I live in a 1000 square foot house which has three different means of heating: wood, propane, and electric. I currently heat the house primarily with the wood stove and use the electric as backup source. I think the advantage of using the electric as back up is that I can set it to a much lower temperature than my propane wall heater and I can keep it on only in locations where I am concerned about pipes freezing. I’m not 100% it wouldn’t be better to use the propane as back up but that’s a topic for another post.
The main challenge I have encountered with the wood stove is that there is very little ability to regulate temperature. A frequent occurrence is for the house to get extremely hot when the wood stove is really cranking. I frequently have to open some windows to keep the house from turning into one giant sauna. The other challenge is that I haven’t found a great way to keep the house warm the next morning without adjusting either the electric or propane. So far the only way to keep the house warm all night and into the morning using just wood is to load up the stove before going to bed and then reduce the airflow so the fire slowly smolders overnight. While this does work it is less than ideal for a number of reasons:
1. Burns wood less efficiently.
2. Pollutes more.
3. Increases creosote buildup in chimney.
I believe the solution to both of these challenges is to add some type thermal mass around the stove. The idea of adding thermal mass to regulate temperatures from combustion has literally been around for centuries. As early as 5000 BC there is evidence of early humans placing large masonry blocks around a fire. The idea is that the blocks would absorb heat while the fire was burning and then radiate out heat long after the fire went out. Modern uses include soapstone wood stoves and masonry fireplaces.
This sounds perfect for my situation! The added thermal mass will hopefully absorb some heat from the stove thus preventing the sauna situation and radiate the heat back to the house to prevent chilly mornings. The big question that remains, is what material will act as the best thermal mass for my situation. Stay tuned for part 2.