How much wood?

Editor’s note: This is a reprint of one of Ted Shapiro’s original Weather Whys columns.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck … no, we’re not doing that one. Instead, we’re going to talk about actual wood. As in, how much have you gone through during the cold snaps this winter, and how can you compare energy use so far this year to other years?

Well, one good way of measuring how cold it has been, compared to other days, weeks, months or years, is to use the rather oddly named “heating degree days. Great. “What in the world is a heating degree day?

It is a measure of energy use, and here is how it is calculated: If the average daily temperature (high plus low divided by 2) is below 65, it is assumed you need energy to warm your home.

Here is an example: high of 20, low of 0. Average for that day is 10. 

Next, you simply subtract that day’s average temperature, 10, from 65. So, in this example, 65 minus 10 equals 55. 

That day would be said to have had 55 heating degree days.

The higher the degree-day value, the colder it has been, and the more energy you have used.

There are many ways heating degree days can be used, and here’s one of them. Let’s say you are moving from Caribou to Boston, and you’re going to need to heat roughly the same amount of living space. Well, you can expect to use approximately half as much fuel. How could you know this? Because Caribou has an annual average of about 9,500 heating degree days, while Boston averages about 5,000.

Incidentally, Caribou’s coldest month on record (records at Caribou date back to 1939) was January 1994. It is the only month on record in which more than 2,000 heating degree days were amassed at Caribou, and it is also the only month on record in which the average temperature for the entire month was below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brrrrr! (Not Aaron)

Meteorologist Ted Shapiro wrote his column “Weather Whys” during the 15 years he was a Presque Isle resident. Although he now lives in southwest Florida, he thought his loyal readers might enjoy a few encore presentations, which will appear in these pages from time to time.

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