Post-Storm Sunday Morn

This morning it’s not especially cold out (27ºF/-3ºC), but a tad chillier than usual down in the kitchen and living area (48F/9c) in spite of being unusually warm inside (?62) when we went to bed.  The house doesn’t usually cool off that fast, but we did have high, stormy winds overnight which probably explains it (also, we slept in a lot later than usual.)  The good news is that the new chimney did not collapse in the blow (there were some doubts.)

We’ve pretty much renounced the space heaters since getting the wood stove installed– I have one heater plugged in to the portable programmable thermostat, set to 45º just in case.  (In case what?  Hm.  I guess in case I slip into a hypothermic coma here in the house, and so fail to keep the stove running– at least then the space heater will keep the pipes from bursting until my heirs can take possession of the house.)

Admittedly, though, this wood stove is seducing us into a bit more warmth than we’ve been used to.  It takes a while to heat up 300lbs of iron and the 50lbs of stone under it, but once that happens, it starts getting warm in here.  The problem is that for safety, efficiency, and emissions minimization, the stove has to burn at a certain minimum temperature of about 300-400ºF. But keeping the stove even just at 300º, consistently, takes the living areas up into the low- or even mid-60’s.  And I tell you, once it gets above 62 or 63 in here, I start getting drowsy and overheated.  It actually got to 66 at one point last week– I had to start pulling clothing off, and take a break out in garage until things cooled down.  This could all be fixed by taking down the quilt that keeps heat from going upstairs, or putting in a ventilation grate up to the bedroom– but that all seems backwards.

I love using the wood stove, though.  What it lacks in instant gratification, it makes up for in simplicity, beauty, and a tangible connection to the fuel that is keeping us warm[ish].  I love seeing the wood pile and admiring the uniqueness of each log as it goes into the fire.  I get to notice and envision what kind of tree each came from– oak, birch, beech– and I almost catch myself expressing gratitude to the trees for their help.  You don’t get that emotional connection to oil or propane.

Also, I love seeing the oil and propane delivery trucks driving in and out of the neighborhood, and knowing that none of them will be stopping at my house.

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5 Responses to “Post-Storm Sunday Morn”

  1. Lauren Says:

    The thing that strikes me with all of your posts is how much time and energy you are putting into monitoring the temperature of your home. It seems exhausting, and I am not sure that I would want the temperature of my dwelling to be a focal point of my life.

  2. coldhousejournal Says:

    Lauren– there’s not much time or energy involved in monitoring the temperature of the house. We have a digital thermometer on the kitchen island; I glance at it now and then. It also reads the temperature from a second wireless sensor which I move around from time to time. Most people spend as much time and energy checking what time it is throughout the day…

  3. Jane Says:

    Just discovered your blog from the NYTimes article and loving it. I’m in VT and not quite as cold-hardy as you are, but using a woodstove for my primary heat and feel quite comfortable with a “house” (really just my main room) temperature in the lower to mid-60s and can certainly tolerate around 55. My stove is also quite small so nothing approaching an overnight burn. It’s soapstone, which means it takes a long time to heat up. So I do use the boiler in my basement overnight, have it set to come on at 50, which is the minimum in which I can function in the AM to get the stove going again.

    Anway, just a word of caution about your stove temp. You may know this, but I haven’t read it in your blog entries. Even with well-seasoned dry wood, you’re running a big risk of building up creosote in the chimney (and thus a chimney fire) if you run a non-cat stove all the time at 300. Do check your chimney every few weeks until you get a sense of how quickly it’s building up. And absolutely without fail build a really hot fire — 450 to 500 — at least once a day, which will help to burn off the creosote that’s accumulated before it hardens.

    Stoves with catalytic technology, like the Woodstock Fireview, many of the Vermont Castings stoves and various other makers, can run safely for long periods at low temperatures, but the non-cat stoves like yours (and mine) can’t.

    I highly recommend, btw, the forums at Hearth.com. The experienced wood burners there coached me through my first year of burning with great patience and superb advice and continue to be a source of new information and even inspiration.

    • coldhousejournal Says:

      Thanks for the tips! Yes, hearth.com is great– would not have attempted to do my own install of the wood stove without information gleaned from there. Left to my own devices I’d probably light one, big, hot (500º) fire in the wood stove for about an hour or two each evening, and that would be it. J. is a around a lot more in the day, though, and seems to crave a consistent (even if relatively low) house temperature more than I do– so we do end up with some longer, cooler fires. I’ll check on the chimney as soon as it stops raining(!) out and see how much creosote we’ve accumulated in our chimney over this first month. Come visit if you’re ever in Portland!

  4. Jane Says:

    How’s your chimney? Had a chance to check it yet? I’m honestly kinda worried about your burning habits…

    If I’m ever in Portland (unlikely, alas), I’ll certainly look you guys up. And if you ever find yourself/selves on the western edge of VT, by all means let me know. It’d be nice to have visitors I didn’t have to stoke the stove up for!

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