As the outside temperature hovers in the single digits below zero it seems fitting that I update my readers on the projects intended to make my urban homestead a little bit more resilient. The long saga of the wood stove came to a sudden conclusion as the co-owner of the shop where we had laid out a down payment for a stove decided to get rid of us by putting us in contact with someone who would actually do the job, and my diy solar project finally came together with some simple solutions to some pesky problems and a discovery or two which will help me make the basement apartment a cozier place to be.
I couldn’t be happier with the wood stove and the delay gave us some time to rethink our assumptions and make some better choices as well. This was the fourth attempt to acquire a stove. The first two ended on the showroom floor at two local dealers with the same sort of frustrating misunderstanding that we’ve experienced all too often in our consumer experience: When we try to explain what we want and why we get told why we don’t want that and that what we really want is something completely different…or we get ignored. My favorite was the window guy who seemed to imply that the placement of our glass panes at the transition point from interior to exterior seemed to preclude him working on them. Fence repair on the perimeter of a property is an issue as well. The soffit of the house being “on the upper part of the home” also a problem.
In any case this installer talked to us about what we wanted. We had decided that the fact this was intended as a back up system, a supplemental system, and a decorative element in the home meant that we didn’t want the type of larger (and more expensive) stove we had been sold earlier which would have required completely ripping out the old mantle and changing the look of the dining room. A very small stove, it turns out, has some great advantages: the room it’s in never gets unbearably hot; it takes very little fuel to keep it fired up; it allows multiple configurations in the room; depending on the ambient temperature it can raise the temperature in the house by a handful of degrees or at least maintain it even in bitter cold.
We’ve already cooked a couple of meals on it and baked some bread in a Dutch oven. Slower processes than using an electric stove to be sure but it could suffice for a few days in a pinch. There have been days when we’ve used only the wood stove to heat the house and it has done so capably; the temperature differential from 1st to 3rd floor is much less in fact than with the steam boiler.
I have no one but myself to blame for the extra 14 months or so it took me to assemble my soup can solar heater. I’ve seen it done with soda cans but I don’t drink soda and I do consume lots of refried beans so I went with what I had. LuLu pounded the holes in the bottom of each can and helped me to remove the labels. I used a little spray paint to blacken the cans but brushed on a final coat of paint to seal the cans together in their tube configuration. I built a box from a 4′ x 4′ piece of plywood and insulated it with some leftover insulatory material I had from when I first moved in to the house, and some cardboard, I covered it over with two sheets of clear acrylic and attached dryer hose to the rear.
As hoped, the cold air gets sucked out at floor level and the warm air flows out of the heater and into the apartment. Where once a door and then a wall of glass brick had been built I had a more traditional window installed. Below that window was now, in theory, part of the wall, but not masonry. That made my limited tools, and even more limited skills, sufficient for installing the inflow and outflow tubes.
I intend to attach a solar powered fan to pull even more hot air out of the system more quickly but for now, even in the midst of a deep and dark December, it gets 5 hours of sufficient sunshine to make the level of heating noticeable. In early Autumn and late Spring I fancy it will be sufficient to satisfactorily heat the entire space.
Next on the agenda a solar hot water system.