Winter's Coming!

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, Green Renovations

The temperature has dipped for the first significant time this Autumn in the Shenandoah Valley, and once again I wonder if my heating system will make it through another winter. Many old houses had one central source of heat for the whole home, and mine is no different. This house has a Siegler kerosene stove that is located centrally on the first level, and it distributes heat (sort of) throughout the home by means of a small blower, and the help of supply vents in the ceiling above it through to the floors of the second level. I believe they stopped making this stove in the 1960s.

I keep waiting for it to stop working, but it has never failed me in the 20 years I have lived here. Part of the reason is that it has few moving parts other than the blower. It has an outside supply tank and is vented into an old interior chimney, and every year does the job of heating the house (sort of). When I first moved in I considered installing a complete heating system, but it would have meant installing chases and bulkheads through out the home and I didn’t feel the size of the home justified the cost or want to alter the rooms in that manner.

I have been watching the development of Pellet Stoves over the years, and I think that is the direction I will probably head in when the time comes, and with the cost of kerosene the last couple of years, that time is coming quickly.

I try to be as “green” as possible, so I like the fact that wood pellets are made from wood waste, and no trees are cut down solely for the purpose of creating fuel. I also like the fact that I won’t have to be using kerosene in large quantities any longer.

Pellet stoves seem to be simple to install. You can direct vent most of them, and if you have a fireplace there is a wood pellet insert available. The free standing pellet stoves need the clearance from combustibles on all four sides, much the same as wood stoves, and they need a source of electricity for the hopper operation, and that’s about it. There appear to be pellet stoves to suit any decor and budget.

Another reason I am strongly considering switching in the near future is that pellet stoves qualify for the energy saving tax credit, and I’m all for tax credits.

I would enjoy hearing from anyone who has had good or bad experiences with pellet stoves. In the meantime, I will try to coax one more winter out of my old Siegler, and hopefully it will heat my house (sort of) just as it has the past 20 years.


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  1. 2 Responses  to “Winter's Coming!”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    i agree with randall. the time commitment for upkeep on pellet stoves is prohibitive, in my opinion.
  3. Randall
    Aug 29, 2011
    I personally have not had a great experience with pellet stoves...They sound great on paper because of their perks - but there is a lot of maintenance rather than just a gas/electric 'fake' fire. Buying pellets - shopping for pellets in my experience, maybe it's gotten better since the early 2000's, was like trying to get that TV that is on sale on Black Friday at 6AM. It's damn near impossible to find enough at a time to buy because you go through so many so quickly. Not only that, you have to vacuum the inside so frequently and deal with pellet jams in the feeder. Most fires are dangerous if you have children, but pellet stoves are more deceiving than real fires because the pellets have a glass door on them and kids for some reason think its more safe to touch because of the glass door blocking the fire. Not the case. Going green sometimes means having to do a few more steps, which is fine, as long everyone is on board trying to help the cause!