The Heating

Here’s a little novel about our heating saga.

The orange oil-burning behemoth installed now.

The orange oil-burning behemoth installed now.

The house currently has radiators and an oil burner that’s housed in the utility room behind the kitchen. The oil tank is in the garage. For many people (probably MOST people), the house as-is would be fine with just a little cleanup and paint. But you all know, we’re not ‘most people.’ We wanted to get rid of the oil burner because every house we have looked at with an oil burner has “that smell”—something we weren’t willing to live with.

Currently installed radiators.

Currently installed radiators.

We ran into the plumber who maintained the system for the last owner, and he agreed that the furnace was old and the radiators groaned, but of course he’s in the business of installing new systems.  We wanted to know our alternatives. And so we started the research process.

Since I wanted to replace all the various floor tiles in the house and remove the glued down short-nap carpet, I figured we were going to have a big mess anyway, so why not install underfloor heating? It gets rid of the radiators and is an elegant solution.

Back to the underfloor heating. There are two options—electric, which is thinner and cheaper to install, but costs more to run. And traditional hot water tubing, which is thicker, more expensive to install, but may cost less in the long run depending on the burner. An issue that every contractor asked was…’How deep can we dig in the current floor without opening up a whole can of worms?’ Good question. To install the tubing option, we would need to go down at least 12 centimeters, to have room for insulation, the pipes, the screed, and the tile. Ugh. If parts of the house are as old as some think it might be, we could run into dirt at that depth! And that would not be easy, good, or cheap! After talking with some folks about the electric underfloor system, it seems that it’s mainly used here as a secondary heating system, usually in conjunction with wood burners. And so we decided against the electric underfloor heating option.

ground_source_heat_pump_diagramAbout that burner. Our first idea for the heating system was for geothermal. This is a system that lays pipes about a meter underground and collects and condenses heat from the earth to then heat the water that flow through the tubes in the house. We loved the idea of the small carbon footprint and the economy of running the system (only a little electricity to run the condenser and pump). Plus it offered cooling properties for the summer. Perfect. And we need to dig up the yard to install the new septic tanks anyway, we have plenty of space, so what’s a little more digging?  Until we got the ‘devi’—€40,000. NOT in the budget. So with the high price of installation and uncertainty about digging up the floors in the house, we decided against the geothermal heating option. The ROI just wasn’t there. Ditto for aerothermal.

Solar here in France is very complicated, as you are required to sell all your energy to the power company, then you have to buy it back. Pretty back-assward if you ask me. So that is out.

The big 'mouth' of our fireplace, aka "draft maker."

The big ‘mouth’ of our fireplace, aka “draft maker.”

And so our choices were dwindling. We have the huge fireplace in the living room, which I wanted to leave as a natural wood burner (cause I love the sound and look of a crackling open fire–old romantic me). But as we spent more time in the house, it became clear that the flue was just a big hole in the ceiling, blowing cold air down into the room and eventually sucking out all our precious heat! Even though wood is plentiful and inexpensive here, we are, quite frankly, too lazy to heat the house with wood. [Let me say, too, that we still haven’t had much winter here yet—it’s like spring weather again today, but everyone assures us that cold days are still to come.] And so, we will shop for a wood burner to install in the beautiful firebox, for the occasions when we want an injection of heat in the main room or just some ambience…

And now we’ve been full circle. We’re back to accepting that radiators are the right solution. So I start looking at radiator choices. Ugly, uglier, and ugliest. Oh dear, what’s a designer to do??? Like in politics, pick the least offensive, I guess. I still haven’t decided on exactly the model line to use, but we will install the vertical types to exploit our ceiling height, and leave as much wall space as possible for the fabulous furniture finds I’m yet to discover!!! Stay tuned.

And so, here we are, back, again, to the burner. Our only last option is LPG gas. We don’t have town natural gas where we are. The new gas burners are small, efficient, and easy to install. And the gas company (who previously charged rent every month for the gas tank on your property and filled it whenever was convenient for THEM) is offering to bury the gas tank with no rental fees in return for a five-year commitment. So this seems like a triple win! We just have to figure out where to put the tank so they can get to it with the truck…

Having an LPG tank to feed my kitchen range will make me very happy, too. Wait til I tell you about my range…

This entry was posted in American Expats in France, Expat Blog, Renovating a Home in France. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Heating

  1. Gabriele says:

    Hi Cindy
    have a look at the following link (it is in German but I guess Theo will help you out)

    This way you would not need any radiators. You can cover them completely with wallpapers or what ever you use on the walls.
    I really enjoy your block.


  2. Cindy Loevenich says:

    Thanks, Gaby!

    We’ll definitely look into this. Whether we can find someone in France willing to install a non-French product, though, is still up for debate. Ha!

    Thanks so much for your input. Happy new year!


  3. Theo says:

    What’s wrong with Mainframe looking radiators – I like that kind of look 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *