I haven't posted much about this house and living out here in the country lately. Partly because it's lost some of it's luster, through no fault of it's own, and I hate to put words to it. I still love this house. I still love living here. I still love the schools, and the life. But there are some things that have been really pulling me in other directions on the subject.
We have an oil furnace. Oil is expensive! Right now I believe it's about $4.00 a gallon, last year it was around $3.75 give or take. Our tank holds about 250 gallons I think. (OH the irony, I am trying to compose this blog and my hands are so cold my touch pad on the lap top is not recognizing my fingers and every time I try to use the cursor I can't get it to move.) So last year, a very mild winter, we ended up filling the tank for the 3rd time in early January. We were spending basically about $800 a month on heat. And the scary thing was that it was a very mild winter, AND we were keeping the thermostat pretty low. Highs of 64 on days I was feeling desperate, most days more like 60-62, and down in the 50's at night. So $800 a month to not even feel warm. So in February we went out and bought a wood stove. I think I must have blogged about this.
We got a huge wood stove. It's rated to heat a 3500 square foot room. It's in a room that is at most 300 square feet. The room is smack in the middle of our house, so we'd hoped it would heat it like crazy and all the heat would escape and spread about the house and we could heat our whole house with it. We started using it and found that it was imperative that we have really, really dry wood, and that was not easy to come by. There was a lot of trial and error. We had the people come back out and show us what we were doing wrong. (Which was not much.) They blamed our wood. It just was not getting that warm in here, not liked we'd expected. We had people on more than one occasion raise their eyebrows at us and our decision to put that big of a stove in this size room. Like we were going to be wanting a swimming pool in here with it. After freezing for the past three months at $800 a month we were like BRING IT ON. But, it never happened.
So this fall comes and we have some one come out to clean the chimney so we have a fresh safe start to the season. A guy comes out and tell us basically that the entire chimney was installed wrong, not to code, and there were some major safety concerns. He was amazed we had not had a fire yet. This was the first tragedy averted. We were so thankful to know, and so glad we'd had the guy out. So we got it fixed, and now our wood stove is safe. Or so we thought.
This past Tuesday I had loaded it up good for the night, went about my business (I admit I got a bit distracted and didn't start to shut down the air soon as I would have typically. I have the flu, my 4 year old has the flu, and my husband was out with my 14 year old at his chorus concert so I was home with 4 kids, and 3 dogs and have the flu. It was already past bedtime so I was running around like a crazy person trying to pull bed time together.) So I got it going and before I got to even thinking about shutting the air down it was really roaring and smoke was pouring out of the top seams of the chimney near our ceiling. I smelled it first. I immediately shut the air completely down and I told the kids to wait by the front door and I grabbed the fire extinguisher and opened up the attic, there was nothing going on in there. I then went outside to look at the chimney and sure enough there was a ring of burning embers at the cap, and they were shooting/dropping off onto the roof below. So, I called 911. They had us get out of the house, said to call back if anything changed. Before anyone got here the embers at the cap went away and the smoke stopped, I am sure because I shut off the air and so it was not getting the air it needed to keep burning. So I called them back to let them know that. They came out and checked everything out. They put the fire in the box out. Everything was ok, and we had no damage.
We were told not to use it and that the code enforcement office would be notified in the morning. He has to come out before we can use it again, and of course I'm not really nuts about using it anyways. We nearly had a chimney fire! That was a close as we could have gotten without it actually happening. Smoke was pouring into my house!
So I contacted a chimney "expert" in the area. Some one certified since 1991 to inspect and clean chimney's, as well as repair them etc. He had me send him some photos. He is coming out tomorrow, but said on the phone today that it never should have been installed where it was installed. He said he has had to clean up after this company that installed this for us many times, fixing seriously unsafe senarios they have installed previously. He said he tried to work with them on getting training for doing these chimney's right and they cut off contact with him and have started warning people not to use him!
If we had gone to bed...........hopefully our smoke detectors would have woken us up, but I surely wouldn't have shut the air down that soon, and who knows how much damage we would have had, which would obviously not even be mention-able if the unmentionable would have happened.
This company has risked my family's life with their unsafe practices and at this point it seems there is nothing we can do about it. I won't go in to it all but trust me I have tried.
OH! I almost forgot. So this fall, when the stove was still not getting it warm in here like we thought, we started investigating sealing up the house a little better, maybe adding some insulation here or there. We have found out that we are losing 90% of our heat due to poor insulation etc. In the next few weeks we are getting $15,000 worth of insulation and air sealing work done. Thankfully NY state has a loan program and we are able to finance it at 3.49% for 15 years without much hassle and it will run us just a little over $100 a month. We will certainly save more than that on heat each month given that we were losing so much before. But they haven't started yet, and we have no woodstove ($5000 into that) that we can use so we are back to $4.00 a gallon oil and freezing. So really the lack of insulation is what lead to last year costing so much with the oil, and us switching to wood, which has turned into a huge hassle and even further more a huge hazard due to unscrupulous practices by the wood stove dealer. So, you can see how I am not feeling the love all the time about the house.
BUT tragedy twice adverted and I am so, so, so very thankful.