Heating With Wood

Joann, over at the Adirondack Lifestyle Blog has written a recent post about Heating With Wood-Art of Science in which she laments the problems those of us with wood stoves for heat encounter all the time. That is, how to get the amount of heat right?

I’m here to tell ya, I don’t have the answers to this one. We just returned from our cottage where I had things alternating between freezing with the windows open, and sitting around naked with the windows closed and the stove blasting. Not a really good alternative if you have visitors….well I suppose it could be, depending on the visitors. Say for example if the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders dropped by the cottage for a visit….then you want that wood stove cranked, but I am digressing and fantasizing….so forgive me.

We’ve heated the cottage with wood since the beginnning, and have had various forms of wood stove, from a open Franklin stove, to a big airtight, to the new airtight stove we use today.

The Franklin wasn’t good enough to heat the camp in the winter very well, the big airtight would keep you sweating on the coldest night in January.

The smaller airtight woodstove we use now, more suited to the square footage of the cottage, works pretty well, although, on that cold night in January, it might not be quite big enough.

However, we are not at the camp much on cold January nights, it’s the rest of the time, like now, that we need some heat. I find burning the stove fairly hot, that is with the draft open, creates good heat, while keeping the creosote in control in the chimmney.

I like to have the kitchen window open a bit whenever the stove is going, to keep a good supply of fresh air coming in.

Something else, I try to burn softwoods, like spruce and pine during the cool, but not cold weather, saving the hardwood for the really cold days and nights.

Hardwood, from maple, birch etc, burns much hotter, making it much warmer in the camp. What we did this weekend was mix a little hardwood with the softwood, but kept it mostly 70% softwood. We were warm, but not hot.

As the temperature drops, I change the ratio to increase the hardwood burned, when more heat is needed. We used to have a Kemac oil stove in the kitchen, which kept a nice constant heat too, but worries about oil leaks are too big a concern these days, so the oil stove is no longer used.

Instead of the oil stove, we use an electric heater which provides a constant source of heat, although not enough to warm much more than the kitchen.

As Joann said in her post, “It is simply not the same to curl up next to the electric baseboard heater with a good book as it is snuggled in the chair next to the toasty black box.”

I agree, the space heater doesn’t have the same feeling of the woodstove, but it does give a little bit of heat when needed, and is easy to regulate, great for an early morning when you don’t want the camp to be sweating hot later in the day.

Electric space heaters can act as the best of both worlds, but….you don’t get to do all that wood cutting, splitting, stacking and so on, that I, and lots of cottagers like me, so enjoy.

If  all I had was an electric heat, I wouldn’t get the enjoyment that I have already gotten from creating these two wood piles, one hardwood, one softwood.

How do you heat your cottage?

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