Ode to My Furnace

I love my furnace. However strange that might sound, after eleven years with a wood stove (which worked great!) it’s a wonderful thing to have a thing in the house the does the work itself. My house was built in 1928 or so and it’s a small house. It has LITERAL central heating. There are two bedrooms off the living room and the furnace sits in the true center of that part of my house. When my house was built, the kitchen would have had a wood/gas stove so if anyone needed to heat that? Light the stove.

But the furnace. The first night I spent in my house — in 2014 — it got cold enough that the furnace kicked on. ALL BY ITSELF!!!! With a clunk that reminded me of my grandmother’s old house. It was the loveliest sound. I didn’t have to go out in the rain and snow to bring in fuel. All I had to do was set the thermostat and wait. It doesn’t need electricity so if the power goes out, I have heat.

O Brave New World.

The wonderful thing is they still make these furnaces. To put some other system in this house would be very difficult. I wouldn’t even want it. I guess I’ve developed a personal loyalty to this thing, but, you know, it’s kept me warm for 7 years. IMO, that’s a good relationship. In the really cold part of winter, I supplement its heat with space heaters in the bedrooms and kitchen.

I’ve thought a lot about that meeting in Scotland and how, in days past, people didn’t have (or make) these problems. I know that had DIFFERENT problems, but in pre-consumerist times? Drink the soda, put the bottle in the rack to be sanitized and reused. Same with milk. Too many glass bottles? Crush them and make sidewalks out of them. I don’t know. Meat and methane? I (briefly) dated a bio-gas scientist guy. He was helping farmers electrify their farms from cow shit. No, he didn’t stink, except his personality kind of stunk. “You’re not getting any younger, you know. Why won’t you go out with me?” Pick up lines like that, dude…

Anyway, if you’re interested in a different perspective on the COP26 check out my friend Sharon O’Toole’s blog, Ladder Ranch. She and her husband were invited to Scotland to contribute the point of view of people with a working livestock ranch. They have some other credentials, too. Sharon is the woman whose book I illustrated this past spring, in case the name rings a bell. She’s a fine writer and the posts are informative and highly readable.

15 thoughts on “Ode to My Furnace

  1. I love a little appreciation for the things we take for granted. Joni Mitchell reminded us of that with “Big Yellow Taxi”, released right around the first Earth Day in April, 1970. (Or, to get really serious, there is Donovan’s “I Love My Shirt”.) I can feel that my furnace is about to kick back in.

  2. We turned the furnace down yesterday since the oven was doing a grand job of heating the house beyond the setting on the furnace… I can appreciate your furnace love. When our furnace went out about 10 years ago, we were in a panic. The replacement of the old on with this newer one was done quickly and efficiently. Hope your current furnace lasts for many years!!

  3. Ahh, the things we take for granted…or not. We had a wood stove briefly when we rented a house in 1979. An awful lot of work (but then again we may not have known what we were doing). I’ve appreciated our furnace(s) ever since. 🙂

    • That whole experience helped me better understand the mentality of my parents. When you DON’T have something or even the possibility of something, it really makes progress look different. I got really good at lighting a fire, though. I could get that thing up and cranking in 3 minutes. BUT it was a good stove. The part I hated was paying for the wood ($450 a cord!) and bringing it in when it was rain/snowing. Awful, but clearly it didn’t kill me.

      • Very impressive fire lighting skills! We could never master that. Wood stoves are a lot of work, but if you don’t know of (or have) an alternative you figure it out. And hopefully it doesn’t kill you! 😉

  4. Brings back memories.

    When I was a child I lived in a big old ramshackle building with two stories, 5 bedrooms, a full basement, and little insulation. There was a central oil furnace and the fan would kick in with a clunk. Once my sister left, there were only 3 people living in it. Of course, we turned off the heating vents to the unused rooms. I was on the 2nd floor and the thermostat was on the first. and she made sure it was always turned down at night. My mother had this bizarre idea that it was unhealthy (for me) to sleep in a warm room. She’d have my father periodically check in to make sure my heating vent was closed.

    She was also insistent that my door had to be open for “ventilation.” That may not be what she was actually concerned about. Closing my door was the only way to keep the heat inside. My little vent wasn’t going to warm the entire 2nd floor.

    This is northern Michigan and it gets damned cold in the winter. We got in a little war over whether I got to keep my room warm or not and my door closed or not. She slept on the first floor where the temps were at least close to what the thermostat was set to. The stairway to the 2nd floor had a door on it, so heat couldn’t even get upstairs thru convection. With the vents closed, the unheated second floor was just another layer of insulation for the first floor. My windows would be covered with frost on the inside.

    She lost her little war, partly because she wasn’t willing to climb the stairs, partly because my father really didn’t give a crap, and mainly because I was a stubborn SOB. My vent stayed open and my door closed at night and I’d reverse the process when I got up.

    Just one of many little power struggles I had as a kid. Nobody ever wins these kinds of wars but there are always parents who insist on fighting them and kids who refuse to capitulate.

    • What a story! Yeah, they did have the idea that it was bad to sleep warm. I think I still think that but I don’t think I’d go that far. Northern Michigan does get absurdly cold — and not dry. I capitulated most of the time. In the back of my mind were two things, 1) I could head for the woods and 2) I would leave as soon as I could. 😀

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