December 11, 2017 · Energy

Wood stove testing

Back during the '70s energy crisis, it became popular to retrofit fireplaces with more efficient wood-burning stove inserts. My house was no exception, and the same owner who built the fireplace and chimney later added a Bat Cave-brand wood stove.

How cool is that? No copyright issues, as they were based out of Bat Cave, North Carolina, near Asheville. It's about as basic as you can get, resembling what most would think of today as a Buck-brand stove. It's easily distinguishable as an older, non-catalytic model by the lack of any windows in the doors. This ain't for pretty fire-watchin'. This is all business.

With cold (or at least below freezing) temperatures finally hitting the Tri-Cities, my heat pump has been working overtime to keep the house warm. Now, the heat pump is only a few years old, and the house is pretty well-insulated, and electricity here is relatively cheap. But in the back of my mind, I'm always thinking of what to do in the event of an extended outage—caused by, say, a bunch of snow.

No power outage this time (though Atlanta wasn't so lucky), but it's a question of when, not if. So I began researching how to use the wood stove, and started by cleaning it out with a wire brush and shop vac. Here's the before:

And here's after cleanup:

Tossed in some kindling (read: sticks and a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, which is doing more for society in the stove than in my mailbox) and some of the already-split hardwood logs that came with the house. Lit 'er up and played around with the dampers, and wound up with a pretty decent little fire.

It's not very pretty by Boy Scout standards, but, well, I wasn't a Boy Scout. I turned off the heat pump, and this stove is doing a bang-up job of heating the house all on its own. Zero smoke inside the house, and actually very little smoke coming from the chimney, meaning it's burning hot and efficiently. This is partly owing to the wood used, which by all indications has been curing in a dry wood shed for twenty years or longer.

I don't see this being an everyday thing, but it's good to know I've got a working backup.