It’s at this time of year I am so pleased that I live on a lovely well insulated narrowboat that keeps me nice and warm. Nice and warm that is providing I keep bringing bags of firewood to the boat to keep the stove going and keep me warm. It’s also at this time of year I have to reach into my pocket and splash out on a few bags of coal. It would be possible for me to go the whole winter just burning timber but as we reach mid January and into February the weekly trips with bags of firewood and the more attention the stove requires when burning timber starts to become a drag and its also more difficult to keep the fire going through the night so I have dug deep and bought four bags of smokeless coal for the outrageous sum of £42.
Coal is great it will last four times longer than timber and burn hotter and give you an even heat over many hours, you simply light the fire set the air flow and forget about the stove for a few hours. Compare that with timber and you are up and down to the stove every thirty mins if not sooner adding more timber increasing the air flow to warm the boat or reducing to cool the boat. The down side with coal and particularly smokeless coal apart from it costing money is you get loads of ash.
Growing up as a child our house was pretty cold during the winter months, a gas fire replacing what would have been a wood coal cooking range in the living room and that was it, well apart from an old probably lethal gas fire on the first floor landing that from memory my parents only ever lit when the temperature outside perhaps hit -10. Me and my sisters had the two bedrooms in the top of the house and my pillow was right under the window and It was a regular thing for me to have frost on the inside of the window in the morning and with my head only a few inches from the glass. My breath and body heat would have contributed to the condensation that formed on the glass and then froze. Sometimes this frost was short lived as the day would warm and would melt but during very cold spells this would build up into a reasonably thick layer of ice and that’s when I used to chip away at the ice that had now formed on the glass. Boy it was cold at times but it did me no great harm. So one year we insulated the roof space (it’s hard to imagine that people never had their houses insulated) and it was a noticeable improvement and way more comfortable as what heat used to percolate up through the house actually hung about for a bit before disappearing. I still had frost on the inside of my window over night and the mornings were cold but never had the build up of ice as I did before. So as I know how a bit of insulation has made and makes my life more comfortable I use this to help make my bees that bit more comfortable during the cold dark winter months. So what I do for my bees is very simple I provide them with loft insulation in the form of a slab of 25mm insulation over the crown board. On most of my roves I have filled in what I consider the pointless cavity in the roof with insulation and then covered that over with plywood and a simple baton around the edge with the advantage of the insulation is fitted all year round.
I also go one stage further especially if I need to feed fondant and this time its a piece of 50mm insulation with a hole in it to accommodate a tub or bag of fondant.
I obviously dont go mad over insulation and could do my beekeeping without but the bees definitely benefit from this bit of roof insulation especially now that most beekeepers have open mesh floors. The big strong colonies are always going to be ok but I have seen small weak colonies come through the winter in good shape and would place a good bet that they would have perished without the insulation.
Just wanted to add this last photo as it’s been a few years now since we have had a decent winter with a frozen canal and strangely I would like one like this next year please.