Maybe this more belongs in the “you know you’re getting old when” thread, but I strongly suspect it won’t be long until wood as a primary heat source will seem like something straight out of a Wild West tale for most city dwellers.There are really only two viable home-heating fuels in my state -- oil, either no. 2 or kerosene, and wood. There is no natural gas service here, and while bottled propane is available in most towns, it doesn't offer any real advange over oil once all the costs are factored in. Electric heat is completely off the table when you consider how completely out of control electric bills are here thanks to our global-conglomerate power company and our bought-and-paid-for utilities commission. Wood has the advantage of being plentiful, but it's labor intensive -- especially if you're old and live alone -- and it's also much more dangerous. It isn't fall in Maine until the chimney fires start.
When I was growing up there were still a few people around burning coal in furnaces, but that was also labor-intensive, even with a mechanical stoker: somebody had to clean out and carry away the ashes. There are still a few coal stoves around, but given the choice most stove-heat people prefer wood.
Right now I have no idea how I'm going to get thru next winter. I'm on a monthly oil-payment plan, and that payment has doubled with the start of the new contract in June. My income, however, has not, nor will it, increase accordingly, and I look forward to a winter of 55 degree temperatures and lots of sweaters.
But Seattle is a city, a pretty good sized one, where it wasn’t at all uncommon as recently as a couple-three decades ago for houses to be heated with woodstoves. The area is blessed by geography and weather to have relatively clean air, but when atmospheric conditions prevent the wind from carrying away the airborne funk, there come directives not to burn wood, the homes with wood as the only adequate heat source excepted.
Now I’m in greater Denver, a locale decidedly NOT blessed with clean air. Like all the houses in this generic suburban subdivision, ours has a fireplace in the living room. I’ve never used it, and doubt I ever will. And my nose rarely picks up the smell of a wood fire anywhere around here.
Air pollution aside, wood as a heating fuel leaves much to be desired. Wood (and/or coal) burning basement furnaces still exist, which provide more or less even heat distribution throughout the structure. The people across the street from our family house were still using one in the early 1970s, but with that exception, in my world it was woodstoves and fireplace inserts.
A nice toasty house with a well-stoked woodstove at 10 p.m. was chilly at 6 a.m., and would be for an hour or so until a fresh fire warmed up the place.
Turning a thermostat is a helluva lot easier.