My attempts at renewable heating bought a new house this last year. It’s a moderate sized ranch, built in the 50’s. It’s not well insulated, but the previous owners have tried to improve it. The windows leak, but not much. It’s better when we cover the windows with plastic.

The most annoying thing to me however, is the oil furnace. The thought of heating with hydrocarbons hurts me in my little Eco-heart. In an ideal world, we’d have passive solar heating with a geothermal backup. Some day, when we have the funds, we’ll improve the passive solar heating.

Since that’s a long way off, heating with a more renewable resource is our best bet. We bought a wood-burning fireplace insert, manufactured by Hearthstone, called the Clydesdale. We have two fireplaces in the house, but were afraid to use them because they are so inefficient. Some places even said that we would require MORE fuel to heat the house.

Well, we’ve reached the end of another long winter! Hooray! It was a long and cold winter indeed for us in the midwest. I don’t have the specifics of degree days at this time, but as a quick comparison, last year in March, it got to 80 degrees near the end of the month. Now that is unusual for Wisconsin. This year it snowed on April 15th. Rather fitting, I thought. The point is that this heating season has been colder than last season, based on my nonscientific memory. Last year, without the woodburning fireplace, we went through 4 tanks of oil to heat the house. This year, using the fireplace insert almost every night that we were in town, and not changing the thermostat settings, we only used 2 tanks of oil. That means at the current cost of oil, the Clysdale will pay for itself in 2.5 years. A good investment and a step towards energy self sufficiency.

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