Heating with Wood & Staying warm ~ Methods & Ideas


December 1, 2010 (Updated 12/5/2010)


Hi Folks !

 Well, it’s December.

The stores are packed, the lights are being strung out everywhere. Good time to take the kiddies for a ride to look at the pretty lights, some folks are SO creative !

Around these parts, Maine, The period just after Christmas until mid-January tend to be the coldest. I know it can vary, but up north that three weeks was hell, generally minus -20 sustained ! Not so bad here in the southern part, but it still gets very cold. After that period, it either varies, or we are in for it, surely depends on the year and the el ninia belt near the equator, we have learned recently.

  If you have ever heated with wood, you know the pain of hauling it to the yard, cutting it up to your stove-size, and either splitting it by maul and wedge or the wonderful machine called the splitter. Then you haul it to your woodshed and stack it up in precarious piles until you have what looks like enough. Most also put up a goodly amount of tinder and kindling for fire starting. Around late August, just about everything that will burn is looked at as a source of “free” BTU’s, and set aside for the pile.

 You can buy your wood already cut & split from the local boy’s looking for money, the local loggers. It costs around $260 a cord here seasoned or $230 or so, for green. That is if you were negligent earlier on. Most smaht people buy their wood a year in advance -green, cut and split it themselves, and let it season under nature, and under cover. It requires a goodly amount of room, planning and old fashioned work. Some make it a family affair, some exchange the work with friends and some hire the local teenager who needs chores for dollars. Some make it a punishment for wrongdoing, but I don’t recommend that as they will forever associate the tasks around wood as bad. There are redeeming qualities, even if it is hard work, it is necessary.

You do the child a disservice by making the chore a punishment. They should be proud to be adding their labor to the household’s warmth.

 It is said it heats you many times before the final burn in the stove. I don’t see many FAT people who do their own wood, although I strive to be one. Barring a woodlot, the best way I have found to buy it is every spring, when loggers have down time, you buy a truckload of tree-length, it works out to be 5-10 cords or more, and costs around $800-$1000, much needed money for a logger who is going thru mud season the traditional lean time. You then take all spring/summer and fall, cutting the pile, stacking it and splitting it. I am not fond of a motor powered wood splitter, as it’s yet another small motor to maintain, so I would wait to split my wood until we have steady freezing weather, as the moisture in it freezes and makes the piece brittle and much easier to split.


A sustainable woodlot is 10 acres minimum.

If it has not been cut over in the last 30-40 years, the first year you get ten cords of wood per acre. Every year thereafter you get a cord per acre -forever if cared for. It takes a bit of knowledge and study to learn just how to sustain a woodlot. there are registered foresters who are trained, and can help do a wood survey and mark trees to be harvested, that’s where the paintball gun came from for those who didn’t know, far easier than hand marking every tree. Some still do, or even tie a ribbon around them.

Once you have been out with the forester enough you can start to make your own decisions about harvest and caring for your lot. Machines and all terrain vehicles are great and fun, but should be kept to roads and trails as the compaction of the earth smothers roots and hard on the tree, but they are tough and cling to life tenaciously, you will find them on top of rocks with long running roots to get to ground, bent over and even broken and still flowering and reproducing.

The modern method of clear cutting and replanting while at least something, is generally a bad thing as most of the replanted seedlings are clones, so the diversity of entire forests is diminished to a few related clones. A bug or disease could wipe whole forests out where this practice is performed.


Three great tools everyone who plays with firewood should have are the log peavey, the birch(bitch) hook, and the crossbuck sawing station. The log peavey comes in various forms but generally has a long handle for prying, a pointed tip, and a swinging arm with a hook. Some even have a “stand” opposite the arm on the other side that can be used to pry and lift the log up off the ground a few inches, they are not the traditional tool though they do meet a need. The traditional peavey is used to roll logs while cutting so that you don’t cut into the dirt. A chainsaw moves so fast that if you even touch a rock for one second, every tooth in the chain hit’s the rock TWICE ! thereby dulling a chain that will need to be sharpened. So you cut halfway thru a log, then roll it over with the peavey and finish the cut.

Modern Day Peavey with a “stand” you latch the log and flip the whole thing ovah…









This is what a traditional peavey looks like, you can buy them brand new.


Although I recommend going to a logging area, and scouring the second-hand shops for tools.






