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DayCreek Journal

October 12, 2002

It's Getting Cold

Another week has gone by and although the temperatures are warm today, there's a a cold front on the way that will definitely put a chill in the air by tomorrow. As typical with most autumns, it's never a gentle transition from warm to cold, but rather a battle between the remnants of summer and the beginnings of winter. Temperatures in the 70's will be replaced by temperatures in the 40's and there's a chance to see the first snow flakes of the season. Is it panic time yet? Not quite.

I spent the majority of the week ( with help from Tom ) preparing for next Monday's installation of the spray foam insulation. All the windows had to be covered with plastic, bottle ends taped, utility tubes extended and the walls cleaned of any loose mortar. The floors also had to be cleared of materials, swept and vacuumed. All and all, things are a go for Monday morning.

Rob Roy says I have guts for trying this and although I have some trepidation for covering the log ends, I feel confident that the product being applied will allow the walls to transpire moisture. The product is specifically designed not to trap moisture while virtually eliminating air infiltration. As far as I know, this will be a first for a cordwood structure.

(There is a house in Canada in which the builder left pieces of hose in the wall and later injected spray foam. There is a great article about this house in Harrowsmith Magazine and I will be posting the article when things settle down a bit this winter. Although she used spray foam, it was a single cordwood wall and the foam was applied around the logs and not the log ends.)

Besides the installation of the spray foam, I hope to have the electric line trenched to the house over the next two weeks, and with any luck I'll have the electric boiler ready to go by the end of the month or shortly thereafter. As far as getting the LP gas line installed before winter? Hmmm....we'll have to see about that too.

There back again! Thousands of them! There are so many Asian beetles that you can hear the sound of them crashing into the plastic on the windows. I hope by insulating the walls, it will put an end to the plague although I have my doubts!

A Follow-up to the Heating Debate
I got quite a few comments about the last journal entry and I thought I would share a few points that I overlooked.

I should start by mentioning that our utility company charges $18.50 per month just to be connected to the grid. The rate a few years back was $10.00, but they bumped it up significantly just about the time that the word "Deregulation" entered the vocabulary of the electric companies. Now Tri-County claims they raised the rates to support the grid infrastructure, but I don't buy it. In any case, it is what it is and although I don't like it, the other alternative of being off the grid completely would cost me about the same to maintain and furnish a bank of batteries. If I was to take advantage of the dual fuel rate or not, I have to pay the $18.50 per month to be connected, so I didn't include it in my calculations in last week's journal.

I received an email from a reader wondering why I didn't talk about other alternatives such as the Tarms boiler. Tarms makes a series of high-quality wood fired boilers, some of which use a combination of wood/gas to heat the house. If your not home and the fire goes out, the unit will switch to gas to keep the house warm. I had considered this option a few years back, but thought it was a bit of overkill for the house and the unit is quite expensive to boot.

Another email asked if I would consider an oil boiler. Heating oil, just like LP gas and electric (except for very small amounts) come from nonrenewable energy sources and although I'd rather use renewable energy whenever possible, I have to face the reality that (at present) there are no other alternatives. So with that in mind, I did a bit of research on oil heat.

From what I have been able to gather, home heating oil has approximately 1.52 times the amount of Btu's per gallon as compared to LP gas. If this is true, then a gallon of LP gas that costs 84 cents, is the equivalent of a gallon of home heating oil that costs $1.28 per gallon. I've been told that home heating oil (in Wisconsin) is presently selling for $1.195 per gallon of number 2 grade heating oil while number 1 grade is selling for $1.315 per gallon. So it's in the ball park with LP gas and off-peak electric rates in our area. Just like LP gas boilers, you have to pay attention to the efficiency of the boiler. Most boilers that I researched had efficiencies of 80 to 85 percent, comparable to LP gas boilers although some LP gas boilers have efficiency ratings in the 90's.

Some oil-fired boilers on the market take advantage of used oil—anything from cooking oil to transmission fluid and do so within EPA standards. If you had a large amount of recycled oil available to you at a discount, this might be an alternative, although I would have concerns over maintenance with these units. They claim to be trouble-free, but I've been down that road before.

Stay tuned to the journal... Next week I hope to be foamed.


If I were them, I'd be hiding right about now. Thanksgiving is not that far away!