Last Report of a Crackpot: How Much Energy to Use the Toilet?

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Thermostat Chicken King
In the game of thermostat chicken, Turboglacier is holding a lead. The blogger from Portland, Maine, has not yet turned on the heating. The "crackpot" title relates to Turboglacier's penchant for musing on the condition of the unheated human. Hoping not to see his name and the word "crackpot" in the same sentence again, Turboglacier has resigned himself to discontinue posting on the "topic of home-heating/cold-adaptation/practical thermodynamics". But he leaves us with one last thought: on the topic of toilet thermodynamics.

If you ever wanted (or just discovered you want) to learn just how much energy it takes to heat the cold water which comes into your house with every flush, Turboglacier answers. And he provides a handy formula for calculating the case in your own household.Apparently, these are things you think about when you are really cold. We can imagine Turboglacier regretfully pushing the lever, watching as all that room temperature water is replaced by the frigid, fresh supply. Feeling what little warmth his body generates being sapped to warm the toilet water.

Toilet Thermodynamics
We wonder how much warmth the brain generates doing basic algebra? In spite of the cold, Turboglacier has managed to deliver a formula for calculating the coal or oil required to warm the toilet water, or to envision that warmth in terms of the wattage of the light bulb that could be constantly left on with that amount of energy.

Since Turboglacier's lesson on the calculation cannot be improved (don't miss the advanced version in the comments), we refer you to his blog, May Shrink or Fade, for the details. But we will divulge the outcome. Turboglacier reckons that he could light a 14W lightbulb, which equates to using 1/4 pound of coal per day -- but that is for one person in a freezing house: the temperature differential between the incoming water and the room temperature is quite small in the crackpot's house in Portland, Maine.

Constructive Solutions
For the average couple living at 69°F (20.5C), energy use increases to power an 84W bulb, or uses 1.75 pounds of coal per day to generate the electrical power which is required just to heat the toilet water. Truly earning the title of crackpot, Turboglacier goes on to list the potential options to reduce the energy use of a toilet:

  • Number 1: Insulate your toilet. It will be the perfect match for your shagadelic refrigerator!
  • Number 2: Install a low-flow toilet. Turboglacier rejects this on economic principles. Perhaps he should take a look at hacking his toilet to save water.
  • Number 3: Cluster toilet use in time. Since we imagine the king of thermostat chicken has few visitors, this one is for the rest of us.
  • Number 4: If it's yellow, let it mellow.
  • Number 5: Ditch the toilet, and build an outhouse. TH goes TG one better: get a composting toilet

A Final Request
Which leads us to our final request: how about one more crackpot report Turboglacier? We want to know how much warmth the biodegradation activity of a composting toilet would add to a house in Portland, Maine, with no central heat turned on?

Thanks to tipster C Neal! And good luck, Turboglacier. Let us know when (if) you break down and turn the heat on!

More on home-heating/cold-adaptation/practical thermodynamics
May Shrink or Fade
TreeHugger Forums: Have You Turned on The Heat Yet?
Save Energy the Shagadelic Way: How to Insulate Your Refrigerator
Hacking the toilet to save water
More serious tips
Green basics: ecological footprint
Answers to All Your Electricity Questions Help Save Energy
Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Save Water, Too

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