I have a love/hate relationship with our wood furnace. I love keeping the house warmer than average in the winter and I love not paying for propane. I never feel bad using the furnace early in the fall or late in the spring. We have even lit a small fire a time or two on damp, cool summer days just to take some moisture out of the air.
However, I hate lighting it.
My husband doesn’t have any issues with it, but if it’s raining, snowing, damp, warm, or windy outside I have trouble getting it going. I load the box up with newspaper, cardboard, the driest split wood I can find, and a little oak to get a nice coal bed. I take a match, light the paper and… well… lets just say it takes a certain skill to only have half of the paper burn before it goes right out.
The wood furnace isn’t like a fireplace where you can poke at it and baby it. You can’t start it small, blow on it, and add a little more once it gets going. It’s more or less a one-shot deal. Otherwise you’ll end up with a basement full of smoke if you have to keep opening the door to the firebox. (I talked more about the furnace itself way back in May)
You have to quickly get the fire burning hot so it starts pulling a good draft up the chimney. Our chimney is 35 feet tall, from the basement up through two floors and an attic, so that’s not always the easiest thing to do. If the fire has recently gone out and the flue is still warm it’s not always terrible, but more times than not it gives me trouble. Getting the draft going is important because if you can’t pull a good draft, the firebox likes to spew smoke out at you when you open it.
The amount of smoke you get also depends some on the wood you’re burning. The last two winters we burned primarily wood that was harvested off our property, which was mostly tamarack, aspen, pine, and birch. Less than ideal, but free. The oak we bought this spring burns a lot cleaner than those and is much less smoky. It also burns longer and produces a more even heat – the furnace can damper itself down to maintain the temperature set on the thermostat and the fire won’t go out.
Luckily, this morning there was a nice smoldering log waiting in the furnace for me. Either it was still from overnight or my husband threw it in before he went to work (I can very easily keep the fire going, it’s starting it from scratch that gives me all my issues.) The log was right inside the furnace door, so I took the metal rod we use as a poker and shoved the log further back, tossed in another log, and I was done. Here is my nice smoke plume once that got going this morning:
The only time we really use the propane furnace is when my husband is out of town, which happens roughly twice a winter. Last February he was gone for a couple nights, Little Dude was about 6 weeks old or so. I figured since I was still getting up at night with him it would be no big deal to keep the wood furnace going overnight. I was wrong. After his 2 or 3 am feeding I went to tend to the furnace. I don’t remember the details exactly, but it had gone out and I had trouble with it. It was upwards of an hour before I eventually got it going. I went back to bed but then I couldn’t sleep because I kept smelling smoke the rest of the night. Because the smoke smell was all over me, my clothes, and my hair.
Nonetheless, here is our woodpile on October 26, 2016:
We have 25 face cord on a goal of 25 face cord! As long as the weather stays decent my husband will probably make more. If all the ricks were filled it would amount to 32 face cord.
We’ve been burning pretty consistently. There are still some warm days where it isn’t needed, but even on those days my husband often lights the furnace after he gets home from work.
You’ll also see we got our delivery of hay this past month – 48 round bales.
Bring it on, winter… We’re ready!
Smoke is today’s WordPress.com daily prompt