How to heat a house

The measure used when transacting in wood is called a cord- or 128 cubic feet.

Up north (as we call any rural community vaguely north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro) it is common for homeowners to heat their homes with wood. There are stoves built to burn the split logs slowly and maximize efficiency. Sometimes the black cast iron fireboxes are in the lower level of the dwelling, or sometimes out in the yard with a venting system drawing the hot air into the home.

No matter what or where, there’s a lot of work involved. Fallen wood in a forest may be there for the taking but the labor involved in sawing the timber into eighteen-inch lengths and splitting it into manageable widths is persistent labor. Then there is the hauling and stacking. It will make a Lumber Jack (or Jill) out of you.

The backup system in most homes is baseboard electric. Often people use some combination of the two, loading up the fire before bed and then counting on the baseboards to kick in toward dawn. The remote nature of rural living makes it difficult for utility companies to run natural gas lines along all the roadside ditches. Natural gas is the most prevalent form of fuel for homes in the metro. It is also the most economical, whereas electric heat is the most expensive. Propane is a less common option and has its own set of drawbacks.

It would be wonderful if battery technology was advanced enough to capture and store energy off solar panels. The energy would flow right through the existing baseboard network. But in a part of the world where the temps can run below freezing for several weeks at a time, it simply isn’t possible to rely on solar energy. As populations grow, gas lines are appearing in populated areas. Splitting wood is a young man’s game and when given the option, most consumers are ready to convert to gas.