Friday, February 19, 2010

Heating With Wood

This is our new corner of 'heaven'. After much time and labor(mostly on my husband's part), we are heating our home with wood. I never dreamed that I would have a woodstove. The thought of it brought back memories of people at church you couldn't stand to sit by because they smelled like burned wood. That smell is nice when you are sitting by a campfire, roasting marshmallows and singing Kumbaya, but not so much when you are sitting in church singing Kumbaya....thinking no, I don't wanna sitbaya. Yuck. I did not want our home, clothes and hair to smell like that.

When we moved into this house 5 1/2 years ago, we put our furniture from our living room in the finished basement. We decided we would just wait and think about the living room later. Well, circumstances put this project on the bottom of the list, and it has been more of a parlour with just our piano, chair, and our bird's cage. About 2 years ago we decided, after many birthday celebrations with everyone crowding in the kitchen and dining room, we should probably think about doing something with that space. We researched and drew up floor plans, and decided we would put in a gas fireplace(notice the marking on the floor drawn out for the 'fireplace'). We looked at fireplace after fireplace and had come pretty close to choosing the one we wanted.

Then one chilly, February morning, my husband went for a long run with a friend of his. They went back to his house to get warmed up before coming home. He sat by our friends' woodstove after being chilled to the bone, and the rest is history after presenting me with 'Hey, what do you think about getting a woodstove instead of a fireplace?' I had concerns(see above), and he assured me that the new stoves on the market are airtight and efficient, and promised me that I would not smell like Mrs. Grizzly Adams. We purchased our woodstove last March, and finally got it completely installed last month.

We are learning. There is so much more to this than flipping on a switch to turn the fake ambiance on. Jody and the boys have spent the last year helping friends and family chop down trees, hauling wood, splitting it and stacking it. Our youngest had to get in on the action as well, and has his own maul(it's really an axe because they don't make mauls small enough for him). Yes, he is wearing goggles, gloves, and boots. If it were up to me, he would be in full body armour! :) We also have to haul wood into the house 1 or 2x a day, and getting it started every morning can be a challenge for novices. So, you spend the spring/summer chopping, splitting, and hauling what you can get your hands on.

And about that safety thing. When the woodstove was finally installed and we started that first fire, I panicked about all the things that could go wrong. I went out and bought a new fire extinguisher, new smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and had it professionally inspected. I would panic leaving it going when I left the house for any period of time. Maybe all this is normal. Maybe. At any rate, not only is this a new thing for us, it is something to be respected at all times. I do have much less anxiety now that I feel more comfortable with it. I am actually really enjoying it.

There is a level of pride in knowing we are being self-sustaining in this way. Since we started heating with wood, we have not turned our furnace on one time! It heats our whole upstairs, and because we have a stove made mostly out of soap stone, it heats efficiently and gently and allows us to enjoy being in the same room with it. We do have humidifiers in the kids' rooms, and have not noticed our skin any more dry than usual. Oddly enough, my skin is not as 'itchy' as it usually is this time of year. The big bonus was when we got our last energy bill in the mail. We had only used the woodstove for 2 weeks and we had saved over $100. I never thought I would look forward to my next month's energy bill at this time of year, but I am excited to see how much less it is after using it a whole month! Another bonus is the tax credit we get on top of this.

So, what's next....chickens? If you look closely at the picture above you will see a chicken coop. Yeah, we're thinking about it! :)