Somehow this desert rat ended up living in the frozen north. Well, not the most northern part of the world, nor the most frozen, but cold enough to make heating a big issue. Living in a big, old, drafty house that's heated by oil is not comforting: The house is still very cold, the oil is outrageously expensive, and the use of resources is impossible to make peace with.
A couple of years ago we got a wood burning stove. The decision was hard. Pellet stoves are more efficient, but there often seem to be shortages of available pellets, especially the winter after Katrina, making it obvious that pellet ingredients are not local. Corn burning stoves are interesting, but uncommon enough that it's hard to get fuel unless you have your own cornfield. Solar heat is the best answer, since there's no pollution involved and no shortage of sun. Unfortunately, solar prices are going up and the tax deductions down, making it still an unreachable goal for us low income types. (It's still in future plans!) We looked around our area at all the deadwood lying around, all the branches from storm damage, all the cut trees stacked up at roadwork sites, and decided to buy the cleanest, most efficient wood burning stove our scraped together dollars could buy.
Last winter we moved the heat around with a little electric fan salvaged from a computer, given to us by our bio-diesel brewing neighbor. (Love the frugal and tinkering neighbors!) This year, we tore down a wall to allow the heat to penetrate the whole house. And we got an eco fan.
The computer fan did the job, no doubt. But it required electricity, and was loud. This lovely little number sits on top of the stove and is propelled by the heat. Light the stove, and the fan starts running. And it's perfectly silent, letting you enjoy that cold-night-by-the-fire ambiance thing.
There's a whole explanation that comes with the fan about the physics of how it works, but I didn't bother with that. To me, it's just beautiful magic.