Saturday, September 23, 2006

Autumn Almanac

Once again we return to the transitional time of year between summer and autumn. After a hot, dry summer, the rain returned in August and has brought renewed vigour to the garden.

The grass is green again, and putting on a final spurt of growth before the colder weather and shorter days.

In the garden, there are fruits abundant, with apples, rosehips and blackberries all at their best. Unusually, my two Elder trees have failed completely to produce a single bunch of berries.

This is the time of year when we really ought to be thinking about the forthcoming colder weather, but with morning indoor temperatures still in the low 20's, here's hoping that we can keep the heating off for at least another few weeks. When the temperature of the living room reaches 17 C, that will be my cue to start the heating.

The last 12 months has been a period of re-assessment. Whilst I must admit that I have not achieved half of the things I set out to do, I must admit that I have a clearer understanding of how I can move towards the sustainable lifestyle that I seek.

In the early summer, I re-read, George Orwell's "The Road to Wigan Pier". This is a bleak description of life in the northern industrial towns during the mid-1930s. It is an examination of the poverty and deprivation that these areas faced in the years between the wars. Orwell visits the households of unemployed miners, and clearly accounts for the squalour and malnutrition that existed in Britain within living memory. Whilst modern life may not be perfect, without a shadow of a doubt, we've never had it so good.

Another formative read this summer, was Jim Howard Kunstler's "The Long Emergency", as reviewed in an earlier post. Again an apocalyptic narrative of what is likely to befall the western world as fossil fuels become scarce.

In preparation for the coming winter, Elaine and I are investing in a wood burning stove with back-boiler.

Whilst this is likely to cost the best part of £2000 when professionally installed, mainly because of the cost of having a twin-skin stainless steel liner fitted in the flue, we are confident that it is going to offset about £400 of natural gas per year, and with a family friend able to keep us supplied with logs, we believe that we are looking at a payback of around 5 years.

The key advantage of the woodstove is that is will provide a significant boost to the heating of the living room area, where Elaine likes to spent the winter evenings reading. The radiant glow from the stove and the higher room temperatures will make for cosy evenings. Fortunately this property was built with a substantial fireplace in every room, and it will be an easy job to recommission the cavernous hearth of the living room.

Woodstoves, although more efficient than open fireplaces, are not as efficient as gas boilers in transferring the heat from the burning wood into the water. As a consequence, a lot more wood has to be burned to get reasonable output from the back-boiler, and this might lead to excessive temperatures in the room containing the stove. However, Elaine likes a comfortably warm room, so I don't consider this a major problem - provided that I can keep sawing as fast as she's stoking!

1 comment:

James said...

£2000 sounds like a Right Royal Mugging to me.

What is a professional installation?

I had a chimney, an Internet connection to a flue supplier and a day to finish the job. An adaptor from the chimney flue to my 6-inch stove flue, a tee with soot removal cap, a 45 degree bend and some straight. A tub of fire cement and I was done.

The 55K BTU stove and flue came to no more than £1000 in your money.

You remind me of Dick Strawbridge and his throwing money at problems.

You are halfway there in knowing that you are wasting money on fossil fuels. It's just that you waste money on your solutions.

I guess that's the townie way of doing things. "I'm going to live like the old folks but the solution is going to be bran harry spankers!!!"

It's not a self-reliant way though.

Only buy it if you can't build it.

I bet that solar water heater hasn't paid for itself yet either.

I have copper pipe, aluminium and polycarbonate sheeting. I'll knock something up over the winter.