Minnesota Farmer


Heating up in Minnesota

I have to admit I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to the heat sources for my home.  The very fact that I have multiple heat sources is in itself unconventional.  It does make for some interesting conversation when we talk of cold and how we stay warm.

I purchased the house I live in in the late 70’s, not for the house, but for the land it sits on.  As a young farmer at the time I was looking for land to farm, and this piece was near the rest of the families farmland.  Having just met my eventually to be wife, the house was not part of my thought process.

The house is a two story Gordon Van Tine model # 501 purchased by previous owners as a precut, build it yourself house in 1925.  It had a full basement, kitchen, living room, dining room, entry porch and back porch on the main level and three bedrooms, bath and a sleeping porch on the second floor when we bought it.  Since then a half bath, office, family room and screen porch have been added on the main level where the old back porch used to be.

When we bought the house it had an older LP gas furnace in it that never seemed to quit running in the winter.   This was a replacement for the old coal fired furnace that was original to the house.  The replacement of the older LP furnace in the early 80’s helped us increase our furnaces efficiency.

One of our first additions to the heat was the purchase of a cast iron wood burning “parlor” stove for the living room.  This and a wood burner in the basement kept us warm for several winters.  Since we have access to several farm site tree stands, I have plenty of wood just cleaning up the fallen trees and trimming branches that are in the way.

Our three solar collectors.

The 80’s were a period of increasing fuel costs and the first big push in solar energy.  The house now has 3 air to air solar collectors on it.  One of which helps warm the living room and the other two heat a rock bed under the office and family room.

When we added a mud room onto the house we placed coils of tubing into the floor so that we could heat that room with hot water.  Heating coils were also added later under the floor of the kitchen and the front entry to help heat those rooms.  A small electric boiler was added as the heat source for these rooms.

Our corn stove

Five years ago I replaced the basement wood stove with a pellet stove.  This stove will burn either compressed pellets of sawdust, or kernels of corn.  Even with the current high prices of corn I can afford to burn corn as a heat source.  It requires about the same amount of work as a wood stove, but is overall cleaner having less ash and a smaller chance of smoke entering the house.

After a chimney fire three years ago we had to replace the parlor stove.  In it’s place went a LP gas fired “parlor stove” that adds the heat, but not the dirt, smoke and insects associated with wood heat.

The wood furnace by our wood pile.

Also at that time we installed an outdoor wood burning furnace.  This heat source uses wood to heat water, which is used to transfer heat to my house and shop.  The hot water also adds a boost to our water heater.

There are also three small electric space heaters to help heat up rooms like the bathroom when you are using those rooms.

So there you have it.  I have 5 sources of heat for my house, wood, corn, solar, LP and electricity.  Unfortunately 4 of those sources need electricity to run.  As you might expect, I’m looking for a way to produce my own electricity also.  I’ll not be happy until I have no need for a fuel truck to come to my farm.

Michael

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