Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not Frozen Yet

We are all doing okay, in spite of the frigid weather. Our outdoor faucet (which is made for winter weather) did freeze up, so the boys have to come inside and haul buckets of water from the laundry tub to the animals. We did purchase a heater for the waterer down by the barn, but they still have to haul water down to fill it up. We just got the heater as the cold weather was beginning, and it sure draws electricity. It's a blessing, though, since the boys don't have to haul water down quite as many times a day as they used to.

Last night one of us neglected to get up during the night to refill the wood stove, so it was probably about 50 degrees in here when morning arrived. We won't do that again! I'm setting my alarm for 3:00 a.m. to keep the fire going. I did turn on the floor heat this morning, because the concrete was very cold to walk on. I'm not sure the boiler has even brought the floor heat up to the lower setting I had it turned to yet, but I can tell the difference when we use both the boiler and wood stove on these exceptionally cold nights. Unfortunately we'll pay for it when the electric bill arrives.

Jim signed up for off-peak heat with our electric company. That means they have the ability to shut off power to our water heater whenever extra electricity is needed, and we receive a cheaper rate on our electrical usage. Since this cold has started, we've hardly been able to use the water heater. Tonight I noticed the red light wasn't on which meant we did have use of the heater, so I finally got the boys to take quick showers before it went off again.

There are two things I want to show you in this photo ... One is how we dry clothes in the winter: around the wood stove. I place everything on hangers, and use clothespins to hang up socks and other items that could fall off the hangers. It certainly saves on dryer time.

The other item to notice is the old water heater on top of the wood stove. This is what is giving us hot water, in spite of having our regular water heater turned off by the power company.

We brought our wood stove from Fargo when we moved up here. Originally it was purchased for use during Y2K, but if I remember correctly, all we did was burn paper in it. A friend up here was getting rid of an old water heater and asked if we wanted it, and Jim thought he could rig up a system to have pipes running through the wood stove which would heat water, with the old water heater used as a holding tank. I don't know all the details, but it works pretty slick. The water is heated and piped to our "real" water heater in pipes running by the ceiling. I was more than a bit wary when we first started using this operation, but it does a good job and sure beats heating water on the stove. We do have to be careful about how much of the hot water we use at a time, since the old water heater only holds 30 gallons and it takes a while to heat more water. In the summertime the water still circulates through the pipes in the wood stove, but since the wood stove isn't operating the water isn't heated.

We ended up having to insulate the pipes that run to the "real" water heater, as the they would sweat from the very cold water that comes from our well and then drip on whoever was under them. We also had trouble at first when we didn't use enough of the hot water before everyone went to bed at night; we would suddenly awaken to the sound of running water. The PTR valve would open and send hot water through a hose into a bucket, but if the bucket filled and no one woke up, the water would be all over the floor and was a real mess to clean up. We haven't had that happen for quite a while now, and I'm wondering if the innards are coated with hard water deposits and affecting how warm the water is heated. We also had to be careful when using the shower, because the water was VERY hot.

I'll have to post some time about the love/hate relationship I've had with our wood stove. There definitely is a lot to learn about using them, and we had to learn a lot of it through the school of hard knocks.


Anonymous said...

What a neat combined-use system. If I may make a suggestion, though, for safety's sake you can add a temperature valve to make sure the water heading to the shower isn't hot enough to scald. It combines enough water to the hot line to make sure no one is burned.

Marci said...

That is a great way to do it. We have a propane hot water heater here. Our last house had a coal fired one. There was no check valve. We would get the fire going and a couple of times we would forget to start using the hot water. We would start to hear the pipes pinging. We would run and open up the faucets to let the hot water release some and steam would fill our house. I have pictures of Joshua standing in steam from his waist up to the ceiling. :)

Lynn Bartlett said...

Hello HeyerCapital,
Thanks for checking out my blog. We do need to install something for those of us who may forget to check the temperature of the water before jumping into the shower. So far so good, but we don't want that one time to happen.

I lived in WI for a year. Where is Fox Valley?

Hi Marci,
I remember reading about your hot water antics and seeing the photos of Joshua on your website. At least ours has never done that!

Tracy said...

We are due to get your cold snap after it leaves your state ;) It's only December and I'm already tired of the cold and anxious to get back out into the garden!
I like your water heater/wood stove setup -- we are still trying to determine how best to convert our whole house to wood heat (it is a 120+ year old house, so we need to be real careful against fire possibilities.) I wish previous generations had never converted it away from wood heat!
How does the power company have the ability to shut off your water heater? Is it on the separate line in?

Lynn Bartlett said...

Hi Tracy, thanks for stopping by. The wiring to the water heater is in a separate box on the wall, and I guess it must be controlled by however they do it at the power company. After we moved into our basement (we have the upstairs shelled in, but have lived in here for 4 years) the electric co. sent a man to wire in this control after we applied for off peak heat. We can tell before running the water if they have shut off the power to the water heater by a red light that comes on.