Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 2011 Mid Month Weather Summary

[Forsyth Mo.] – January in southwest Missouri is normally moderately cold with a mean average temperature of 31.4F (West Plains 30 year data). We also normally about 1.31 inches of precipitation. (Data for West Plains)

So far this month, through the 15th, the Forsyth area was colder than normal with a mean temperature of 28.4 F (3 degrees below normal) and just two tenths tenth of an inch of precipitation. Unlike both coasts which have been hammered by the elements, it has been an uneventful winter here so far. You don’t have to go very far back in time, however, to know that ice storms can be our Achilles heel. We still have a lot of winter to go yet.

So, while we are just a month, figuratively, into the winter season, it’s been a pretty good ride. I only hope we get some more water before the end of the month.

My heat pump seems to quit at 30F!

As long as the outside temperature is above 30F my heat pump works pretty well. But, once a real cold spell sets in, I’ve noticed my heating costs have soared. The unit runs continuously and then at some point, gives up and kicks in the auxiliary heat which actually does warm the house. Auxiliary heat is also known as emergency heat and involves the activation of heating strips in the furnace itself. This is a rather inefficient process and one that uses up a lot of electricity. I think even baseboard heating would be better during really cold spells.

Overnight on January the 12th, the outside temperature got down to the low teens (see graph). This was combined with a cold day to bring the average temperature down to 13.4F. As a result the heat pump was on continuously and was able to maintain an indoor reading of 70F only by cycling the auxiliary heating coils on and off. In the graph the line just below the 70 degree mark was the actual core temperature of my house. The ‘load’ figure is derived from subtracting the ‘core’ temperature from the average outside temperature. Even a small increase in load factors above 40 degrees results in an exponential jump in kilowatts burned.

If I see a prolonged cold spell coming, I might just elect to shut down the house, turn the thermostat to 56F and go stay in a cheap hotel room for the duration. I think it would almost be cheaper that way.

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