Cold snap

We are in the midst of what we in the deep South call very cold weather. It was 11F (almost -12C)  Sunday night and then again Monday night. Plus wind. We didn’t get above freezing from fairly early Sunday evening until just after noon on Tuesday, and then we reached only 32F. I am happy to report, though, that we have not run out of firewood, and our wood stove is doing a good job of keeping the house warm.

As much as I like heating with a wood stove, I have to admit that it’s a dirty business.

You may remember (but probably don’t) that I installed a duct with an in-line blower from the ceiling above the stove across the width of the house to a wall in our bedroom. Our heating/air conditioning guy doubted that it would work, but, hah! Even at below-freezing temperatures we can keep the living room around 72-73F, and the bedroom between 68F and 70F.

During the day the sun helps warm the bedroom, and the dogs.

The outlet is behind and to the left of the bedside table.

If you look carefully, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t, you can see that even now, a year and a half after we moved in, I do not have all the baseboards installed. My excuse is that I did a lot of door frames last year, cut a lot of firewood, and then spent a lot of the summer trying to get grass to grow in the front yard. Growing grass must be watched very closely.

But back to the heating blower. It is not too loud, as I had hoped, since it’s isolated in the attic. Unfortunately there is some sound from the air exiting the grill in the bedroom. We usually turn the blower off at night, but the last two nights we have left it on. If we turn the blower off, the bedroom cools to 66F or so.

Our stove has a very small firebox.  We chose this unit essentially for that reason, since I was afraid a larger stove would make it unbearably hot in the living room. Once it’s up and running, it’s able to keep the house at a reasonable, although not uniform, temperature. However, because the body of the stove is made from stone, it heats up significantly more slowly than a cast-iron or steel stove. That means it takes a while to go from lighting a fire to getting the living room warm. A full load of seasoned oak will burn down to glowing embers in about three hours. To keep the stove hot and the house warm I have to get up in the middle of the night to add more wood. The last two nights, I loaded wood twice because I left the stove draft open to keep a good, hot fire, and it burns more quickly that way.

I have heated with wood for a long time. When I moved to Huntsville, Al, back in 1986, I bought a small, cheap mobile home. My friend Tom in New Mexico gave me a simple, cast-iron box stove. I used a hunting knife to cut a hole in the roof and installed it in the living room. I used it so much that in the six years I lived there I didn’t have to have my propane tank refilled.

When I bought a house in 1992, there was a wood stove in the living room. In winter I set the thermostat at around 50 and heated with the stove. When I left for work I loaded up the stove, but by the time I got back home in the evening, the house was pretty cool. If I left for the weekend, it was 50F in the house when I got back home. The living room was huge, with a very high cathedral ceiling. It took quite a while to get a fire going and warm the room. I didn’t have any way to get the heat anywhere else in the house, so I heaped blankets on the bed and slept in a cold bedroom. None of that bothered me. I am pretty sure all of it would bother Leah, so we do not set the thermostat at 50 today.

It’s unquestionably more trouble to heat with wood than to just let the heating system work. There’s finding and cutting trees, splitting and stacking, constantly bringing wood to the house, and cleaning up all the mess in the living room. But I find it satisfying.

2 thoughts on “Cold snap

  1. Nice job on heating your bedroom. Well done. We miss having our wood-burning stove. We do have a fireplace, but it just doesn’t really do much of a job of heating the house. We gave away our firewood to the neighbors. We let the house cool at night to 65 and sleep with the bedroom windows open. When we lived where it would really get icy-snowy cold, we would let the house get down to 60, and still slept with the bedroom windows open.

  2. Robin — I like the looks of nice fire in an open fireplace, but looks is just about all it can offer. What’s interesting to me is how differently the stove heats the house depending on how cold it is outside. Of course, it should be obvious that it takes more heat when it’s really cold outside, but it’s interesting to see the thermodynamics in action.

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