I have decided that mankind’s second greatest invention, after the flush toilet, is…

…the thermostat.
thermostat
Yes, the humble thermostat, unsleeping guardian of nightly comfort. When paired with an electrically-actuated gas heater – another marvel of human ingenuity – the thermostat permits deep sleep and comfortable waking without the need to rise during the night to throw wood, coal or sun-dried IRS agents on the fire. What a triumph for humanity!

Alas, the Secret Lair doesn’t have one. And I thought about that this morning as I poked my nose out from under the blankets covering my bed, then pulled it right the hell back in again. I didn’t roll out of the sack this morning until Ghost’s “I want to go outside” whines sounded honestly heartfelt.

Yes, we’ve reached that part of the winter when it’s no longer necessary to speculate projections of how the Lair “will” do during the winter – now direct measurements have become practical. Baby, it’s cold outside. Also windy. Snowy. Very much like a respectable winter anywhere south of Canada, at the moment.

And (I think) to no one’s surprise, the Lair is doing very well indeed. It holds heat so fabulously well compared to previous winters that it’s actually a minor issue – imagine, I have to wake in the middle of the night to arrange heavy blankets when it finally gets cold enough to rate them. And the woodstove can’t just be cranked to eleven, because it’ll drive me right out of the cabin which no longer belches waste heat from all its many crevices. It’s terrible, I tellya.
IMG_0968
Now if only I could get the boys to light the fire in the morning, say around 6:30. And maybe start some coffee…

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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14 Responses to I have decided that mankind’s second greatest invention, after the flush toilet, is…

  1. MamaLiberty says:

    Oh yes, took me a while to learn how to live without any central heat. In Calif. I had a thermostat that could be programmed so the heat came on or off any time I wanted the temperature to change, actually. Had six settings. The little oil filled radiators I use to heat most now come with a thermostat, of course, the best part being that I can set them to maintain a minimum temp overnight exactly where I want it, without heating the whole house.

    I already have a coffee pot that can be programmed to start before I get up, but I seldom use the feature. The water has to sit there all night, and I prefer it to be fresh. No way I’m trusting the dog with that chore! LOL My coffee is sacred. I can survive the few moments it takes to brew… barely.

  2. Ray in Kentucky says:

    Do you have much thermal mass in the Lair? Other than LB, I mean. Do you have a way to introduce heat-holdy, stay-warmish masonry mass. I know a guy (bachelor of course) that stacked an s–tload of dry field stone around his wood stove. This pile of heat seemed to help it “coast” through the night. I know mass seems to be the selling point on incredibly pricy soap stone stoves. Just a thought.

  3. Joel says:

    This suggestion comes up every now and then. Truly I could do more with thermal mass than I do, and I think this winter I might. I have a great many ceramic tiles that will eventually find their way to the lair’s floor, and I could stack them around the rear and one side of the stove. Can’t surround the stove with them, because I periodically pull it out to clean the stovepipe, but I could do more than I do.

  4. Ben says:

    In terms of R-value, that tar paper wrap and siding likely isn’t very impressive. I’m guessing that a lot of the improvement you are seeing comes from the sealing up of of hundreds of little drafts.

    What are your plans for your floor?

  5. Joel says:

    Tile over Hardi-Backer board. I have all the materials except the Hardi-Backer…and interest in disrupting the hell out of the Lair to do the deed. Could have done it this autumn, but didn’t.

  6. Paul X says:

    We bought a few paver blocks for testing that eventually ended up on top of the woodstove. A nice round river rock also is a great substitute for an electric blanket, as getting into a cold bed can be tedious.

    Rock is one thing the desert has no shortage of. Stack a bunch of them on top of the stove. Watch out for exploding ones though…

    I have had a hard time getting fires to bank down at the end of the burn so the glowing coals would be available in the morning. I finally figured out to load the stove a bit heavy toward the end, so the coals can hide under that mass. When you run it with small wood it usually burns everything up so no coals are left. But that probably won’t work as well with a small cabin because you usually don’t need a fully-loaded stove and all the heat output that implies!

  7. Tahn says:

    When I lived in a tipi up in the Colorado mountains, before retiring at night I would put a few drops of kerosene in a paper bag with sawdust and tinder, then in the cold mornings, I would stick an arm out of my bag, drop the bag in the fire pit, add a bit of kindling, light it and pull my arm back in the bag, wait a few minutes, stick my arm out again and add some fuel and wait a bit longer, then get up to a vey civilized warm lodge. Worked well.

  8. sevesteen says:

    Do thermostatic dampers exist for stoves? A co-worker had an external wood furnace. The thermostat controlled the damper, kept the fire burning through the night.

  9. M J R says:

    “Very much like a respectable winter anywhere south of Canada”

    Um Joel Up here North of Disorder (Ontario, Canada) yesterday’s high was a degree warmer than LA California. :^)

    Kidding aside, I was racking my brains out to see if there was a way to extend the burn time in your wood stove. Have you tried to do a top down fire? I have done this camping and the wood lasts a lot longer. I found this set of instructions for a wood stove and thought you could try it.

    http://woodheat.org/top-down-steps.html

    Good luck and stay warm.

  10. Zelda says:

    MJR thanks so much for the top down fire information. I’ve used a sloppy version of that outside, never thought to refine it or use it inside. Duh I learn so much from this blog!

  11. Kyle Miller says:

    Stacked concrete block 4″ high around 2 1/2 sides of a stove like yours. Mellowed out the scalding highs and radiated warmth through the night. A worthy project in my world.

  12. Kyle Miller says:

    The ” should be ‘ . As in four feet high. Once it is a permanent thing, I plan to fill the blocks with sand for more thermal mass. Year 9 of the 5 year plan is fast approaching.

  13. Ben says:

    Or just stack your half-walls using solid blocks. It would be a more expensive option, but it would likely give more thermal mass with no worries about sand filtering out. You would want to be sure that your floors are industrial strength though! Naturally, a side benefit of any sort of concrete surrounding your hot stove is fire protection.

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-16-in-x-8-in-x-4-in-Concrete-Block-30165803/100350254

  14. Kentucky says:

    I have seen thermostat-controlled air intakes on the larger sheet-metal-enclosed wood “heaters” that reside in the living room of some older rural homes. They are basically a spring-actuated arrangement that opens/closes the air inlet thus controlling combustion, adjustable with a knob that sets the preload tension on the spring. Basically very trouble-free. You still have to feed the thing wood, of course, but it seems to be able to get by with only a once-daily servicing if you are up to adding the occasional log or two throughout the day. Don’t know if these arrangements are still available or not.

To the stake with the heretic!