Keeping warm this winter without going broke

 This Elmira Cookstove provides full off-grid heat and cooking in a charming, nostalgic design.

After last year’s extreme winter and the horrific LP gas prices, even a rise in natural gas prices, many people are looking for alternative ways to heat their home this winter. Since 2000, prices for fuel have skyrocketed and home owners have emptied their wallets trying to keep warm.

The energy companies offer some suggestions such as locking in a price with a monthly billing program. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee they will hold to the agreement as some LP gas customers found out the hard way. The flip side of this, the next year’s payments will be calculated on the higher price for the previous season.

Solar power, wind generators and wood burning are alternative energy sources for heating. With the abundance of wood in this area, wood is usually the cheapest, even if wood needs to be purchased. Payback on furnaces and other wood burners is usually fairly fast as the cost of the burner can be recouped because the wood can be obtained for free in many cases.

Solar energy is a clean, efficient way to run a furnace. In the Northwoods this could be a bit risky if used as the only source for heating and generally the payback is very lengthy. This is also true for wind energy generators. However, personal preference can make this a great alternative as an energy source as long as there is back up heating equipment.

Watching a wood fire brings a lot of enjoyment when it is utilized for heat and there is a lot of variety in the type of wood burning appliances.  Select from small cast iron wood stoves to massive outdoor furnaces that can heat more than one building at the same time.

If you already have a fireplace you can choose to put in an insert that collects the heat in a cast iron surround and has a blower to introduce heat into the room. A less expensive means is a heat collector that utilizes tubes heated by the fire and a low energy fan that blows the heated air into the room. This will heat a small room or an extended area in front of the fireplace.

If you have a relatively small home or only one room to heat, a small cast iron wood burner or a wood stove can do a great job. They are also a great source to provide heat during the shoulder heating seasons when the house is cool and your home needs a little heating boost. Many models have fans to move the air around or you can use a ceiling fan or box fan to assist moving the warmth to other rooms.

For a multi-purpose heating source, you might want to consider a wood burning stove – just like in the “old days”. The stove can provide heat for a good sized home, can cook meals and even heat water. There are manufacturers that are making current models replicating and updating stoves of a bygone era and they are beautiful as well as extremely functional. Thermostats are available on most models that regulate stove temperatures.

Wood burning is beautiful but can be messy and if not cared for properly, can be dangerous. For heating medium to large homes and to avoid smoke and wood mess, an indoor or outdoor furnace is a perfect solution. This is a boiler operation and can be adapted to existing heating sources. The furnace works with the existing system and with the help of a back up heating source, home owners can leave for extended periods of time without worrying about freeze up. It also is a fantastic source for hot water Pretty nifty! The water pump, which draws little electricity, can also be tied into a home generator in case of a power failure.

An added bonus to the outdoor furnace is not only is this a very inexpensive way to heat – it is also very safe. The furnace is installed at a prescribed distance from the house and utilizes its own chimney thereby eliminating the danger of a house chimney fire.

Check online to find the local suppliers for each one of these products. There is an affordable solution to get you comfortably and economically through this year’s heating season. Ask around – you would be surprised how many people have gone off grid and found a better way to keep warm during winter!

 Twin Waters Energy, St. Germain, carries a full line of indoor and outdoor furnaces, offering a choice of wood or pellets as fuel.

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