The problem with heating with wood is that it’s a messy, constant, labor-intensive pain in the ass. Really. There’s a reason – not related to particulates or carbon credits – that American homes so rarely heat with wood. A heater you can just set and forget – preferably one with a thermostat – is a massive improvement on the design.
No, seriously. Think about it. I come down the ladder at oh-dark-thirty, pet Little Bear, start some coffee water, and – assuming I didn’t do all the preliminaries the night before – then I chop kindling, lay a fire, light tinder, and if all goes well half an hour later I might detect a slight rise in cabin temperature. Also, if like now the cabin isn’t really all that cold to begin with, around the time the fire finally starts making a difference it’s time to let it burn out.
Except for the cost and hassle of transporting propane from town, a propane heater is an improvement on this. And I do possess two of them: The big Mr. Heater I used in the Interim Lair, and this smaller version I inherited from J&H year before last…
The big one is currently stored elsewhere but the small one – along with half a dozen of these little “this won’t get you through the night” propane bottles which render the heater portable – normally resides in the powershed Just In Case. Yesterday I dragged it out and set it up, not because of any emergency but just because I wanted a little heat right now and not a lot of heat an hour from now. And because I could. Of course that meant expending one of those little propane bottles, which cost $4 apiece, which hurt my feelings but what the hell. It’s pretty clear we’re not going to have many life-threatening cold emergencies during the remainder of this winter.
Then this morning I came down the ladder, petted LB, noted that it was 50 degrees inside which is – damn it – on the cusp of cold enough to want some heat but not so cold you’re really in a fever to build a big roaring fire. And that little Heater Buddy was still sitting there, so I reached over from scratching somebody’s belly and fired it up. Cranked it to high. I figured I’d turn it down or off as soon as the thermometer said it was having an effect.
Probably I’ve never in life had that little heater set to High. When I tried to turn it down, I couldn’t. I physically could not do it. The valve handle is stuck on High. Maybe it’s just an inconveniently designed plastic tab on the handle. Maybe it’s a problem with the valve itself. If I put a wrench on it and crank, maybe that will break off the tab and fix the valve. Maybe it will complete the ruination of the valve.
I’ve been blown up in a propane fireball once. Once.
Hey, you know another problem with these little “this won’t get you through the night” camping bottles? No on/off valve. There’s nothing to do but let the heater burn till it runs out of gas, then see if I can take it apart enough to fix the handle or whatever else is wrong.
And that’s the advantage of heating with wood…
ETA: For the record, in case you cared, one of those little bottles will last an hour and 45 minutes in a Heater Buddy set on High.
ETAA: Fixed. Though I’m not quite sure what I did to fix it, which is always an unsatisfying sort of fix.