The Birch hook, Pulp Hook, Bitch hook, is a back saver- sort of. When working with cut pieces and firewood, it gives your arm an extension of 8″ to a foot. Meaning less bending over. They are also used to get a handle on a four-foot “bolt” of wood, so you can toss it up in the back of a truck. This is where the “bitch” part comes in as sometimes the hook slips out of the wood and you drop it, OR it stays stuck and carries you and your arm along with that 300 pound bolt you just tossed.

Some people make the point an actual sharpened point, but that is only for using the hook with ICE (in fact similar hooks can be found in second-hand shops that originally WERE for pulling ice blocks). (There are longer stemmed hooks for hay too, These made it easier to “catch” & lift a bale into the loft) The hook made for wood handling actually has the point filed flat. You drag the file from the outside of the hook point to the inside, and leave the metal burr, it is the burr that does the “hooking” or latching onto the wood. When you toss a piece of wood, you do a little twist of the wrist, and that movement UN-hooks the hook from the wood -usually.

I have two of these, it is better for the back to balance the load you carry.


Caution is advised until you get used to working with it, because you can easily peg someone in the hand.


Here is my drawing for the hook “point” MANY sites incorrectly have them sharpened to a point,  a point will sink in too far, and not remove easily. When doing firewood you want to MOVE many pieces quickly, it defeats the purpose if you have to stop and pry the hook out every piece.


It is a crude drawing but you get the idea, it is not an everyday “sharpening” job, they can go for years without messing with the “point”…….

The cross buck, lifts the wood you are cutting off the ground, they are made entirely out of wood, and ideally Pegged together not nailed. Again the main reason is that the chain will be immediately dulled with a simple touch to a nail head. The cross buck also keeps your wood off the ground, saving you from having to bend over. A metal cross buck is for a handsaw/bow saw or the traditional BUCKsaw only.

You can make your own bucksaw easily, just buy a sharp replacement bow saw blade, and make an “H” out of wood.  Attach the blade at the bottom of the “H” and at the top of the “H” make two small v notches, and tie a “O” of rope, then use a stick to twist the “O” until it tightens the blade so that it “sings”, then tie off the stick.

I have made VERY LONG bucksaws

where the crossbar of the “H—————” <—looks sorta like this.

Good for reaching high branches for pruning, or getting dry wood in winter when you are desperate.

Sounds great right ? Well my friends, there is a reason you don’t find OLD men in the logging business who are actually working the woods. Their backs are gone. The bending over, grabbing a weight, turning and throwing it repeatedly actually wears on disks and pinches nerves over time. You could do it for years with no problems, and then one time simply bend over, and it’s all done except for the DR. visit.

Many hands DO make light work, Wood splitting and stacking parties are always fun, and you can get 2 & 3 homes all set for winter on a Saturday. Just save the drinking for AFTERWARDS, Chainsaws and drink don’t go together well.


As an Energy Auditor, I recommend that people have 2,3,4 different heating systems in the basement/utility room. It really bothers me when I see folks switch out a perfectly good oil boiler for a propane or other fuel system.

We saw it happen a lot at the beginning of the gulf war II as oil jumped early in the summer. The next year Propane went into shortage in some areas, and those on natural gas were slaves to the utility.

By having MULTIPLE modes of heating available, you can switch easily to the system that is the cheapest that year or even part of the year to run. OR you can run the system you have an abundance of fuel for.

By leaving them in place and adding IN a different system in parallel, you give yourself OPTIONS.

If you have only one type of heat, you are stuck with that fuel period.

Wood stoves and fireplaces are great backup heat, add ambiance to the home, and nothing feels better on old bones than the radiant heat of FIRE. They have to be set up properly so ZERO smoke enters the living space or you do damage to your lungs and especially lungs of children.

You have to inspect your chimney for creosote TWICE a year, once BEFORE the heating season, and once in January/February, as buildup can occur during use. A THIRD inspection near the end of the season is prudent ! Especially if you damp down the fire a lot at night, A roaring fire every morning helps but does not eliminate creosote. A chimney needs to be at higher than 400’F to avoid condensation.

The chemicals in smoke actually condense on the cold sides of the chimney at the rooftop where it goes thru the roof, AND at the basement around the floor (if your stove is upstairs) and fire can result if enough builds up.

