Saturday, June 22, 2013

The central heating works

It may sound strange to talk about the central heating on the first full day of summer but, with the current cool temperatures, we're this close to needing it. On Friday, we had our regularly scheduled visit from the company that maintains the oil-fired boiler that heats our house in the winter. We contract with them to provide annual maintenance, emergency service, and to sweep the chimney once a year.

A variety of wild rose after the petals have dropped off.

The boiler is over twenty years old. It's a German model, and way over-engineered. Some of the programming features no longer work, but we've found out that they're way too costly to replace, so we have to operate the thing manually. That means turning it on and off when we want to control the heat output; there's no interior thermostat. The thing was designed to sense the outdoor temperature and adjust the indoor heat accordingly (and who thought that up, anyway?).

One day it will have to be replaced, then we'll have to decide whether to stick with heating oil or go with another technology. That's a decision I'm not really looking forward to making.


  1. What are the alternatives in countryside France? What do other local people use? No interior thermostat is odd as you don't so much care what the temperature is outside but you do care about what the temperature is inside. Turning it on when you are cold and turning off when you get hot is not a bad thing, but then I guess you have to go to the basement to do it, it is not convenient.

  2. The thermostat arrangement sounds like it was designed for somewhere that relative humidity was important. Historic houses are conservation heated based on Rh, which you can calculate by using the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures (or you can use a whirly Rh meter, which is much more fun and what house staff actually mostly do).

  3. In my Parisian apartment, my old furnace didn't have a thermostat, so the settings were really touch and go. The new one has an indoor thermostat which makes life much easier. I have had the heat on practically since I landed at CDG in mid-April!

  4. No comment on your heating system except that I wish you didn't need heat at this time of year! I hope you will have clear skies tonight to see the Super Moon. It's supposed to appear very large and very close to earth tonight.

    p.s. Wish I could send you some of our 90 degree weather.

  5. Yes, it is unexpected to have a post about your heating system on the first day of summer :) What an interesting setup. But, since you guys like to turn yours off after a few hours in the morning, and switch to firewood, it's not a bad setup.
    Like Andrew, I wonder, too, what your other options will be?

  6. My house has ceiling heat, is small - around 1300 sq.ft. and is a tri-level and well-insulated. Lately my total utility bill (heat, water and sewer) has been around $100 and I haven't used any heating for at least 3 months. I can't seem to get that number down, even though I live alone, don't use that much water or electricity. When I check with my neighbors (Planned Unit Subdivision with similarly-sized homes and same age) they are experiencing the same or higher charges. I will be following your choices for a possible replacement when the time comes. The "new" thing here has been a secondary unit that is installed on interior walls near the ceiling (this is supposed to be better than ceiling heat???)and goes right outside and then is hooked up to another furnace unit sitting outside. It has been touted as very energy-efficient compared to celing heat - but esthetically I refuse to have it at any price. Currently I have individual thermostats in each room so at least (manually - only) I can save by turning them down and up when I need to. Even though I do have a fireplace, there are no glass doors, so I choose not to use it because of it's inefficiency. I could replace that with other options, but then, wood is not cheap - either. Pellet stoves were a big hit about 15 years ago and, locally, we have had lots of pollution during the winter as result of those purchases.

    Love the contrast of the second fuschia rose and the leftover seeds from the first.

  7. I guess a reverse-cycle unit is out of the question? At least, it gives us the feeling of not being dependent on the oil companies. And living in Florida, we haven't used the heating cycle in a few years.

  8. The good news is that each year alternative methods become more feasible. Would a heat pump work for you? Ken would know about those, because they're used in NC, and your winter weather doesn't get any colder it seems than western NC. Heating and AC in one unit.

  9. Emm beat me to it: pompe à chaleur. But you'd have to check if it's worth the investment. Since you have a nice backyard, some of that can be used for underground piping that keeps the water at a constant temp. but then you'd need to replant the grass. Some guy trying to sell us on the idea a few years ago got gently pushed to the door -- too great an expense for the expected return. When we moved into this house, 28 years ago, we switched it from heating oil to natural gas. The heat pump would not have been enough to replace that, just supplement it and save a bit on the gas bill, but not enough to make it a worthwhile expense.


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