I’ve just been reading a paper on energy use in the UK. They use less than half as much energy at home than we do, and I’ve been trying to figure out how. Apparently the average temperature of a British house went from 13°C in 1970 to 18° in 2000. That is 55° to 64° F. I haven’t seen a number on the average American house, but I’m pretty sure it is above 65°. We have a programmable thermostat, and keep the house at 65° in the daytime and 50° at night. It was 16° out all day yesterday, and only 7° this morning. The furnace has been laboring away.
Many European peasants as late as the 19th century made it through the winter by huddling together in bed, not eating much. In Germany and Scandinavia, the livestock barn was often one end of the house, so that the warmth helped heat the house. Livestock and people who stay warmer don’t need as much food for the winter. The 18th German immigrants to America were reportedly appalled that the Scots-Irish and English didn’t barn their animals, and the Germans were more successful in keeping them healthy through the winter.
I once lived in a two-story 8-room house, built in 1906, where the only heat was a small unvented gas space heater. There was no insulation, the wallpaper literally blew in the wind, and the cat’s water froze on the kitchen floor overnight. We wore layers and slept under down and wool comforters. Here, we are sometimes too warm in bed with just a thin cotton quilt and a medium-weight down comforter and the thermostat at 50°. Maybe it could go down to 45°. And we could get a cow or two – the cats don’t seem to be contributing much heat.