Heating Our House: The Inspection & Results
Heating Our House: Wood Stove or Outdoor Furnace?
Well, folks. Not only did we decide but once the decision was made, we couldn't wait until summer to stop paying for oil and start heating with wood. The comments you all left regarding your experiences were so interesting and helpful. We were already burning wood when I published that post, but we really wanted to hear your experiences and have you share them with each other. I hope you aren't offended. We honestly weren't trying to be misleading, we had just gotten ahead of ourselves (and my ability to post instantaneously).
When it came down to it, we realized that we are more "wood stove people" than we are "outdoor furnace people". I really have no idea what "outdoor furnace people" are like, but we did know that we would love having the stove inside. Friends and family (and commenters) warned us of the mess that having wood indoors can make, but after burning wood inside now for a month, I can honestly say there is very little mess and what little is there doesn't bother us at all. Jamey is very conscientious when he hauls it in and the ash out, the wood box contains mess well and only an occasional use of the little stove brush and shovel is required every day or so to keep it looking tidy. There is more dust in the room where the stove is and it decorates the cobwebs nicely, making them more visible. But this is a plus! Now I can actually see them:-).
Jamey re-purposed an old hog shed into our wood shed. Sam stacked much of this wood with Jamey.
We bought a new stove (for efficiency purposes). The size was recommended based on our 1900 square foot home. We had it professionally installed for peace of mind. Our chimneys would have required rebuilding, so we opted to have a stove pipe go up through the house. Above the living room, the stove pipe runs up through a closet and then up through the attic and out the roof. The stove is positioned on the first floor, in the living room, right beside the play/school room door which is where we spend most of our time in the winter (doing school). These two rooms stay very comfortable (between 70 and 76 on the coldest days, up to 80 if the weather is mild and we let it) while the other rooms downstairs are on the cool side (low to mid 60s in the morning, climbing to 70 on sunny days-- way better than mid 50s with oil heat). Heat rises nicely up the stairs at the other end of the living room, keeping the kids rooms comfortable. Our bedroom, which is back a hallway upstairs is cooler, but perfect
The shiny, new stove pipe and two of our ancient chimneys (the openings of which are the size of a single brick).
Reversing the ceiling fan in the living room helps to spread out the heat into the kitchen and dining room on days we want to spend more time in those rooms. In those rooms, I'm more comfortable with a sweatshirt on, but the wood heat still feels significantly warmer than the oil. In the living room and school room, just long sleeves or even short sleeves (!) are most comfortable.
Preparing the location (just between the play/school room and living room).
With newer stoves, more attention is required to keeping your fire in the temperature zone that will allow the smoke in the stove to be burned as well (secondary combustion) so creosote levels are kept to a minimum. A magnetic stove thermometer that clings to the stove pipe or stove top allows us to watch this. This takes practice and we're learning that building smaller, hot fires allows us to keep it in the zone without having to cut back on the air. Burning a larger fire leads to a fire that's too hot. This requires you to cut back on the air and you end up with more of a smoldering fire (which does happen overnight when you can't watch it) but which can keep your fire from being hot enough to burn off the creosote.
There's an art to it all for sure, but it's a really fun art that is rewarding both in knowing we are off oil and can keep our family warm and toasty even if the lights go out. The smell of wood burning when the door is opened makes it seem like we're living with a camp fire (which we love). At this point, we're choosing to buy our wood, happy to help out local farmers and construction folks who need the extra money over the winter.
I wondered about having the kids around the fire. I knew Sam (9) and Sadie (6) would keep their distance, but even Miriam (2 and a half) has done great. She ignores the stove, while the other two cozy up to it to read books or to get warm in the morning while the rest of the house is cool. The screen helps them keep their distance and we have a no running/wrestling in the living room rule. A baby gate is placed in the doorway between the play room and living room when we have company with toddlers or excitable kids that may not yet be used to us having a stove just inside the living room.
Jamey is an early riser (naturally and due to his work schedule) so he builds the first fire in the morning, making sure it's not too hot (and therefore requires watching). By the time we come downstairs, it's warming up nicely. I usually put more wood on around 10:30 or so and again around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. When he gets home around 4 or 5, it's ready for another helping. Often, in the evenings, we build it up again to keep us toasty in that room, then larger logs are placed on the fire and the air is cut back to let it burn overnight (without the risk of it getting too hot). In the morning, there are always plenty of hot coals and new logs ignite quickly.
We are so happy about our decision. In the past, we've, in many ways, dreaded winter. It meant being cold and still having to pay large oil bills (last winter we spent $1900 on oil). Now, winter is pretty fun. We enjoy building fires, being warm and stacking wood. And we don't miss the oil truck one bit.
Sometimes we just look at each other and grin (all goofy-like) because the house is warm, because we are warm, because we're heating with wood, and because it just feels like us.
Speaking of houses and heating them, remember my friend who was building a green (not the color, sillies) house in New Hampshire? Well, she wrote an excellent post about life two years in. (Don't forget to check out the back posts about the building process). Pin It