Heating this old farmhouse was a gigantic undertaking, because all the heat you could generate went right out the doors and windows that weren’t properly sealed.
It was an old farmhouse with the double hung windows, the type with the weights in the walls. There wasn’t a door in the house that closed properly (and stayed closed) that included the exterior doors. The first couple of winters, I went through anywhere between 22 and 25 face cords of wood (a face cord is 4′ x 4′ x 8′) and usually 4 or 5 tanks of furnace oil. Over time, the insulation has been installed in the attic. Speaking of the attic, I had a bat infestation that was rivaled by none. One night, I sat at one side of the house and counted over 750 bats leaving through one crack opening between the side of the house and the soffit and facia. A bat super highway! It was a huge undertaking that took years, but finally the bats were convinced to leave. I don’t know where they all moved to.
Some of the windows have been replaced to the newer Low E vinyl windows but I kept the look intact using double hung and didn’t change the dimensions at all. Speaking of the windows, every window in the house was losing its’ sill, so every sill was converted to granite – it’s a beautiful look and far more functional than the wood.
The problem with the exterior doors was handled a little differently. I didn’t want to get rid of the old doors. The old front door is the original door to the house and has two, albeit non-functional, locks under the doorknob, and the door has a lot of carving and character. To either side of the front door are small glass panels and I jusy couldn’t bear to replace them. The two rooms on each side of the front entry have parlour french doors that I just couldn’t bear to replace with something modern – these doors used to open to the outside, I can’t even imagine how cold that must have been. These are little single pane glass french doors and the wood is thin in the floating panel. I should mention that someone also ripped off the old wrap-around porch to this home and built a, I don’t really know what to call it, sun room is to nice……a Florida room is definitely to fancy…..it was a room that was 8′ x 20′ with 7′ ceilings that was not insulated and when you jumped up and down, the room shook up and down with you. It had uninsulated glass on three sides and an old parlour wood stove for heat. So, instead of replacing the front doors, I took this ugly front addition off of the house and added, instead a beautiful addition that is 16′ x 40′ and 16′ ceilings. This room provided extra living space, but also protected the integrity of the old doors to the house.
So now with some of the insulation problems addressed, I could update the heating system.
The heating system consisted of an oil burning furnace that was on it’s last legs. I wasn’t quite prepared to buy a new system yet. In the interim, I installed a wood burning insert in the kitchen. I would get up at 5am and get the fire started, it was so cold in the house, I could see my breath on most winter mornings. I would go back to bed until the kitchen warmed up enough to be tolerable. That little wood insert just kept burning wood as fast as it could all winter and it worked…sort of. Eventually, the old oil furnace was replaced with the new efficient wood/oil combination furnace. Now I go through about 12 – 15 cords of wood and almost NO oil. I buy my wood and my wood guy delivers wood that’s more than a year old, seasoned wood, and it’s a nice mixed combination of maple, oak, and cherry. There’s a lot of work involved in burning wood, but a wood heat is just so much nicer than oil or electric. At least, to me.