My lovely wife and I were gone from the house all day. It was about 50 degrees inside when we got back. As soon as I got in, I lit the woodstove. It’ll warm up to a shirtsleeve environment before we turn in for the evening. This time of year, as long as the house stays above freezing, I’m fine with it. I’ve got a sweatshirt on and my wife is on the sofa under a fleece blanket with warm dog by her side.
It would have been easy to set the thermostat at 72 and have a warmer house when we got in, but for me, that’s a waste. The house doesn’t have be at a constant temperature to be comfortable. The human body, if given a chance, can adjust to a wide range of temperatures. Putting on a sweater never hurt anyone.
Eventually, the kitchen woodstove heats up the whole house. Long before the rest of the house is warm, there’s a nice warm area around the woodstove. During the really cold months, we’ll move our activities to the kitchen. Nothing keeps a family close like huddling for warmth.
When I was a kid my grandparents did not have central heat. There was a kerosene stove in the kitchen and one in the living room. The bathroom was warm enough that the plumbing usually didn’t freeze. The bedrooms were tiny, and only really used for sleeping. It was normal to see your breath in them. Beds had a good pile of warm blankets.
My wife grew up in a house that didn’t heat the bedrooms. She often entertained herself by scratching drawings in the frost on her bedroom window. It didn’t take her long in the morning to get dressed and down to the heated part of the house.
As the price of heating fuel goes up and incomes go down, people are going to have to be more discriminating on how they heat. How warm is comfortable? How much of the house has to be heated at all? Are there alternative methods of heating that are more sustainable? My house still has an oil furnace, but it’s rarely used these days.
I could buy oil and heat the whole house, but then I won’t have money for other things. Another option would be to keep the house totally warm by burning a lot of wood. Even when I get the wood for free, it’s still takes energy to process it -my energy. It has to be split, and piled, then carried into the house and loaded into the woodstoves. Keeping only part of the house toasty, and not all time, frees my time up to do other things.
One nice reward about using the kitchen woodstove, there’s a big kettle of water that will be ready for tea soon. Hot tea next to a warm fire. That’s not really suffering.