Calling all woodburners…
Here where I live, the heating season started today.
Let's share and compare our plans for heating our homes with wood this winter.
Are you heating exclusively with wood, or supplementing with wood?
How long have you been doing so?
What kind of a stove (or stoves) do you use? Pros/cons that you've found?
What's your stove management routine?
Where do you get your wood, and how do you store it?
How many cords do you expect to burn this winter?
What else about your situation do you think others might find helpful or interesting?
It's 10am and the outside temp is just now rising above freezing. General temps dropped about 10°F since yesterday and are expected to stay there. For me, this puts us squarely in "fire up the woodstove" territory. When the in-house temp hits 59°F, that's my cue. Though I admit, I jumped the gun by about a day, just to make sure everything was in working order.
I have a c.1985 Vermont Castings (Resolute) woodstove in my living room that we installed last year shortly after moving into our house. Over the summer, the house was completely weatherized, so I'm expecting a more effective wood-heating experience this winter than last.
This is the third year we've heated with wood, and the second in our current home, and the first year that it's possible we won't use any oil at all.
I had my chimney swept and stove inspected this year, but the guy who did it (seasoned and well-respected) said I can go two years next time. I must be doing something right.
However, I have a probe thermometer in the stovepipe (new this year) and it's not working right, so I'm not exactly sure what the temp in the pipe is doing, but based on past experience, it will be fine until I get the thermometer fixed/figured out/replaced. Seems like a simple thing to troubleshoot, but I can't get it to work. (Any thoughts on that?)
We also have a hot-air solar panel installed at the top of our stairs so that it blows air into the upstairs landing where the bedrooms are. Takes the chill off in that area. Last Spring I had a large tree removed to increase solar exposure on the panel, and I'm hoping that will make this resource more effective this year as well.
The living room is a balmy 70°F right now.
I expect to use up to three cords of wood this year. We have about 3.5 cords — some bought from a local guy, some left from last year, and some from yard projects.
Typically the stove and house get cold overnight, and I use the leftover glowing coals to start the morning's fire.
If I go away overnight, I'll set the oil furnace to kick in if the house temp drops to 45°F, but hopefully I won't need that.
I wish my stove had a larger top surface that would accommodate a stovetop oven and be more useful as a cooktop. There is enough of a surface for one pot/pan, but I have to move the thermal fan to use it.
A few days ago (before we fired it up), I refinished the exterior of the stove with black high-heat paint. Looks really spiffy. Impossible to tell by looking that it was a Freecycle stove.
I am very happy with my setup.
What about you?
We've been heating almost exclusively with a Woodstock soapstone stove (manufactured in West Lebanon, NH). We have an oil backup furnace that rarely comes on. Our stove has a catalytic combustor that makes the whole thing a bit more efficient, but requires extra maintenance. We have to replace them after about 4-5 years. I love the soapstone, it really evens out the heat and holds heat for a long time compared to metal stoves. We get our chimney swept every year or two. It's always pretty clean with little creasote build-up.
We buy a load of logs every couple years that cuts down to about 20 face cords (6 2/3 full cords) or so. Our last load was mostly beech which is very good burning wood. I cut and stack it in a lean-to on the side of the barn. We cut it far enough in advance that it is always at least a year old when we burn it. It seems to dry very well in the lean-to.
We started the stove in the evenings a few times in the past couple weeks, but started burning during the day yesterday when the same cold front came through here that hit you last night.
I replaced a gasket around the 'lid' of the stove last year and will probably take the stove apart and replace all of them after this season.
Generally we really like the stove, but next time (if there is one) we will likely look into one of the efficient baffle system stoves. Less maintenance.
We installed a Vogelzang – Durango last summer. This will be it's second year of use. I chose it because of it's high efficency rating, as well as it's flat top cooking surface. It has a small viewing window in the door that is really nice, and stays clean as advertised. It is equipped with a multispeed blower, that I don't really use as it seems louder than I like and doesn't move nearly enough air off the unit. Instead, we have a small personal sized fan sitting next to it. It's very quite and pushes a ton of air across the hot surfaces of side and top.
Our house was built in the 20s and is 2000 sq. ft. It has a limestone chimney that I installed a continuous stainless steel insulated chimney liner to keep the smoke gases hot until exit. This stove doses a good job keeping the downstairs comfortable. Right now, it is 78 degrees and climbing here in the den and the outside temp has risen to 55 degrees. There were times last year when the stove kept the den temp 50 degrees higher than outdoors. It's great to lounge on the weekend in shorts and tee shirt when its snowing outside. We also have a central propane fired furnace. Last year we used about 400 gallons of propane, but were away a lot and could not use the stove as much.
