Thursday, October 13, 2011


It's that time of year again, where thoughts turn to heat.  This is Canada, after all, where -20C isn't a curiosity but a reality.  Although we're reveling in beautiful weather these days, the advent of colder days is inevitable.
Eric just started a three-week vacation, and one of his main goals during that time is to cut and split a trailer's worth of logs, some of them over 20' in length.  The going rate for a cord of split hardwood in our area is anywhere from $75 to $95 delivered.  We're paying about half of that, and Eric gets his exercise as an added bonus.  We heat primarily with wood, and we can easily go through 4 cords of wood per season, which lasts from about October to May.

Our wood stove is an EPA2 certified slow combustion stove.  Our model is the Esprit, made in Austria by Austroflamm for Rika.  Curiously, we bought this at a local wood stove dealer.  It was the only one they had in stock, and so different from the more traditional Vermont Castings-style wood stoves common on the market-place, that we were immediately sold on it.  It has a much more modern look, and is SOLID.  Seriously, this is one well-made wood stove.  We call him Wilfred.  I'm in love with Wilfie.  Wilfie is my BFF.
We built the wall behind Wilfie out of copper, when copper prices were still reasonable.  I'm sure if we were to price up a similar project today, we'd be in Yea Olde Poore Hause.  Our home insurance required we built a fire-proof wall with an air barrier behind it because of space constraints.  Copper was the one product we found that was not only esthetic, but easy to install and light.  Eric designed rails that are mounted vertically onto the bare wall, onto which he hung specially designed clips that holds each interlocking panel into place.  Everything was cut and bent at a local coppersmiths, all we needed to do was supply our idea, some cursory drawings, and give exact dimensions.  Eric and I installed everything in a quick afternoon.  Child's play.  And our insurance agent was over the moon.  Nothing dissipates heat like copper.

At some point in time, we're going to have to break down and polish the copper wall.  I kind of like the patina it's developed over the years, but the fingerprints from people going, "ooooohhhh, is that copper?" as they smudge their greasy digits on the metal drove Eric nuts for many years.  I kind of find it funny - it's like people mark their territory without meaning to.  And it's a house, after all, things are going to get pinged, dented, smudged, scratched and tarnished.  Or maybe Eric has an unhealthy obsession with the copper wall - I don't know -  but I do know he ordered special polishing pads for our new Fein Multitool specifically to clean it.  I plan on popping a batch of popcorn and sitting back and watching as Eric polishes the copper wall.  I will revel in every last second of watching Eric clean.  That was part of the deal when we installed it - ain't no way I was going to add "polishing of copper wall" to the already long list of menial home chores.

We don't count on our wood stove to heat the entire house, though.  When we rebuilt the upstairs, we decided we wouldn't skimp on heating.  We had had enough of paint cans freezing because it was so cold upstairs.  Eric slept with a tuque on for the first few years (no, I'm not kidding!), and used a feather mattress TOPPER as a duvet.  I'm a bit happier, because I enjoy sleeping in a freezing room, but still, there's the problem of my pillow freezing to the outside walls when it gets to -20C.  There's got to be a happy medium.

Years ago, at a home show, we fell in love with Calorigen's Flex radiant heaters when we were looking at solutions for upstairs heating.  Radiant heat is different from the heat of regular electric baseboards that most people have in Quebec.  Radiant heat warms the objects in a room, and not the air, so it's not nearly as drying as regular baseboards.  While doing the renovations upstairs, we wired everything in to accommodate Calorigen's heaters, and when we were ready to make the purchase, we came up empty.  Calorigen was nowhere to be found.  We called around - I mean - the company was there one month - and next month - poof! they were gone.  Eric dug a bit deeper, and found a distributor that was liquidating Calorigen's stock.  Cash 'n carry - at a substantial rebate.  They even threw in extra temperature control probes for good measure, so we're good for the next 40 years, give or take.  Calorigen is still in production, but they moved their manufacturing facility, hence the fire sale.  Sometimes, taking time to make a purchase pays off.

