Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One more year with the oil furnace

Heating oil is the major fuel source for home heating in New England. There's an infrastructure in place. Oil is distributed by many small delivery companies. There are thousands of service men available. Some work for the delivery companies, others are independent. Parts inventories are kept for the most common burners.

I've decided to keep the oil furnace for one more year, at least. Even though I've plenty of firewood this year, I'm going through the expense of getting my oil furnace serviced. It's not my primary source of heat, but it's worth fixing to have as a backup.

It's one of those things I had to think about as I've been steadily moving away from the petrochemical industry. It's one thing to be angry at big oil, it's another thing entirely to do something about it. My disgust with big oil predates BP's Gulf oil disaster. Over the last 30 years, my use of petroleum bases fuels has been in steady decline.

Yet here I am, getting my oil furnace fixed. The house needs a backup source of heat. Friends of mine who heat exclusively with wood don't go anywhere more than half a day's travel away. They have to get home before the woodstoves die out, the house cools, and the plumbing freezes. In the past, I too have had only wood for heat. However, back then, I was still living in town. My dad lived just up the road and he didn't mind coming over and keeping the fires burning. I'd do the same for him as he had wood heat too. Now dad's in Florida, his wood heat days long over. For someone to stoke the stove, they'd have to drive up from town on snowy roads: time consuming and a big hassle.

Part of the reason for repairing the furnace is previous investment. I've had the furnace for 20 years. It was paid for years ago. Repairing the existing furnace is much cheaper than putting in any other backup heat source. Besides, what could I use as backup? Electricity? Sure, except I expect to be totally off the grid. My solar electric panel won't handle the massive load electric heat puts on a system. Propane? Looking to do away with that too.

Maybe I'll have more friends or family move in with me again. If that happens, they can load wood in the stoves.

For now, I'll keep the oil furnace going. I'll keep a minimum amount of oil in the tank, just enough for backup. Backup is good. If I can't get home before the woodstoves die out, or if I get sick or injured, or even if I get a major attack of laziness, the oil heat will be there.



  1. Backups are always a good thing, and why not use what's there? I have electric heat. It sucks more juice than the A/C! Glad I have a real fireplace to supplement the heater. Unfortunately we didn't have any big storms last year, so my wood pile is pretty low. Might have to break down and buy some...

  2. It helps to know guys in the forestry business. I get a heads up on free wood.