Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Keeping Warm

Like most houses built now-a-days, we have a heat pump / furnace to warm our home.  Since we also have about thirty acres of woods it made sense to make use of all that potential "free" firewood and decided to install a wood burning stove a few yeas ago.  

The stove is located upstairs and keeps the main level of the home toasty warm in the winter.  We have two problem areas though, and one is the master bathroom.  The heat just doesn’t make it there and boy, can it get nippy!  Showering in the winter is almost like running a sprint race; jump out of the shower and grab a towel while running out of the bathroom, avoiding the cat-hurdles and through the bedroom in order to position oneself directly in front of the stove to warm up.  Be careful not to singe anything!  (I’ll let you use your imagination on this one)
The other problem area is the basement.  During the coldest times of the year, one only goes downstairs to get things absolutely necessary, usually after donning a pair of socks, slippers, mittens and scarf.  Good for pantry storage items, not so good for anything else. 
We normally wouldn’t care too much as we never really spent much time in the basement, but Rhiannon has finally moved into her own room - downstairs.  So now we are faced with making a decision on how we are going to keep the basement, and Rhiannon, warm this winter. 
We have several options: 
A - Run the furnace during the winter. 
B - Install another wood stove in the basement. 
C - Install an outdoor whole-house wood furnace.   
D - Bundle Rhiannon up like Na’nook of the North, pile down comforters on top of her and stuff the cats under the blankets to keep her feet warm. 
E - Install a propane fueled heater in her bedroom.
A - Running the furnace will mean that we will be unable to use the woodstove upstairs.  We only have one zone heating (meaning there is only one thermostat and only takes into consideration the temps upstairs) so if we had the wood stove going, the thermostat would never kick on the furnace  heat.  I’ve thought about just using the “fan” mode on the HVAC system thinking it would circulate the hot air down to the basement, but I don’t think the stove is putting out enough heat to do that.
B - We could install another wood stove, but we’d have to pipe the chimney up through the basement ceiling, through the first floor, then out the roof.  Too many holes in the house as it is and there really isn’t a good place for us to run the chimney without interfering with existing structures on the first floor.
C - Paul has looked into the outdoor wood furnaces and he’s not too keen on the efficiency ratings.  And that fact that it would cost a big ol' chunk of change for it and the additional installation hassle to hook it up to our already existing HVAC system.  I was really hoping for this option though as it would also be able to heat our water.
D - As much as I think Rhiannon would look cute as a button bundled up like an Eskimo, I’m not sure she’d be too keen on the idea.  And three cats wouldn't be enough to keep her warm.
E - So that leaves us with one other option to look into; the propane heater.  We don’t have a propane tank, nor any hookups so not only would we have to plumb the heater(s) for it, but we’d have to buy the heater(s) themselves, the tank to store the propane, and the propane itself.  Although, we’ve been wanting another source of fuel and as much as I dislike having to depend on another company to provide us with something, it may be the best option.  It also means that we could get a propane stove for the kitchen.  I don’t mind the electric oven, but I hate the electric range and a gas range would be awesome.  It would also mean that we would have three ways to heat the house; electric, propane and wood.  Nothing like having lots of options!
So now I have to ask my blogosphere friends a question.  For those of you that heat with propane, what type of system do you have, and if you’ve heated with propane and another source, how did it compare? 

Until then, if it cools off before we've made a decision, I think we'd better get a few more cats to keep Rhiannon warm.

Paul's Take
I will kill her if she gets any more cats.  And a jury of my peers would not convict me.  They could read this blog as evidence, let me off a free man, and probably ask me how I managed to live this long with her.


  1. While I am tempted to side with you as to the "more cats" option - I am afraid that Paul will track me down and make me pay for that comment. Besides, I enjoy your blog too much to put it in jeopardy. Soooo, I would go for the propane heater. I don't heat with propane, but cook with it. And I agree that having three options would keep you covered and warm.

