First Fall Fire 2011

December 15th, 2011 – First Fall Fire – Start of Heating Season

This evening we had our first fire of the heating season. Up until now the cottage has been kept warm just from the passive solar gain that gets stored up so well in it’s 100,000 lbs of masonry.

During the cold of winter wood from our land is our primary heat source. We burn about 3/4 cord of wood. We don’t use electric, diesel (home heating oil) or other fossil fuels for heat although there is some heat coming off of the electric appliances, e.g., the refrigerator. Since our lights are LEDs we get very little heat there.

I trust wood more as a fuel since it is less likely to explode, I can grow and cut our own wood and since we grow our own the cost is minimal. Most of the firewood for our own house is dead wood we clean out from our forests, some tops from logging and logs from trail making and pasture making that are not good enough to sell as firewood.

What is amazing is that we burn so little wood despite the fact that we have not yet finished insulating the roof of the tiny cottage. The barrel vault has only two layers each a quarter inch thick of Foil-Bubble-Bubble-Foil on it covered by a tarp. Someday I plan to earth berm the cottage and at that point I’ll add more insulation. Until then the FBBF is doing the job, which surprised me. Maybe I don’t need the six inches of insulation I had originally planned to put up there on the roof.

Outdoors: 45°F/32°F Misty, 1/8″ Snow
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/63°F

Daily Spark: Texas is the closest I ever want to get to Hell. Washington, DC is halfway there from here but given my druthers I would go to Texas.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to First Fall Fire 2011

  1. Deb says:

    I was just thinking of of writing a blog post about why I love heating with wood. But I would really love to only burn 3/4 of a cord per year! We end up buying wood, but we’re looking into alternatives such as getting a permit to cut firewood from the state park and state forest south of here that had thousands of acres of trees blow down in a storm last summer.

    • Do look into those permits from the state forest. I have read in the newspaper that they give away free permits to many people each year as part of the affordable heating. This is really great because it also means people are going out in the woods, being with nature and getting exercise. There is certainly enough dead wood and trees that need culling so that other trees can flourish. Keep warm!

  2. karl says:

    wood heat might be the thing that i miss the most about Missouri. i love cutting wood, my favorite part is on a very cold morning splitting wood with a maul. It seems to leap apart with such comparable ease. the crisp silence of the woods punctuated but the occasional crack. and, i love having the radiant heat warm me to my soul on a cold wintery night.

    heating the air and forcing it around is so inefficient and certainly not satisfying.

  3. Holly says:

    Don’t forget the dogs. They help heat the cottage and make wonderful foot warmers, too!

  4. Beth says:

    Your 3/4-cord of wood is a concept I often return to thinking about, given that we have been burning 6! cords of wood a year on Cape Cod. All scavenged, dead, or thinnings, but still… The right house for the heating system, not the other way around, seems crucial.
    I got a reminder from my chimney sweep yesterday about woodstoves, dry air and coughs. Humidifying the large open space is just as challenging as heating it with wood!!

    • I don’t envy you the six cord a year. It was like that in our old farm house. Some of it is the size difference. Some of it is the materials of construction (masonry) which give thermal mass, some of it is being situated so the wind lifts off of us location and orientation to the sun and the winds. Who knows, perhaps our dry outdoor air actually helps keep warm vs the ocean air. I’ve never been on Cape Cod in the winter – just late summer and fall.

      One interesting thing of our old farm house vs our tiny cottage. Like you with the old farm house we had to humidify during the winter. It was a big problem. In the tiny cottage we don’t have to humidify at all. The air seems much better, not dry like the old house. This is something I had not anticipated and do appreciate.

  5. Sal says:

    And I am super impressed with 6 cd- we typically use between 12 and 15 cd in a reasonable winter- 2 stoves, one at either end of our “big house, little house, closed in workshop, former post office, barn” that is woefully under-insulated. We are planning to replace the exterior with SIPS on the roof and walls as we can, but in the mean time the house has been neglected and we are replacing sills and cracked summer beams and generally having a grand old time in our grand old Cape! And it’s a pretty sure bet that radon and CO are not an issue- we joke that we have 30 second cycle air exchange!

    • Radon issues were one of the big reasons we wanted to get out of the old farm house – it has a dirt cellar. Even with it being drafty (lots of air exchange) it still had high radon levels. Our cottage is designed to prevent radon from entering so it starts out without that problem.

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