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Densha

Why do people always seem to think everything in Japan is different from elsewhere?

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Melandir

The central heating in my apartment in Belgium is powered by fuel oil/kerosene (something like that) with very very old infrastructure... brrrr I'm still scared of what will happen would a fire occur. At least there's tons of fire alarm equipment installed. (and yes it works) When maintenance is done the smell of oil spreads through the whole house, blegh.

 

Densha

 

Kerosene is safer than a gas pipe in case of fire, I have removed the gas cooker and moved to an electrical induction one and I feel better now that my house does not have any gas inside

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Densha

Well, the central heating is fuelled by kerosene, but we have a gas cooker as well. The gas comes from gas cylinders. So double the danger! :P

Both the kerosene and gas have to be refuelled at some point because there is no underground infra for it at all.

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spacecadet

Back to topic, I thought driers were becoming more prevalent with suburbanization In Japan. True or myth?

My mother-in-law lives in a traditional house in a rural area and she has a dryer, but she usually hangs clothes outside because it works better. She has one of those combination washer/dryers and they really don't dry very well. Those combo machines are extremely popular there because most people don't want to dedicate the space to two machines. I think probably even a lot of newer apartments have those machines as a modern amenity, but still people hang clothes on their balconies because the sun and wind dry clothes more efficiently.

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Sean

Kerosene heaters are the worst.  At my current place we just use the airconditioning units for heat, but at a previous apartment we had to use a single kerosene heater.  This was not hooked up to any system, we literally had to buy 20 litre jerry cans full of kerosene and manually fill it up every 6 hours of use.  This meant taking the tiny little can out of it, sometime in the middle of the night, going outside (in the freezing cold), putting a nozzle on the jerry can and trying to fill the can in the dark without spilling kerosone on yourself (almost never succesfully accomplished). THen coming back inside, removing your kerosene soaked clothing, washing your hands and doing yet another load of laundry because you don`t want to wash kerosene clothes with other ones. Then you could turn it on and feel that sense of dread that the 6 hour clock until the next time you had to do that had just started ticking down again.

 

On cold days we had to repeat that  process 4 times a day.

 

And I should stress that the building we lived in was brand new, built only 2 years before we moved in, as was the heater.  The latest technology in the most up to date apartment around. 

 

This is why I laugh when people talk about how technologically advanced Japan is.  While some stuff is advanced, often times it feels like the economy here is mainly focused on trying to build the most technically advanced square shaped wheel possible (if you get my point).

Edited by Sean

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miyakoji

At some point I accepted that I was meant to freeze :)

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railsquid

This is why I laugh when people talk about how technologically advanced Japan is.  While some stuff is advanced, often times it feels like the economy here is mainly focused on trying to build the most technically advanced square shaped wheel possible (if you get my point).

 

Yup, hence my point earlier about the high-tech toilet seats with the built-in heating... a technological workaround for a fundamental architectural failing.

 

FWIW, in Germany I lived in a series of late 19th-century apartment buildings with coal-fired ovens as room heating. Basical a tall tiled brick oblong in one corner of the room; feed it between 4 and 8 briquettes of compressed coal and once it warms up (takes a couple of hours) it keeps the room nice and warm for about a day (assisted by the late-19th century double glazing. In cold periods you just need to top it up once or twice a day. Sand-like ashes drop into a tray for removal; very little risk of accidental fires.

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spacecadet

Yup, hence my point earlier about the high-tech toilet seats with the built-in heating... a technological workaround for a fundamental architectural failing.

Plenty of us in the northeast US living in 100 year old houses in sub-freezing temps "heated" by two or three steam radiators in our living and dining rooms would love to have heated toilet seats in our unheated bathrooms. This failing of construction isn't unique to Japan, even among advanced countries... but the solution pretty much is.

Edited by spacecadet

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kvp

The roman solution (2000 years old) was to have a single fire in the basement and route the hot air through ducts below and in the walls. This means the smoke don't get into the rooms while the heat is exchanged with the walls. The common building strategy was to place the bathroom nearest to the fire, so it can also heat the bath water and the storage rooms at the far end of the building, so they stay cold. For less luxurious buildings the above mentioned tile oven was used that can be fed with coal or out in the country with hay. These heating systems are still in use in many european countries. In Hungary they also used geotermal hot water since the 14th century (and it's still in use) and started using fire heated water since the 18th. Most modern buildings use some form of water heating (better than hot air, safer than steam). For example the 40 year old house i live in has a radiator under the bathtub, so it's already nice and warm even before i fill it. The house uses remote heating, meaing it's reciving heat from the secondary cooling circuit of the local power/heat station (running on natural gas) through two heat exchangers. This gives warm water for the taps and hot water for the heating system and as a byproduct, electricity for the grid. Afaik this setup was first used in New York by the first Edison power plant.

