Saturday, July 27, 2013

A burning question

The other plus side of life here is that, with a rural population of less than 0.2 persons per square kilometer, and the roaring 40s to clear the air of what little pollution there is, we have very clean air despite the fact that wood-burning stoves are the norm. It wold be smoggy if it were the city, but here Robert Burns 'a reekin hoose' really means a wood fire an human habitation. We're much milder of climate than Europe or even much of the US and a lot warmer in winter than Canada, or even Tasamania or New Zealand or even the southern parts of mainland Australia. You could survive indoors here with no heating at all. It would not be fun, but it's not Nebraska or Colorado or even England or Holland. -3 C outdoors early morning would be rare and exceptional, and most days raise to double figures even on bleak winter days. Summer seldom gets very hot, but winter too stays mild. The joy of living on an island in a cool ocean.

Still, a wood combustion stove makes it quite pleasant inside. And of course there is a vast, vast vast amount of dead wood (and before anyone gets sanctimonious, much of it would wet rot away here (generating methane, not good stuff), if left indefinately, or burn in the periodical fires. Of course, labour in Australia being expensive, a ute load of firewood is expensive too. I think 120 or 130 bucks. I don't know, because we cut our own, which in these days where you can buy a Chinese chainsaw (ours is not, a Husquavarna - because we tend to buy as good as we can afford and look after it and use it a long, long time - it has lasted nearly 4 years and still fine, but will need a new bar soon), for that price and if it cuts two loads of wood, you're winning, makes sense to me.

I cut a half ute load of mostly she-oak (which is hard burns long and very hot on a tank full of fuel this evening in about half an hour. Hard-ish work, but not too demanding. more or less 3-4 loads will do us from May to October.

It is of course one of the things that if I get old/injured would be difficult, so I want to make sure I have the best insulated house, and spare power - or something - for heating. Back in South Africa, when we lived in a much colder place (at 6000 feet) we put in electrical underfloor heating. That would not work here as most of the floors are wood and you can't just warm up the slab, and we'd probably be relying on solar power (looking to the future) so electrical heating gets difficult I would think. Still it was lovely underfoot, and just never let the house get that bone-cold. I have seen some that worked off hot water, and wonder if you could do something like that off solar geysers, or what other effective way there might be?


  1. I've seen solar water heaters that circulate water through dark pipes in a sunny place to warm it; but never heard of scaling it to heat an entire house.

  2. I've seen Solar heated flooring in a bathroom that then went to the shower. I think I've mentioned to you the solar heater using soda cans that my friends use at their deer camp. That is truly wonderful and keeps the barrack nicely warm during the day reducing the amount of fuel only have to heat at night.

  3. I've heard of people running Pyrex under the floors, too.