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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Old Fools Journal: Tom Swaim and His Electric Mattress Pad

Of course as soon as it got cold my electric mattress pad decided to take a vacation and go south for the winter. It was an old 12 volt model I had left over from my trucking days and I have had it about 15 years so I guess that is not too bad except that now the same item cost one hundred (count'em 100) dollars. Now I know I am a real candy ass but I figure that I am between 70 percent and 90 percent finished with living and any discomfort to prove my manliness is just not going to happen if I can help it.

This old bus is state of the art insulated 1951 style which means it is insulated with cardboard and some foil. Needless to say that when it is below freezing outside and without heat it is below freezing inside about like a cardboard box. I sleep on a thick air mattress ($8.75 at the Chinese outlet-walmart) by choice. It is the most comfortable mattress I have had in years but there seems to be no amount of padding I can put on it when the temperature drops into the thirties that keeps my body heat from wicking through it especially when the wind blows around this giant sized beer can. When the heated mattress pad decided to vacation I had to get into a sleeping bag when it got really cold but no more. I now have a new electric mattress pad and all is well with the universe.

There is one problem.and that is I don't want to get up. I have become more like Br'er Bear this winter than ever. I wake during daylight hours but just barely.
While on the subject of heat during these cold times I would like to introduce an oldie but goody. My nephew gave this to me 10 or 15 years ago but I had no idea that I would ever use it. It is a 240 volt 2400 watt electric heater from the fifties (I believe). I never thought I would use it and took it because I really like the style. Not many houses are wired with 240 volt outlets. It turns out that when our house was rewired it was not only done with really heavy duty wiring but a 240 volt plug was put in next to the living room window for a window air unit. Well last winter our central heat quit when it got really cold and I took this out of storage and put it to work. As soon as it warms up the central heat works again. It just does not work when you need it. This little heater heats the floor rather than the ceiling and it does it with considerably less electricity. What a concept.

I refurbished this jewel during the summer and it heats our under 700 sq ft. (65 sq m) tiny house better than the central unit. I don't think much of central units.
It is really heavy duty inside and not a transistor in sight. It is an example of true electro-mechanical. That tube at the bottom of the case is the thermostat sensor that operates the thermostat in the upper left corner mechanically. The cast aluminum fins have the heater elements inside and there are two of them. The electric fan is five blade so it runs very quite. The motor itself is 120 volt and taps off between the heater elements to get its voltage. It has a mechanical over temperature switch on the casting.

When it comes on it takes a few minutes to warm up but once warm it radiates heat constantly whether the thermostat has it on or not. The case never gets too hot to touch. It is completely baby safe. What a masterful piece of engineering.
A new paint job was in order so I made it stand out. I left the name plate. What steampunk junky could resist a name like "Electromode"? When it is cold and blowing outside and the kids come in they are drawn to it like to a real stove.
As you can see by the growing sawdust pile I am back to cutting wood. This time I quit when my back starts to hurt. I am a quick learner when pain is involved.
I am a couple of days ahead now and I'm comfortable with that. It has been warming up a little so I have not been having a 24 hour fire.

I was having a little trouble with getting the stove to draw so I took this 18 inch section above the roof off. The pipe is only 2.75 inches (7cm) in diameter so it is small to start with but it was choked down to about 1.5 inches. No wonder it wanted to smoke.










Not very big to start with. The sections below the roof line were not nearly so bad. It was only the part out in the cold.






It did not get replaced and it draws better than ever.
There is still some leaking around the pipe but that is soon to be fixed. This little pipe goes up though a plate over the old 7 inch stovepipe fitting so I am going to put a cap on that. Six year ago I gave away my old one because I would never need it again. Yeah right.
Here are the links to the stove post so far.
wood stove Nov 2, 2010
wood stove Nov 6, 2010

The garden and play yard does not look so good in mid January. Everything is a mess since the storm and some really hard freezes. Our Aloe plants even froze. Everything is done for except my flower pot of mustard greens. I planted that in the fall because I had a few seed left over from another planting and it has kept me in all the mustard greens I want. The seed I planted in the ground did not do anything.

I am almost ashamed to show this as a winter picture after looking at all the pictures of places where it really gets cold and nasty. Especially post from our friend Christer in Sweden. I have to put on a jacket just to look at his photos.

As you can see I have things to fix but I do not think I will plant this year. It is too expensive and I am having a hard time dealing with failure. The green you see is the clover coming up.

About a week ago I tripped the main circuit breaker on my brain and when I tried to reset it I must have gone into safe mode as I have not been able to think, concentrate or figure out anything. Especially concentrate. I guess my brain was taking some time off. It keeps telling me that it is the most important part of me but sometimes my stomach says the same thing and when my bowel says they rule, they win. I think maybe winter time lethargy is serious this year. I seem to be taking the "indifferent" part of lethargy serious.

8 comments:

Gunnar Berg said...

Sunny today. Still -2F. A modern furnace is a thing of beauty and a wonder of efficiency. They don't make them like they used to. Thank God.

Rat Trap Press said...

Nice job on the electric heater. We had something similar at one time but it ate electricity like crazy. I couldn't afford to run it.

Ben in Texas said...

Whats the secret password to watch the video? Yes, it ask for one.

Glad you checked in , I was getting worried. Stay warm as you can, or move farther south!!! Waaay South,Central Mexico comes to mind.

Steven Cain said...

Like the heater... nice work.

I'm going to go look at an old electric oven a boy up the road has... American Comfort? Does that ring a bell? He says it has the four usual elements on top and a fifth in the center you can drop a pan down into. Supposed to be in really good shape. I'll send a picture your way when I meet the beast in person.

Glad to hear you're easin' up on that back. If you lived 'round the corner you could stay inside, warm, drinkin' some wine and bloggin' about how my noisy chainsaw runs all damn day and never give cutting firewood another thought.

Lord Wellbourne said...

Glad your back is sending clear notices when it's time to back off! Love all the improvised heating systems! I am keeping them on my mental back burner. Never know when I'll need them here on the tundra.

Oldfool said...

Sorry about forgetting to set the video to public Ben. I seem to be forgetting a lot of stuff lately. I'll forget this before bedtime. You ain't missing anything.
Moving south is always on my mind but moving is just too much work.
American Comfort is a big company but I don't know if they manufacture or just distribute of, for that matter, where they are even locate.
We use so much electricity here that we get a discount. Currently (get it?) it is 6.5 cents a kw.
I love my wood stove. It is going now as the temp is dropping down into the low 30's tonight.
Steven my tolerance for snow is zero.

Ben in Texas said...

About your heating choices..I had an Aunt in NM that had a pellet stove , The pellets looked like rabbit droppings , auto feed into the fire box. Worked good as I remember and the pellets came in a 50 pound bag

I had that issue here getting my fireplace to draw when real cold. Found in my case, just light a newspaper torch and hold it in the firebox to prewarm and start the draw, then all was well.

Lisa D said...

You did a sweet paint job on that heater! Snow is pelting down right now in northern Arkansas' Ozark Mountains. Here at our little shack in town ( a hundred year old shotgun house) we burn propane for heat. At our other place...an 18 foot travel trailer in the woods, we're building a cordwood addition onto the front. It houses a wood burner that is usually sufficient for heating both areas. We don't have the roof on it yet so did stoop to using the small on board propane heater once this year. If I have my way, eventually we'll have wood stoves at both places. There's nothing better!