The two best methods I have found for dealing with a chimney fire are:

  1. A special made stick that you toss in the stove during the fire that sucks the oxygen as it burns
  2. A CO2 fire extinguisher which overwhelmingly replaces the oxygen, you open the stove and keep feeding the CO2. Owning TWO is better !!

In general if your chimney is well maintained with no cracks nor loose mortar, and ideally lined with metal or terra-cotta tile, the danger from a fire is not DURING the chimney fire. It is two to three hours afterward. It takes that long for the high temperatures to radiate out thru the stone and catches the wood floor or roof rafters on fire from the radiating heat.

Many a chimney fire has been extinguished by the fire department only to have them return a few hours later for the house fire when the heat has worked thru.

I have a central chimney on the one story part of my house.

When I have chimney fires I just let them go. They consume the creosote and actually result in a cleaner chimney. Sounds like a freight train roaring thru the house, and has everyone in panic mode, but it is generally safe. I give the stove a few long shots of CO2, The Idea here is not the fire in the stove, you want to get as much CO2 up the stack as possible and then damp it to closed air tight and it will snuff the chimney fire in around 15 minutes.

VERY long minutes.

Then I am on a ladder for the next 5 hours.

Feeling the brickwork for radiating heat LONG after the fire is out.

A cleaning and inspection with lights afterwards is a MUST before another fire is kindled.

http://www.orionsignals.com/ Makes flares and fusees, they used to make the Chimfex. the extinguisher stick

http://www.northlineexpress.com/itemdesc.asp?ic=5RU-3412 This place still sells them, just do a google or bing search for chimfex to find others invaluable to have on hand !!

If the fire dept comes out and puts the hose to the chimney, you will have to replace the WHOLE thing. It will crack just like a hot plate doused in cold water. INSURANCE is ALWAYS a good thing to keep paid up. Some districts require the Fire dept to inspect your stove setup and it’s a GOOD idea to have them take a look at it anyway. (at least they will be familiar with getting to yer hause)

Another major danger with freestanding woodstoves is the very high surface temperatures of the metal. I am reminded tonight as I make pizza and almost dropped the damn thing as I took it out of the oven, I grabbed the tin sheet it was on with my bare hand. and so nursing burns as I write this. Children should be protected from the stove at all times. Yes, most get thru life without burns, and hundreds of thousands of homes heat with wood and the kids are fine. All it takes is once, kids fooling around the stove warming themselves after coming inside from play.

A Story:

I was drinking one day, A LOT. having a good day, something about a drink during the very cold outside is appealing. I had a homemade barrel stove on the horizontal, I loved it, very major heat. however surface temps of 1200 to 2000 degrees. I had it surrounded by cinderblocks to add radiating mass, and to protect the kids from the high temps, but the top was exposed. I stumbled and fell, and to brace myself I put both hands out like one usually does, Well, let me tell ya THAT was a mistake.

Both hands, flat palms MELTED to the stove. When I pulled away I left major amounts of palm on the stove. Burns have to be the worst pain in the universe. I spent that day and a few afterwards with BOTH hands in buckets of ice water. If I hadn’t used my hands, it would have been face first…and be ugly for the rest of my life….

Another story, and one that is often repeated with tragic consequences:

Cold rainy weather for a week, even the tinder was wet, I needed an accelerant to get the fire going. I had nothing safe but I DID have chainsaw gas outside. so I got me a paper cupful. while preparing the fire I stacked everything so it would catch, and dumped the gas all over it. Felt my pockets no match. Went and got one from the kitchen stove, and came back and sparked the match and tossed it in.

Barrel stoves have their door on what was the top of the barrel but now the side as you lay them down on legs. They make for a perfect rocket nozzle with the door opened. When I dumped the gas it must have hit an old hot coal from the night before’s fire. It vaporized and when I sparked it the flames shot out much like the south end of a rocket. felt like it too.

Caught my hair and clothes on fire, and reached the overhead light (8 feet away) and melted the polyester cloth hung there as a light diffuser. Not 4 feet away was my trusty large cylinder CO2 extinguisher, so I headed for that, in the few seconds it took to get it ready, I was out, er.. the fire on me was out.

