The Land of Ice and Snow

No, it’s not really that cold. Not around here, not yet. But it felt like it for a while early this morning.

Dymphna and I became chilled late last night, and even more so when we got up this morning. We both thought we were coming down with some unpleasant disease. However — to make a long story short — it turned out that we had experienced a failure of the motor for the fan in the air handler for the heat pump. It got good and cold here last night (and it’s going to be even colder tonight), so it was down in the mid-50s (ca. 12ºC) in the house this morning.

An emergency visit from our trusty HVAC man did not result in the expected repair — he has to order a replacement part that he HOPES will take care of the problem, but he can’t do that until Monday. So we are going to be cold for at least a few more days.

We used to have a portable electric heater, but we gave it away years ago to a family member — the reasoning being that we would never be without heat unless we had lost our electricity, so why bother keeping an electric heater on hand? Hah!

So we turned on the oven and left the door open to warm the house up. That’s a propane stove, and you have to be very careful when you do something like that. The heat downstairs rises upstairs to the Eyrie, along with whatever gaseous effluvia are emitted by the oven as result of propane combustion. I was up here working for about forty-five minutes before I realized I was getting a peculiar sort of headache, up the back of my neck and into the back of my head. I knew what that meant, so I went downstairs and turned off the oven.

There was no help for it — we went out and did what we knew all along we would have to do: buy a couple of compact electric heaters, one for the bedroom and one for the kitchen. We took a trip to the (relatively) big city and went to Wal-Mart, where Dymphna picked out the heaters she wanted (she had researched them online beforehand).

So now we’re all set: it will be at least tepid in here until the air handler is repaired. Which will undoubtedly be very expensive — things like that always are. Sigh.

Anyway, that’s why posting has been light. And it may continue to be light from time to time, depending on the flow of HVAC-related events.

There’s no midnight sun in these latitudes. Nor hot springs — which is too bad; we could use some of that steam right now.

15 thoughts on “The Land of Ice and Snow

  1. Global warming can certainly be a bitch. Our fore fathers had it right with that wood burning technology.

    • What makes me cranky are big machines like air-handlers that I don’t understand. The old wood stove – all three of them that were in this house when I arrived – were definitely low tech and comprehensible but they took almost as much energy to keep up as they put out. Had to keep the chimneys clean and the wood cut and the ashes scooped out and the fine mist of ash on everything dusted off. And the resulting dry hot air needed some moisture too. Ugh. I don’t miss them but we’re now more dependent on HVAC technicians…just for clean lungs.

      As for global warming, it beats the heck out of the cooling “pause” they’re predicting.

        • “Keep it around” where? It took two men to move it out of here and the extra space we had once it was gone was euphoria-inducing.

          Trying to store a wood stove would take up needed room wherever we had it. Our rooms are small and there is no place to keep a used wood stove that would not be in the way, not to mention the pipes for the wall and the heat-proof bricks and panel to put it behind it…An old used cold wood stove smells up the whole house…unless one is fortunate enough to have a cellar. This place was built by hand; I can’t imagine the labor that a hand dug cellar would have required. Hand digging the original well must have been hard enough.

          Usually, our gas cooker works fine for taking the chill off things but it can’t be run for extended periods because it’s not vented…Long-time readers will remember when one of our fundraisers was devoted to getting a gas line and stove installed. In the previous months we’d lived through a long cold spell when everyone lost their power and there was no way to get out to the road. Fortunately the cold wasn’t deep enough to harm the pipes but I remember lying under the blankets thinking like Scarlett O’Hara: “I will NEVER be this cold again”.

          An ideal solution for larger houses is the wood stoves that are outside and the heat is piped in. But that, again, needs a large enough house for the pipes to be installed, and it’s an expensive add-on. Up north, heating with oil is costly so what was saved that way would pay for it eventually. A friend has a big house she and her husband designed which has both kinds of wood stoves- in and out. The nice thing about the one inside is how they designed the raised area in the basement where it sits. It’s a high traffic area so there’s always someone or other passing by who will stir the big pot of beans.

