How Much Wood Would A Cold House Burn, If A Cold House Would Burn Wood?

People have been asking how much wood we’re using.  It’s not easy to measure precisely (there is no meter, and the utility does not send a monthly bill).  But I kept track for a bit: since this time last week, we’ve burned 11 “large”, 13 “medium”, and 11 “small” pieces of 16″ length wood (not counting bits of scrap for starting fires.)  Extremely roughly, the large, medium and small pieces average 7, 5, and 3 lbs, respectively.  So, that comes to 175 lbs of wood this week.  Slightly more than my body weight…

In the bigger picture, we bought two cords of wood last fall.  They’re stacked separately.  One of them we haven’t touched.  The other, just by eyeball, has 40% remaining.  And we started the stove on 12/28… so that’s 6/10th of a cord in 40 days, or 1/10th cord per week.  I’ll be able to give a more accurate summary when winter’s over.

In the meantime, I’m starting to notice more and more solar gain, which is nice.  Gives the feeling that even if the stove went kaput, we’d be perfectly fine till spring.  The day before yesterday, for the first time, the sealed-off guest room was actually warmer than the rest of the house by evening, thanks to a large southeast-facing glass door (of course, the rest of the house was around 40º, so “warmer” isn’t saying that much– but still, it’s a good sign.)

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6 Responses to “How Much Wood Would A Cold House Burn, If A Cold House Would Burn Wood?”

  1. Nate Says:

    Ahhh, the silent beauty of solar gain. A neighbor of mine had the foresight to build a house utilizing solar gain / thermal mass in Massachuesetts. His experience with his simple design is unreal. If I could do it I would do it as well!

  2. John Says:

    This raises the question – in my mind anyway – of what kind of behavior is ok for the cold house. I assume, for example, that you’re not into being cold for its own sake (in spite of occasional philosophic posts that leant hat way.

    But what if, for example, you had a passive solar collector on the south side of your house and you could keep it at 70° on sunny days with no trouble? Would you make that investment? Would you invest in better insulation? If a tree fell down in your backyard and you had stacks and stacks of wood, enough to last a decade, even with a warm house, would you burn them?

    • coldhousejournal Says:

      “If a tree fell down in your backyard and you had stacks and stacks of wood, enough to last a decade, even with a warm house, would you burn them?”
      I’d probably start giving wood away, in that case!

      As for the other items– yes, if we had absolutely free and impact-less warmth, we’d probably use it (more– I still don’t think I’d want 70º in winter). And as I see it, how much effort/expense it’s worth going to for better insulation is largely dependent on how warm you want your house. Anyone living far north of here, or around here but trying to maintain 70 or 75º, yes, I’d argue they need more insulation than we have. And I do plan to get around to adding some more in places. But I’m glad I didn’t spend my first three months in this house ripping it apart to re-insulate, before I had a sense of what it felt like as-is.

      • Doug Says:

        Actually, heating to 70 (or rather, the _capability_ to do that) with very little impact isn’t out of the question. There’s a fine collection of low-impact projects on BuildItSolar.com, many of which can use reclaimed materials.

        Gary’s < $1000 drainback solar hot water system is especially suited to your climate, since it works reliably in sub-zero temperatures.

        http://builditsolar.com/Experimental/PEXColDHW/Overview.htm

  3. sara Says:

    You know, the article reminded me, not particularly related to this post, but my father’s house in N. California was built in 1904. He lives on a main floor with a two bedroom unit, kitchen/dining, and living room. But there is also a large basement (with bath), and upstairs there’s an apartment unit with one bedroom, a living room, kitchen and bath, which he rents out.

    Obviously the house was built as a one-family home, but it seemed such a strange design – sorta like 3 living rooms, and all separate with outdoor access from all. I finally asked him what the hell the original design was – and it’s a climate design. In the hellaciously hot summers, they’d use the basement living room. In the winter, the top floor for heat – you’d cook or whatever in the main floor, so that ultimately that top floor would be warm (kitchen under its living room).

  4. icerabbit Says:

    ROFLOL

    You cracked me up with this line: ” the sealed-off guest room was actually warmer than the rest of the house by evening … of course, the rest of the house was around 40º, so “warmer” isn’t saying that much– but still, it’s a good sign.”

    I can relate to what you mean. A few degrees of temperature rise in the house in February because of solar gain feels wonderful. Free heat 🙂 I’m hoping we don’t need the furnace much once March comes.

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