Two years ago, I wrote about emergency home heat. In the article, I compared various options, mentioned my desire for both short-term, convenient and long-term, sustainable solutions, and decided on propane and wood, respectively.
Since then, I have moved, built a new home, and done even more research. While my conclusions have not changed generally, my overall plan has. For the most part, I no longer see the need for two solutions. In my mind, there is now a single, universal solution that is the most efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable.
Remember that the specific task was to identify a solution for heating one’s home. I still believe that propane is the best fuel for portability and convenience. I still have my Little Buddy heater and several backup tanks. I even plan on getting a few more tanks. This is a great solution for working in the garage, shed, or greenhouse in the winter. I don’t however, plan on using this to heat my home—even part of my home.
Being prepared isn’t something you do; it’s something you are. It should be a way of life. Those that are best prepared are those that will be able to continue their usual routine with little inconvenience or challenge.This is the reason the concept of emergency food storage makes me cringe. Freeze-dried meals with a thirty-year shelve life is better than having nothing at all and I applaud those that have at least put something like this away, but what happens when the crap hits the fan and you dig these boxes out of the dark, dusty corner they have been sitting in? How are you going to prepare it? What are you going to cook it on? What about appetite fatigue? What happens when it runs out?
The same applies to heat. What happens when you run out of fuel? What happens if your heater breaks? This happened to me. Last time I pulled my Little Buddy out, it wouldn’t light. What happens when you loose your job and simply can’t pay your utility bill? What if you could heat a few thousand square feet instead of only a few hundred? What if you could do it for less money? How would you like to wake up the morning after a night the power went out and not know it until you tried to turn a light on?
The answer is wood. The application is important though; a fireplace won’t work. The appliance you want is a wood burning stove. It’s nothing new; this is how homes have been heated for centuries. You’ll remember in my original article that I mentioned wood was a good, long-term, sustainable solution, but moved past it rather quickly. This was short-sided due to a desire to find a solution that would allow me to continue to run all my modern appliances and ignorance to the performance and cleanliness of modern stoves. I have since decided that a self-sustainable full source is more important that maintaining modern appliances. While a wood stove won’t fuel a water heater, oven, or kitchen range, it will heat my entire home and the model I’m purchasing has a step-top cook-top for radiant and convection cooking. Old wood burning stoves were inefficient, dangerous, and bad on the environment but a lot has changed in the past several years. The EPA limited smoke emissions in the late 1980’s to 7.5 grams per hour, but modern, certified stoves emit as little as 1.9 grams of particulates per hour. They even use substantially less wood.
I plan on purchasing the Liberty Stove by Lopi. It puts out 74,000 BTUs per hour and can heat up to 2,500 square feet radiantly and by means of it’s built in convection air-flow alone. I’m going to install it in my basement next to a canning kitchen. This will allow me to heat my home and use it for cooking, today, tomorrow, during the next storm, or one second after. Another thing that I am going to do as I finish my basement is install a cold-air return above the stove in the ceiling. This will allow me (at least when the power is on) to run just my furnace’s blower and distribute the heat throughout my house via the ductwork, efficiently heating the entire structure (4,000 square feet). It’s not as convenient as a gas fireplace, but without a blower, gas fireplaces are only artwork; they don’t heat. Wood stoves are a little more work, but at least they work under any condition.
I plan on documenting the construction of my chimney and installation of the stove and including that in a follow-up article this summer.