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Sat, Sept. 21

Randy rambles and whines about washers and woodstoves

We moved last July. Our "new" home was built in 2000, but came with a year-old high efficiency washer and dryer. So we sold our 12-year-old washer and dryer, since we had been "eyeballing" the newer energy-efficient models anyway.

Mistake! The new clothes washer takes 90 minutes on a "normal" cycle. Even a small size load on the "delicate" cycle takes over an hour. You can't do several loads of laundry in one day, so we have to do some laundry during the week.

And my wife is getting soap stains on her clothes. With the new washers, the lid is locked during the entire cycle. So you cannot partially fill it with water before adding soap and clothes, which allows the soap to dissolve better.

The owner's manual for the new washer says it spins faster and dries the clothes more, so the dryer takes less time. This may save energy, but it seems silly to boast about a shorter dryer time from a washer that takes 90 minutes for a regular load. Now, if we had two washers, that shortened drying time might come in handy.

So,. we're watching the ads for an old-fashioned water-wasting top-loading clothes washer. I know - does anyone have some spare cheese to go with my whine?

I read a column in the Courier last week with the headline "Heat your home more economically with wood." It had good advice on how to save money on making fire-starters and buying/collecting firewood. But, I had to chuckle at how things always come full circle. We lived in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in the 1980s. We had a very nice 2,400-square-foot home. But, like most homes, we did not have any gas and had to heat with electricity, which was pretty expensive (remember, we're talking Rocky Mountain winters, not Prescott winters).

So, virtually, every house had a woodstove. A woodstove can actually heat a home, while a wood fireplace is pretty much something nice to look at, unless you want to sleep on the hearth rug. We had two woodstoves, and went through three to four cords of firewood a winter. This meant driving to the forest, cutting down trees, cutting them into pick-up truck- bed lengths, loading the truck, driving home, unloading the truck, cutting the wood into stove-size logs, splitting the logs into firewood, then stacking the wood somewhere on the property.

Then you had to go out in the snow, uncover the wood stack, and bring in several armsful of wood. Then you had to clean the snow, mud and wood droppings off the floor. And you had to do this several times a week.

We, and our neighbors, were so happy when gas (propane) became available and we could use a gas furnace or stove. So, you can see why I have to chuckle when I am advised to heat my home with wood, especially with fireplaces, instead of stoves. This is not a new "green" thing to me. This is going back to when I had to do a lot of back-breaking work because I couldn't afford the electricity.

Pellet stoves were invented during this time. I heard about them when a homebuyer stated they wanted a pellet stove instead of a woodstove (in a home I was building). Of course, I could not admit that I had no idea what they were talking about, so I told them there was a $1,500 allowance for the woodstove and they would have to pay extra if the pellet stove cost more than that. As soon as the buyers left, I looked at my Realtor and asked what a pellet stove was. She didn't know- she was about to ask me!

I drove straight to the local woodstove store and asked to see a pellet stove. There was only one brand and model at the time. The salesman showed me how they work- you dump in a 40-pound bag of pellets, light the burner, and sit back and enjoy the heat for 30 hours. They could run almost indefinitely as long as you filled them with pellets once a day. I told him to put a pellet stove and a bunch of pellets in the back of the white pickup truck out front. (Fortunately, we had not gone on our yearly firewood collecting yet, so there was room in the back of my truck.)

I got home and showed my wife what I bought. Being a typical wife, she said, "You spent $1,200 on WHAT?" But I had it connected and burning in a couple hours, and she loved it. She called it the "lazy man's woodstove," meaning, of course, no sawing, hauling, chopping, splitting, etc.

We had 40 acres, and actually collected a lot of firewood off our own property. My next-door neighbor also had 40 acres. Our houses were isolated, but our driveways were next to each other at the county road. He saw me at the bottom of my driveway once with a ton of pellets in my truck- 50 bags stacked 5 feet high on a pallet. He asked what they were. I told him they were pellets for my pellet stove. I tried to explain what a pellet stove was, and he said he'd get one as soon as he started growing "pellet trees" on his property. But every time I saw him out chopping and splitting firewood, I appreciated my wife's definition.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 6,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him through his website

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