All you could smell was burnt hair, it burnt my eyebrows clean off, and half my mustache, and I had a jagged fire haircut now. Luckily my face just felt sun burnt, with a small 1st degree burn on what must have been a particularly bushy eyebrow. Every year we read about people who get severely burnt starting their fires. A few years ago someone nearby, an elderly lady, caught her PJ’s on fire and died.

  1. Wax prepared boy scout style, firestarters are good to have in large supply, it’s in the OLD handbook.
  2. Pieces of carefully cut up flares will do good too.
  3. In a pinch I use rubbing alcohol as it is far less explosive than anything else, but could if it too gets vaporized.
  4. I soak a paper napkin, toss it in, dry my hands after washing, then toss in a match with one hand on the extinguisher 😉
  5. A bag or two of self-starting charcoal can be used one briquette at a time for fire starting.
  6. The best prevention is a goodly amount of dry tinder and kindling.

Hang a sign on the stove:        THINK


Ok, so staying WARM is not a difficult thing with our modern fabrics.

It is a PROVEN thing in the energy conservation biz, that if A person’s FEET are warm, they will resist upping the thermostat. It is also proven that to keep your feet warm you wear a HAT. I prefer a rag hat/cap. easy to keep in the pocket and don’t look too bad in it. Fleece jackets, vests and leggings are awesome. SKI leggings are near perfect for working outside but don’t hold up. Carhart, or sewing Denim or canvas over them would be in order. get creative, you may have the start of a new biz when the SHTF.

Lets look at the “olden” days, before central heating systems. “The Rich” had the best “technology”. Castles were lined with rich tapestries that are today priceless, but their main purpose was insulation from the BARE stone uninsulated walls. You could close off a huge space with them in winter, to make a small heatable space near the fireplace Castles mostly had open fireplaces, and a fireplace has to be THE most inefficient way to heat.

A fireplace can suck 200+ CFM of air from a room/building.

Consider a normal modern cape house 24 feet X 30 Feet x 8 foot high walls to the ceiling

  • That is 5760 Cubic feet of air space.
  • With an open fireplace, the fireplace is venting the ENTIRE volume of air EVERY 28.8 minutes or lets say every half hour.

That causes a negative air pressure inside, and to make up that air -COLD air leaks in from the basement, around every crack in every door and window, some more than others. So if you are near one of those leaks, you call your house “drafty” which it may be, but you are INDUCING that draft. You can see WHY the Franklin stove was a great invention, it addressed the open fireplace and introduced some efficiency.

A woodstove STILL causes the same kind of negative pressure but perhaps not as much as the fireplace. You can cut in a piped vent from outside to the floor in front of the woodstove to eliminate the negative pressure.


That negative pressure is why people get so dry their nose bleeds. That COLD air coming IN from outside is far more dry than the interior air and you FEEL that. That is why it is a MYTH that the woodstove dries out the air, it is the cold air coming IN. Cold air can hold less moisture than warm air IE: July vs. January air. Add a makeup air vent to the floor in front and your humidity will rise as it no longer draws air for the fire FROM the house. Adding a vaporizer or pot of water is not good for the house as that moisture condenses on cold surfaces in places that it gets leaked to the attic rafters inside walls, causes mold and mildew, and activates the rot molds and fungus already present in ALL wood….

So, considering the castle tapestry, you could carpet the whole room, or just the windows and floor and doors.

You could get some of the new micro fleece throw blankets and use those for curtains even wall hangings as well as bedcovers.

all sorts of colors and printed patterns so you wouldn’t have to sacrifice decor for warmth.

Windows should be dressed with a valence, but a specially designed valence: (which BTW allows for adding in LED lighting 😉





<—Valence front


The Blue middle board for the valence in the picture above, goes from the sides and decorative front all the way to the wall at the top of the window trim. That way you hang the curtains underneath as close to the top as possible, if your curtains go from the FLOOR to the underside of the valence you create what is called a


Behind the curtain the heat that “leaks” thru the curtains actually warms the air and it  rises,it sheds it’s heat to the window thru to the outside. The cold air then falls again, in a looping manner. As the temperature drops outside and the room is heated that loop actually can move fast enough to be felt by a body. It is not a draft, it is accelerated convection, and intensifies as the temperature difference between outside and inside increases. If the curtain only comes to the window sill the cold air spills into the room, while at the top the heated air escapes,  if there were no valence.

