>> Monday, November 23, 2009
It's the time of year for wood hauling and stacking. This is what our driveway looked like Sunday morning:
So, there shall be stacking aplenty in the coming week or two. You should note that this is the second round of hauling and stacking this autumn - we already stacked 5 cords. We have about 1½ cords left from last year, and we're hoping that will be enough to get us through the winter, although we really don't know.
If you hadn't guessed thus far, we heat with wood.
When we moved into our 2,200 square foot house that was built in 1831, we had some concerns about heating costs, and the environmental impact of us two (well, 7 if you count the fur-bearing members of the family) occupying that ridiculous amount of square footage. I love old houses and desperately wanted to try fixing one up for the sheer fun of the thing, but I recognized my carbon footprint was going to be bigger than it ought to be.
We spent a lot of time researching different methods of heating and what their costs are (both up-front and long-term) and what their environmental impacts are. Spouse was partial to a wood-burning stove since that's what he grew up with. He's from the North Country, in the middle of nowhere near Canton, New York, where it gets mighty cold. His only neighbors were Amish. Theirs was an enormous old drafty farmhouse, and his family went through 15-20 cords of wood a winter heating it. Since he was the only boy in a large family, let's just say my husband is comfortable with an axe.
In contrast, I grew up in a raised ranch in suburbia and as a child never knew people heated with anything other than a furnace. Ours ran on gas. You wanted heat, you turned up the thermostat - that was all there was to it.
Despite that our house can be heated with the perfectly good high-efficiency gas furnace that resides in the basement, it's mighty pricey (we're currently estimating it is at least 3x the price of heating with wood), and gas has its own environmental impacts. It takes a lot of work to extract any fossil fuel, and the results aren't always terribly pretty.
Is wood really a better choice? I just don't know - it's mighty hard to say. Wood is renewable, but was the wood in my driveway harvested in a sustainable manner? And while our wood burning unit is one of the most efficient available and has one of the lowest emissions ratings out there for wood burning stoves, it's still combustion. I gather from conversations with a couple of environmental engineers I know that the cleanest burning units available at the moment are actually coal-burning, but we ruled that out because of what has to be done to the earth to get the coal out. Plus, I don't like the smell of coal when it's burning, and it doesn't have the same ambiance. Pellet stoves also seemed to lack ambiance, and we have friends who have trouble getting enough pellets as demand seems to have outstripped supply, at least around here.
Our house technically had a wood burning insert in it when we moved in, so installing a new one didn't seem that difficult. That, combined with the cost of running the furnace, my husband's love of wood stoves (a.k.a. pyromania), and some odd romantic notions about woods stoves and country living being suited to one another, and we ultimately decided on wood.
Using the ancient wood stove that was in the house when we moved in was out of the question.