  2. This will be long, sorry. We have a propane fueled whole-house furnace. It is really old-the company that made it isn't even in business anymore-but it still works fine. Our home is 1 1/2 stories with a basement. Since the kids moved out, we lowered the amount of heat that goes upstairs(just enough to keep the pipes from freezing.) The cost of propane about ruins us every winter. I do love my propane range, except at canning time. I can NOT save any money by canning our food when I factor in the price of propane. In our state, the environmentalists are fighting against the use of outdoor wood furnaces and they are starting to heavily regulate their use. We actually removed an indoor wood stove to lower our home owners insurance. Right now I have 2 Beagle bed warmers and we are planning on using electric space heaters this winter to help cut down propane usage. I envy your options-good luck!

  3. More cats! :)
    We have a back-up propane furnace and while I'm glad we do, it is very expensive to fill the propane tank and we haven't used the furnace since we got our wood stove. We do need propane for our water heater, but I would like to do without it altogether!

  4. No help here as we are all electric but I will be curious to see what ya'll decide to do.

  5. One word of advice on your propane heater - 'vent'. The no-vent ones put off fumes and even if it is a good one, they still put moisture in the air. I think the propane heater is a good idea - as long as it is vented.

  6. Can't help with the propane heating, but I can relate to the thermostat thing with both the heat pump and wood stove. The thermostat is in the hall and I finally figured out that by keeping the door closed the hall would stay cooler so the heat pump would come on to keep the back of the house a little bit warm. Maybe you could have the thermostat moved? Might be cheaper in the long run because I suspect propane prices will only go up. Or, maybe a small space heater in her room? We found running space heaters with the wood was actually cheaper than running the heat pump (ours is electric) all winter.

  7. I grew up with propane, propane stove, propane heater in all bedrooms, etc. Our home (back home, we are in another state right now) is propane. I seriously wouldn't even look at houses that didn't have propane plumbing in place because I REALLY dislike cooking on electric stoves. I know some like them, it's just me, I don't.

    Our house there has propane hookups for heaters in the living room/dining room area as well as the family room, the stove/oven are propane, too. We'll be adding them in the bedrooms later on. The house also has an electric furnace.

    It doesn't get nearly as cold there as where you are, though. What we did was use the furnace at night mainly, with a programmable thermostat. So it would be colder in the house at night but would warm up before it was time to get the kids up for school, etc. During the day the thermostat cut the electric furnace pretty much off and used the propane and the heat from the kitchen (bread baking, regular cooking) and the propane heaters to heat those rooms, because that's where most of our time is spend during the day, anyway. A small fan running would push the warm air down the hallway (only plumbing down there is one bathroom at the near end of the hallway) so I didn't have to worry about the plumbing freezing.

    It did cost several hundred dollars to fill the tank but it would last one year if we were careful and that was better to me than heating all of the house day in and out when most of it wasn't used during the day and having several hundred dollars of electric bills every month.

    My only concern is how young your DD is. You do have to be very careful to keep combustibles away from them (that includes the cats). I'm not sure if she'd be afraid of it, either. We had the kind where you had to stick a match down there and light them and if you let too much gas out, POOF. My brother was terrified of his for quite some time so I always lit it for him. They have pilot lights now, but they do still make a noise when lighting.

  8. I've used propane heat before and I stayed cozy warm! My best to you on your decision and the installation.

  9. Is there an option to have her winter bedroom on the warmest floor, and a summer bedroom downstairs?

  10. Susan, More cats! More cats! (Said so Paul doesn't hear)

    Hoosier Girl, the propane costs constantly rising do have me concerned, especially if I DO get to canning a lot of stuff. Can't imagine it costing LESS than electric heat.

    Mooberry, yep, getting that tank filled is gon'na HURT!

    Candy, Me too! And who knows, maybe it WON'T be decided this year.

    Linda, Yep. I've heard of the no-vent options, but honestly, how can you NOT have some sort of venting? Scares me a little bit.

    Leigh, Didn't think about moving the thermostat. Good idea.

    Tina, Yep, DD is really the biggest concern we have with the heating options for her bedroom. It may have to wait until next year or when she's a bit older.

    Victoria, Thanks! Looking to stay toasty warm with SOME option....still deciding though.

    Country Wife, I mentioned to DH about just leaving "as is" and letting her come upstairs with us in the winter. Wouldn't be the end of the world, but I have to admit, I DO like the extra space when she sleeps in her OWN bed. Our bedroom isn't large enough for another standard sized bed, and her crib, which WAS in our bedroom, has been removed and torn apart (beyond repair).