Just like that, boom! Summer is over and winter is here. I know we'll (hopefully) get a nice Indian summer. We might even get a few days in the 70's before winter really sets in. But for the most part, warm weather in Montana is done and it's fireplace time.

For thousands of years, mankind in cold climates has relied on fire to keep warm. In the 13th century, the Greeks devised a system of "central heating", using one big firebox with multiple flues to carry heat around their temple. Steam boilers (fired by wood or coal) and hot water radiators became popular in the 1700s & 1800s.  Electric baseboard radiators were developed after that, followed by gas forced air. Gas forced air systems really took off in the 50's and remain one of the most popular ways Americans heat their homes. It's fairly affordable and easy to control. However, there are some real benefits to having a wood stove or fireplace.

  • A fireplace is more than just heat. A fire hits your senses of vision, smell and touch. A fire roaring in the fireplace becomes a focal point, a gathering spot in the house. Plus, does your furnace make you feel romantic? No. "Hold on honey, let me turn the thermostat up to 73".  No, it does not.
  • Backup heating. When the electricity goes out, you can prevent everyone in your house from freezing if you have a wood stove or fireplace. Sure, your furnace runs on gas... but the fan that blows the heat out does not.
  • Money saving. If you have to buy your firewood, you are not going to save much money on your heating bill. If you have a truck, trailer, a chainsaw and a good place to access free wood, then cutting your own firewood can help you save a bit of money. You can cut wood on most National Forest and BLM land. Get more info on firewood permits and regulations HERE.
  • Exercise. If you cut your own wood, you'll get LOTS of exercise. If you buy your firewood, you'll still get a fair amount of exercise stacking it, splitting it and moving it from your wood stack to your fireplace.
  • Santa. Where are you supposed to hang your stockings if you don't have a mantle? On the baseboards? Don't make it hard for the Jolly Dude to find your stockings, hanging in some random, weird place! Put them above the fireplace where they're supposed to go.