We have plenty of deadfall available here in southern middle TN and I expect to use at least 3 cords this year. Currently my woodshed has about 2 cords, so I have some work to do. Better get at it!
We have a relatively small house (1100 sf with a partial finished basement) and heat primarily with oil. Insulation isn't the greatest, it runs along a N-S axis, and only has one window on the south wall — so it's about the worst setup you could hope for with regards to passive heating and cooling. We have a smaller soapstone stove in the basement that we use to supplement our heating, especially on the weekends. I installed a dutch door at the top of our basement stairs, which we leave open while the stove is burning to allow the heat to come upstairs.
It's actually pretty impressive the amount of heat we can get from that small stove. We really only use it on weekends, because by the time I get home during the week and get a good fire going in it, it's just about time to get ready for bed. On Saturdays and Sundays, though, our furnace never kicks on for the living area once we get a good fire going. It's not abnormal for the living room and kitchen to get up over 75 degrees on a cold winter day just from the woodstove downstairs.
I figure we go through about 2.5 cords of wood a year with this. I cut everything myself from stuff I gather after line trimmings and neighbors who have downed trees and the like, and put it in round stacks instead of straight cords — so it's hard to tell exactly. It requires very little maintenance outside of just shaking out the screen on the flue cap, otherwise it gets clogged. On the few occasions I've swept the flue, there has been negligible creosote buildup.
One of my planned projects is to replace the downstairs stove with a rocket mass heater, and to build one in the master bedroom over the garage as well. I figure that should cut down on our wood usage considerably while at the same time increasing the impact of our wood heat. Adding a thermosiphoning air panel on the south-facing side of the house should also go a long way toward warming the living room on clear days.
Now, if I can just find the time to get these projects done, all will be well….
"We've been heating almost exclusively with a Woodstock soapstone stove (manufactured in West Lebanon, NH). We have an oil backup furnace that rarely comes on. Our stove has a catalytic combustor that makes the whole thing a bit more efficient, but requires extra maintenance."
We also kept the stove going yesterday in VT. We heat our house with a "Fireview" from Woodstock Soapstone Co. We have oil hot water as backup if we are away otherwise the stove heats the entire house. I have not found the combuster to be much extra work, but this is only our third season with this stove. I used cast iron stove about 30 yrs ago and this stove is sooo much nicer in my opinion. Even heat, much cleaner burning, and a longer burn. For anyone with a large heating need (2,400 ft or more) Woodstock's new "Hybrid" stove might be a good choice. We use 3.5 to 4 cord per season from various sources. I also used a pellet stove for several years some time ago. Advantages are that you can store the pellets anywhere (no worry about bugs, moisture), easier to work with at older ages, they burn very clean and efficiently, thermostatically controlled (to some extent), and long burn time. Some of the disadvantages are that you need to buy pellets, and need a battery or electric back up if power is lost.
Sister-in-law has an old rambling farm house in VT and they have a soapstone Fireview in the kitchen and a masonry stove in the living room. When winter really hits they have two burns in the masonry stove, one in the morning and one more in the evening.
I have a Fireview also. I'm probably going to replace the ceramic combustor before this winter is out. I have the newer metal combustor. Hopefully, it's lifespan will be considerably longer.
We live in an old house in southern CT, with a renovated back section (about 1200 sq ft) and a restored (ie. older, less insulated) front section (another 1200 sq ft). We have sectioned the heating of the house off, using wood to heat the back, which covers large open living room, kitchen, main bedroom, bathroom. We have a 5 year old Vermont Casting Encore stove and use about a cord of wood per month. We'll start heating next week (I try to acclimate the family to colder weather in October) and heat through end of March, so about 4-5 cords per season. We had several trees down in the last couple of big storms/hurricanes, so we are burning those this year. Usually we buy the wood, at about $200 a chord.
The stove heats well, but it is easy to overfire with it, especially on warmer days, and we have had to rebuild the internals once. I aim to keep the wood-heated spaces room in the mid to high 60s, but maintaining a constant temp is a big challenge for stovies. The stove also has no catalytic converter. It's good exercise as well – chopping, stacking and carrying, etc. For the front of the house, which contains the kids bedrooms (only one living at home now) and another couple of rooms we generally don't heat during the day and use a small oil burner with its own thermostat for mornings and evenings. When our eldest two kids went off to college and had to live in dorms they couldn't handle the heat, having grown up in a house in which we are probably a little more robust than the norm. Now when they come back for vacations they can't handle the cold. So I guess a lot of it is what you are used to.
