Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Looking ahead

Hans and I were discussing the price of fuel oil the other day (our tank is getting low). It seems pretty clear to me that we have to get away from No. 1 fuel oil and propane; both are REALLY expensive and getting more so. But what to go to instead? We have a nice little wood stove for backup, but it can't heat the whole house and the wood produces a lot of soot. We can do some cooking on it, but it's not a cookstove, so that's pretty limited.

I think there are a few things we can do that will help our winter heating and our cooking problems:

1. better windows. We have quite a few double-pane windows; we could, slowly, replace them with triple-pane, superinsulated windows.
2. curtains. I could finish the stupid curtain project; that would also help with the heat loss.
3. summer solar cooker/barbeque.
4. a backyard digester -- methane, alcohol, or some other biofuel generator for our cooking fuel. Natural gas is bound to be plentiful for a while once the pipeline goes through, but that too will soon be gone. We need something we can generate ourselves. Maybe even hydrogen?
5. The digester might be able to provide some kind of heating fuel, also; in combination with wood or paper trash, we may be able to get by.
6. Use of solar heat for the transition periods in spring and fall, when we get lots of light and it isn't too cold. This, however, would involve a lot of setup and initial expense, which is our biggest problem.

Treehugger has some useful tips on home heating. Also, the Cold Climate Housing Research Center seems to have a few useful items on its website, but we'd be doing a retrofit -- on a VERY tight budget -- like most people, I imagine. The info at CCHRC seems mostly to involve health of existing houses or plans for new construction. There's lots of things anybody can do if they have the tens of thousands of dollars to throw at their house, but when you're living month to month, your choices become much more limited.


Jeffrey A. Rogers said...

Mother Earth Jones has some really neat articles on waste oil burners and how to make one CHEAP! Then all you gotta do is haunt the recycle platforms, like we do anyway, and scam up all the old motor oil you find.

Jeffrey A. Rogers said...

I'll put copies of the articles in my car and you can borrow them the next time we meet. The folks who built these things are talking like $40.00 to make one, using a lot of recycled stuff of course, and producing 1,100-1,300 deg F at the stove top. That's hot.

megan said...

Ken and I have been working on "greening" our cabin, too. We don't have an arctic entry; so if we could find a way to make one look nice, I suppose that would be a good start. We're really leaning toward alternative energy, also. I can't decide if solar is worth it, given the limited window we experience here. I think we'll be exploring other options this summer. We'll keep you posted if we have ideas to share.