January 7, 2011: Anybody? Anybody?


Here’s the setup: An old house (probably built around 1860) in a densely populated city (Somerville, MA) and an owner (that’s me) who wonders how a future owner will be able to heat this house post-fossil-fuel dependency (currently, we use natural gas to heat water that noisily flows into our radiators.)

Got it?

So: I’m just going to toss out a bunch of words and wait to hear from people:


Wood or corn or pellet stoves?

Anybody? Anybody?

(BTW: Did not mention solar power because a three-story apartment building is right next door/to our South and effectively blocks out the sun most of the winter. BUT if you know something I should know, don’t be shy: Tell me.)

Join the Conversation


  1. Radiant hot water heat (which will still require electricity, don’t know if that will be around much after the world runs out of oil, or if it will be affordable), or second choice wood heat; 2nd because it’s very polluting *but* — if your house is that old, likely the chimney (once cleaned — make sure you get it cleaned every six months to a year, depending on what you’re burning) is woodstove-ready without having to do major work to the house. Alternately, if you have fireplaces in your house already (they may be bricked-up or boarded over), you can buy woodstove inserts for these.

    Problems are:

    – Requires someone to be home most of the time.
    – Requires someone to tend the fire most of the time.
    – If the fire goes out during the night, it’s going to be VERY cold during the winter
    – Asthma/sinus problems/allergies in the family? Won’t be pretty.
    – Depending how rural the area is where you’re living, and whether or not you have access to trees you can cut yourself (if you want to), wood may be free — or you may end up paying as much, or more, for enough cords of wood to get you through the winter, as you would for electric heat. (Buy it in the summer, if you can, as it needs to cure after it’s been cut.)
    – You have to have a storage place on your property to be able to store that amount of wood, or more.
    – You will have to carry wood, start the fire in the morning (from the embers of the night before), make sure the draft is not open too much nor entirely closed.

    Still, it’s the warmest heat to be found anywhere. There’s a reason has been a source of heat, light, and energy, since man first started walking upright and living in caves.

  2. You have a lot of F/friends at Cambridge Cohousing on Richdale Avenue, which was one of the posterchildren for geothermal… might ask them whether it still works…

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