Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pyromania Update - Strike!

First the Wood Pile:

I must confess now. Last week I was visiting my glorious wood pile, and I noticed that it was listing to one side. It was leaning a bit toward the house. I nudged it. It wiggled. I nudged it again. It wiggled some more. I decided to tie a rope around it and secure it to our deck. I nudged it again. It wobbled. I gave it a shove from the safer side, away from where it was leaning, and down it came. It sounded like pins in a bowling alley. So I was quite thankful that I was the one to discover the problem and that nobody else was around to be surprised by it.

Today I restacked it. A little better, but still not perfect. A little shorter, which will make my wife happy, but shorter mainly because we actually burned some wood.

Now, moving onto pellet stove news:

We did have a recent adventure here at the house. We returned from being away for Thanksgiving to find that our gas furnace had been off for 3 days. It seems that every so often, it would try to start up, but didn't. As it was early evening, we turned on the pellet stoves, moved bedding to the family room, tried to find the source of the problem, and find a heating guy to fix it. We had a toasty time camping out in the family room, but the house which started at 47 degrees inside when we got home was not very hospitable. The pellet stove eventually got it up to 58 degrees. This was with the stove on maximum. By morning the stove had burned up all it's fuel.

BTW, the furnace needed a new ignition element - the thing that lights the gas. The old one had burned out. The gas company had said they couldn't come check it out for at least a week! (Good thing I'm able bodied.) The local repairman, referred to me by my neighbor, came the next day, fixed it, and said he'd send a bill, which I expect won't be very big.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Small Town News

Sometimes our local news just cracks me up. This breaking news is not from The Onion. It's from the local Northampton newspaper Hampshire Gazette.

(Note: one link below added by me for sarcastic effect - like this story even needs it.)

Williamsburg gears up for a new stop sign


WILLIAMSBURG - A new stop sign will soon be installed at the corner of North and North Main streets just east of the village center.

Selectmen approved the move after hearing comments both for and against the sign from a small handful of residents, saying their decision was motivated by concerns for the safety of drivers who attempt to cross the path of drivers coming down North Street.

Selectmen said they also hope a stop sign will slow drivers down as they approach the village center.

"Traffic coming down North Street is going too fast. How to resolve it is what we're discussing," said Denise Banister, chairwoman of the board.

At least one resident, Robin Rosewarne, 89 Ashfield Road, said she is not convinced the sign is necessary. Rosewarne is concerned about an increase in accidents if cars stack up at the sign and are not visible to other drivers heading west into the center.

"We need more than just a stop sign," said Selectman Jeff Ciuffreda. "We'll also need a 'stop ahead' sign." Ciuffreda agreed with Rosewarne that the concern regarding traffic backing up is real and that the sign in its first weeks may create some problems.

Selectmen asked Highway Superintendent Bill Turner to lay out a plan to phase in the new sign. They would like to see some early warning signs go up, alerting drivers that a new stop sign will be installed soon.

Turner mentioned the possibility, too, of posting the area with traffic cones when the sign first goes up.

"The timing is good," said Ciuffreda, "since winter is coming and that may mean slower driving."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fire In the hole

This is a shot of one of our pellet stoves aflame. When the room is cold, it is cozy to sit in front of the stove and enjoy the glow and the radiant heat. The front of the stove, the glass, and the stove pipe are hot, but unlike a wood stove, the rest of it is cool. When the stove is on low, the stove pipe is actually warm - and not hot - because of the high efficiency. Every few seconds, the pellets drop down a chute making a quaint little plinking sound when they land in the little metal box. The only other sounds I hear is the faint roar from the fire, the turn of the auger which delivers the pellets, and blower.

In case you were wondering, this is a Travis pellet stove (Lopi - Heritage Bay). The stove has a switch which can be manual, automatic, or off. Manual means you hit another button to start it, and it will keep running. Automatic means if you hook up an external room thermostat, then it will cycle on and off like any heating device depending upon the room temperature. It also has two knobs one is oddly labeled 'Heat Output' which really means 'heat level' or really 'feed rate of pellets'. If I turn this up to max, then fuel (the pellets) will be fed more frequently into the fire box. The other one reads 'Fan' and this is actually the 'Heat Output' since when the fan is set to high, the stove will output heat (blow hot air) faster.

As promised, I hooked a thermostat to the pellet stove. Just about any thermostat available from your local hardware store will do. I bought some telephone wire and 1/4 inch contacts to hook it up. I even get a rebate from my gas company, because I bought an EnergyStar compliant thermostat which will let me program it. For example, I can set it to heat the room up more in the morning and less at night.

BTW, I'm told that my pellet stove can even burn a mixture of up to 10% corn kernels. I wonder if occasionally some will pop!