My house is 90 years old and many of its conveniences are also that old, for example, the furnace.
I have a floor furnace. I love it. The first night I slept here — October 20, 2014 — I slept on the sofa (no furniture) with Mindy. In the night, my furnace came on with a bang. It was the most comforting, homely sound. I cuddled Mindy and enjoyed the furnace coming on, going off, the metal popping as it cooled and then the thing would happen again and again.
In California I had a beautiful, poetic little house but heating was a problem. Lots of people think Southern California is warm but in winter, it gets down to freezing even near the ocean. Where I lived it snowed a couple times a year, and it was often in the teens at night in winter. I had a wood stove in the main part of the house which was a stone cabin built in the 1920s as a summer home. Wood was extremely expensive. $350 a cord if I bought it early, $400 if I waited until I needed it. I burned three cords a year. I came to look at a large woodpile both as wealth and as an attractive landscape feature. Here’s the living room. Some of the stuff is mine (I sold my furniture with the house) but you can see the wood stove. Believe me, the walls were NOT this yellow…
The wood stove heated up the room well, and, after 11 years living with it, I became a master at starting a fire — even with wet wood — with one match in five minutes. I was the Goddess of fast-fire starting. Fatwood, by the way. An essential component of a fast fire in a wood stove.
Naturally I was proud of my skills, but having a furnace? Oh man… The best.
It stopped working a couple of days ago. It seemed to be the thermostat. I called a plumbing/heating company and they sent a guy out to replace the thermostat. He was great, hilarious and smart, but it wasn’t the thermostat. We looked deep into the bowels of the furnace and saw it was pretty dirty way down in there where I couldn’t reach with my vacuum.
“Dude,” I said, “I don’t want to pay overtime to clean out the furnace. I’m OK with the space heater tonight if you can come back tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I heard the boss warn you.”
“I figure if someone’s going to warn me, it must be bad.”
“It is. I’ll set it up and come back tomorrow or someone else will. First thing. How’s that?”
“Great. I really hope we can fix it because I love my furnace.”
“You love it?”
So he came back the next day and cleaned the furnace. We hoped dust was blocking the connection, but it still didn’t come on. Next thing he was in the crawlspace with a flashlight.
It was a loose wire. He replaced the wire and set everything up perfectly. Now I have a clean furnace, a new thermostat and heat, again.
He said he’d never seen a floor furnace. I thought he was kidding. Most of the houses in my town are old, and most of them have not been updated very much. People just live in them. “No, really. The boss said if I couldn’t fix it, we wouldn’t replace it.”
“Really? They still make them.”
“They do. I did a ton of research last night.”
“Well the plaque here says…” and he read off the company that made it and the model number.
I looked online, and the very one is still made by the same company. “Dude,” I said, “they still make that one.”
“But the boss says they’re dangerous.”
I thought about that, given all I’d learned about them. Here are their advantages. They work even when the electricity is out. They vent below the house. They don’t need ductwork. They work. OK, the mostly heat the room in which you find them, but if a house is small enough, that’s enough. In my case, it’s fine. They’re comparatively economical to buy and install. I knew this because I had stayed up most of the night trying to figure out what I’d do if it were really broken and couldn’t be repaired. I would have to get a new furnace. I thought about more modern furnaces with their ducts and vents and filters and the 18 inch entry into the crawl space, or putting it in the house some place, but where? And these walls are not hollow plasterboard. They’re lath and plaster. I worried about money…
The furnace just “clunked” on. Dusty sleeps near it. We love our furnace.