Friday, January 4, 2008

Brass Monkey Weather

Yorkshire folk have a saying "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey." This is one of those sayings whose origin is thankfully lost to history. It's pretty much "brass monkey weather" out there right now.

Kitchen wood stove went out overnight and so I had to get up and start it anew. In the meantime, to protect the pipes, I turned up the thermostat for the oil burner in the basement, from 55 to 61 degrees. So far this winter, we've used only 30 gallons of oil, and the beast in this photo is why. Not particularly efficient, but effective, this "Englander" forced air wood furnace drives away the chill with a vengeance. Together with the kitchen stove, it will consume about five cords of wood this year. It also heats my shop, which means I can work in the winter on carpentry and other projects.

Arguably, because we have 15.5 acres of combined woodland and pasture, growing roughly 10-15 cords of wood a year, this heating system is sustainable. Except for the 30 gallons of #2 heat oil.

Oh well.


  1. My understanding is this (though I can't guarantee it is the right explanation) . . . that cannon balls used to be stored on large brass triangles called 'monkeys'. During the Crimean War, it was so cold, the metal was distorted . . . so the balls rolled off - hence the expression.

  2. I am thinking about purchasing an "Englander" for my 250 yr old farm house in Orange county NY with only half of the house insulated (the upper half) the living space is about 1500 square ft. and almost 2000 with the cellar. I have a 38 year old Jotul (118) now and it barely makes enough heat for the 1st floor although it keeps the basement at 85 yo 90 degrees. With the cracks in the cast iron I need to upgrade my system for safety sake. I am used to cutting about 6 cord of wood a season. Does anyone have something good to say about the furnace and the company? (customer service, etc.)

  3. I can say that it works. It makes a lot of forced air, which heats the house pretty well, considering all we're using is firewood. But it does go through a lot of wood, about four cords in our case, and we only use it for the two coldest months. It is designed to add on to a regular forced air plenum. We have just such an oil forced air furnace in our basement, but I didn't put the Englander down there because I didn't like the thought of having a hot stove under the house with all that tinder dry building lumber and a low basement ceiling. Instead I put it in the garage and ran a separate air duct system through the house.

    If I were you, I'd do some more insulation first, and then get a replacement for the Jotul, and then think about adding a furnace after that. That's the correct order of cost-effectiveness. The Englander seems cheap at only $1,000, but even if you cut all your own wood, that wood is still worth real money and could be sold: $250 a cord here in Maine right now.

  4. Thank you....Wow, 4 cord in 2 months! I spoke to an older "salty" stove fellow and he said get one if your homeowners is paid up! Your input was similar to his (moving it to the garage) I will happily follow both of your suggestions.
    Take a step back, insulate, make sure my combustible clearances are secure and make a good decision for my families safety.

    We are just starting to get to $190 for a full cord here...if I get into a pinch I know a fella that will sell it for $135 a full cord. Otherwise I will do it myself, my neighbor has a trucking company and he gets rejects from a local saw mill that runs a bandsaw. Any metal in the wood no matter the species (oak, maple, etc.) it is put aside for burning BIG Logs too!
    Thank you agin for the input, happy Gardening woodcutting season.


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