It’s official: Beacon Farmstead is now heating with wood! I have to admit, it has taken us a long time to get here. One wouldn’t think that achieving such a simple concept would prove to be so complex–yet, it certainly was!
We initially started our goal to heat with wood, like so many of our projects, by doing research on-line and then obsessively scanning Craigslist.com. We first discovered a remarkable amount of free firewood posted; some in the form of a fallen tree, some that had already been cut into 18” log sections, and some already aged and split. Over a month or two, I borrowed my father-in-law’s beautiful truck several times (thanks, Randy!) and “harvested” this gloriously free wood (free with the exception of the fuel to operate the truck). I spent many hours splitting wood while Judah explored in the yard and climbed on the wood stacks with the cats.
It felt good! The wood was free, but so was the workout and the experience. In a funny way, as I swung the axe, if not for but a fleeting moment, I felt connected with all those ancestors who split wood before me, out of necessity, for survival, and certainly not for some suburbanite desire to be sustainable. We had no need to heat with wood. We could still pay for electric heat, but we saw the potential for using a renewable natural resource that would otherwise end up at the dump and with a bit of effort on our end, pulling it out of the waste stream, we could provide our own heat. How nifty. So we had our wood. Now, we needed a stove. Back to Craigslist.
With wood stoves you really need to find the right size stove for the right size home. We found an inexpensive cast-iron Vogelzang box stove for under $100 that would heat 800-1000 sq. ft. This seemed to be appropriate for heating the lower level of our home and we would just let the heat rise to our second story where all the bedrooms were located (we like sleeping in cooler temperatures anyway). We responded quickly and snapped up the Vogelzang from a very nice couple in a nearby neighborhood. It was quite heavy, but light enough for me to lift, although laboriously, on my own. Wood-stove: check.
Imagining I could retrofit our existing fireplace to receive a wood-stove by the sweat of my own brow, we did a little more research and found that unless it was professionally installed and inspected, in the event of a fire, our insurance would not cover the damage. After calling around, I discovered that this meant $1,000-$3,000 to install the steal-of-a-deal wood stove we purchased. So, that wasn’t going to happen and we opted out of heating with wood for that season. Dead end.
Fast forward to the present. Our current home on the farm is a mobile home, and although it has an appropriate wood-stove duct that had been installed by the previous owner, one can’t just go throwing any old wood-stove into a mobile home–they have to be mobile home approved. The Vogelzang was NOT mobile home approved. Bummer. We now needed to invest in a new wood stove and the only one we could find that was somewhat affordable AND mobile home approved was at one of our local big-box stores (I’ll let you guess which one: it starts with “H” and ends with “ome Depot”). This made it pretty easy. No having to get one shipped to our house or driving to some obscure wood-stove shop in Who-knows-where, Virginia. Great! We had another stove and one that would work for our home on the farm. Now we needed stove pipe.
The particular stove we purchased required15ft of stove pipe for proper draft which meant we needed a bunch of stove pipe (but WAY less than that $1000-$3000 promise in our old house)! This also meant we needed a number of other pieces, adapters, roof bracings and such, and we couldn’t even identify what the brand was of the existing roof/stove duct installation. While we could have ended up driving from stove shop to stove shop, we were fortunate in finding the right brand of pipe at our other local big-box store (Hint: starts with “L” and ends with….ah, you know which one). Once we had all the pieces, the stove was up and running in a matter of days.
The tricky parts were as follows:
Getting the stove outside for the first three burn-off fires (this gets the factory chemically smell off the stove and cures the paint without stinking up your house, but boy that stove is heavy!).
Installing the air intake (this entails creating a 5 1/2 in hole in your home and running a tube through it that connects to your stove for proper air flow).
Finally, installing the stove pipes in the house and on the roof and securing them with roof bracings (this was possibly the most challenging part to do with a 3 1/2 year old wanting me to look at what he is doing down below every 30 seconds while I’m standing at the edge of our roof adjusting 8ft. of heavy insulated pipe and a bit afraid of heights to boot).
Even with all of that, the stove is now installed and working properly! And the best part is that we were able to do it all ourselves (and do it well). Learning to control the stove and operate it with efficiency is a whole other story, one which we will share with you on another day.
We have some cold days approaching, so stay warm, y’all. I know we will!