Closing the loop by closing it at the top with the valence and the curtains to the floor you actually slow the loop down so only the heat that makes it THRU the curtain escapes to outside, otherwise you can lose a LOT of heat thru even the most expensive of windows.






SIDE view of window, curtain and

Valence (in blue)





Another thing about windows, is DO NOT BE FOOLED by advertising !

Unless your cat uses it as an entry/exit, the window replacement is the LAST thing you should improve. Attic and Wall insulation are far bigger bangs for your buck, insulate the floor next, improve the heating system or add another, add supply tanks. FILL THEM ! When EVERYthing (including 5 years food supply), else is done, get the new fangled window,

Glass is glass is glass, ALL glass has an R-value of 1.2 per pane.

A triple pane window has an R-value of 3.72

That is 3 panes of R 3.6, and 6 air films on each side of the glass of .02 each                      for a total of 0.12 =3.72 R !

Some companies fill the gap with Argon an inert gas, does zip nada nothing to insulate, it’s still 3.72 for what a $500 window ???

It is essentially a wall, and walls by code require a minimum of R-15 you could add a storm window on the outside and inside and still not get there.

A curtain or carpet, or better yet a Plywood sandwich PLUG, that has a core of 2″ foam board, that fits the entire window, would be better,

Add on some REAL shutters that close that are ALSO plywood sandwich Plugs and you may have something of REAL heat savings !!!

{ Plywood MUST cover all sides of the foam board, it is highly flammable and it’s chemical name is polyisocyanurate One chemical released when burned is CYANIDE deadly in any amount. so COVER it with a 15 minute fire rated material-Plywood }

Better to put your money in insulating walls floors and ceilings.

Replace the window ONLY because it has the neato tilt in when everything else is DONE.

I bet you STILL won’t wash them every season….


Back to our yesteryear:

Wood burning appliances were mostly in the kitchen, which is why the kitchen was a popular place. Water for baths was heated on the stove, and the obvious cooking. You can be in a cold house or cold environment all day with little issues, You will need food to eat for your body to produce BTU’s but you won’t get sick from the cold, as long as you don’t get over heated by standing at the fire warming, then going into the subzero and repeating that all day, that extreme bouncing of temps, WILL make you sick. You can dress warm during the day and still putter around fine.

When you sweat, your clothes will become damp and that lessens their insulation properties, and you will be colder. It was not uncommon among the loggers I worked with to be in a tee-shirt and just leggings and boots in January while working. You produced heat to overheating by the work, but you always had the hat on, and coat nearby. I would actually fry bread in bacon grease and wrap that in paper towels to eat during the day, I was getting so skinny from the work and cold, the grease provided the body with energy to stay warm. Look at the Eskimo:  seal and whale blubber, they were fine for thousands of years until we brought in permanent housing and modern technology. Sit on your butt at the TV lifestyle. There is a true physiological difference too, they CAN tolerate sub-zero far better than the rest of us.


So we move to the night-time.

You come in shed your damp clothes, put the boots to dry by the fire but not too close or they will dry out too fast. Normally I actually had two pairs to rotate every other day so they could dry in the other room or they would deteriorate too fast. Rubber boots only lasted a single mud season and had to get new ones every year, a pleasure to put new dry boots on to be sure. You change into house clothes that are warm as well, and tend to be soft for sleeping, maybe change the hat too.

Now, I sleep with my mouth open. That has always been a problem for me camping, I would ALWAYS come home sick. Especially camping in August as the nights grew cold. The way we are built is the INHALE is supposed to come thru the nose to filter out airborne stuff and to warm the air before going into the lungs. You exhale thru the mouth to rid yourself of large amounts of carbon dioxide. At some temperature, EVERY body will get sick from sleeping and breathing too cold air.

Enter the “Scrooge” bed I call it, from the familiar Christmas story, Victorian days, they considered themselves modern and high faloutin.

The high posts allowed an overhead framework to be built to support fabric that could be drawn tight at night. If you ever pulled the blankets over your head on a cold night, you soon become frantic for “air’ because of the small pocket you are exhaling into quickly fills with Carbon dioxide and you feel “stuffy” AND VERY WARM. The Scrooge bed eliminates that stuffy-ness, you have a larger volume, and more chance for it to escape, at the same time a limited volume of air and area to heat up with your body. You can sleep the night through without getting stuffy nor cold with an unheated house or fires that had died down. Two people in the bed were cozy.

