Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Insert

Last week, in the middle of the cold snap (cold for us), we finally installed the cast iron and soapstone fireplace insert that has been sitting in our dog trot since last March.

You ask, why would it take nine months to install something that only needed to be moved 25 feet and would improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions? Good question. We ordered the miracle insert that should heat one side of our house last November, before it got seriously cold. It did not arrive until the end of February when everyone was thinking Spring, so when it arrived it sat while the garden was started, fences were repaired, and Spring sprung. It sat in the hall when we were harvesting vegetables. It sat there when the temperatures rose over 100 F and no one wanted to think about something designed to warm. The heater sat in the hall when we sold the calves. It sat there while pumpkins were carved, turkey smoked, and the Christmas tree was chosen and decorated. No one forgot that the heater was sitting in the exact place the delivery men placed it. I was more than a little annoyed by the 1500 pound contraption occupying space in what I visualize as a totally open hallway. We did a mapping project for school and Pink Panther drew the heater as a permanent fixture in our home - sitting in a crate in the hall. I kept mentioning it to my husband. OK, I did more than mention it. He assured me that the heater would be installed before our temperatures dropped below freezing.

A few days in November the temperatures fell to almost freezing, lacking one or two degrees. I reminded, offered to help, and threatened to do it myself. The week of the Bull Sale, when no one could even think about installing anything, the temperatures dropped below freezing. The wind was blowing and our house, though we insulated well, is not exactly a show house of heat efficiency. We were COLD. We felt like the Ingalls in The Long Winter though we obviously didn't get that cold. We didn't build a fire in that fireplace because we didn't want to clean the coals and ashes again when we installed the insert (like it was going to happen in the next 24 hours). We moved all activity to the kitchen which has a portable electric heater and living room which has another fireplace.

Finally, the day came, a cold day with a brisk wind. The expectations of a warm house were high. An appliance dolly was borrowed from the local hardware store, a friend was invited to help move the 1500 pound contraption, and instructions were read. The project we had been dreading for nine months only took a few hours of actual work. We didn't have to do much since we had a working masonry fireplace with a good draft.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems. A piece is missing and I will have to make that embarrassing call nine months after the purchase to let them know. The insert does not heat as well as we would have liked or as was advertised. I know few houses have 17 foot ceilings, but the insert designed to heat an entire house should heat one room of a drafty old farm house when the temperatures are just below freezing. Many say that once we get the thing going and keep it going that it will heat better. We do have much to learn, but keeping the fire going in our variable temperature winter is not realistic. Today, the temperatures are supposed to be around 72 F. You don't exactly require or want a heater for those days.

I wonder if we would have been as disappointed if we had not built expectations of a toasty house through all the cool and cold days the heater was sitting in the hall.


Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

It is so funny that you say that, as two years ago I had our gas insert REMOVED. We had wanted it so much, thought it would be the answer to all the mess and work. But it never heated as well, and never had the smell of a real fire that we love. I think the only time we have regretted the decision was on SUnday as we stacked the TWO CORDS of firewood! LOL!

wisteria said...

We never thought of going to gas. Some people say that is the answer. We just wanted a safer, more efficient wood alternative. We still get to see the flames, but behind glass.

We have been cutting, splitting, and stacking wood since Katrina. In fact, we shouldn't have to worry about wood for years. Some of it is not really fireplace worthy, like the pecan. It should be saved for smokehouse, but it all got jumbled in together.

I laughed when I read your cord story. That cord of wood is a pesky measurement. I think I could visualize it, but I have never had to buy wood. We always have a tree that has fallen over a fence to remove.