Since I'm the chief cleaning-woman in our house, I appreciate the fact I don't need to dust the tops of the baseboards upstairs.  They always collect so much dog and cat hair, which is not the case with the Calorigens.  Regular baseboards also make this somewhat annoying tick-tick-tick sound as they heat-up.  It's not prohibitive, but it is a bit annoying.  The Calorigens don't do that - they're totally quiet. The are also slim and unobtrusive, unlike standard baseboards.  They're also not the same price, in case you're wondering.  They're way, way, way more expensive.

One day, we'll get around to making the window frames.  Eric's in charge of that.  For now, you'll have to be satisfied with the vapour barrier and a Glad garbage bag curtain that is happily out of sight in the photo.  Our house probably looks like a grow-op from the outside with curtains as natty as that.

In case you need reminding, this is the blight we had in this room before:
Oh how precious!  This was taken after I took the baseboard heater off the wall and marveled at the dust, dirt, sawdust and general lack of craftsmanship that ruled upstairs.  I never did figure out what those brown streaks on the heater were; it must have been baked-on Varathane.  I sure hope so, because no amount of scouring made them disappear.  I should have tried acetone in retrospect.  When I finally cut the wire to that baseboard, I didn't even bring it downstairs.  I threw it right out the window, into a snow bank.  It landed with a satisfying thud.  Hasta la vista, baby!

So, with our renovations completed upstairs (give or take a bit of trim), R44 insulation tucked into every nook and cranny, Wilfie going full-bore downstairs, you think we need nice radiant heaters upstairs?  We barely need to turn them on.  I guess we did a better job insulating than we anticipated.


Anonymous said...

$75-95 delivered cut and split? We pay roughly $250 here for cut and split is shocking.

I like the woodstove..we have about 5 more years left with our current one..I am looking forward to a switch.

Shim Farm said...

So you're paying $250 for a full cord (8'x4'x4'), I hope? I'm quoting a face cord (8'x4'x18" if you're lucky!), that's sort of the modus operandi here, I should have mentioned that! What province are you in, just out of curiosity?

Yeah, we're really happy with the wood stove, it heats really well and looks hot to boot!

What we'd really like is a thermal mass heater out of soapstone, like the Finnish Tulikivi or Nunnauuni - but the price, ouch, the price...

Ideally, you'd want to build a house around a thermal mass heater to make the best of it, unfortunately most French Canadian houses have the chimney slapped against an outside wall, sort of as an afterthought. I'm also not sure if we can justify the cost.

Robin said...

How nice that Eric gets a long vacation. Every year when Lee has to take time off work we always think we are going to get a ton of work done. Usually we end up with nothing accomplished because we are to busy goofing off and relaxing.

I don't have a name for my woodstove but I should. I'm in love with it come winter time and we have a close relationship. hehe. Have fun eating your popcorn and watching Eric clean the copper. The ornery side of me would soooo want to touch it after it had been cleaned. I'm awful like that. :)

Every year during the winter I end up sleeping in my wool hat too. I have two down comforters on our bed along with other covers. I get cold really easy and have a hard time getting warm.

We don't have plastic bags in our windows but almost. We have plastic sheeting over them instead. It looks bad but what is the use of having nice curtains when you don't have any drywall yet.

Your house sounds nice and toasty warm now. I think I may come live with you. :D

Shepherd's Loft said...

a copper wall! Who'd have thunk it? I think it's gorgeous finger smudges or not. What a novel idea!

Shim Farm said...

Robin - Eric's sort of lucky, because his days off are normally lumped at the beginning and end of his vacation, so it seems like more. And the wood pile - he hasn't finished cutting it yet! Vacation time is like a black never seem to accomplish what you set out to do. Oh well, c'est la vie!

Yup, our house is toasty warm, especially my staked claim right beside the wood stove LOL...but really, we did insulate it well and our hard work is paying off in spades. No more nose-sicles.

You know what? I'd take your humid climate over our COLD and humid climate come January when I've just about had it. When the mercury dips to -20C, whoa, it's just mean outside. I'm jealous of your location - my version of paradise!

Linda - the copper wall - my idea, and I have the Post-it note in a design book to prove the inspiration! But if you talk to Eric - the idea is all his LOL. But in the end, it does what it's supposed to do, which is keep Mr. Insurance Man happy, as well as look nice. It beats the concrete board we had before by miles!

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