Welcome to Intelligent Heating – a journey through home-brew heating

Introduction

This blog will detail my journey through building an intelligent home heating system. Using free and open source software such as: FreeBSD, Python, PostgreSQL and HTSQL, open source hardware such as: Arduino and Raspberry Pi and  a host of other cool additions (including components printed on a MakerBot 3D printer) I am going to overhaul my heating system and blog the progress along the way.

Some background

We currently heat most of our house using a pellet stove. A pellet stove basically burns compressed wood or biomass pellets (in Italy sometimes olive pits) to create a source of heating for your home. A couple of tons of pellets will last us all winter and normally costs between $400 – $600 depending on type and supplier.

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In February 2012 our pellet stove stopped working. When we spotted a problem with it, we consulted the user manual, took the side off and cleaned the whole stove out including the fan, but this didn’t have any effect, so we called out the repair guy. Unfortunately it was going to take a couple of weeks until he could get to us so we had to fall back on the old baseboard heaters that came fitted when we bought the house.

Old base board heaters

Old base board heaters

Throughout the house we had the thermostats set on the baseboard heaters for around 60 degrees F which supplemented the heat from the pellet stove. After receiving our first winter electricity bill, we decided to cut down on the use of the heaters to keep costs low. However once the pellet stove broke we had little choice but to use the baseboard heaters to keep the house warm, and we soon found out this had costs us a small fortune.

These things are possibly one of the most inefficient means of heating a house. This we discovered after receiving a $600 electricity bill from the UI company for a single month… ouch.

For those of you not aware, Connecticut has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. The 2008 OLR report placed CT in the number 2 spot when it comes to electricity costs. Coupled with the tropical storm Irene last year and the freak October snow-storm CT residents were not only dealing with high kWh costs but also periods of blackouts running into the days due to the damage caused by falling trees.

The combined cost of electricity and lack of service at points led me to investigate, how could we power and monitor our heating systems at minimal cost whilst optimizing our electricity usage and room temperature?

I hope to answer the above questions with this blog, and if lucky be able to demonstrate a cheap and cool way of doing it.

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