After two years and three months of almost total isolation, a trip to the grocery store would have seemed life changing. That is how I imagined emerging from this long period of contemplation, loneliness, and peace. Change is seldom what you imagine it to be, and the change going on in my world just now is not how I had envisioned my reentry into the world of the “other”.
This transformational period began a few weeks ago, when I began physiotherapy. Interacting with humans, unknown to me, caused some trepidation. A weekly appointment was a life changing event. Fortunately, this initial step in reintegration was a positive one. The physiotherapist is excellent, and funny, and helpful. I am blessed to have a positive beginning. Masks are required, thank goodness.
But that was just the beginning. A series of events now underway were initiated by two letters. The first missive came from our fuel oil company, stating that our heating fuel oil tank needed to be inspected, and possibly replaced. We considered doing that. Then the second missive arrived, from our insurance company, telling us that our house could not be insured next winter unless the fuel oil tank were replaced. We looked into that, and the cost was thousands of dollars.
Clearly, we had two choices, to replace the tank, or replace the heating system. Replacing the tank seemed undesirable, because the oil furnace is aging and it too would soon have to be replaced. Oil furnaces are expensive, need annual maintenance, and fuel oil tanks expire and have to be replaced every 15 years.
We decided against replacing the oil tank. That left four other options, wood heating (labour intensive), propane heating, natural gas heating, or electric heating. Wood heating seemed too labour intensive for us, as we intend to age in place here, and I can no longer lift, so firewood could be too challenging in the long term. Both propane and natural gas heating involve volatile substances, a reliance on fossil fuels, and both require an account with fuel companies, which in turn involves minimum monthly fees, and service installation costs. Electric heat would be serviced by our existing hydro account, so no extra account to be billed; the initial cost of the equipment is much less than propane or gas; there would be no volatile fuel on the property; electric heating equipment has no expiration date; and electric heating needs comparatively little maintenance. Electric heating seemed like the best choice available under the circumstance.
The huge downside of heating with electricity is vulnerability. If the hydro goes out, so does the heat. This concern is not without merit, as we saw just last week when a derecho made its way across Ontario, knocking out hydro services in many parts of the province, some are still without power. So to cover the eventuality of a power outage during the heating season, a backup wood stove seemed the best option. It might never be used, but if it was needed, we would be very grateful to have it. Wood can be stored beside it, so I could manage it for a short while without having to carry wood, this no lifting thing is going to take some getting used to.
With all these factors in mind, I discovered that the Canadian government has a program called Greener Homes. This program will grant up to $5600 towards renovations to your residence, that improve energy efficiency. Apparently air source heat pumps are eligible for this grant. So we applied, and several weeks ago the inspector arrived at the house to assess the energy efficiency of Mist Cottage. We didn’t do too badly, not up to the standards of a recently built home, but not bad for an old house.
So the first visitor to the house in over two years came and went. It was a gentle experience, thank goodness, and it prepared me for the season of change here at Mist Cottage.
After receiving the report from the inspection, it was time to begin the process of replacing the heating system. After much discussion, weighing pros and cons, we decided upon a cold climate air source heat pump, that would heat the house until the outdoor temperature falls below -28C. A backup electric furnace will be installed as well, and it will kick into action if the temperature falls below -28C. Also, the decision was made to install a small wood stove in the basement, which could heat the house in case of a power failure. We are very familiar with wood stove heating, having heated the Country House exclusively with wood.
The decisions, having been made, it was up to me to subcontract the entire process. Much time was spent reviewing different tradespeople and companies that could do the work. The electric heating system, and the wood stove install both need certified installations in order to meet municipal standards and be eligible for insurance coverage. We also needed to hire an electrician. This was an intense process, as whoever I chose to do the work will be a part of our lived experience for the next several months, and will be in our home for days at a time.
Three different installers have now been contracted to do the installations and electrical work. Prices have been negotiated, deposits have been made, equipment has been ordered. Three different technical inspections have taken place over the last week, all of the tradespeople have been pleasant to deal with, and helpful. Of course I wore a mask, had the windows open, and requested they wear a mask as well, which was not an issue. So far so good, I have not minded too much them being in the house.
One of the things we have to do in order to have the oil tank removed is to have it pumped out. To hire a company would cost thousands of dollars. It is heartbreaking, because the fuel oil in the tank is worth about a thousand dollars, for which we would not be reimbursed. Bad timing on fuel delivery for sure, but there we are, you win some, you lose some. We will definitely lose on this aspect of the job.
Which brings me to this evening. A friend of Attila’s is a farmer, who will arrive this evening with oil tanks on his truck, and will pump out the oil tank. We are donating the oil, feeling very lucky to have it pumped out at no expense to us. So this is a win/win situation, the farmer gets free fuel oil, and we get an empty oil tank that can be removed during the furnace installation.
I am hoping that all this work going on at Mist Cottage will be completed before July when my canning season begins in earnest. We shall see!
Updated on Fri, May 27, 4:45 PM
FEELS LIKE 23
Wind 13 SW km/h
Humidity 85 %
Visibility 20 km
Sunrise 5:30 AM
Wind gust 20 km/h
Pressure 100.6 kPa
Ceiling 500 m
Sunset 8:39 PM
“You say ‘amateur’ as if it was a dirty word. ‘Amateur’ comes from the Latin word ‘amare’, which means to love. To do things for the love of it. “
Mozart In the Jungle
Maggie, you have all my best wishes for having all these Mist Cottage infrastructure changes go timely and smoothly. While I know how thorough you are in your investigations, I’ll keep all my digits crossed that this project is not affected by things beyond your control–like the supply chain disruptions we’re all experiencing.
