Warming trend

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We swapped our freezer to my parents for this woodstove, which Ron hired a guy to install this week. (Songdog had to investigate while I was taking the picture. I expect he’ll spend the entire winter curled up in front of the stove.) It cost about $750 to have the chimney modified so we could have a woodburning stove instead of a gas fireplace. The fireplace was pretty but terribly inefficient.

There’s some debate as to whether woodstoves are better for the environment than gas furnaces. Yes, a woodstove releases particulate matter into the atmosphere, which is not good. But the process of extracting natural gas from the ground causes all sorts of environmental damage, too, so I think it’s probably a break-even proposition from that standpoint.

What I like about the woodstove, more than anything else, is the fact that it gives me another option. If gas prices get ridiculous, I can heat my home with wood. If wood gets expensive, I can heat my home with gas.

And the woodstove brings fond memories. I grew up in a house that for many years was heated by a wonderful old Earth Stove. Mom would make a big Dutch oven full of chili or vegetable soup on that stove. I didn’t even like vegetable soup, but there was something wonderful about eating soup that was cooked on top of a woodstove. It made me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder or something.

It will be a couple of months before we get to build our first fire in our new stove. But the weather is cooling down a bit here in Tulsa — lows this week have been in the 50s — and this is the time of year when we need to start thinking about energy efficiency. Here’s a little free advice from your favorite hippie:

1. If you have a furnace, schedule a checkup for it now, before your heating and air-conditioning guy gets completely booked up. Regular maintenance is a matter of safety as well as energy efficiency. We discovered that our old furnace — which was here when we moved in — had never been maintained after I came in to find a strong gas odor in the house. We shut off the furnace and called the gas company. The guy who came out said that the furnace was spewing carbon monoxide into our home. Scary. We are very vigilant about having the furnace checked every year to keep that from happening again.

2. Next time you’re at the hardware store, pick up a water heater blanket. They cost about $10 and take just a few minutes to install. If the water heater is in an unheated space, a blanket will save you boatloads of money.

3. Start stocking up on weatherstripping and plastic film to cover the windows and seal out air leaks.

4. Consider installing a radiant barrier in your attic. It will help keep the heat in your living space where it belongs instead of letting it escape to the attic.

5. Check the insulation in your attic and your walls and add some if necessary. It’s a bit expensive, but it saves so much money in the long run, you really can’t afford not to do it.

6. Make your own insulation to go around electrical sockets. Remove the switchplate cover and trace it onto one of those styrofoam meat trays. Cut it out, stick the styrofoam shape between the switchplate cover and the wall, and reattach the switchplate cover. This little bit of recycling will keep a lot of heat from being lost around the electrical sockets.

7. When the weather cools down, change the direction of your ceiling fans. The fan should blow down in the summer to keep things cool, but in the winter, it should blow upward. Hot air rises. When the fan blows upward, it causes the heat to sink, which makes the room feel warmer.

8. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat for your furnace … get one. They’re cheap, easy to install, and really save energy.

9. Keep the furnace on a low setting. I have a collection of baja jackets that I am fond of wearing around the house. They are very warm. When I have them on, I can keep the thermostat much lower.

There are lots more tips; these are just the ones I thought of offhand. You can find great advice on sustainability and energy efficiency here:

Daily tips on saving energy

Tips on winterizing your home

Environmental footprint calculator

Happy winterizing!

Emily

5 thoughts on “Warming trend”

  1. Boy, they really shortened that thing, didn’t they? You sure it’s far enough off the floor to be safe? They did replace the gasket on the door, right? Rural King only had one size gasket and it was too thick to allow the door to seal. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more wood stove suppliers this year with Ameren jacking up the electrical rates 35%. Gas prices skyrocketed last year. We might consider bringing in Grandma’s stove from the barn and installing a new flue for it. There’s just something homey about that first fire of the season–the smell of the woodsmoke and the aroma of dust mites burning off the flue pipe–aaaahhh! It just doesn’t get much better than that. Song is licking his chops just thinking about all that good stuff you’re going to be cooking right there on a level with his head. He and Jason will be trying to help themselves and Scout will just wish she was taller…

    Seriously, be safe. Make sure you open the draft on the firebox fully before you open the door or it could and will explode in your face. Always make sure you tie your hair back before you open the door and shut ‘er down before you go to bed. We used to load the firebox about 30 minutes before bedtime and let it get caught pretty well before closing the dampers. It would burn slowly all night and be ready to go the next morning. Don’t burn pine or other softwoods–too much creosote which will cause a flue fire. If you can find a good woodstove manual, read it cover to cover before you light the first fire. There are several good online guides, like this one: http://www.uaf.edu/coop-ext/publications/freepubs/EEM-01350.pdf
    Make sure you have an escape route from your bedroom in case there’s a fire and be sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. When we had the trailer you lived in when you were in school, we had a monoxide alarm installed about 18 inches off the floor just down the hall from the furnace. In the rental house, we put the monoxide alarm on the wall near the cold air return so it would be in the path the air was traveling.

    I know you and Ron are probably rolling your eyes, and I’m sorry, but I’m a Mom and I’m hardwired to warn you about things you probably already know… Humor me, I’m getting old…

  2. Hehehehehe. Emily, I also have some safety tips I worried that Mom left out.

    1. If your husband happens to look a lot like Harve Presnell and brings home $300,000 dollars in the middle of the night from his gold claim, and you are afraid of robbers, it is a bad idea to hide the money in the stove while J. J. is outside taking his bath.

    2. If your husband who looks like Harve Presnell comes back in from his outdoor bath and decides to light himself a nice warming fire in the stove, do not put your fingers in the flames to retrieve the money. It will already be ruined, and you will just burn your fingers.

    3. If you put your hands in the burning stove to retrieve the smoldering bits of currency only to hurt yourself, do not look up, scream, and start running around the room thinking your husband will wallop you. It will only start a larger disaster.

    There. I hope you feel safer now with these additional tips. We all care about your safety very much. LOL

  3. Redforkhippie’s husband reports that yes, the gasket was replaced in the door. Check.

    The stoveboard on the the floor is UL approved, plus there’s a lot of linoleum and concrete beneath it. Remember, we’re on a slab foundation. Check.

    Smoke and CO2 detectors were recently serviced. Check.

    Plenty of seasoned hickory wood outside. Check.

    I’m also old hat with wood stoves. My family’s had the same Nashua one for 25 years.

    So find something else to worry about. 😉

  4. And let’s all remember that the Red Fork Hippie Chick is an experienced pyromaniac. We didn’t spend all that money and time teaching me to handle propane torches blowing 2,400-degree flames for nothing.

    But if it would make everybody feel better, I would be willing to adopt a pair of finches as backup for the monoxide detector….

  5. Why use finches? You could have a real, live human tester. I’ll even send you one. I promise he doesn’t eat very much. LOL

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