Now, you have all the heat you need, a good kitchen and clothes for the day, and a warm space at night.

what more do you need ?

You could build a modified version:


All you would need is something to support a blanket draped over the headboard, and a fair volume of air to breathe in.

If it gets stuffy after a while, toss the blanket back for a few minutes and drop it again or leave a flap open for fresh air.

Kids will love it. a pile of blankets on top of you and you are toasty warm.

That just leaves the dilemma of getting into a cold bed.

During the summer I always would find nice rocks that just felt good in your palm, maybe it’s just me, but I was always picking up things I came across. In winter I would put the same rocks on the woodstove, they made GREAT hand warmers when coming in from the cold. You can find flat pieces of stone or soapstone, Warm it by the fire or on the stove, then wrap it in a blanket or towel and put that at the foot of the bed. In Scrooge’s time, they had a sort of pot on a stick, that you would pluck coals from the fire and put in the pot cover it and slip it under the foot of the covers. That is a bit much as it adds smoke and risk of fire if you ask me. I’d rather a nice flat piece of radiating stone at my feet. it will eventually cool off, but by then the body heat has taken over.

In our modern-day we have electric blankets, they are great for warming the bed before going into it, I have slept with it going all night but you quickly become overheated and after a few washings the wiring starts to look ragged, but I have never gotten shocked. Heating pads are good too but they are more dangerous and very overheating. A real good modern method is the aches and pains warmers they make to go in the microwave, a few seconds and it’s warm, you can get them in all shapes and sizes.

The next issue you would have and arguably the only issue would be water freezing in pipes.

You could drain most of the system and heat tape to a smaller run to just the kitchen. Or add in a loop to the woodstove, and a 12 volt circulator pump piped in to heat a tank.


Build a super insulated Water room that contains all your water stuff and heat just that.  I’d have to know your specific configuration to make an educated method to deal with it. Suffice it to say, you may have to design YOUR system for a summer and winter modes, to live with very little, or expensive heat energy.

An on demand hot water heater that is propane powered is the Cadillac of HWH’s they are VERY efficient and use diddly of propane/natural gas.

Nice to have a secondary system taking it off the boiler. {IF you have Forced Hot Water heat, and go with a woodstove mostly, have your boiler system filled with glycol anti freeze or you will have one hell of an expensive mess}

In a dire emergency or power outage some people resort to the kitchen stove oven. it does throw a LOT of heat. If it’s propane or Natural Gas it is also throwing a LOT of Carbon Monoxide ! 5 to 20 PPM !! It can and will, Kill you if you do it often or long enough. It is why most building code requires a range hood exhaust fan. Also why you should shoo the children from the kitchen during holiday cooking, even with the fan running. The fan should run for 20 minutes AFTER the oven is shut off, you will note that most range hood exhaust fans remove 180+ CFM, so still the setup is not good for heat. You will get some residual heat from cabinets etc in the room as they are heated by the cooking.

That being said, if you have en ELECTRIC stove and oven, you CAN use it for periodic people warming NOT heat. There is a LARGE resistor in the oven, and electric conversion of energy is 100% to heat with no loss to efficiency. Note that the oven was NOT made for HEATING the house, and prolonged use CAN start a fire. Also note you can play records on your meter. I am not sure what it would actually use, as I refuse to have an electric stove. I am not a cook, but I know they are miserable to cook on properly, GIMME FIRE !!

As I have mentioned before, Kerosene heaters, are for those bucking for the Darwin awards. They are outlawed in most urban states. They start Carbon Monoxide emissions at 20 PPM and the particulate matter off gassed by incomplete combustion is cancer causing, so if you have children you are abusing them. At best they are finger warmers for those working outside.

The same goes for ANY of the so-called “ventless” heaters, anything that burns a fuel produces Carbon Monoxide, and will at best make you sick,  at worst, kill everybody in the vicinity.

Better to make a tent of blankets over the bed and everybody pile in !!


A recent exchange with someone asking for advice I could not resist:


Wanted: advice about moving warm air around the house

Date: 2010-11-30, 9:28AM EST

Reply to: xxxxxxx

I live in a house where our main source of heat is the wood stove.

We have one fan in the upper corner of the doorway to the room with the stove, blowing either across the room, or into the next room. This does an alright job of warming some of the downstairs.

