Heating our homes through winter

Sunday, November 19, 2017

By Rennie Phillips

When I was growing up Mom and Dad heated our house with propane heater in the front room and it did a pretty good job. Then back by our bedrooms there was a small wall heater that tried to put out enough heat but it just wasn't big enough. So our bedrooms were rather cold. When I was little, Mom would pile on the blankets and normally top it off with a heavy, thick homemade quilt. Thick and heavy. Later Mom and Dad bought us all electric blankets, which were amazing. We'd go back and turn them on before going to bed and it was amazing how warm the beds were. Spoiled us. Once you get used to warm blankets it's hard to crawl into a cold bed.

Grandpa and Grandma had a hide-a-bed that they'd pull out for me to sleep on. It had a feather tick mattress and pillows to match. Grandma had homemade quilts to cover us up. Once you sunk down in the mattress and Grandma covered you with those heavy old quilts it seemed like it was even hard to turn over. I always loved to stay with them. Can't say I have even one bad memory about Grandma and Grandpa.

Down through the years Marge and I have stayed in all kinds of homes and house trailers. Most were well heated and some even air conditioned and they were comfortable to live in. When we moved out where we now live there was a central heat and air unit and it did a fair job. When it got down around zero, that old heater just couldn't keep up so we bought a wood stove. What a change.

We brought the new wood stove in and hooked up the stove pipe and we were in business. It was amazing how much heat that little wood stove put off. So we began cutting and splitting firewood, which was new to us. I'd cut a little wood here and there but never for a wood stove. So we bought a chainsaw and learned how to use it. The first few years we'd cut the wood with the chainsaw and split the wood by hand. Now that was work.

We weren't real good with the splitting maul so we broke a few handles, but we learned how to swing and hit close to where we had aimed. We also bought some wedges and used them to split the wood. Both were a lot of work. Not sure if splitting the wood produced more heat than burning the wood. I remember going to my doctor about my diabetes and telling him I was splitting fire wood by hand. He made a point of telling me to be careful and not overwork my heart.

We put a lot of hours on the first chainsaw so we bought a new one. The newer one seems to start better and even runs better. I have even learned how to kind of sharpen it. I do pretty good most of the time but then there are the times when I do something wrong. Right now I must have the sides of the chain sharpened wrong. It wants to cut crooked. I thought about sharpening it again and see how it would cut. Maybe I can luck out and fix what I'm not sure I did wrong.

One thing we have had to learn is how to build a fire in the wood stove. We can put about 18- to 20-inch chunks of wood in if we go across or we can put 12- to 14-inch chunks if we put the wood straight in. Both work well. I know the bigger the chunks of wood the longer the fire will burn. We normally used old newspaper as a starter and then some small kindling. If we want to cheat we give it a squirt of kerosene. It's kind of like charcoal lighter fluid.

What we have noticed about the wood stove and the wood heat is it seems to warm you even inside. Our forced-air heater kind of heats the house but one still isn't warm. But with the wood stove it warms one in a different way. Kind of deep down inside us. Sure feels good. We can back up to the wood stove and warm our backside, do the flip and then heat up the front side.

We have had some pretty cool nights up to now but we haven't started our forced-air heater. Our wood stove is in our front room so it stays pretty warm. The rooms off the front room are a little cooler and the rooms off them are even cooler. Our bedroom is the furthest from the wood stove so it is rather cool. We don't mind. We both seem to sleep better in a cool room.

Probably in the next few weeks I'll start the forced-air heater. I bought a new carbon monoxide tester to make sure the heat exchanger in the furnace isn't leaking. Usually when we turn back the clocks we are encouraged to change the batteries in our smoke detectors but the carbon monoxide detectors are important as well. Most carbon monoxide testers are just plugged in but some have both batteries and can be plugged in. If you have natural gas or propane heat you should have a carbon monoxide detector. I think ours cost something like $25.

If you use a wood heater check out the stove pipe and make sure it's safe. Be extra careful if you use a space heater. Seems like space heaters start several fires every year. If you have a forced-air heater or a HVAC unit it's wise to have a professional come in and check it out before real cold weather gets here. A crack in the heat exchanger will allow carbon monoxide to get in the house, which can end up making us sick or even killing us.

Enjoy the winter.

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