When we bought our house, it was completely run by electricity. Not only were there no natural gas appliances, but the house wasn’t even piped for gas! Instead, it used electric baseboard heaters throughout the house. Now, we moved in right at the end of winter, just before the trees leafed out. Things were fine: the house was warm enough from the passive solar gain and the residual heat from cooking. Summer came, and went, and then it was time for winter. But the heaters all worked, because we’d checked them. How bad could it be?
Pretty bad, as it turned out.
Even keeping only the main room sort of not cold, and the same for a bedroom at night, nearly quadrupled our electric bill. We used roughly 1.21 jigawatts during the winter. Great Scott!!
So this was pretty much the definition of unsustainable. Add to that the tenuous nature of relying solely on the local electric grid for your warmth in the winter, and it quickly became evident that something else was necessary. We could have put in a furnace, but decided to go a different route.
We bought our woodstove (a Jøtul Black Bear) from Aspen Fireplace and Patio. Not only did Aspen deliver and install the stove, they put in the chimney too. Good folks over there. From the November day when it was put in until now, it’s been keeping us not only warm, but snugly so, for the price of a little labour. I don’t go cut timber for firewood (though I’ve planted a patch of black locust coppice for that purpose), relying on dead or obnoxious trees for fuel. We go through about two cords of mixed hardwood (a cord being 128 ft³) during the winter, thanks in large part to the efficiency of the stove. That and we have a small house! I actually have to be cautious in how I arrange the burn. It can be single digits outside, and the stove will have warmed the house so thoroughly that it’s too hot to sleep in the bedroom, which is on the other end of the house.
The nice thing about having the woodshop on the other side of the door is that when I finally cannot repurpose a piece of wood any further (so I’m stingy! Wanna make something of it?!), I can just bring it inside and use it for warmth. And then the ashes go out to the garden to sweeten the soil and make me tomatoes during the summer. How’s that for green, eh?
So from the wood-warmed annex to the woodshop, we highly recommend the Jøtul Black Bear and Aspen Fireplace. Two (toasty) thumbs up!