However, one of my housemates and I have a perpetual disagreement about the placement of the second fan. He thinks placing a fan at the top of the stairs, blowing straight ahead, blows the cool air from the second floor downstairs to be heated.

I believe it just hits the wall ahead of it, and creates a blanket of air that cools any warm air trying to come up.

The radiant heat only reaches one upstairs room, so we need the air to flow so the rest of us can be warm too.

I’ve looked online and found nothing that really helps.

Any sound advice is welcome.

Watchman’s response:


The cold air from upstairs will naturally “fall” downstairs as it is heavier by definition than heated air.

The fans you use should be blowing OUT from the room with the woodstove, Preferably at the highest point which would be a door corner.

As far as getting heat upstairs, is the heat radiating or coming thru a vent in that room that is getting the heat upstairs ?

If you have a floor or wall vent that’s doing the job, the second fan should be there, blowing into that room from below, add a third fan to blow from that room to other spaces.

Now, a poor mans method that will look like hell, but do the trick would be goto a hardware store or lowes or home depot. Buy some flexible dryer vent, the aluminum foil kind not the plastic, they make it in long lengths. Put one end of it in the highest point in the woodstove room with the fan blowing into it, and string it and stretch it to upstairs someplace low to the floor but near the rooms you want to heat, or directly INTO the room. you can take it down later, use string and thumbtacks to hold it up. You could add in a Y for two rooms but with a tad less results. For a long run you may need a fan at either end, put them on timers…

I have high ceilings, I hung a piece from the ceiling with the fan at the top and dump that into my back rooms, it works fine, try to keep the run s short as possible.

I also have the big ceiling fans that I run and that can raise the temperature at my chair by 4 degrees just by running the ceiling fan. They mix all the air in the room.

Also forget about plastic on the windows etc. Get carpet remnants and hang those over the windows, walls, hell, do the whole room. Glass in a window has an R-value of 1.2 per pane of glass, walls in this state are required by code to be R-15 minimum, so think about that; plastic at best adds another 1.2 R a carpet would be far more, as would one of those cheapo mardens throw micro fleece blankets and they come in neato patterns so you could make it look good.

Think: castles in the old days had tapestries, and NOT only for the art, it was because they were wicked cold uninsulated stone walls. so get some carpet.

Foam in a can and hit every hole you can find with it

weather-strip the attic hatch especially if it is in the ceiling.

use big fans for mixing air in a room, put them on timers so they come on every hour or so, so you don’t go broke on electricity.

Electric blankets make for much better time getting INTO bed.

Rag Hats should be the norm inside as well as socks.

Remember the scrooge bed ?, making a tent over the bed is not only fun, but your body heat will warm the space up fast, and it is large enough that the carbon dioxide you breathe out won’t make you feel stuffy. if you have kids they will LOVE it !

When we hit the real crunch just after Christmas till mid January a good old fashioned space heater, run with the room door closed will only add on $10 a month and can easily get the room up to comfortable then shut it off. Best not to warm yourself by it as you can get sick as the heat is not a natural thing if you are living in a cold house. Same with the wood stove for that matter. Just warm your self when you cant stand it anymore.

I keep rocks that I found that fit my fist nicely on the woodstove top coming in from shoveling they are great to hold to take the bone crunch cold out of hands small squares of soapstone can be set on or by the woodstove and brought with you to your room, wrapped in a towel and put under covers by your feet for nice warmth that radiates for a while. And nowadays they make microwave heat paks that you can toss in the mic for a minute or two and warm your neck, those are portable warmth to bring to bed as well.

This year instead of plastic under my curtains on the windows I bought the mylar reflective “space” emergency blankets, they are said to reflect 80% of body heat back, and they DO seem to keep the room warmer by a degree or two. especially with a person IN the room.

again, when we hit the real cold end of dec to January, it may even be best to abandon the bedrooms for a month or two and sleep in the woodstove room or the room next to it.

So there’s a BUNCH of ideas you can try, good luck and stay warm !


Their response:

Wow! Most thorough, and helpful answer yet.

Thank you,






This entry was posted in Alternative Energy, SPOUTINGS, Survival Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Heating with Wood & Staying warm ~ Methods & Ideas

  1. Shanika Dunklee says:

    I like this blog so much, saved to my bookmarks .

  2. May be this blogs greatest writing on here!!!

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