Saturday, February 16, 2008

Energy - heating the house

Log Burning in Fireplace by Chris Rogers
Log Burning in Fireplace

Its been a bit chaotic over the last 3 months. Moving house, taking on a business venture and uprooting the whole comfortable existence. At times, I pined after the old house, the old ways of doing things until now.

The vision may appear chaotic but there is planning in this madness. The aim is to engage with the certainty that global warning is changing the weather and growing conditions and to make local changes that reduce our carbon footprint as well as finding new ways of living.

We have now installed the woodstove which is multifuel as we do not preclude using other fuels than wood to keep warm. Wood is still a renewable resource and the woodstove can be independently operated.

Woodburners are easy to fit in existing fireplaces. It took 3 days. The fireplace we have in the house is originally an inglenook fireplace and would have been the hearth of the home. The way these were set up was based on the principle that when you warm the chimney and the bricks in the chimney, the heat rises and in parts warms the rest of the house. That is difficult to maintain with central heating as it heats the air and not the walls which in places are 2 m thick.

I am sure that the fires they lit in 1800 were great, and that they were a lot less sissi about the temperature they could survive with than I am.

To maintain an even temperature in the downstairs kitchen and living space ( which houses a table and chairs and a desk to work on), requires about a load of logs every 6 weeks. At this moment in time, I am burning a type of coal to keep the fire going through the night even though I am up at 6 am. That only takes place when the temperature outside drops to below freezing so is not a necessity all winter long. Using the woodburner will reduce my carbon footprint but I am not quite there with the smokeless fuel used at night. I had initially hoped to keep Mildred the rayburn going but she would not heat sufficiently to cook on and heat the house and released bellows of smoke as she would only heat up sufficiently when you used coal to do so.The firebox was small which precluded larger logs being burned too.

Changing from electric to gas is the first step if that is possible, backed up with wood. The woodburner will not only burn wood that is brought in from neighbouring farms but also burns garden prunings that will be stored in the shed as we go along. Similar to what we did at Berrycottage. After heavy weather it is easy to gather small sticks that have fallen from the trees and keep them in a dry place to provide small sticks to start a fire. Next is kindling. Some pieces of furniture that are discarded can be taken apart to provide raw materials for fuel instead of taking it all to landfill. Next come the larger branches from tree prunings, then logs and as a last resort coal to keep it going through the night.

That is the logic of it all. Wood is plenty in these parts and as it burns it releases carbon dioxide ( thanks for the correction comment !) ( which is the same we breathe out). We continue to obtain our logs from treesurgeons and other local sources. When I have worked out how much we need to keep warm over the next few weeks I will be able to plan the amount of logs I need for next winter and find a place to store them in. The amount will then give an indication as to what I can store, and rotate the fuel storage.

My thinking is that if the climate here warms up, some native trees will die down, and in order to make full use of the resources then on offer, I need to have the ability to store the wood and have some idea of how long it will provide me with warmth for years to come. Where these trees may not survive, other species used to warmer climates will take their place. If the climate gets warmer in winter, the need to keep the stove going will reduce and maybe other vegetation can take the place the trees have stood on. I do not know the answers but I am engaging with a thought process of adaptation that makes change possible.

Ultimately, my basic needs for food warmth and shelter are being considered here. I have shelter( although it is in need of repair), I have been cold lately and my food could still be improved upon. Priorities will change over time but warmth is the key in winter, right now.

I am off into the garden to do some work, more tidying, more pruning and planting a few bushes. The cherry tree is in, the gooseberry and rhubarb are ion as are some currant bushes.
Its cold, sunny and beatifully clear which is likely to create a frost later on.

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