We have a woodstove as the only source of heat at our cabin. It is not our full time residence so we are actually only heating when we are there. The stove was installed two years ago after we purchased the property. Without really knowing much about it, we purchased a Timberwolf Economizer. The company is from Canada. One of the things I required was that the stove have a glass front so we could watch the fire.
So far we could not be happier with the equipment. The stove has an excellent draft and can heat our small cabin (750 square feet) from the mid twenties into the seventies in an hour to hour and a quarter. I am little by little learning to use the air flow regulator to get the best results. If you put a good size log in at bedtime, coals will still be glowing away seven hours later. The cabin will usually stay in the mid-fifties to low sixties overnight. (Ceiling and walls are well insulated. The windows are forty years old and are horrible. A future refit is planned.) Only once or twice when the outside temperature was in low teens did overnight inside temp drop into the forties. I have a column fan in the great room sitting on an end-table. Leaving it on at half speed moves the heated air through the main room and even gets some heat into the bath room and bedrooms. (so long as the doors are open.) Both my wife and I lived as kids in homes where the bedrooms had no central heat. We are used to piling up the quilts and running to stand next to the stove to dress. My wife does not like the cold so I get morning duty, every morning. She will come out from under the covers once the fire is roaring and she can sit right next to the stove.
The stove has a flat top large enough to put a large pot or casserole on each side of the chimney. Last winter I began cooking stew type meals in a large ceramic lined pot which worked really well. I recently purchased two Lodge Dutch ovens, a flat skillet and a frying pan, all made of black cast iron to try other types or recipes. First attempt at chicken with a Dutch oven came out really well. Cooked it with onions, carrots, mushrooms, white wine and garlic for a couple of hours. Cover on the oven. Then took cover off for final hour to allow moisture to boil off and chicken to brown. The process made the house smell great.
The first winter we used wood left to us by prior owner. Last year purchased wood from a local distributor. Two cords, kiln dried, delivered, cost three hundred eighty dollars. Company selling wood makes those little packages of wood you see for sale in the supermarkets. Pieces too small, too big or too ugly to put in packages are what they sell by the cord. We used not quite a cord last winter. This year I waited until September to order two more cords for this season and was shocked to discover that their earliest remaining delivery dates were after December 1st. Next year I will put my order in, in May.
Splitting and stacking wood are new art forms for us. Although most of the pieces were just the right size to fit the stove we learned that you can only put a full log on an already burning fire. My sons have helped me in taking full pieces and chopping them down to kindling. A couple of weekends ago two of them spent Saturday helping me get the wood ready for winter. At the end of the day we had restacked the remaining wood pile. Filled the wood holders in the great room and on the back porch and had split three large galvanized trash cans full of kindling. It was a long and tiring day but it was very satisfying to look at what we had accomplished and to know we had one hand up on the coming weather.
85% Wood since 2005. We use wood for heating the main part of our house. Electric for the bathrooms and our offices when we are in them. When guests come that can't handle chilly bedrooms, we'll run the oil burning furnace. For heat in our current house, we use about 75 gallons of oil, $360 for electric and 2.5 cords of well seasoned wood from October through April. Our last house was the same on oil and electric, but 4.5 cords of wood. This house is a 1600 sq ft single story with finished walk-out basement, the last was two stories and basement with twice the square feet above grade. This house has a Morsø 7600 and the other was a Jøtul Castine 400.
I highly recommend both stoves with caveats on both.
The Jøtul was undersized for the job, two smaller stoves for that size house may have netted a lower consumption and better comfort as the family room was very warm as compared to the rest of the house. I did have vents in the walls between rooms with low volume fans to create a circular flow through the entire floor. The Jøtul will boil away 5-6 gallons of water a day.
The Morsø can not hold a log more than 11" in length and will not hold a fire through the night. It is very efficient and beautiful, however if you do not plan on cutting your own firewood, there will be an extra charge and extra planning the year before to get seasoned wood to feed it. The Morsø will not boil water on top due to the air exchange taking place under the top plate.
I have bought and I have cut both long logs and fireplace sized logs. Seasoned wood can not be bought. Period. Unless it's a fluke. If you want clean heat, you must buy your wood, cut to length and split, two years in advance. There is no substitute for seasoned wood. Wood takes one year per inch of thickness to season. A 10" log that's been down for two years is 20% seasoned. Don't let the seller snow you on this. AND, a cord is a cord is a cord. It is a unit of measurement, not a pickup load. If a seller can get 3/4 of a cord in a full sized truck, he's done a good job of stacking. Don't get snowed here either. 128 Cubic Feet of tightly stacked wood is a cord. 4'x4'x8'
Wood is dirty, sooty, dusty, dry…..
I would not trade it. I love it.