Wendy thank you! I’ve started early, our insurance will be cut off at the end of the year if the changes are not made, so we have some months to work on this. I have my fingers crossed that we have enough lead time to get the changes made before the heating season starts next November!! We have a plan B, as we have our present heat pump system and could pay to have the oil tank removed before the new system is installed – and we have electric heaters that plug in that could get us through for a wee while. Hopefully we will squeak the installs in before the snow flies again!
Oh, I love the above quote! Fingers crossed that all the installations go smoothly!
Thanks Eileen! So far so good!
I love the quote, too. I hope all goes smoothly with all these big changes, and without supply chain delays.
Thanks Joan! The supply chain delays are a real concern, I am so glad we are starting in the spring for a heating system in the autumn, fingers crossed it all goes to plan, or reasonably close to plan!
My comment may be a bit late, Maggie, but if possible look at a propane or natural gas back up heater that uses a thermopile to ignite the burner. Thermopiles create their own electricity, so you’re not dependent on hydro and can turn on your backup heater even when the power is out.
I actually went and got my hair cut last week! First time in almost 2.5 years. We both wore masks, though many of the stylists and customers did not.
I see that Ontario is down to something like 850 in hospital with covid, now. Down from 1100 something 2 weeks ago. Looks like we’re doing our summer slowdown. Not sure if I said, but DH and I got our 3rd boosters about 10 days ago.
Teri, those are excellent points about propane and natural gas thermopile ignition, that would definitely work through a power outage! If we already had gas service to the house we would probably have gone with that option. In the end we chose wood because it involves no additional accounts and monthly payments, and we have firewood from our dead ash trees, and we can harvest dead trees for firewood at our Camp if we ever need to. I think the wood from the ash trees will see us through for decades though, because we will only use it during power outages in the winter.
Wow, a hair cut, that is brave, good for you! I bet that felt good!
I am glad Ontario cases and hospitalizations are slowing down, and I hope it isn’t just a temporary lull for the summer months. Congratulations on your boosters, it sure doesn’t hurt to be cautious!
Gosh I’m glad it was you that had to deal with the problem, my head would still be reeling and focusing on the fact the insurance company said you wouldn’t be covered unless……
Masks are still required in certain situations here…..medical and hairdressers are two that I have experienced…….and are worn by many in many different circumstances that people feel could be hazardous to their health…..supermarket and other shops for a start.
Fingers crossed for July!
Honestly, even if it is just a temporary lull, we’ll take it! My hair was driving me crazy. Even with trimming it myself a few times it was maybe 6 inches below my shoulders and looking quite rough. And yes, I did feel brave. Helps that things worked out – zero sign of any symptoms. And now I have a short bob hair cut and no scraggly bangs.
Tomorrow night we’re going to a drive- in movie. It’s a Sunday, so much fewer people. You can park far apart and you have breezy air between you and everyone else. We did it once last year too and it’s a nice change of pace. Still can’t talk ourselves into going to a theatre, not even with masks.
Thanks Cathy! If we are through the heating system transition by July I will be pleasantly surprised! Since we bought Mist Cottage we knew the day would come when our heating system would be deemed redundant and we would have to replace it. So we have been thinking about this for years now, but we didn’t know when the axe would fall. Now we know, so it was time to slip into gear and get the projects going. Mist Cottage was in pretty rough shape when we bought it, so we knew that these major projects would have to be undertaken at some point. We have done mostly structural renovations, except for the bathroom, which I gutted and Attila rebuilt, so it is the way we would like it. But everything else that isn’t structural hasn’t come near the top of the list yet. And there are a few big projects to go before we get to the interior of the house, the porch needs to be updated, the roof replaced, and the siding replaced. All big ticket items which we will need to save for before tackling.
Masks are helpful I think, we carry them everywhere we go! Since we are still avoiding stores, I don’t know how commonly worn they are there, but we do wear them for medical appointments. I haven’t been to get my hair cut for many years now, it hadn’t been professionally cut for years before the pandemic began. I imagine that after breaking through isolation through these heating updates, with tradespeople in and out of my home for weeks and perhaps months to come, I will be braver about getting a hair cut!
Teri, yes, a temporary lull is better than no lull at all! I wore bangs until it became too difficult, before the pandemic, to get to a hair salon. Then the pandemic hit and my bangs grew out, and I was surprised to find I like that. Attila has been trimming my hair now and then, it isn’t perfect but it got the job done.
A drive in is a great idea! I wonder about the mosquitoes, the last time I went was while living in the near north, and the mosquitoes were horrendous. Of course the theatre was in the middle of the bush, with wetlands, that may have been a big factor in the number of mosquitoes. They made a real impression on me.
Well, we didn’t get to go to the movies. We drove down to the drive-in only to find their power was out.
We brought a Thermacell mosquito repeller with us last summer. DH opened his driver side windows and we had it on the ground between the front and back car doors. It had a 15 ft radius and we had zero problems with mosquitos. We brought it with us last night too but didn’t get to use it.
Teri, sorry your plans were scuppered by a power outage! That is interesting, that the Thermacell worked to keep mosquitoes out of your vehicle, a game changer!