Sunday, January 10, 2010

How not to freeze to death

So right now the furnace is dead and tonight it's going to be -15 F -without the wind chill. Eyeballing my woodpile, I estimate there's enough wood to get me to sometime in February. In NH, February is very much deep winter. I've been promised one more cord from a reliable friend so that'll get me to sometime in March. During the month of March there's something called "spring." Maybe that's what the calendar says, but here in the woods that 's very much winter. Maybe that cord can get me into April, or maybe I can make a deal for a bit more wood.

Now April is a funny month. Anything can happen -several feet of snow to temps near 80 -sometimes within a couple weeks of each other. April is a turning point. On average, by the third week of April, the ice has left my little lake. For me, that's the real start of spring.

Last year I ran out of heating oil on April first. Yep, April fool on me. From that point on the house was heated using mostly poor quality spruce. My daughter had some damaged trees cut down the fall before, and that's what finished off the heating season.

If I do make it to April with regular firewood, after that it's not that hard to scrounge up enough crap wood to keep the place livable.

That's all assuming it's not worth fixing the furnace. I do have about a half tank of heating oil, maybe 125 gallons or so. It would be nice if the furnace repair made it cost effective to burn that oil. If it's too costly, to fix the furnace, then I'll retire it.

Eventually, the oil furnace will have to be retired. I wonder if this is the time? If it is, there's a number of things I'd do. I'd rip out the fire box and oil burner, but save all the hot air ductwork. The woodstove is then mated up with the home's existing hot air ducts. Should be more efficient at moving warm air to the upper floors of the house.

I've pumps rated for diesel, so it'd be possible to remove the oil of the tank and reuse it for something else. It'd work fine in a diesel generator. It would be possible to run my diesel vehicles on it, but that's be illegal.

For backup to the woodstove, a vented propane heater would go in the basement. My main concern would be to keep the plumbing warm enough not to freeze. There's already a propane line into the basement, so installation shouldn't be that hard.

This is all much easier to contemplate while I can still heat the house. It's T-shirt warm in here now.

Side notes about using sketchy wood: First of all, I'm not a firewood snob. Cellulose is cellulose. I'll burn clean construction lumber full of nails, pallets, softwood, not quite seasoned wood, old doors, whatever. Some things are off limits: pressure treated wood, painted wood, and plastics. One thing that's essential is a good clean chimney. Using poor quality wood can increase the build up of creosote in the chimney. That's where good chimney brushes, a long ladder and no fear of heights comes in handy.


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