Monday, January 05, 2009

Energy Independence

After running for about a month, the electric boiler in the barn failed- three times. It started with a problem in the circuit board that caused it to stop working on the coldest night of the year (as the temp bottomed out at -32F). But not to worry, we have the wood pellet stove that can put out more than enough BTUs to keep the building toasty warm on the coldest of cold days. Not knowing how long the boiler would out of commission, I went to town to get a supply of wood pellets. Ironically, the dealer was out-of-stock! One of their suppliers couldn't keep up with demand, and the other had shutdown due to a fire at their manufacturing plant (I'm guessing a wood pellet plant is NOT a good place to have a fire!). Bummer for them. And bummer for us, as we were nearly out of fuel and the weather has been C-O-L-D. Luckily, I was able to debug the boiler's problem with some help from the the manufacturer over the phone and get it running again. A week later, one of the two heating elements blew out, followed shortly by the second one doing the same. As luck would have it, though, the wood pellets were back in stock locally and so we had the pellet stove to fall back on once again. As I wait for replacement parts to be shipped up here to the North Pole, the nightly temps frequent the well-below-zero mark (last night was -28F)...all this leaves me thinking, even more than usual, about just how much we rely on our fuel source and how little we understand about them. In sub-zero weather, the argument is really no longer about global climate change or monthly energy costs, even though these are big issues. The bottom line is really about survival- how long could we stay alive in the dead of winter if the gas stopped flowing or the power plants shut down? It hurts to think about it, but I do. Alot. Really, shouldn't we all? With all the troubles I am having in the barn, it is nice to know that our house, 200 feet away, is about as energy-independent as we can be right now. One out of two ain't bad! Even though I may complain at times about preparing firewood every year, I couldn't be more thankful that we have this as our one and only source of free, local and sustainable heat. "He who cuts his own wood is twice warmed"...amen to that.

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