Going Back to Wood Heat

This is a picture of a Vermont Castings Defiant wood stove. I have had three Vermont Castings Defiants over the years, this is going to be the third. The first one I bought in the 1970’s when Vermont Castings first started making the Defiants. We went down to their Randolph foundry to pick it up. It was a great heater/wood stove and I regretted having to leave it behind when we sold the house.

A few years later, I bought a second Defiant to heat our 1830s Vermont farm house. It did a great job and I miss it terribly. I sold it during a foolish period after having a Jotul fireplace insert installed. Yes, the Jotul is more of a heater than the open fireplace, but no competition for the Defiant. At the time, I thought I could get rid of the Defiant and just use the Jotul. This proved to be a mistake.

The Jotul fireplace insert has some short comings: it depends upon electricity to power the blowers which actually disburse the heat produced and it does not hold a fire like the Defiant does. I am not convinced you get much secondary burn with the Jotul fireplace insert. It is pretty and gives the appearance of an open fire with its glass doors, but it is not in the same league as the Defiant when it comes to heating a home. I think of the fireplace inserts as something better intended for the visual effect of an open fire, but not really a heater, maybe more suited for a ski lodge than as a whole house heater. It is an improvement over just an open fireplace but beyond that, not so great, and it burns wood faster as you might expect.

The picture above will be my third Defiant. I am very excited about getting this here and having it installed. They are terrific heaters putting out about 56,000 BTUs and capable of heating about 2400 square feet (most homes are less than 2400 sf). This one has the glass doors (my first two were pre-glass doors) and gives the look of an open fire while operating like a wood stove. It will hold a fire for about 10 hours so you can usually go to bed and get up in the morning and just add more wood and the house is still warm. It also has a cook surface on the top and it does not require any electricity. Power in rural Vermont can be as fickle as the weather and losing power in the winter is not fun when you need power to operate your heating systems.

I have another “method to my madness” here. I am more and more convinced that relying on oil heat is not such a good idea. For one thing, the supply lines are very long, probably halfway around the world. Prices for oil go nuts every time the world gets crazy with the politics of power and money. And, a larger reason, burning oil is contributing to climate change and the greenhouse effect. Burning oil puts money in the pockets of folks that could care less about all of this and hurts me and those I care about as well as hurting the earth. I think our Mideast tragedies have been dictated by the oil industry. Never before has one country spent so much in the way of resources and wasted human life to do one thing – protect a single industry, the oil industry. Now you have my little political speech.

When I burn wood for heat during a Vermont winter, my supply lines are local. I know the guys that work in the woods and log. I have been their accountant for many of them over the years and prepared their tax returns as well as kept their books. Economically, buying firewood from my logging neighbors supports my local economy and I stay warm in the bargain.

There is a bigger argument here and it is driving my thinking in these last few years. I think it is increasingly important to be able to provide and find most of what we need locally, especially food and as many other needs that can be met. The more my supply lines are local or self-produced, the better. This gets into my garden and food production – more about this in later pieces.

I have always had a strong need to live a simple life. Heating my home with wood is one way I can live more simply. I am a Luddite from way back and in my old age, this is coming out.

Published by Ed Pirie

I am a Vermonter, been one all my life. That just about tells you all you need to know. I am not much of a follower and like to do my own thinking. I value my family and a quiet existence in a very rural part of Vermont. There is a lot in the world I do not understand. My writing is my attempt to wrap my head around much that is swirling around me. Some time ago gasoline pumps changed to the way they look now. I had stopped to fill my Jeep and I could not get the gas to pump to save my life. I went inside and complained to the attendant. She knew me and said, "Ed, the whole world is changing and if you don't figure out the changes you are going to fall off the earth as it spins around." Well, I am not always successful figuring out the changes, but my writing is my way of working through some of them. I hope you enjoy.

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