, the room temperature is about 10 C above the outside. At 12:30, five hours after getting up, the temperature in my heat bubble has increased from 15.5 until 19.5 C. The results so far are encouraging: over the first three days in November I hardly used gas, down from 6 m3 average last year to a negligible 0.2 m3 today. Electricity use increased with ca. 2 kWh, from 5 kWh last year, to 7 kWh today. It needs to be noted that recently I bought a 2nd freezer to store the yield from my vegetable garden, which consumes 0.63 kWh/day.

07-11-2021 – The night was less cold (9 C) than yesterday, but this is going to be an outlier. The coming 14 nights will be between 2-5 C. No urge to switch on the chair or foot heating, the infrared panel suffices.

08-11-2021 – US secretary Jennifer Granholm says on CNN [2:30] that Europe is facing up to five times higher gas prices this winter, which is exactly the point of this exercise.

[] – Gazprom dreht den Gashahn weiter auf

09-11-2021 – Coldest night so far in November: 3 C. Yesterday another purchase arrived to battle (self-inflicted) natural gas starvation: an electric blanket for 50 euro. Tried it on, but for now it is thermal overkill. A regular blanket in a living room of 16 C, with a single 300 Watt infrared panel on an easel next to the sofa, more than suffices for perfect comfort during television watching:

I notice that I get used to the new situation, there is no disernable decrease in comfort and can do my work as before. It surely helps that as of January 2020, two months before the Corona outbreak, I started to adapt to the practice of cold showers, with the purpose of strengthening my immune system, inspired by the work of the “iceman” Wim Hof. It took me 30 days to get used to a daily routine of ending a regular warm shower with 1 minute cold. The practice was further encouraged by Corona.

[] – The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial
[] – Smash Your Comfort Zone with Cold Showers: How to Boost Your Energy, Defeat Your Anxiety, and Overcome Unwanted Habits
[] – Wim Hof
[] – Benefits of cold showers
[] – Cold Shower Benefits for Your Health
[] – Cold shower benefits

11-11-2021 – Two days ago: 8 kWh, 0.34 m3 gas. In 2019, same date, it was 4 kWh, 4 m3 gas. In 2020, 5 kWh, 4 m3 gas. Swapping 1 m3 gas for 1 kWh is an excellent deal. My current contract: gas 84 cent, electricity 23 cent, that is 60 cent per day. But saving money is not the issue, the issue is to see if it is possible to create acceptable living conditions in November without natural gas and the answer is a clear yes. Well, at least for outside night temperatures above 0 C. In a couple of days, 2 extra infrared panels will be delivered, giving extra thermal leverage. When in December this experiment is over, I certainly will keep the current arrangement, with the minor adaption that in the morning the central heating will be switched on for 30 minutes to bring the room at 21 C and after 18:00 until bedtime will keep the living room thermostat at say 18 C and do the differing 3 C with localized infrared.

[] – Lukashenko threatens to cut off gas to Europe as migrant crisis escalates: Putin’s nuclear planes hold fresh bombing drills over Belarus and EU considers Trump-style border wall in major U-turn

Headlines like these are precisely the reason why I began this exercise.

Two new infrared panels arrived today, a small 130 Watt panel for under the desk to warm my legs and feet and a 2nd 300 Watt panel for the above the sofa, so I no longer need to carry the one on my desk to the other side of the living room at night.

12-11-2021 – I’m not a fan of Bill Maher, but last week he came with a surprising opinion regarding Covid and I can only agree:

Here my free advice to governments, addicted to the failed vaccination strategy: rather than having Corona-passports based on whether somebody is vaccinated or not, send everybody to his doctor and let him tick the following boxes: age, gender, length, weight, BMI, ethnicity, medical history, general fitness and every other relevant medical factors, based on a detailed analysis of people who ended up in hospital, IC or morgue. No political correctness. Based on this data, attribute to every individual a score, indicating the vulnerability of that individual for attracting a serious course of Covid-19 illness. Let individuals decide on the basis of this score if they want to be vaccinated. The healthy people with low scores, who are almost guaranteed to have an immune system that can deal with Covid all by itself, do not need to be vaccinated. Old and weak people are adviced to take the vaccine, but no obligation.

18-11-2021 – Outside temperatures are falling, eletricity consumption has increased to 12 kWh/day. The coming three nights will be slightly warmer, only to fall to near zero C until the end of the month:

Will have no trouble whatsoever to complete this experiment, as I still have an unused 300 Watt infrared panel in reserve. I’m still on track to slash my energy bill this month with at least 50%. So far, only one day above 3 euro energy consumption, where last year’s November average was 5.50 euro. For the rest, I am getting adapted to this new situation and it is unlikely I will return to old central heating habits; my little heat-bubble-behind-the-curtain is here to stay.

