Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The cord you don't burn.

One thing about heating with wood that I didn't mention yesterday: the best cord is the one you don't have to burn. If it normally takes 5 cords of wood to get through the winter, being able to do it it with 4 is a big boost. Just think of the savings in time and effort.

Insulation works. The best part of a good insulation job is that it keeps working year after year with no further effort. The downside is that insulating an older house can be an expensive job best left to professionals. If building a new place, you'll never regret doing the best insulation job possible. The days of cheap fuel are over.

Good windows and doors make all the difference. My house is a weird mishmash. The bottom floor was a cottage built in the early 70's. I bought the place from my dad when he retired and headed to Florida. In 1989 I did a major addition. Since I always wanted to live in a dome, I cut the roof off the cottage and plopped a dome on top. If you stand back and squint, my house sort of looks like a giant mushroom. Yeah, I know: early American Hippy Architecture. The thing is, the dome has excellent double pane argon filled windows. The downstairs has old single pane windows.

I've wanted to change out the windows in the old part ever since I bought the place. It may happen yet. In the mean time, it's been one insulation kludge after another. Some windows are covered with clear plastic shrink film. Others have home made storm windows constructed from heavy plastic over a wood frame. At least those are reusable. Some windows are even covered in salvaged bubble wrap. That works really well -if you don't mind not being able to see out of the window.

Another good way to use less heat is to use less house. Nothing wrong with living in a small house. If you are like me and the number of people who live at your house varies, vary the amount of house you heat. When it's just my wife and I, we keep the kitchen and most of the downstairs toasty warm. The upstairs, we keep at a much lower temperature. When our household expands, we send more heat upstairs. My wife and I are comfortable sleeping in a cool room. That's what blankets are for.

Unlike most houses, there's a layer of insulation between the first and second floor of my house. It's possible to just heat the downstairs. If I ever decide really close all heat to the upstairs, I can turn a few valves in the basement and shutdown the upstairs bathroom. I've plumbed in drains so that no water freezes and breaks the pipes.

Right now, the number in my household changes from week to week, so the upstairs temperature is just reduced, not closed off completely.

In the end, it's a matter of doing the best you can with what you've got to work with.



  1. I think your experience and mine have been similar. My house is a cedar log house. It is easy to cool or heat. I don't use all the house most of the time and just keep the rooms I don't use at about 63.

  2. I keep the upstairs around 55 most of the time. Of course, I'm really warm blooded. My wife wears a thick sweater and I go around in a t-shirt.

  3. Well I live in southern Indiana ( Near Louisville) we get cold but not deep freeze cold which is a good thing because my bride just can't stand the cold and is wishing we move a little further south at times, I am not really new to prepping, heck turns out I've been doing it since my days of scouting and Army life. And I sure as heck am not going green because I wish to save the planet oh no I'm about saving my wallet from feeding the beast. I have purchased solar panels from Harbor Freight to keep my battery bank going. I have built my wood fired brick oven for baking and roasting because wood is like you stated wood is easy to replace just plant a tree. What I truly need to learn more of is 12v systems and trying to get as little power as possible from the grid. Enjoy your blog and look forward to reading more. Also I agree with having the young at mind and strong of back around.