Friday, October 19, 2012

Learning about Woodstoves

Growing up we generally heated with wood, and I helped (greatly to my teen-age mind) in the procurement and usage of it as our fuel.

This gave me an entirely false sense of confidence at my abilities to translate that experience into using it as our only means of safely heating our yurts.

Thus far we have done well though. In spite of our older (circa 1941) woodstove, and some rather chilly nights, we have survived by stoking the fire throughout our nights. It was disappointing to see that the woodstove struggled to keep the yurts warm when it wasn't burning vigorously, but we were optimistic that we could somehow overcome this. At the moment I am planning on installing a layer of emergency blankets around the roof of the yurts to see if that will reflect more heat downwards.

As we rapidly burned our way through our woodpile, I felt more and more pressure to create a larger stockpile, so I set off to find some standing deadwood close by. One tree that proved to be a great candidate was notably ant infested, and nearly hollow due to their machinations.

Two nights ago I managed to wedge in the stump from this tree, and watched in growing terror as the temperature in the yurts rose, and rose. The air temperature around the stovepipe showed close to 225 degrees from a basic oven thermometer, and the stove pipe itself began to glow noticeably red.

We opened up the dome and the door and I began to plan our escape routes from the yurts.

My fears didn't do much to change the natural course of things, and after an hour or so, the temperature returned to a more manageable level, but my anxiety about the fireplace was planted.

With a profound sense of inadequacy, I found myself in a similar boat the very next night when I threw on a much smaller chunk of wood which I suppose must have been full of pitch. Again I opened up the door to the yurts and fanned cold air towards the fireplace. This time the stove warmed up quickly, but the stovepipe didn't really begin to glow, and things passed more quickly.

Consulting with Grandpa, he noted that it seems that often when ants hollow out a tree, it seems to generate more pitch around their tunnels and the combined effect of air channels and very flammable wood cause these sorts of pieces to burn hot and quickly.

In any case, it's perhaps nice to think that I was able to learn these lessons through enduring sweaty, fearful moments, rather than some sort of catastrophe. Since then, we have been careful to throw in only small pieces at a time and monitor the stove temperature accordingly. To facilitate this, we invested in a stovepipe thermometer and have been pleased with its feedback so far.

 

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