My goodness, have we been in our new home a full month? We still sometimes feel as though we’re rattling around in all of this space. If you haven’t been following along, we moved from a (drafty, wood-heated) 800 square foot cabin in the woods to a 2800 square foot Victorian Foursquare home in a little village outside my home town. Our life goal now is to green this wonderful old home and restore it to its original beauty.
The problem, though, is that the previous owner was burning through a frightful amount of heating fuel all year round. The oil furnace in the basement pushes hot water through the house, which is efficient and fabulous in the winter but not so great during the other three seasons.
Let’s see what has happened, at least regarding our heating fuel.
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We pulled up carpet in the living room and the rug in the dining room. The boys decided to pull up the carpet in their own room – all by themselves.
The dust and dirt and even mold that I found in a supposedly clean carpet makes me anxious for when we get the rest taken up. We spent three years in a moldy cabin, so I’m eager to clean out any hints of mold in this house.
Unfortunately, bare wood floors are considerably colder than carpeted. This is why a lot of people will insist that carpet is a good idea – it feels a lot warmer against bare feet. But let’s be really honest – it just takes a quick look under your carpet to realize that it’s disgusting.
The rest of the bedrooms will keep their carpet for now, however I’m looking forward to removing all of the carpet and linoleum eventually. See what’s underneath it all? Painted wide board pine. I love it.
So the facts are — a) bare floors are colder and b) carpet is nasty filthy even when it looks clean.
The obvious answer is something that our ancestors knew.
First, removable rugs, not carpets, can be effectively cleaned, especially if they are kept to a size that can be taken outside and beaten. Carpet, nailed or glued down, can’t be lifted out for effective cleaning.
Second, slippers. Or shoes, but that’s not generally a Canadian thing to do. Make sure to keep your feet covered during the winter with socks and slippers, depending on how cold the temperature is.
When we first looked at the house with the realtor, there were some small cracks in the upstairs windows. Not a good thing, but not completely unexpected with a house of this age.
By the time my children had been here for a week, jumping around, bumping the glass and the walls and just doing what energetic children do, those cracked pieces had knocked themselves loose. So, oops, we now have missing pieces in the glass.
Granted, air goes through a crack, too, and the house was losing a great deal of heat through those cracked upstairs windows. As the realtor pointed out to me, the last owners positioned the baseboard heaters directly under the drafty windows. What a recipe for heat loss!
The easiest and quickest answer for that has been to put plastic over all of the upstairs windows. It takes a very affordable kit (or four, if you have as many windows as we do), a blowdryer and a willing friend to help. The decrease in heat loss was immediately obvious.
Next step is to remove all of the flimsy sheers that the previous owner had everywhere, and install heavier drapes. While it might take me a bit to get it done, I want to have insulated roller shades on all the windows with heavy drapes over those. The sheers are just fine for the summer, but not for winter.
In the Very Long-Term Plans, we will be removing the old wooden windows and …. cleaning them, removing all paint, replacing the broken glass and any rotten wood. Did you think for a moment that I’d replace century-old wooden windows with icky plastic ones? In fact, eventually I will get rid of the modern plastic windows, once I can find someone to recreate the originals.
As far as I can tell, these timber windows were intended to be taken out, examined and repaired every five or ten years. Broken panes and rotten wood was replaced and the entire assembly carefully painted (after completely removing the old paint) or coated with linseed oil. In this manner, the window could last, theoretically, forever.
Unfortunately, as the years went on, people didn’t want to go to that much work so they simply painted over the windows in place.
And that has created a real mess, with beautiful old windows, made from old growth timber, which were intended to be repaired indefinitely, being tossed as inefficient and too much work.
With sixteen wooden windows, this is going to take a long time. But do you know what? I love, love, love old timber windows and I hate plastic. (And don’t get me started on house siding …)
An interesting tidbit if you are considering tossing beautiful, priceless old growth timber windows to the dump in favour of plastic windows because you feel modern windows are more energy efficient. I spent some time speaking with people at Efficiency Nova Scotia and found out this is a myth that window manufacturers really want you to believe. I’ll talk more on that later.
New Oil Tank
We had a new fiberglass oil tank installed. $2000!!! However, it’s now worry-free because my insurance company says they’re good for fifty years. A double-walled steel tank would have been $1500 and would only last 10 years, so it was a no-brainer decision. And I like the look of it a lot better than those ugly metal tanks. Still, that was a huge chunk of money with all of the other moving expenses. Maybe this would be a good time for a cookbook plug, hm?
I asked my father how low the thermostat could go without freezing the pipes. He looked at the very old thermostat we have and flipped it down to the bottom. The furnace will come on often enough to keep the pipes from freezing. That’s one of the benefits of having an oil furnace – it keeps the water circulating through the house at a certain temperature, no matter how low we set the thermostat.
For the most part, we’ve been sitting at around 17-18C, which is fine as long as you’re wearing …. well, clothes. 🙂 It is a bit chilly when stepping out of the shower.
Long term plans – perhaps geo-thermal, if we can figure out how to pay for it!
As a note – there is no indication that the house was ever heated with fireplaces or wood stoves, other than the kitchen stove and possibly a small stove in the family room. It was built with some type of basement furnace (most likely coal and then later oil), with heat rising through the house to heat it. There are cold air intake grates in our living room (originally the parlour) and the dining room (originally the family room).
The current baseboard heaters look very anachronistic in this old house and I would really love to get rid of them.
First Oil Bill
The oil bill for our first top-up came in. From our move-in on September 30, until October 15, we used 125 litres out of the 3600 we have budgeted for year. We need to average no more than 300 litres per month, so it makes me a bit nervous that we used that much in a relatively warm month. That was almost entirely hot water use. The dishwasher is an Energy Star, and I almost always use cold water for laundry, so I’m not quite sure what’s made it so high.
Of course, as a comparison, the previous owner was burning an average of 450 litres all year.
How have you been doing in your Freeze Your Buns?