          This house began as two un-insulated rooms and a screened porch that ran the length of the south side of the house.There was a door leading out to the porch from each room and the windows were placed to allow good airflow in the summer. Because electricity didn’t make it out here until the 1960s, there was no indoor plumbing for a bathroom or kitchen sink. I’ve often wondered where the outhouse was, but I know the washtub must have been near the well. There was also a chicken coop and a small, fenced pasture area but any shelter for whatever animals were there is long gone.

          Nope. “to Keep 1 wood stove around” would require tearing down the house and starting over. Which is what some people in the building business have suggested. But carpenters who’ve repaired this and that tell me it is ‘quaint’ and they like its individuality. For sure there’s not another like it…

          Some fundraiser or other when we’re telling stories, I’ll get the Baron to collaborate with me on a few House Tales about Schloss Bodissey. Just now he came in to say that the little heater in the kitchen flipped a breaker so it must have been plugged into one of the original lines. When we built the addition so my mother could live with us, they installed modern wiring. Sometimes we forget which outlets are where…

          • You need to get the Baron a pair of ‘long drawers’ aka thermal underpants to keep his wee fella from freezing. These are considered absolutely essential, up here in the ‘frozen north’. I got a pair of Helly Hansens a while back, & they were a bit pricey, but they keep my boys in good shape in the cold weather.

  2. If you have a propane stove for backup , it is possible to arange an improvised ”chimney” , a way to prevent the exhaustgasses to polute your house . This can be done in many ways , the simlest one bein to create an 6 inch-size” pipe” outlet through a partially open window by using old carton boxes and ducttape …or whatever you have around the house … Like in Apollo 13 1

  3. I like our ceramic tower heaters IF it ever gets really cold here… hardly ever below 30 degrees and I have not seen snow for 20 years when in NC.

    We have central heating , but quite frankly I HATE that noise it makes . Hardly EVER use it… I just add a sweater to my ensemble as needed. : )

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery of your heating system.

    • I’ve been spending far too much time looking at space heaters online today. I think it may be the ceramic ones which don’t dry out the air. Anyway, I was thinking I needed a third one (this house is very strangely laid out – add-a-room-move-a-door, etc over the last 80 years or so. So there is little flow; one has to heat small segments so I need tiny heaters. The B put a fan behind a version of this one


      and it blows gently thru two more rooms. Of course I read in the comments section that the safety feature doesn’t work – there were pictures – so I think I’ll keep a close eye on it. Sigh.

      • Any heater will dry the air as relative humidity is a function of the air temperature and absolute humidity/water content of the air. Heating a given mass of air while keeping its absolute humidity the same drives down its relative humidity and requires some form of humidification if the relative humidity reduction is undesired.
        It’s just basic physics. Don’t blame the heater.

        • i was told that some forms of heat work by warming the objects near them and some by warming the air. The former takes longer to ‘feel’ warm but is less drying.

    • An unvented kerosene heater puts carbon monoxide into the space where it sits. They’re probably illegal by now though I know people do use them. Sometimes during the coldest part of the winter when I pass someone in the grocery store I can smell the fumes on their clothing.

      When I was very young my mother had to rent out our home to make enough money to keep us together (we moved to one room in a boarding house). The second young military couple who rented from her died on a very cold night when they left their kerosene heater going. This was in northern Florida during a particularly bitter January. I remember my mother was devastated. Even though she’d warned them, it’s hard not to feel the weight of sadness when death comes to your house. But that’s the way of things: very young pilots tend to think they’re invincible.

      To this day I dislike the smell…
      To avoid tripping the breaker involves remembering which outlets are the very oldest wiring (1950s), which were put in as part of a later upgrade (probably 1970s or so) and which are the modern ones put in by a real electrician during the final addition to our home.

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