Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

Warm mornings

Posted by DNW on 2011/12/15

This hunting season was not spent hunting. Not by me anyway, and not for deer. The search was for warmth.

Earlier this year it had become increasingly obvious that our old gravity fed, 1950’s era, Norge brand oil-fired space heater, hereinafter to be referred to as an “oil stove”, was about due for replacement. We had been using it for heat ever since the 1920’s era wood burning furnace in the farmhouse basement had begun to leak smoke up through the floor grate.

I really don’t know how they managed to heat those old farmhouses to a family friendly degree, given the draftiness and lack of insulation. Well, yes I really do actually. They managed it with an oil stove in the kitchen, a furnace in the basement, and another heater in the living room.

But anyway, what made my usual “maybe tomorrow” routine less of an option and impelled me to the expedient of seeking even more radical solutions, was the fact that our outdoor oil storage tank had sprung a leak, and therewith dribbled away at least 100 plus gallons of number one fuel oil.

What to do? What to do is to get off the dime and buy and install a new oil stove and a new storage tank.

So, I called our oil supplier.

He says, “Ah, we don’t have any above ground storage tanks in stock right now. However I may be able to get you one for around five-hundred bucks in a couple of weeks. Let’s see, that’s four-hundred ninety-two dollars and we’ll deliver it”

Ok, not too bad. I could buy a used tank off of Craig’s List, but it would cost me more in trouble and aggravation than  I would pay in cash for a new one.  Feeling pretty reassured, I tell my friendly oil dealer that it sounds like a plan, and that I’ll just heat the farmhouse some other way until I get the tank in. If all goes well, I calculate, I might even pull it all together by opening day or shortly thereafter.  Meanwhile, I confide, I’d better get busy and place an order for a new oil stove somewhere.

“Yes, well now, thinking about it and even though I am in the business of selling the stuff, you might want to reconsider that plan”, he says.


“When was the last time you bought fuel oil, and what’d you pay?”, he asks.

“I’m not sure, a couple of years back maybe. We only use 50 gallons or so a season. I think it cost a dollar-eighty a gallon or something”

“It’s presently selling up here at four dollars a gallon delivered”

So somewhat later and less enthusiastically, I turn to my  web browser bookmarks page, bring up the Buck Stove web site, and proceed to look for their classic and world famous (if you live in West Virginia) Tharrington Oil Circulator.

Oil stove

Can’t find it as an active page anymore.

Well then no matter, a couple of those on-line country stores had them. I’ll just click on their homepage bookmarks and call one of them up instead. Saw an oil circulator on sale a couple years ago for less than a thousand if I recall. The discount ought to cover the shipping and transport.

But web address after web address comes up “404”.

This must have been one heck of a recession…

So, after  a couple days of fruitless searches I finally get through directly to Buck sales by phone only to find out that they quit making oil stoves a few years back, and that the person I spoke to doesn’t know of any distributors who have leftover inventory.

 In fact it turns out that I could not find anyone making or selling conventional oil stoves in the US. The wick type heaters are still available, and some boutique companies make oil fuel heaters that look like glass front wood burners, but I’m not looking for a fireplace effect; just an oil stove heater.

Conventional oil stove burner element

And none apparently available of the kind, and in the time-frame, required. Now what?

Well, what I did was to eventually put in a supplemental heat source to tide us over until I do decide on a more permanent solution. And that temporary solution was one of those wall mounted ventless propane heaters, which are not supposed to be used as a primary heat source. It works. It doesn’t smell much and the humidity and moisture it generates as a by-product wouldn’t be so objectionable if you had another kind of heat source simultaneously drying the air out.

But through it all, I received a valuable lesson as to the changing nature of the American marketplace, and as to why it sometimes pays to listen more closely to that little voice in the back of your head that says “Better do it now while it’s still available”.

Because you can’t really go back in time, bookmarks notwithstanding.

In the spirit of doing it now while it’s  available, and that of interesting American made things you might not have known were still around, I’ll place up the next posting: How to warm your house, cook your food, cool the earth, annoy Al Gore, and poison Canada all at once.

One Response to “Warm mornings”

  1. AOTC said

    heh, no hunting for me either. the elbow is STILL giving me a fit.

    i know of what you speak, well, the part about having to replace the furnace. 7 years ago, three days before christmas, our antiquated ‘furnace’ puked. (it need a thermocouple, apparently this part being the only actual mechanical part on the thing, and was going for about 650 dollars due to so few manufactures of it.) we affectionately called the old furnace ‘the barrel with flames’ due to the fact it was basically a natural gas fired…barrel with flames. there were no electrical components to fail and it would work in a power failure. it had been retrofitted with a forced air fan sometime in the 60’s. so, anyhow, faced with the decision to get new technology or try to keep the old up… we opted to shell out thousands of dollars to get a new furnace. we bought a high efficiency model, and, since spending thousands of dollars at christmastime on a furnace didnt feel very festive we had central air installed in the new system. somehow the a/c made it seem like we actually got something for the money.

    i hate the new furnace. the old one basically heated the entire basement via conduction of escaped heat from the ‘barrel’. all the floors in the first floor were toasty! now my hardwood floors are cold all winter despite the basement kept at a respectable warm air temp. also the fan on the old one was slow and had a comforting hum. this new one is like a blast from a category 4 tornado. i guess i am finally at the age when ‘new’ stuff is not as much a draw for me, i like old and comfortable. old stuff passes into oblivion though.

    when growing up we had a coal stove, then converted to wood. i was expert at splitting firewood. even the woodstove market has evolved. in this area many have wood stoves, the fancy new kind. my brother has high efficiency TARM woodstove and himself designed and installed an elaborate boiler system, underground thermal storage tanks and pex tube heated floors. the house is totally refinished and he heats about 3000 sq feet for a pittance, and some hard work of wood cutting.

    i keep thinking… if only we lived about 500 miles south, this lifetime struggle with staying warm would be so much easier. but, we stay here, like dummies, for some reason. lol

    in other news, it is about 55 degrees here right now. a week out from christmas. i love it…


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