Tuesday, December 29 2009
The temperature stayed consistently in the teens all day, starting high in the teens, then dropping, then rising somewhat. But what made the outdoors so unpleasant was the howling wind that blew relentlessly all day long. I looked at the air pressure map of the United States and could see that the Northeast lay on a steep pressure gradient between a midwestern high pressure system and a low off the Grand Banks.
At some point Gretchen and I had a conversation about our woodstove, that is, how best to replace it. The existing stove is pretty much shot and is demanding too much wood to produce too little heat, and I had the idea of perhaps replacing it with the large Vermont Castings Parlor Stove given to us by a friend (it's been out in the garage for well over a year). But it's an older stove and doesn't promise to be that much more efficient than the crapped out one we're already using. Furthermore, it lacks glass doors, and being able to see and directly feel the fire is a huge part of a woodstove's entertainment value.
Gradually we came around to the idea of buying a brand new super-efficient stove, perhaps from Green Heat, the new woodstove dealership in Stone Ridge. While we were mulling these things over, our friend David (of Penny and David) came by to give me some server information and to drop off some vegan cheese substitutes that turned out not to be completely vegan. And David told us something we hadn't known: there is a huge tax credit for people buying new woodstoves to replace older, inefficient models. As a means to stimulate the economy while improving air quality, it's similar to the "Cash for Clunkers" program (which David and Penny used to convert an old Land Rover into part of a new Subaru Forester).
So after we'd eaten an impromptu lunch of vegan mac & cheese & mushrooms that Gretchen had assembled, we convoyed out to Green Heat.
Like car dealerships, guitar shops and woodstove retailers sell only a few brands, and when one retailer is selling the brand in an area, none of the other retailers can sell that brand. This policy has the anticompetitive whiff of medieval guild about it and seems very anachronistic in the internet age. Still, woodstoves are heavy objects and make their own rules of supply and demand. If you were to buy one on eBay, who knows what it would end up costing after shipping.
One of Green Heat's brands is Lopi stoves, which are made out of stamped sheets of heavy-gauge steel (as opposed to cast from molten iron, as our existing stove was). Also unlike our existing stove, Lopi stoves do not use catalytic converters to achieve the efficiency necessary to qualify for a tax credit. Instead they circulate flue gasses through an elaborate system of stainless steel pipes so particulate matter and gasses can get a second chance to burn. Learning of this technology excited me, because I knew from experience that the catalyst in stoves that use them eventually goes bad or gets clogged with ash or chemicals.
It wasn't long before we focused on the Lopi Liberty, the biggest stove in the store. We have a big house and big heat demands, so it's only natural that we select a big stove. The guy in the store seemed to know about the technology in great detail and even showed us some video clips on his computer. A video tour of the Lopi factory floor rather reminded me of a propaganda video hosted by Troy McClure.
With all the attachments, sales tax, and what not (including a blower fan but not installation), the stove was going to cost about $2800, though 30% of that would be coming back to us as a tax credit.
As part of due diligence, we drove to Fireside Warmth, the other local woodstove retailer on 28 across from Onteora Lake. But we thought all their woodstoves were ugly, so we left after about five minutes, before any salespeople even got a chance to accost us.
So Gretchen phone in our order for the new stove, which should be arriving next Tuesday. It weighs 490 pounds, so I'll need some of my friends to help wrestle it into position.
This afternoon and evening I treated myself to something of a Hitchcock marathon, beginning with Psycho and continuing into The Birds. The former is a great suspense movie that I'd seen before, though all I knew about The Birds had been in a collection of short stories based on Hitchcock films that I'd read as a teenager. I found the pacing of The Birds a little lethargic. Furthermore, I wasn't particularly excited by the love story at its heart. I wanted that leading man's eyes to get pecked out.
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