Let there be HEAT!!!


If you’ve been following along with our little saga… you know that the last two winters have been fairly unpleasant and cold for us!   Primarily because our main heating sources have been jinxed!  Yes, I’m pretty sure that is what you can call it.  Jinxed.   The first year we found out that the furnace was dead after a good deal of fumbling around.  Okay, then we got the corn pellet stove.  Really like that, but the darn thing caught on fire and tried to burn down our house!  (Poor curtains)  So, we limped through the rest of that winter on space heaters and kerosene heaters.  Not what I would recommend for your budget!

Then we got a friend to help us install a new furnace!  Yah!   But then we had all these problems with the propane tank, and ended up having to get another tank and just go through a heck of a time.   And then we found out that the new furnace is way underpowered for our house size and couldn’t get the house much past 60 on a warm day.  Oh no!  Too far gone to exchange it, so we came to a compromise…   we would add an additional form of heat, in a big wood furnace!  We got the furnace and installation free, as a bit of compensation because of the propane furnace and all we had to do was buy the exhaust pipe.  Not a bad deal, really, since those wood furnaces are easily a grand.   Our fellow, whom the girls are calling Calcifer after some game character they like (a little fire critter thingy)  is used, but he is in good shape and ready to make some heat for us.

We had a lot of seasoned stumps from a couple trees that we cut first year, so with a lot of help, a borrowed log splitter and the ponies, we got nearly a full cord of wood ready and waiting for the installation of our beast.

Mark and his son were out last Saturday and we had all the parts ready after Jr. took out that window and helped put up the fireboard behind the spot that Calcifer will be sitting.  It didn’t take too long, a few hours, to get it all installed and set up.


Lots of parts and tools and all that.   The nice thing is that the only part that requires electricity is the blowers on the back.   It can be run without electricity, just have to be careful not to overheat the box and run it with a HUGE roaring fire in there.   Like if the power goes out.  That is one cool part to the puzzle.   Being rural, we are the first to be sacrificed when the big cities need power.  And if a storm comes through, we are the last to be hooked back up.  So we need a heat source for just in case!  And Calcifer will fill the bill.   Of course, he’s much more efficient with his fans running.


Just in time…  a very cold mass of air came in after that storm and made it rainy and foggy, even with snow flurries.  We were very very very ready for some decent heat.



I was never so happy to see a fire in my house!  The girls tolerate the cool house much more than this old lady!   My gosh…  thank goodness for an excellently insulated house, because without any form of heat, the lowest it would go was 48 degrees.   If we ran a couple kerosene heaters and two small electric heaters, we could get it around 54 degrees.  They didn’t mind, me?  I thought I was going to die a few nights, shivering and cuddled under a bunch of blankets and two dogs!  (It was definitely a three dog night on several occasions but we only had two and a few cats.  I guess we need another dog!   haha… no….)

Once we got the house warmed up, the temperatures are more like 60-65 degrees with the wood furnace running full strength.  Not too bad!  To us, after two super challenging winters, 65 degrees is like shorts and tshirt weather!  And boy, does it feel good coming inside from chores!  Downright sinful!

We started burning our free wood but found that it was going pretty quickly, as it was mostly soft woods, some pine and such.   We knew that pine was not the best to burn, because it creates creosote buildup and well, it burns to fast, it’s just not very effective.  But it was free and that was a good thing, so we burned most of it up in a couple days.  It is nice to be able to have a resource for all the sticks, limbs and dead trees that we have on the estate.  Why not use it up?  It’s good exercise out there gathering sticks and such, as well as free heat!

There is quite a little learning curve to keeping the beast running smoothly.  At first Maggie was pretty much in charge, but we have all learned that you have to keep an eye on the wood level and be prepared to throw in a stick or two when it requires it.  The fan is a little loud but to be honest, you get used to it.   Now hearing the fan is comforting because I know there is a good strong fire in the belly of the beast.   When the fire burns down, the fan shuts off.  There will still be coals and sometimes even a small fire, so it’s easy enough to just add wood and it will start back up.  It’s kind of like the alarm to ADD MORE FUEL!

