Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We live at 9,750’ elevation and heat in the winter with a wood stove. I have read many excellent articles here in Mother Earth News on heating with a wood stove from those who sell, install, and design them or are experts on wood stoves. There are so many stoves that heat by burning wood it is hard to count them all. There are steel stoves, cast iron stoves and soap stone stoves. Our preference is cast iron for the radiant heat. This blog topic is not about the professional aspect of heating with a wood stove but instead is written from the consumer’s perspective. Our first stove was installed by a dealer for Vermont Castings and it served us well for many years. The dealer recommended a stove that was too large for our home and therefore we were not ‘to get it to burn to capacity. It worked well but always on the low end of the burn range. Burning at a consistent low range can cause a build up of creosote and soot. We replaced that stove after many years with a Yotul that is more suited to the size of our home. It performs with more efficiency and is not so difficult to control the heat with. Both stoves were excellent products but the current one is more suited to the size of our home.
Perhaps some choose to heat with wood to cut their winter heating costs. For us it is the exercise derived from cutting up dead trees on our property and the ambiance of radiant heat. It would be far easier to simply adjust a thermostat but that forced air heat dries our eyes, skin, and doesn’t have the radiant warmth of a cast iron wood stove. We don’t cut live trees because old growth dies off and is plentiful where we live. We simply harvest our dead trees and reduce our wildfire hazard in the process. Some choose to cut live trees; however we are not in favor of killing a live tree unless it is for wildfire mitigation or it leans and poses a potential falling threat. When we cut a live tree we are deleting our future source of ready made firewood. Some of the large trees we mill out for lumber and burn the culls as firewood or give them away. Others dead trees we give away to others so they will have a source of firewood as well.
Using firewood does not have any detrimental effect on the environment because the emissions discharged equal the benefits of producing oxygen during their growth period. Besides if we didn’t cut and burn the dead and fallen trees they would simply rot on the ground and would be a wildfire hazard. While we have some that do end up rotting on the ground because they are not easily accessible those trees provide sufficient decomposing matter for various insect populations. Some dead trees are simply too far gone to have any firewood use. Life has its cycles and we prefer to go with those life cycles when ever possible.
For someone who has used wood heat in our cast iron stoves over the years we also prefer the benefits other than the major reason of heating our home. Like laying down on the floor near the stove and letting the radiant warmth envelop us. Or vying for a position around the stove when the dogs are all seeking the desired spots. As soon as I lay down next to the stove the dogs take turns to snuggle up to me for attention. It can be a nice comfortable temperature throughout the house but there is still nothing like laying down next to the radiant heat of a wood stove. Or coming in from outside and standing over the stove and warm your hands and body. Or sitting in our recliners with a good book or working on our computers like I am now as I write this and feel that radiant warmth keep us warm.
With a small cabin and three dogs we decided on the cast iron stove for the radiant heat. A steel stove is equally efficient but they get very hot on the surface and we did not want the dogs to brush up against a steel stove and get singed or burned. After 16 winters of heating with wood stoves we have not had a single instance where anyone became burned or singed. Both of our stoves had glass in the doors for viewing the fire inside. Sometimes I just enjoy watching the fire burn and find that equally relaxing. So strictly from a consumers viewpoint having a wood stove keeps us fit by cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking firewood but it also has a warmth that is equal to nothing else. With our long winters we derive full enjoyment from our wood stove.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their mountain living lifestyle go to: http://www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com