19-11-2021 – A fairly warm night, two more in the pipeline until the nightly temperature will drop to 0 C.

[] – Europe was already facing a winter gas crisis. The risks just got even bigger

The German Bundesnetzagentur has decided to suspend the certification process of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on a bureaucratic technicality, thereby seriously risking gas shortages in Europe, later this winter. They still can’t accept that Russia holds the energy cards, not the West, that is about to lose the geopolitical wrestling with Eurasia. Good riddance to the US empire and its British water carrier. Tighten the thumbscrews, Vlad! All it takes is a good trade war EU-UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol and a Chinese-North-Korean attack in East-Asia and we an dump the Anglos for good. Never waste a good crisis. A few weeks of the entire European population in the cold would achieve more than all those feelgood Vattenfall Swedish-feminized adds about “fossil free within one generation”, with high IKEA/Greta Thunberg/Pippi Långstrump-calibre:

A good space heating crisis could cause to move the public attention away from abstract long-term climate deliberations, towards a far more pressing direct fossil fuel SHORTAGES problem.

22-11-2021 – This was one of the coldest nights so far: 0 C.

26-11-2021 – With an outside temperature of 4 C, the two panels (300 Watt and 130 Watt) that have served so far adequately, have trouble keeping up. Max. inside temperature 18.8 C. Still no need to switch on extra capacity, but the tipping point is near.

27-11-2021 – Coldest night so far, roomtemperature 13.2 C this morning. Replaced the 130 Watt panel with the spare 300 Watt panel, so now my heating consists of 2 x 300 Watt infrared panels and thermo-wired chaircover. Clearly makes a different and is sufficient. The coming days will be 3-5 C warmer again. The experiment will be a success and I am not counting the days to switch on the central heating again, even looking forward to experimenting with thermal wired clothing. Unfortunately, I got an email yesterday that the Asian supplier will not be able to deliver in january due to “excessive demand”, which makes sense. Energy shortages in parts of China are worse than in Europe.

Just browsed through my historic energy provider data; 15 February was the record bill of all time, with a whopping 8.86 m3 gas used. Note that 1 m3 gas = 11 kWh. So in total that day 4 + 8.86 * 11 = 101.5 kWh were consumed. 1 m3 gas is roughly the equivalent of 1 liter gasoline. So, on cold day, almost a bucket of gasoline is burned to keep a house warm. That’s the equivalent of 120 km driving in a average-sized car.

The record for this month so far is November 14, with 12 kWh eletricity and 0.53 m3 gas or 12 + 5.83 = 15.8 kWh. In order to compare a kWh electricity with a kWh from gas, you need to factor in an efficiency of 60% for modern gas-fuelled power stations. Current contract price: 22 cent for 1 kWh electricity and 84 cent for 1 m2 gas or 7.6 cent for a thermal kWh. So a thermal kWh is still 3 times cheaper than an electric one. The huge gain achieved so far, nevertheless, is due to heating only that area where I actually am. The temperature difference on both sides of the curtain dividing the living room can be up to 4-6 C.

30-11-2021 – This is the last day of the experiment of living without central heating for an entire month. I’m pleasantly surprised how easy it was to adapt your old life to new circumstances. Data is coming in with 2 days delay, but already I can say that last years November energy bill of 152,- euro (gas + electriity) will be more than halved (ca. 70,-), after switching from gas + electricity to almost electricity only, without significant loss of comfort. In fact, infrared panels give a more pleasant, constant sort of heat than old school hot water radiators, that are switched on and off, with considerable hysteresis. I’m already looking forward to the delivery of ordered thermo-wired clothing and see if it is possible to live without heating at all. Spoiler: it probably is. If you can stay very warm on the sofa under a thermo-wired blanket in a cold home of 10 C, you know in advance that tight thermo-wired underware will do the job even better, reducing the energy bill to perhaps 1 kWh/day or 30 kWh/month = 8 euro. This could very well be a (temporary) solution for the upcoming fossil fuel energy scarcity. The adage must be: practice energy minimalism, warm your body, not the entire house, let alone the universe.

03-12-2021 – All the data are now in. During the last day of November I scored an inexplicable and disappointing 20 kWh electricity consumption, not sure what caused that? Did I forget to switch off the infrared panels over night?

[1] – European gas reserves

[] – On the cusp of Europe’s winter season, gas storage hits 10-yr low

A little note of appreciation from the energy provider.

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