Most people install these things in their  basement, or even outside in a little building.  Our basement is just nasty and to be honest, if I had to go down there several times a day and night, it just would not happen.  With a 115 year old farmhouse, and a yucky Michigan basement…  that would just not be good.  Having it tucked back in the office is just perfect.   It’s where we spend a good deal of our day, so we are all very nice and toasty warm.  The residual heat rises and spreads out to the bedrooms so by evening, they are nice and comfy.  Just stoke the fire and add a few logs, close your door and go to sleep.

By morning, the fire is usually coals and occasionally out.  No matter.  The house is still a bit warm, perhaps better called a bit chilly.  It’s a perfect time to scoop out the ashes in our metal ash bucket, and then get the furnace ready for the next day’s heating.

If you want something easy and pretty automatic, a wood furnace is NOT for you.  You have to baby the thing, keep fussing over it, tend it through the day and night.  It’s messy.   We have wood bits all over and have to sweep it all up daily.  You have to buy wood or cut wood and stack it and drag it around and all that.  Yeah, it’s not as easy as propane at all.

But it’s a good warm heat.  Smells good too.  And there is something very contented to keeping a fire going.  It’s the thing that old traditions and such are made of.  With the three of us, it’s not that hard of a chore.  And I love the fact that we can use up a lot of our own wood, free to us, here on the property.  That will be nice.  We always seem to have a lot of downed branches and such.  And we have a couple trees that need to come down this spring…  they will make excellent fodder for next winter’s heat!

woodguysHowever, it became apparent that we needed to get a load of hardwood as our pile was quickly going away!  It lasted almost a week…  but it was getting hard to keep up.  20-25 big pieces of wood a day!

So I snooped around and asked questions of fellow woodburners until I found these two delightful young men.  They brought us out a very full pickup truck load of nice hardwood ash to burn!  And they delivered it and unloaded it for us.  I’m pretty sure they would have stacked it for a slight fee as well, but that’s okay, we like free form and I knew that it would be disappearing pretty quickly.

Boy, what a difference!   Now we’re going through about 8 to 10 good sized pieces.   And the hardwood burns a lot hotter and longer.  It’s much better.   And I love that we’re supporting these young men that spent the spring and summer hauling, cutting and splitting all this wood.  They are in highschool and this is their afterschool job!  Pretty cool.

So, that is the story of our now, third year of heating.   I hope that we have finally found the answer.  We have the propane furnace in the basement if we choose to use it, and we have the wood heat upstairs that we are using.   And we have our good old kerosene heaters on standby.   Our goal is to get through the winter and not owe a single dime to anymore for our past heat.  The nice thing about heating with wood, propane and kerosene is that you almost always have to pre-pay for that heat.   We were burdeoned with a electric bill of over $3,000 by this year’s end and we FINALLY paid it all off last month.  Just in time for the new heating season.  That was very hard on us to pay off through the summer when our income is much lower.  I am looking forward to next year being debt free in the heating/electric section of our budget!    Yahooooooooo!!!!!

Gotta go check the beast!


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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of BuckeyeBluegrass.com as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


Let there be HEAT!!! — 4 Comments

  1. I would not run the wood stove when the power is out. Without the fans pulling cool air in and hot air our you can burn out the wiring (ask me how I know this).

    There are tricks to keeping it going almost all night. Once you have a deep bed of coals you can cut the air back to just under halfway and with good hardwood in there it will burn till about four or five am or so. So if you have the last person to go to bed set the wood for the night and the first person up refill it, you can run all just about all night.

    Right now our fuel oil furnace is busted so we are only using the wood stove. I love wood heat though and running mine makes my house smell WONDERFUL.

  2. hi,
    a scavenging idea for hard wood you may already know, but was amazing for us. if you are near a rail yard, sometimes they have oak blocks used for something, separating track or something. ours were about 4 to 6 inch cubes of solid oak, some nails, so you may have to do some occasional nail pulling, but our little freight train stop let us shovel up a whole pickup bed load of them, free. solid oak, untreated, sometimes nails. those suckers burn a nice long time. since they’re cubes, you have to be careful to leave air space for the fire.