"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

Preparing myself, my family and my friends for the Fourth Turning.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Random Notes And Heating Systems

Have encountered some problems with the bridge - cost rose to an unexpected level.  After much work with the architect and engineer, we appear to have worked the cost back down to an acceptable level.  Footings and abutments should be finished in the next couple of weeks.

Bridge deck will follow as soon as possible - but it does look to be delayed for at least a bit.

Weather has begun cooling - trees are starting to change.  I am hoping for a crisp, dry fall - the combination of cold and dry air brings out the color in the leaves.  I have brought my old Canon F-1 and my tripod.  Ithaca is full of gorges cut by streams through shale; always beautiful, in the fall they are simply stunning.

Trout will begin running from Owasco Lake up my creek in the next few days.  Lake trout entering streams to spawn can be quite large - the largest I ever caught, running upstream out of lake Erie, was as long as my leg, and quite a fighter

These are likely to be smaller than that, but still quite large for brown and brook trout.  There are also native browns in the stream.

Turkey are calling constantly around the site - not three minutes passes without hearing one or another.  Occasionally, a grouse may be heard thumping off in the distance, and I have begun to see rabbit along the new driveway.

We deliberately left the branches and tops of the trees downed for the road in piles off to the sides, intermingled with the existing brush.  These piles of brush provide excellent habitat for rabbits, and should increase the population over the next few years.

Have begun cutting wood for next winter.  Estimates from the locals, depending on weather and heating system used, range from a low of four cords to a high of 18 cords - egads!  Of course, this turned out to have been due to an attempt to heat the garage; once stopped, wood usage reverted to more normal levels.

Many systems of heating up here.  Most of you know we intend to install a masonry heater - essentially a fully enclosed fireplace with a counterflow exhaust system.  This system keeps the hot gasses inside the heater for a longer period than a wood stove or fireplace, causing the masonry exterior to radiate gentle, constant warmth.

For folks in municipalities, gas lines, and of course electricity are available to drive heating systems.  Rural folk have a choice of heating oil, delivered by a truck and pumped directly into a tank at your house; propane gas - much the same except the tank is outside; various wood, wood pellet, and even coal systems.

The neighbor with the 18-cord budget uses an outdoor wood boiler that heats water which then flows through a series of pipes. He has a rather nice control station in his basement that allows him, through a series of levers, to direct hot water only to those portions of the house he wishes.

The advantages of an external wood boiler include taking a tremendous wood charge all at once, reducing refueling times; avoiding the mess (ash, wood litter) that can accompany an interior burner; and, of course, it can be located directly next to the wood supply.

A masonry heater shares some of the characteristics of a wood boiler - it can take a substantial charge - about 50 pounds of wood - and they typically need to be refueled only once daily. In addition, they are highly efficient - most of the heat generated remains in the house.

They do take much longer to reach full warming capacity - on the order of 12 to 24 hours - and you can't shut them off very quickly if it becomes too warm. For this reason, quicker fired, and quicker cooling appliances are desirable.

Thus, we plan to have two wood stoves in the house as well - a cast iron one in the master suite, and a steel one in the main living area downstairs.  The cast iron stove provides a nicer appearance, and radiates heat even after the fuel charge is expended, but warms slowly.  The steel stove provides immediate heat to the environment - you see flame, you got heat.

The reasons for the different behaviors of these devices, all of which burn wood, lies first and foremost in the thermal conductivity of the cladding.  Masonry absorbs heat slowly, retains it for a long time, and releases in gently.  Cast iron takes longer to heat, but once heated, remains work and has good radiant properties.

Steel heats quickly, and cools quickly.


Wood is a major source of winter energy in the area - it is possible, and common, to purchase an entire truck of logs.  Of course, if this is the case, one must still do the work of sizing and splitting.  If one owns property, the fuel is free, but the labor cost must still be paid.

But then, the labor is satisfying.

As an exercise in discovering this for oneself, I recommend Robert Frost's 'Two Tramps in Mud Time' for some light reading on the joys of splitting wood.

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