When I posted on my project to convert a storage barn into an efficient home office, I noted that we installed heavy layers of insulation, as well as ensuring plenty of natural light.
Now that I'm approaching my first winter in the office, I've learned a thing or two about efficient heating for a home office situation. Here are a few useful tidbits:
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
As mentioned above, we leaned heavily on insulation when creating my home office. And I am now ridiculously thankful for it. Most mornings when I step into my office, it is considerably warmer than the chilly outside—even before any type of heating is turned on. And it warms up fast as soon as I need it to.
Use The Sun
Passive solar architecture, or the use of day lighting to heat a building, is one of the most efficient ways we can use solar energy. But it is particularly valuable in a home office situation, where the structure is mostly used during the day. So far, with 40 degree mornings that rapidly warm up into the 50s or 60s, I find the need for heating is kept to a minimum during the day. And while I often use my office at night in the warmer months, as the weather has turned colder I have taken to working in the house when a night shift beckons—drastically reducing the need for additional heating.
Choose Your Heating According to Your Needs
In my original post on constructing my home office, I noted that we were putting in a wood stove that I planned to use mostly in the mornings—creating a hot, fast fire that would burn cleanly and efficiently, and would then emanate heat from the stove and surrounding slate well into the afternoon. It's a strategy that has worked well on days that I am here all day, and where the weather is likely to stay cold.
But sometimes even bloggers leave the house for meetings—and on those days it seemed a waste to fire up a stove for just a few hours of comfort. So instead, I picked up a tiny electric space heater on Freecycle (yes, as Lloyd has noted before, Freecycle really does work!) that allows me to warm my immediate vicinity quickly, and turn it off when it's not needed. By allowing myself some flexibility with heating sources, I'm able to keep my wood consumption down to a level that (I hope) will allow me to fuel the stove primarily, maybe even totally, with downed wood from my surrounding woodland. (See Lloyd's post on why heating with wood is far from environmentally benign.)
Wear Some Bloody Gloves
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I should note that I am typing this with fingerless gloves on. (And that's not just an excuse for typos!) Wearing layers, and even thick slippers and gloves, is not only a comfort thing—it's a central strategy to greener heating. Lloyd has already invoked Jimmy Carter in his piece on why insulating your body is cheaper and more effective than insulating your home. But much like passive solar, this wisdom is particularly important for your average shed worker—because we are usually solitary creatures. Heating a home filled with several human bodies is much more efficient than heating a building with one occupant. And given the fact that in the average home, many family members may have different levels of commitment to efficient heating, and different levels of tolerance for wrapping themselves up in rugs, it often becomes a tricky balancing act in familial diplomacy.
In the home office, we have no such concerns. We are our own arbiters of comfort and efficiency. We can choose to be a little cold if we want, and we can choose to dress up like a yeti and nobody is any the wiser. Given that we are talking about a single occupant too, the notion of insulating that one most important source of heat as effectively as possible becomes key to a greener, more efficient home office.
Of course, telecommuting's hidden eco-benefit of peeing in your yard get's a little more complicated when you have to unwrap yourself first. But you can't win 'em all.