January 12, 2006
Nashville-- Sometimes, the old ways of solving problems work best. At a time when people are rather concerned about paying much higher heating bills- as much as 35% more for gas-- a Nashville woman has found a way thumb her nose at those increasing prices.
Few people have the best of both worlds, especially during the winter months, when they can stay toasty warm without spending a lot of money for heat. "What's any more comfortable? It's the most comfortable heat you can have," says Donna Nelms, as she opens a box holding several 16-inch sticks of seasoned hardwood.
Year in and year out, she beats the high costs of heating her home without sacrificing comfort, or worrying about how to pay for it. "A lot more comfortable," says Donna, referring to her wood burning stove, built by the Atlanta Stove Works.
Donna and her late husband always wanted such a stove, and so they added to their modest home so they could have one. That was almost 30 years ago, and the stove provides more than enough heat for her home and it doesn't cost her anything.
Nothing. Donna's children give her a stack of wood each year, about a chord's worth, often more than enough to get her through a cold winter. If she had to buy the wood, Donna estimates that it might costs her $15 a month, a bargain by today's standards, when the US Energy Information Administration predicts a 50% increase in what people will pay for gas this winter and 30% more heating oil.
Even considering the economics, Donna likes to remember the old days when she grew up warmed by a wood burning stove. "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl," says Donna.
She has a lot of company around the country. An industry trade group estimates sales of wood burning stoves have jumped about 10 percent in the past year fired, in part, by much higher natural gas and oil prices.
Donna is rather attached emotionally to her stove. "Most anything else you can have, but you can't have this stove," says Donna with a smile.
Her daughter wanted Donna to give her the stove, but she wouldn't consider it, saying the daughter could have it at her mom's death. Donna has an electric stove that looks new, and a microwave oven in her kitchen. "I'll keep the microwave for a quick cup of coffee," she says.
She uses the wood burning to cook meals during the winter. "You can put four or five pots on here at the same time," says Donna, who has been known to cook a holiday meal on the old stove at her family's request. Her family believes strongly that food prepared on the wooden stove tastes better than when it's prepared in a conventional or microwave oven.
Her wood burning stove is rather basic and it doesn't have a thermostat. "You can control the heat with a damper," says Donna who often cooks biscuits in the oven. "After you use it a few times, you know just about how to do it," says Donna who found it easy to learn how much to open the damper to get the desired cooking temperature.
The old stove has a disadvantage. "You got to keep putting wood in it. You need to get up anyway," says Donna.
But other than a minor inconvenience, Donna finds the old fashioned way works best for her because there's no place like a warm home.