surest sign that the fire has died
Thursday, February 8 2007
I left the house on my own for the first time in more than a week. I didn't bathe or shave before I set out, and it had been four days since I'd last done those things. I've been trying to put off bathing until a delivery of oil comes on Tuesday. Our 250 gallon fuel tank is now somewhere between a quarter and an eighth full, and in this cold weather I don't want to place any demands on it that aren't absolutely necessary. Happily, cold weather makes bathing pretty much unnecessary (though it makes me crave bathing more).
When the fuel is delivered on Tuesday, it will be the first fuel delivery since March 5th, 2006. In a McMansion as big as this one, that's an astoundingly-low rate of oil consumption. Some of the credit for that low consumption goes to the rooftop hydronic solar panels, of course, but the bulk of our heating needs have been met by scavenged firewood. We haven't bought any wood since November of 2005.
While I was out I managed to scavenge more firewood, most of it from a two year old logging site along Dug Hill Road. All the wood I scavenged today was oak, the best kind of firewood in this area. Recently I've been burning a lot of pine and cottonwood. It burns better than I'd been led to believe it would (and the damp cottonwood pieces have proved easy to dry out when stacked beside the wood stove). But for overnight purposes, it's nice to drop a big klutz of oak into the firebox. Otherwise the fire dies by morning and the house starts to cool, and in this weather (with its seven degree mornings), that cooling can happen quickly. In the morning the living room is usually about 55 degrees if the fire dies out overnight. If it doesn't, it can be as warm as 65.
I try to keep the living room at around 70 degrees during the daytime. In cold windy weather, when outdoor temperatures are below 20, it's hard to get the living room any hotter than about 68 degrees. Still, even with the living room in the 60s, the other occupied parts of the house stay reasonably comfortable and the only household demands on the fuel oil supply are for hot water and the heating of the laboratory. In the morning the surest sign that the fire has died is that I'll hear hot water flowing in the bedroom's hydronic pipes, meaning temperatures there have fallen into the fifties.
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