 

Now compare this to the classic japanese solution of having a central fire whose smoke is ducted through the hay roof for distribution and heat exchange. That is a very efficient and good solution as long as the fire is large enough to provide enough heat for the whole house and safe because the fire is in the center surrounded by stone and practical because you can cook on it. Strangely during the early urban construction many larger new buildings were equipped with some form of central heating, but this was completly forgotten after the 2nd world war and mostly skipped for residental buildings. The solutions were kerosine heaters, heated toilet seats and coal/electric kotatsu-s, mimicking the heating effect of the original fire in a smaller scale. I do understand that it's way cheaper to provide less heat and more locally, so you don't have to insulate the building, but that as it was said above the people in these buildings 'were meant to freeze'.

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Kabutoni

In regard to housing, isolation and heating, I hope everybody realises that Japan is an earthquake plagued country. Any added weight (isolation), will make the building heavier, which will not abide well in an earthquake. Any added central heating will be more prone to be damaged with a small earthquake and more prone to cause a serious accident. Small individual heaters (electric and concentrated ones (kotatsu)) and floor heating are thus a more popular choice. Keeping dense urbanization in mind, you don't want fireball explosions with every little shrug from planet earth.

 

P.s. we don't heat our house. We just put on some extra socks and drink grog so to speak.

Edited by Toni Babelony

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kvp

You are right. But using the american west coast method of wooden buildings with lightweight rockwool isolation, airtight double glazed single plastic frame windows and a central heating oven with clean hot air ducts routed around the house would be just as good and are pretty quake safe. Having a kerosine heater would be more dangerous and i think this is the reason for having an internal little can instead of just hooking up the 20 liter can with a hose. I would really like to know what is the most common heating method for the really cold regions of Japan, where a few extra socks would not be enough.

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railsquid

In regard to housing, isolation and heating, I hope everybody realises that Japan is an earthquake plagued country. Any added weight (isolation), will make the building heavier, which will not abide well in an earthquake. Any added central heating will be more prone to be damaged with a small earthquake and more prone to cause a serious accident. Small individual heaters (electric and concentrated ones (kotatsu)) and floor heating are thus a more popular choice. Keeping dense urbanization in mind, you don't want fireball explosions with every little shrug from planet earth.

 

Our house (new build) is well-insulated and double-glazed without compromising earthquake durability (though it helps that it's built on flat land which was around before the idea of filling in Tokyo Bay occurred to anyone helps). Some sort of central heating system probably wouldn't make it any more stable, on the other hand decent insulation and passive solar heating (i.e. the sun is not blocked by other buildings on most sides) means central heating isn't essential in what passes for winter here. Unlike many other buildings I've lived in in Tokyo, some of which would be illegal under German (European) heating/insulation regulations.

 

Those vast swathes of Tokyo dominated by densely-packed crappily-built mid/late-Showa era kerosene-heated shacks on the other hand...

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Kabutoni

Just at breakfast, I asked my wife about heating in the high-north. She said it's mostly central heating that is popular there, as well as stoves/kerosine heaters in older places. And extra socks. Three pairs. There is a reason companies like Uniqlo and Ito-Yōkado have clothing lines that add extra insulation to the body (e.g. Heattech).

 

Also, it's not so much a loss of temperature, but more that there is no real need for that in the regions where a lot of people are concentrated. This is because there are only a few cold months per year, as opposed to most West, Middle and East European places with only summer bringing pleasant temperatures.

 

This is just a personal theory, but a reason for kotatsu and not-so-good-isolation could be that Japanese houses are not built for visitors of the people who live in them. As opposed to Western culture, in Japan, people don't visit each other at home regularly (if at all), so there is no need to make irregulars feel comfortable. Hence the focus on individual and small space focussed heating.

 

As mentioned earlier in this thread, floor heating is getting more and more popular as well. It's quite surprising to me, since this is a typical Korean thing to have. A friends' place has floor heating on the lower floor and it abides the three floor house pretty well.

 

We also have a house which is just three years old, with double glazing and so on. It is significantly better insulated than the house of the parents-in-law (who live about two/three hours to the north), but it stands out from what else is built around it. Especially since we live next to a flood area, the houses in the lower parts of the 'hood' (it's a former Korean ghetto) are old shōwa-style shacks, some even still partially of basic wood and corrugated plates. Like our place, almost all houses are heated with external LNG canisters, since there is no public/private gas connection available. In the place we live you can clearly see what improvements have been made in housing construction the few decades, as there is constant renovation, destruction and construction going on.

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