Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Winter Warmth WoodStove

Winter is now here, last night the temperature dropped down into the mid 30'. It was overcast with low cloud cover and I seriously thought it was going to snow. The trees started changing several weeks back and I have seen a huge number black squirrels running around. This summer was very cold with just a handful of days in the 90's and pretty sure we didn't break 100 once. It is going to be a very cold, very dark winter. I hate winter.

With fuel oil, natural gas and propane at records highs we will all need to look for various ways to cut back on our heating costs. The concept is simple, turn the thermostat down to fifty five, put on a big sweater and grit you teeth. Now this is good in theory but the reality is a cold and miserable existence during the black winter months. This fifty five degree nonsense works fine in the middle of the night burrowed under about five layers of blankets, but during the day I want to be able to move around the house without seeing my breath.

I want to comfortably wear shorts. I want to sweat while eating my oatmeal. I want the decadent pleasure of opening a window to cool the house down. When there is several feet of snow outside and the wind is blowing fifty miles an hour there is no greater cure for the blues than basking in the artificial radiance of a ninety degree living room while watching Resident Evil Apocalypse.

Unfortunately the small wood stove that currently sits in the cabin is grossly inadequate for heating a large moderately insulated somewhat holey self built cabin. It's gets a good fire but cannot be dampered down at night and needs loading every hour and 45 minutes...exactly...I set my alarm clock. Plus the design allows most of the heat to go up the flu.

So since I will be permanently moving down in January (yes, I had to move the date back again...need more money. I will write about that later) a very cold month, I really would like to have a big, hot wood stove. But how do I go about getting one?

There are two options when purchasing a wood stove. Easy and elegant or hard and dirty. As always I picked hard and dirty but it is a personal choice.

Now the Easy and Elegant method is nice. You simply go to a web site and pick out a stove you like. They deliver and unload it to your fine and clean garage then someone else comes along and installs the massive thing with the proper fittings, pipe and cutting equipment. No fuss, no muss...the problem is that this is somewhat expensive...between two and three thousand to start then up and up and up. But it may be worth it.

The hard and dirty method is considerably cheaper, and I mean considerably. You find a wood stove, this means Craigs List, yard sales and junk yards. The big old stoves are good for a hundred years. It will run between one and six hundred for the stove. It needs to be a massive old thing. You don't want cute and you don't want small...even if you have a relatively little place to heat. The stove needs to burn through the night and produce much more heat than the space requires. Trust me, burns through the night and a lot of heat.

You then load, move, unload and install this massive thing. WOOD STOVES ARE VERY VERY HEAVY. Get the clearance correct, if you don't know then use three feet from any flammable surface. You can use metal and brick to reduce the clearance but do some research. Most of these beasts heat best when placed in the middle of the house. Remember don't think cute, think heat.

Next comes the stove and chimney pipe. You run black single walled stove pipe from the stove top to the pass through on the ceiling. This pass through is a special square box that protects the house from the considerable heat of the stove pipe. From there up you use chimney pipe. This is that double or triple walled stuff specifically designed to not melt quickly during a chimney fire.

For the house fire paranoid another option is to run chimney pipe all the way up from the wood stove. You will lose a considerable amount of heat radiated from the stove pipe but you will feel more secure.

It is critical that you use the proper pipe in the proper place. You will burn your house down if you don't.


When I put my stove in I asked my local HomeDepot associate where to get double walled chimney pipe for a wood stove. He pointed at some silver pipe and said this will work. I asked him if it was chimney pipe to use with a wood stove he assured me the stuff would work. I asked him a second time and got the same response. So I bought the stuff and installed it. Unfortunately this was doubled pipe designed for natural gas heating systems.

I hacked a hole in the roof with a semi sharp bread knife (not recommended) and put the pipe through. After a couple of burnings the pipe started to melt down in the middle of the night. Smoke filled the place I got the dogs and Ryan out then stuck the nozzle to the fire extinguisher in the stove and emptied it. The next day we pulled the stack and found out that the inner pipe had melted and blocked the chimney. I was literally seconds from the pipe burning through and catching the house on fire. A double walled chimney pipe is rated at 2200 degrees the little gas pipe was rated at 700 degrees. So don't be stupid...use the correct pipe. The chimney pipe is expensive but necessary.

After I installed the correct chimney the wood stove has been wonderful...not a great heater but very nice.

The picture above is a Fisher Wood Stove, can't place the model (Mama, Papa or Baby) but it is what I am looking for. Today I found a big old Schrader stove about twenty miles from here for a hundred bucks with stove pipe but didn't get there quick enough.

Stay Warm


Jeregrine said...

I've found that cast iron stoves keep the heat the best. Also a good solution is to put cheap tiles around the stove and under it. This not only helps insulate it but also helps direct the heat.

Another really good solution is a fan to direct the heat down a hallway or to your bed. This helps you keep the heat on you and not the rest of your house.

Keep posting, I love your survival articles. Maybe not so much the crazy conspiracy stories, but I only dislike them cause they remind me of myself.

riverwalker said...

I have a friend who put his wood stove on concrete blocks. They help toabsorb heat from the stove. He also has a large "l" shaped pipe run from the stove that works to distribute the heat,


SurvivalTopics.com said...

The more mass you can accumulate around the stove, the more heat that is absorbed and then radiated slowly out during the night or times you are not around to put more wood in the stove.

B. Chad Cooper said...

The old stoves are not as efficient as the newer ones. When you figure that a new stove, with efficient ceramic tiles inside, will burn 2 logs for about 4-5 hours of good hot heat and 4 logs all night long,(due to the modern venting system that makes the hot gas circulate and release more of its heat before escaping, you are several legs up on the 100 year old stove that sends 80% of it's heat right out the chimney- Not to mention new ones burn cleaner (more efficient).

When I get my stove, I'll definitely want a new one. The lower amount of fuel (ie. chopping logs and hauling them and storing and loading into the fire place) and cleaning (new ones are easier to maintain) make it worth it to me. I figure I'll spend around a grand or two and get one that will heat water for me and double as a cooking stove. I'll have a second outdoor stove/oven in a covered area near the house for cooking bread and stuff in the summer without heating my cabin to a kajillion degrees.

I hope you find a good one in time for the real cold. I want to do it right the first time- I'm in no certain rush to move out in the middle of winter!

Larry said...

I am a believer in barrel stoves & have used them with out any trouble. They are cheap & easy to move & assemble & if set up properly I believe they are safe. See this link for info.


Larry in SE Ohio

theotherryan said...

I agree about the "put on a sweater and be tough" thing. To me being comfortable in sweats, t shirt and slippers is about the minimum. As far as I am concerned any colder then that and I might as well be freezing my balls off in a tent somewhere.

For the clearance they make these tile pads that you can lay down over whatever surface (carpet, hardwood, etc) to help with floor clearance.

Anonymous said...

Year's ago,we had a woodburning fireplace/stove,that was an "airtight",not sure if that's a brand or model.When the power went out due to a snowstorm,we'd all move to the basement,get a small fire going.At bedtime,we'd toss on a full log of walnut,maybe 12 inch diameter,16 long,and it would burn all nite due to the restricted airflow.Another tip,hang a sheet over doorway's or stairwell's to hold the heat into the main room.

Anonymous said...

Natural Gas prices have actually dropped something like 25% since July.

Anonymous said...

That's because of demand on the natural gas. Winter's not yet here.

Anonymous said...

The drop every year during the summer months, and go up dramatically during late fall/winter. It's seasonal.