Showing posts with label heating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heating. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It can be chilly here in France

A recent survey reveals that 75% of French people say that their homes are excessively cold in winter.

Well, this is not the case for me at Gamone. My installation of a large wood-burning stove has proven to be ideal. I hasten to point out that this success is based upon several additional factors:

• I’ve got into the habit of ordering a stock of high-quality firewood in summer.

• I store this firewood in a large and sturdy woodshed alongside my house.

• I’ve learnt the skill of lighting up the stove of an afternoon, using a tiny quantity of pine wood chips.

• Finally, the cold stove must be cleaned of ashes the following morning.

My house is well insulated on all sides. Besides, if ever the presence of snow made it difficult to go outside to fetch firewood, there’s a stock inside the old stone cave behind the ground-floor level of the house.

In my upper-floor bedroom, study and bathroom, electric radiators switch themselves on automatically when the temperature drops. The use of firewood as my principal fuel means that I would not be in danger in the case of an electricity blackout. And I’ve got a stock of candles. So, the general situation at Gamone is comfortable and reassuring. This is a must when you live on the edge of the French Alps.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

There will be smoke

Yesterday morning, my new chimney at Gamone became fully operational for the first time. And the dense column of smoke arising from the rooftop chimney was a friendly sign.

I lit up the stove and fuelled it with two or three sturdy chunks of extra-dry firewood. Then full steam ahead! During the first hour or so, I was anxious… like the captain of the Titanic looking out for icebergs. My imaginary “icebergs” would have been spots (literally hotspots) in the vicinity of the stove where the temperature might have appeared to be excessive and dangerous. In fact, there were effusions of all kinds, both from my recent paintwork and from the iron stove itself… but nothing of an alarming nature. The stove even emitted a wonderful “song” brought about by mysterious metallic vibrations. After an hour or so, everything seemed to settle down into a kind of harmonious cruising state. And Fitzroy took advantage of the delightful warmth that was permeating our ground floor.

Driving down towards Pont-en-Royans, Tineke and Serge noticed the smoke, and they drove up here immediately with a bottle of fine wine to celebrate the new warmth of Gamone. In fact, they came upon me in a state of turmoil, trying to unblock the kitchen sink. Serge helped me rapidly in the search for a solution to this problem, brought about primarily by the disastrous plumbing carried out by an unpleasant local "plumber" (hired in 1994 by the Grenoble architects in charge of the restoration of Gamone)… who hasn’t spoken to me for years, ever since I told him frankly that he was a lousy tradesman. The basic problem is due to the fact that the waste-water evacuation tubing—integrated into the reinforced concrete slab beneath my house—isn’t sufficiently sloped, and the slightest muck blocks it. Happily, I can live with this plumbing problem, provided that I respect a certain number of constraints.

PS It's Wednesday morning, and I've just had an opportunity of confirming an interesting aspect of this particular stove (the Bradford model from the French Invicta company). If I place three or four chunks of wood in the stove before going to bed, they burn slowly all night, keeping the house warm. Then, this morning, I found that the wood was all burnt, leaving a layer of hot coals in the stove. All I had to do, this morning, was to put more wood into the stove, and it blazed up within a few minutes. Incidentally, I've just ordered (through the Internet) some obligatory instruments.

The device on the left is a smoke detector, and they are now obligatory in all French homes. The slightly more complex device on the right is a carbon monoxide detector, and the presence of such a detector is highly recommended in any dwelling that burns fuel (inside the dwelling) for heating. When the ordered goods have arrived (within a day or so), if the Good Lord has saved me between now and then from being consumed by fire or gassed, I intend to install such a pair of devices at two strategic spots in my house: on the ground floor (where the stove is located) and on the upper floor (with the bedrooms).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Habemus invictam

Trying to capture an image (for posterity) of the very first wisp of white smoke emerging from my new chimney at Gamone is like taking photos of a polar bear in the Arctic snow. At this time of the year, almost everything in the sky of Choranche looks like wisps of white smoke.

Click to enlarge

To obtain this proof that smoke does indeed go up the chimney that I designed and erected (with constant help from my friend and neighbor Serge Bellier), I burned no more than a bit of paper and a few wood chips, because I’ll only be taking the stove up to its operational temperature over a period of a week or so, to give the metal time to gradually expand and creak itself into shape.

My only blog reader who’s likely to understand the title of this post is my son François, who also installed a French-manufactured wood stove of the Invicta brand. I was almost going to write Habemus poelam, but Christine would have lost no time in correcting me. The modern French word poêle can indeed designate either a frying-pan or a wood stove, but the ancient Romans only used poela in the first sense. They did not use metal stoves for heating. Their domestic heating installations were based upon steam generated in the cellar by a hypocaust system associated with a furnace (in the style of a pizza oven).

This is the same kind of system that was used to heat up water in a pool—called a caldarium—in the splendid Somerset city of Bath.

At Gamone, my living room is already well heated by my fireplace… provided that I keep the glass cover down, instead of raising it so that I can warm my toes while watching TV: a great pleasure, which I often share with Fitzroy, lying in my lap. Incidentally, talking about Fitzroy, I bought him an elegant cushion yesterday, which I promptly lined with an old pair of ski pants that I’ve outgrown.

For the first time in ages, Fitzroy spent the entire night on the kitchen floor in his new bed, which he guards jealously as if it were a bone that an evil passer-by might try to steal.

PS Don't be too alarmed by the grubby state of my kitchen floor. Apart from the fact that I'm only slowly emerging from the lengthy period of construction of my wood shed [display], not to mention final operations concerning the installation of the wood stove (during which time my tools were often left lying upon the kitchen floor), the current dirty state of the floor is due above all to the fact that the evacuation system for used sink water is clogged up once again. I'll fix that tomorrow, and clean up the mess in the kitchen. One thing at a time...