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: