Heating worries

Our furnace stopped working last night. You could hear the kind of pre-ignition sequence start, but then it never actually clicked on. Finally, I dropped the thermostat so it wouldn’t keep making noise.

The furnace has to be over 25-years-old. We know that one day we will have to replace it, but we’re not rushing to do it if we don’t have to. Part of the problem is that the technologies are changing so rapidly, I’d rather wait to see what develops in the next few years.

Our plumber likes air/water heat pumps. I really don’t want to do that for a few reasons. First, if it gets REALLY cold, then that won’t heat the house (although we probably don’t get that cold around here). Second, the condenser will have to go outside, which means it will make noise that our neighbors can hear. Our plumber says it’s within the “norms,” but that doesn’t mean that it won’t bother people. I think that when you live in a village you need to do what you can to be a good neighbor, and that means not having things that are irritating to others, even if they are legal. Also, an outside condenser strikes me as something that would be a tempting target to passing drunks and teenagers…

I think something wood burning is the way to go. I like some of these new, pellet furnaces that have an automatic feed tube system. However, the pellets are apparently very sensitive to humidity and swell up and block the tubes, so I feel a bit insecure about that.

I’ve been researching a bit and see that there are several really interesting possibilities including furnaces that burn logs but have an autonomy of 24 to 48 hours. They don’t pollute or leave creosote behind, so they’re a very ecological and economical alternative.

Luckily we didn’t have to make that decision today. It seems that a small screw broke and kept a contact from touching. It was easily repaired, so we’re good for now. And, with luck, by the time we have to replace the darned thing we’ll have made more money and I will know what I want to buy!

Ciao for now.


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9 thoughts on “Heating worries

  1. Nurse and cherish a boiler which can be mended; the fancy new ones are like your car and always need expensive repairs when they go wrong.


    • You’re right there, Kathryn. The motor on our dishwasher broke a year after we bought it and couldn’t be repaired; had to be replaced!


  2. We’re wary of pellet stoves, since the fuel is 100% manufactured/does not occur in nature,

    We prefer electric, but are lucky to live in an area with clean hydro-power and fairly mild winters (Willamette Valley, OR). We are currently living without actual heat: our ca. 1952 house came to us with the original oil-burning forced-air furnace, which died … 8+? years ago. We have improved the wall insulation, and changed out some of the windows, and make it through cold spells with small electric heaters and sometimes the fireplace. The house is also VERY small by modern standards and we gain some heat from lights and computers and cooking, as the day goes on.

    The ideal, we think, would be electric heat powered by a combination of home solar and home wind. We have been watching the development of the home-sized, not-propeller-shaped small wind generators for a couple of years now (Channel Green, mostly). You’re lucky to be in Europe where Spain, Germany and others are charging ahead with alternative energy development so “energetically.”

    • I think there are choices that we would make if we weren’t in a village that aren’t really available to us now. For example, no solar for us because our roof is in the wrong direction (at least that’s what I was told when we first moved in); also I’m not sure if we can put solar panels on the roof without permission because the village is “protected.”

      Mom has individual electric heaters and her electric bills are high in winter. I would never go with electric for a house the size of ours, unless it were solar.

  3. Yeah, a friend of ours had the furnace go out in Leran about 3 years ago. I was overseeing the house as a person was staying there taking care of the cats.

    A plumber told me it would cost 1000 Euros to fix it. I went to Mico in Pamiers. They had the necessary part for sale (the actual Bruleur, I think it was called with the ignition) at a 30% reduction. Then I called the same plumber and had him put it in for 120 Euros (3 hours labor). The whole operation cost closer to 600 Euros. Nothing moved outdoors. The mazout tank was outdoors, but the bruleur remained in the pantry, just off of the kitchen.

    Don’t know if this is any help, but thought I’d mention the experience I had.

    Hors ça, if you ask well connected people in Limoux, they might be able to help you find a good plumber, who won’t overcharge you.

    • Thanks, Paul. We actually have a great plumber whom we trust totally. He always tries to save us money and always comes whenever we have a problem. He services the furnace every year and this is the first time in five years that we’ve ever had the least problem. I don’t think he’ll charge us for this repair, because they had just serviced it in September, so this was probably covered under that.

  4. Hey, Randy:

    Just thought I’d mention my experience in the Central Valley in California with pellet stoves. We get very heavy Tule fog in the winter after a rain, especially, and in the nearly 18 years we’ve had our pellet stove, it never clogged up in the feed tube – which does have an auger to push the pellets through from the hopper bin to the burn bucket. Ours is installed in the fireplace. Pellets are manufactured, but use recycled wood materials from other manufacturing. As long as one uses quality pellets, the smoke and ash are minimal. Hubby measured heat temps at the ceiling above the stove, and at the hottest spot, installed a suction fan to force the hot air through ducting in the attic (single story house) to the three bedrooms. Since then, we don’t faint from the heat in the family room and the whole house enjoys draftless warmth.

    There have been some years we didn’t use the pellet stove, but in the bedrooms we used electric oil-filled radiator heaters. They’ve been cost-effective and don’t have noisy fans, but do the job very well.

    • Oh, as to the heat pumps – you’re right – we had one prior to the pellet stove. The miserable thing about them is when it’s too cold to draw heat out of the outside air, electric resistent heat strips come on to augment and that costs! When we got the pellet stove, I tried using just the fan on the heat pump system to mix the air around. I was so excited to see the next electric bill to see how much money we saved. It was *double* the cost from the month before – turned out our heat pump system was wired wrong from the beginning and the heat strips came on with the fan only switch!! Lawzy – apparently the builder did that with all the houses’ units, as the utility company person told us our area had higher than normal usage during the winter. Needless to say, the heat strip wiring was snipped!

      • Thanks for the info, Deb. Yikes as to the heating bill though!!!

        Any type of woodburner for us needs to be able to be hooked into our existing radiators. Unlike a California house, ours is a multi-story stone built house, so you need radiators to get the heat to all the rooms.

        It’s good to know the pellets work well for you though. We’re in a big wood area, so it makes sense to use that as fuel if we can. But for now, our furnace works, so we’re not going to mess with success!

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